Standards of Ethical Conduct

University Policy: 
Executive Summary: 

This Policy sets forth UNC Charlotte’s commitment to ethical, legal, and professional behavior in all dealings both inside and outside the University.  It is applicable to all members of the University community.

I. Purpose

Pursuit of The University of North Carolina at Charlotte mission of teaching, research and public service requires a shared commitment to the core values of the University as well as a commitment to ethical conduct in all University activities.  In that spirit, these Standards of Ethical Conduct (the Standards) are a statement of the University community’s belief in ethical, legal and professional behavior in all dealings both inside and outside the University.

II. Applicability

The Standards apply to all members of the University community, including The Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, the Vice Chancellors, all Senior Academic and Administrative Officers, the faculty and other academic personnel, staff, students, volunteers, contractors, agents and others associated with the University. Organizationally, these Standards apply to the University’s campuses, campus organizations, foundations, alumni association and other affiliated entities.

III. Policy

1.     Fair Dealing

Members of the University community are expected to conduct themselves ethically, honestly and with integrity in all dealings.  This means that principles of fairness, good faith and respect consistent with laws, regulations and University policies govern our conduct with others both inside and outside the community.  Each situation must be examined in accordance with these Standards.  No conduct or decision inconsistent with these Standards can be justified on the basis of customary or historical practice, expediency or achieving a desired result or purpose.

2.     Individual Responsibility and Accountability

Members of the University community are expected to exercise responsibility appropriate to their positions and delegated authorities.  They are responsible to each other, the University and the University's stakeholders both for their actions and for their decisions not to act.  Each individual is expected to conduct the business of the University in accordance with these Standards, exercising sound judgment and serving the best interests of the University and its community.

3.   Respect for Others

The University is committed to the principle of treating each community member with respect and dignity.  The University prohibits discrimination and harassment based on any status protected by law or University policy and provides equal opportunities for all community members and applicants.

4.   Compliance with Applicable Laws, University Policies and Procedures, and Other Forms of Guidance

The University is subject to many of the same laws as other enterprises, as well as those particular to public entities.  There are also additional statutory and regulatory requirements unique to higher education.  University policies and procedures are designed to inform our everyday responsibilities, to set minimum standards, and to give University community members notice of expectations.

Members of the University community are expected to become familiar with the statutes, regulations, and University policies and procedures bearing on their areas of responsibility.  Many, but not all, applicable legal requirements are embodied in University policies.  Failure to comply can have serious adverse consequences both for individuals and for the University, and those consequences can adversely affect the institution’s reputation, financial stability, and the health and safety of the community.  University business is to be conducted in conformance with legal requirements, including contractual commitments undertaken by individuals authorized to bind the University to such commitments, as well as University policies and procedures.

Each member of the University community is expected to seek clarification on a legal requirement, University policy or other University directive they find to be unclear, outdated or at odds with University objectives.  It is not acceptable to ignore or disobey laws or policies if one is not in agreement with them, or to avoid compliance by deliberately seeking loopholes.

The Office of Legal Affairs has responsibility for the interpretation of statutory, regulatory, and other legal requirements.

In some cases, University employees are also governed by ethical codes or standards of their professions or disciplines.  Some examples are attorneys, auditors, physicians, nurses, social workers, and counseling staff.  It is expected that those employees will comply with applicable professional standards in addition to applicable statutes, regulations, policies and procedures.

5.   Conflicts of Interest or Commitment

Employee members of the University community are expected to devote primary professional allegiance to the University and to the mission of teaching, research and public service.  Outside employment must not interfere with University duties.  Outside professional activities, personal financial interests, or acceptance of benefits from third parties can create actual or perceived conflicts between the University's mission and the private interests of an individual employee or a member of the employee’s immediate family.  University community members who have certain professional or financial interests are expected to disclose them in compliance with applicable conflict of interest/conflict of commitment policies.  In all matters, community members are expected to take appropriate steps to avoid both conflicts of interest and the appearance of such conflicts. See University Policy 102.1, External Professional Activities of Faculty and Other Professional StaffUniversity Policy 101.24, Conflicts of Interest and Commitment.

6.   Ethical Conduct of Research

All members of the University community engaged in research are expected to conduct their research with integrity and intellectual honesty at all times and with appropriate regard for human and animal subjects.  To protect the rights of human subjects, all research involving human subjects is to be reviewed by institutional review boards.  Similarly, to protect the welfare of animal subjects, all research involving animal subjects is to be reviewed by institutional animal care and use committees.  The University prohibits research misconduct.  Members of the University community engaged in research are not to fabricate data or results, change or knowingly omit data or results to misrepresent results in the research record, or intentionally misappropriate the ideas, writings, research, or findings of others.  All those engaged in research are expected to pursue the advancement of knowledge while meeting the highest standards of honesty, accuracy, and objectivity.  They are also expected to demonstrate accountability for sponsors' funds and to comply with specific terms and conditions of contracts and grants.  See University Policy 306, Research Utilizing Human Subjects; University Policy 309, Responding to Allegations of Misconduct in Research and ScholarshipUniversity Policy 310, Laboratory Animals Used for Teaching and Research.

7.   Records: Confidentiality/Privacy and Access

The University is the custodian of many types of information, including that which is confidential, proprietary, and private.  Individuals who have access to such information are expected to be familiar and to comply with applicable laws, University policies, directives and contracts pertaining to access, use, protection and disclosure of such information.  Computer security and privacy are also subject to law and University policy.

The public right to information access and the individual's right to privacy are governed by state and federal law, as well as by University policies and procedures.  The legal provisions and the policies are based upon the principle that access to information concerning the conduct of the people's business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person, as is the right of individuals to privacy.  See University Policy 402, Student Records (FERPA)University Policy 605.2, Privacy and Confidentiality of Individually Identifiable Health Care Information under HIPAAUniversity Policy 605.3, Retention, Disposition, and Security of University RecordsUniversity Policy 605.8, Public Records RequestsUniversity Policy 304, Electronic Communication Systems; Standard for Responsible UseUniversity Policy 311, Information Security (and supplemental policies).

8.   Internal Controls

Internal controls are the processes employed to help ensure that the University's business is carried out in accordance with these Standards, University policies and procedures, applicable laws, and sound business practices.  They help to promote efficient operations, accurate financial reporting, protection of assets and responsible fiscal management.  All members of the University community are responsible for internal controls.  Each business unit or department head is specifically responsible for ensuring that internal controls are established, properly documented, and maintained with respect to activities within their jurisdiction.  Any individual entrusted with funds, including principal investigators, is responsible for ensuring that adequate internal controls exist over the use and accountability of such funds.

9.   Use of University Resources

University resources are to be used solely for activities on behalf of the University.  They may not be used for private gain or personal purposes except in limited circumstances permitted by existing policy where incidental personal use does not conflict with and is reasonable in relation to University duties (e.g. telephones and limited use of electronic communications systems—see University Policy 304, Electronic Communication SystemsStandard for Responsible Use; and University Policy 601.1, University Supplies, Equipment, and Materials).  Members of the University community are expected to treat University property with care and to adhere to laws, policies, and procedures for the acquisition, use, maintenance, record keeping and disposal of University property.  For purposes of applying this policy, the term University resources is defined to include but not be limited to the following, whether owned by or under the management of the University:

  1. Cash, and other tangible and intangible assets;
  2. Receivables and other rights or claims against third parties;
  3. Intellectual property rights;
  4. Effort of University personnel and of any non-University entity billing the University for effort;
  5. Facilities and the rights to use of University facilities;
  6. The University's name; 
  7. University records, including employee, student and patient records; and
  8. The University information technology infrastructure.

10.  Financial Reporting

All University accounting and financial records, tax reports, expense reports, time sheets and effort reports, and other documents including those submitted to government agencies must be accurate, clear and complete.  All published financial reports will make full, fair, accurate, timely and understandable disclosures as required under generally accepted accounting principles for government entities, bond covenant agreements and other requirements.  Certain individuals with responsibility for the preparation of financial statements and disclosures, or elements thereof, may be required to make attestations in support of these Standards.

11. Reporting Violations and Protection from Retaliation

Members of the University community are strongly encouraged to report all known or suspected improper governmental activities (IGAs) under the provisions of University Policy 803, Reporting and Investigation of Suspected Improper Activities and Whistleblower Protection.  Reporting parties, including managers and supervisors, will be protected from retaliation for making a good faith report under and in accordance with that Policy.

Revision History: 
  • Initially approved October 11, 2013
  • Updated July 19, 2021

Authority:  Chancellor

Responsible Office:  Institutional Integrity

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