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Faculty Ethics

Definition: This policy defines ethical conduct for faculty members at California State University San Marcos and provides procedures for resolving the potential breach of ethical standards.
Authority: The policy is modeled on the Statement of Professional Ethics of the American Association of University Professors. (Procedures for resolving a potential breach of ethical standards have been designed to comply with the protection of faculty rights as st
Scope: All tenure-track and adjunct faculty at CSU San Marcos.
Responsible Division: Academic Affairs
Approval Date: 04/17/2000
Originally Implemented: 04/17/2000
Signature Page/PDF: View Signatures for Faculty Ethics Policy



The following statement, based on the Statement of Professional Ethics of the American Association of University Professors, shall be the policy of the Faculty of California State University San Marcos concerning ethical conduct. Faculty includes adjunct and tenure-track professors.


  • Seek and state the truth as they see it.
  • Devote their energies to developing and improving their scholarly competence.
  • Accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge.
  • Practice, foster, and defend intellectual honesty, freedom of inquiry, and academic freedom.
  • Avoid allowing subsidiary interests to hamper or compromise freedom of inquiry.
  • Encourage the free pursuit of learning in their students.
  • Hold before their students the best scholarly and ethical standards of their discipline.
  • Demonstrate respect for their students as individuals.
  • Adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors.
  • Make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct.
  • Make every reasonable effort to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student's true merit.
  • Respect the confidential nature of the relationship between faculty members and students.
  • Avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.
  • Acknowledge significant academic or scholarly assistance from students.
  • Protect the academic freedom of students.
  • Present the subject matter of courses as approved by the Faculty and announced to students.
  • Do not discriminate against, intimidate or harass colleagues.
  • Respect and defend the free inquiry of associates.
  • Show respect for the opinions of others in the exchange of criticism and ideas.
  • Acknowledge academic debts.
  • Strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues.
  • Accept their share of faculty responsibilities for the governance of the University.
  • Seek above all to be effective teachers and scholars.
  • Observe the stated regulations of the University, provided those regulations do not contravene academic freedom, but maintain the right to criticize and seek revision.
  • Give due regard to their paramount responsibilities within the University in determining the amount and character of work done outside the University.
  • When considering interruption or termination of their service, recognize the effect of their decision on the University and give due notice of their intentions.
  • Avoid creating a conflict of interest (see appendix A) in the exercise of their multiple professional responsibilities.
  • Recognize that the exercise of their rights and the discharge of their obligations as individuals may come into conflict with their responsibilities to their disciplines, their students, their profession, and the university; and they are aware that they must take care when negotiating among their multiple identities.
  • Avoid creating the impression of speaking or acting for the University when they speak or act as private persons.
  • Recognize their particular obligation, as individuals engaged in a profession that depends upon freedom for its health and integrity, to promote conditions of free inquiry and to further public understanding of academic freedom.


Faculty members hold themselves, and each other, to a very high ethical standard. On rare occasions, however, faculty members may be confronted with apparent ethical violations by one or more of their colleagues. Wherever possible, disputes between faculty members should be resolved between the parties. Assistance to mediate the dispute is encouraged. Where these efforts have not resolved the matter, a written request for a hearing may be submitted. The response of faculty to apparent violations of the statement of ethics above shall be governed by the following rules:

  • If faculty members believe that ethical standards have been violated, they should first seek the advice of colleagues.
  • Faculty members should then attempt to resolve the issue by bringing it to the attention of the affected colleague informally.
  • If an informal conversation fails to bring the matter to resolution, or if the faculty member feels unable to bring the matter directly to a colleague's attention, then mediation or other dispute resolution techniques should be sought to resolve the problem. Assistance may be sought from a member of the staff of Counseling & Psychological Services, trained in mediation, from the Employee Assistance program or from a mediator acceptable to both parties.

    The goal of such a conversation (or conversations, if indicated by circumstances) is to resolve the matter successfully. Examples of such resolution might be to educate the perceived transgressor of the relevant ethical dilemma, to clarify any misperceptions of the faculty member who called the meeting, to ensure that behavior in violation of the ethical standards ceases, etc.
  • If either faculty member comes to believe that no resolution is possible in this manner, she/he may proceed to a faculty hearing.
  • Hearings shall be initiated by the submission of a written complaint as outlined below. The written complaint must be raised within twelve months of the alleged unethical action.
  • Complaints must be made in writing, signed and delivered to the Chairperson of the Academic Senate (hereafter referred to as the A.S. Chairperson). Anonymous complaints will not be considered.
  • Complaints must specify the sections and parts of the Policy on Ethical Conduct allegedly violated, the dates and places of alleged violations and the efforts already undertaken to resolve the dispute.
  • Complaints must be accompanied by a statement that the person making the complaint (the petitioner) has read and understands the Policy on Ethical Conduct.
  • Complaints that, in the judgment of the A.S. Chairperson do not conform to the above provisions shall be returned to complainants with a copy of this policy. No formal action shall be taken unless and until such complaints are submitted in the specified form.
  • When a complaint has been received, the A.S. Chairperson shall, within seven (7) calendar days, have the following documents hand-delivered to the person named in the complaint (the respondent), and the petitioner:
    i. A copy of the complaint;
    ii. A copy of this policy;
    iii. A list of faculty members of rank equal to or greater than the rank of the
    respondent, excluding the petitioner and respondent for purposes of assembling
    a Hearing Committee (Part V).

    Should hand-delivery of the documents specified in Part III.F prove impossible, the chairperson shall have the documents sent to the last known address of record. Effective receipt by the party concerned of the pending action shall be considered to have occurred when a reasonable time for delivery (7 calendar days) of the documents has elapsed, and the chairperson shall declare the documents effectively received as of that date.
  • Within seven (7) calendar days of the actual or effective receipt of the documents specified in Part III. F, the petitioner and respondent shall deliver notice of the persons on the specified list of faculty members whom they will accept as members of a three-person committee to hear the complaint. These names shall be delivered to the A.S Chairperson.
  • Within fourteen (14) calendar days of actual or effective receipt of the documents (specified in Part III. F) by the last party to the complaint to receive them, the A.S. Chairperson shall appoint a Hearing Committee composed of:
    i. One person acceptable to the petitioner;
    ii. One person acceptable to the respondent;
    iii. One person acceptable to both, who shall be designated the Hearing Committee Chairperson (hereafter referred to as the Chairperson) of the committee.
  • If no person on the list specified in Part III. F is acceptable to both the petitioner and respondent, the A.S. Chairperson shall choose the third member of the Hearing Committee.
  • Should the petitioner fail to comply with Part III. G, the complaint shall be considered withdrawn. Should the respondent fail to comply with Part III. G., the A. S. Chairperson shall choose the second member of the Hearing Committee.
  • Should all the persons acceptable to the petitioner or the respondent decline appointment to the Hearing Committee, the A. S. Chairperson shall choose replacements from other persons on the list specified in Part III. F.
  • Upon determination that a particular complaint merits a hearing, the Hearing Committee (hereafter, the committee) shall investigate the complaint. At any stage of the hearing, the committee may exercise its ability and discretion to resolve the dispute between the parties or refer the matter to an appropriate dispute resolution resource available within the university.
  • Within thirty (30) calendar days of the appointment of the committee, the Chairperson shall convene a meeting, at a time and date chosen with due regard for the convenience of both the petitioner and respondent, to examine such evidence and witnesses as the petitioner and the respondent shall choose to present.
  • The petitioner and respondent may submit documentary evidence to the committee at any time prior to the conclusion of the hearing process. Copies of such evidence must be provided to the other party by the person submitting it at the same time that s/he provides them to the committee.
  • Should either the petitioner or the respondent, or both, fail to appear for the hearing, the committee shall proceed to consider the complaint on the basis of such evidence as is available at that time.
  • The petitioner and respondent shall be entitled to ask questions of all witnesses who appear at a hearing, but witnesses cannot be compelled to answer any question.
  • Parties to the complaint may elect to have legal counsel present for consultation outside of the hearing room, but may not be represented by counsel inside the hearing. Consultation with counsel may not be disruptive to the hearing, as determined by the Hearing Committee.
  • If hearsay evidence is relevant, material and unrepetitious, members of the Hearing Committee may weigh it according to its truthfulness, reasonableness and credibility.
  • All participants in the complaints and hearings shall be advised that they are bound to preserve the confidentiality of the proceedings, unless both the petitioner and the respondent agree to make it public.
  • Hearings shall be held in private unless both the petitioner and respondent agree to a public hearing. Only committee members, parties to the complaint, and witnesses then being examined may be present in a private hearing. Petitioner may have counsel available outside the room where the hearing takes place and may consult if the consultation is not disruptive to the hearing process.
  • The committee may hold more than one hearing, but may not, in any case, fail to forward a report and statement of action taken to the A.S. Chairperson within thirty (30) calendar days of the first hearing.
  • The investigation shall be concluded when any of the following occur:
    i. The dispute is resolved with the consent of the parties;
    ii. The committee, by majority vote, rejects the complaint for reasons;
    a. If the committee determines that a filed complaint is frivolous or malicious they may recommend that the complainant be censured by the Academic Senate.
    iii. The committee, by majority vote, deems the complaint valid and refers the matter to an appropriate dispute resolution resource within the University or;
    iv. The committee, by majority vote, deems the complaint valid and refers its report and recommendations to the President and A.S. Chairperson, with copies to the petitioner and respondent. Recommendations may include censure by the Academic Senate and/or disciplinary action by the President. The committee shall refer to articles 18 and 19 of the Memorandum of Agreement (the Collective Bargaining Agreement) when making their recommendations for disciplinary action(s).
  • In the Committee's report to the President, the committee should include the results of its investigation, including its view of the merits of the claim(s) made in the complaint, the resolution of any factual disputes and the committee's recommendation about what actions, if any, should be taken by the university. The report should not be more detailed than necessary to summarize the committee's findings.
    i. If a member of the committee disagrees with the committee's action or recommendation, that member shall be entitled to add a minority report to the committee's report.
  • All faculty members shall receive a copy of this document.

APPENDIX A: Conflicts of Interest

I. In the context of this Policy on Ethical Conduct, a conflict of interest is an agreement, relationship, or other arrangement, be it personal or professional, formal or informal, which undermines an individual faculty member´s impartial performance of their professional duties and obligations. Students have a just expectation that they will be instructed, evaluated, and supervised by an impartial and unbiased faculty member. Faculty members have a similar expectation that their professional and academic evaluations and supervision are free from the self-interest of their peers. Maintaining fairness and impartiality is one of the central ethical responsibilities of faculty. This fairness and impartiality assures both the academic integrity of the University and faculty academic freedom.

II. In addition to the legal contracts existing between students and the University, there is an equally important "social contract" between students and the faculty, in which each fulfills its duties and obligations to the other. Interests that conflict with those obligations include actions or requirements of the faculty that are grounded in private interest or gain, rather than in professional responsibility. Examples of conflicting interests grounded in private interest or gain are: requiring the purchase of course materials from which an instructor makes a profit; and giving academic credit for student research which the instructor puts to use for private gain or profit. This is not to discourage faculty from using their own faculty-authored books in their courses. Faculty members are encouraged to explore ways that profits may be otherwise distributed (e.g., CSUSM foundation, academic programs and departments).

III. Other conflicts of interest may arise in view of the disproportion of influence, authority and power between faculty and students. Thus, instructors should not engage students in their classes or under their supervision in relationships that are so personal that the presumption of professional fairness is difficult to maintain. Faculty members, for example, ought not instruct or supervise students who are obligated to them financially; and faculty ought not supervise or instruct students with whom they have relationships grounded in interests inconsistent with their professional responsibility and the mission of the University. These conflicts of interest include but are not restricted to sexual relationships, close personal friendships, close family relationships, and employer-employee or other fiduciary relationships.