In Light Of Scandal, UNC Professors Consider New Ethics Policy

Nov 11, 2014

A group of faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are pursuing the idea of a new ethics policy.

At a Faculty Executive Committee meeting Monday, epidemiology professor Jim Thomas proposed developing a comprehensive ethics policy for the university as a whole. Thomas says he first suggested the idea a decade ago, but the recent scandal involving sham classes has allowed the proposal to gain traction.

"I think the University is going through and identity crisis," said Thomas. "We're having to check our values. And our reaction to these recent events is 'That is not us.' And I don't think it is either. I think we're better than that. But who are we?"

A report out last month showed about 3,100 students at UNC-CH took paper classes over an 18-year period. Several UNC staff members were fired or disciplined in light of the revelations.

We need to be slow to say 'The problem is over there and not with me.'

Despite the scandals association with athletics, Thomas believes the most effective ethics policy will be one that's all-encompassing.

"Each of us needs to examine our potential role in all that has transpired," he said. "We need to be slow to say 'The problem is over there and not with me.'"

Thomas has helped draft similar ethics policies in the field of public health - what he says could be a model for the school going forward. He hopes the project could begin shortly, and something might be in place by the end of the academic year.