Professional Ethics

Policy Memorandum No. 180

Approved by Commission on Faculty Affairs: January 24, 1997
Approved by University Council: April 7, 1997
Approved by President: April 7, 1997
Approved by BOV: August 25, 1997
Effective: August 25, 1997

The University Council, on recommendation of the Commission on Faculty Affairs, unanimously approved a resolution concerning changes in the Faculty Handbook regarding faculty ethics.

Following is the text of the resolution as adopted by University Council.

WHEREAS, the Committee on Faculty Ethics (CFE) of the Faculty Senate is charged with receiving and considering all charges of violations of faculty ethics; and

WHEREAS, the limitations of the current policy have made it difficult, on occasion, to establish the CFE's authority to investigate and resolve matters referred to them which have legitimately been viewed as matters of professional ethics and responsibility; and

WHEREAS, the CFE's review found the current Statement of Professional Ethics and Responsibilities in the Faculty Handbook (section 2.7) to be overly specific, pejorative in its language and scope, dealing chiefly with instructional activities, and not addressing the rich variety of values and principles that are shared by all faculty with respect to ethical behavior; and,

WHEREAS, the intent of the language proposed by CFE and approved by CFA is to state as forthrightly as possible the ethical principles that define academic life and include as many rights and privileges as they do prohibitions, chiefly among them the rights associated with academic freedom and liberal learning; and

WHEREAS, the new policy statement is based largely on a document from the American Association of University Professors, bringing our policy in line with similar statements at other institutions: and,

WHEREAS, the CFE's review found the current description of the Committee on Faculty Ethics in the Faculty Handbook (section 1.5.3) to be lacking in a proper description of the composition, duties, and general procedures of the committee.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that sections 1.5.3 and 2.7 of the Faculty Handbook be replaced by the attached new text. In addition, any statement in the current policy that is not already directly or by implication covered in the new statement or found elsewhere in the Faculty Handbook should be incorporated in an appropriate section of the Handbook. For example, existing statements concerning responsibilities for instruction would be incorporated into Chapter 4.0 of the Handbook, if they are not already covered there.

1.5.3 The Committee on Faculty Ethics


The Committee on Faculty Ethics (CFE) receives and considers charges of violations of faculty ethics that involve the abuse of professional responsibilities as outlined in Principles of Ethical Behavior (section 2.7). The CFE also acts to promote knowledge of and adherence to the ethical principles of the faculty.

The CFE is not intended to be used to seek remedies such as monetary damages. The CFE will not act when legal, mediational, administrative, or other proceedings have been initiated or are ongoing by complainants that render the CFE's pursuit of an investigation redundant or disruptive. After such proceedings are completed, the CFE will be available to receive or consider charges of violations of faculty ethics.


The CFE is composed of one faculty member from each college, one from the library faculty, and one from the Extra-Collegiate Division Faculty. Committee members are appointed by the President of the Faculty Senate with the advice of the Senate Cabinet. All committee members must have tenure or continued appointment. The Senate President designates one committee member to serve as chair. Voting members of the CFE serve a two-year appointment and are limited to serving two consecutive terms. A quorum of the CFE consists of two-thirds of the appointed members.

When the allegation is against an administrative or professional faculty member without tenure or continued appointment, the committee shall compose a special panel of five members: the chair or an experienced designee from CFE, one additional CFE member, and three administrative and professional faculty members chosen from among members of the Commission on Administrative and Professional Faculty Affairs (CAPFA) by the chair of this Commission. All potential members will be polled to insure that there is no conflict of interest in their participation in the case. Operating procedures for the CFE will be followed in the investigation and disposition of the charges to the extent possible and appropriate for the circumstances.


Anyone may bring incidents to the CFE by writing to the chair of the CFE. The CFE will decide if a violation may have occurred and may conduct investigations as it deems appropriate. The CFE will inform those involved of its findings and the processes and rationale by which the findings were formulated as described in the CFE Operating Procedures. When it is determined that a breach of faculty ethics has occurred, the CFE's findings, along with its recommendations will be reported to individuals it deems appropriate such as the President, Provost, Deans, Department Heads, or the Faculty Senate President. Strict confidentiality will be maintained. Electronic records of CFE proceedings are not allowed, except by permission of the CFE. The CFE Operating Procedures are available from the CFE chair.

The CFE chair will provide a summary of its activities to the Faculty Senate annually.

2.7 Principles of Ethical Behavior

The faculty of Virginia Tech believe that academic freedom is essential to attain our missions as scholars and teachers. We also recognize and accept the responsibilities attendant to academic freedom as fundamental to a scholarly community. We believe we must exercise our rights with due regard to the rights of others and we must meet our obligations fully as faculty members. We hold ourselves accountable to ensure that the faculty of Virginia Tech is recognized for its commitment and leadership to pursue knowledge, to promote the free expression of ideas, to teach our students, and to serve the citizens of Virginia.


Guided by a deep conviction of the worth and dignity of the advancement of knowledge, we recognize our primary responsibility to our disciplines is to seek and to state the truth. To this end, we devote our energies to developing and improving our scholarly competence. We accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge. We practice intellectual honesty and do not compromise our freedom of inquiry.


We encourage the free pursuit of learning in our students and exemplify the best scholarly and ethical standards of our disciplines. We value and promote differences among students and respect students as individuals and serve as their intellectual guides and counselors. We make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to assure that our evaluations of students reflect each student's true merit. We respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professors and students. We avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students and acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from students. We do not engage in any romantic or sexual relationships with students whom we are in a position to evaluate by virtue of our teaching, research, or administrative responsibilities.


We strive to be fair, compassionate, and effective teachers. We prepare classes adequately, present materials fairly, and make ourselves available to students for consultation and advice. We avoid bias and we respect diverse points of view.


We accept our obligations that derive from common membership in the Faculty of Virginia Tech. We relate to colleagues and other university personnel in a responsible, professional, and civil manner, avoiding behaviors and actions that purposefully, consistently, and unnecessarily tend to disrupt, impede, harass, or abuse them in the performance of their assigned tasks and professional duties. We do not discriminate against colleagues, nor do we engage in romantic or sexual relationships with employees whom we are in a position to supervise or evaluate. We respect and defend free inquiry by all. In the exchange of criticisms and ideas, we show respect for the opinions of others, acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance, and strive to be open minded and fair in our professional judgments. We accept our share of faculty responsibilities for the governance of Virginia Tech and take due care in the discharge of those responsibilities.


We seek above all to be effective in our assigned responsibilities. We give paramount importance to these responsibilities in determining the amount and character of work done outside of Virginia Tech. Although we observe the Faculty Handbook, we maintain our right to criticize and seek revision of University policy.


As members of the larger community, we have the same rights and obligations as other citizens. We measure the importance of these rights and obligations in light of our responsibilities to our disciplines, to our professions, to our students, and to Virginia Tech. When we speak or act as private persons, we avoid creating the impression of speaking or acting for Virginia Tech. As citizens engaged in a profession that depends upon freedom for its welfare and integrity, we have a particular obligation to promote conditions of free inquiry and of further public understanding of academic freedom.


President's Policy Memorandum