Friday, August 17, 2012

Faculty Codes of Conduct

We had a nice discussion of repressive dress codes the other day. I'm curious (for a reason I can't really go into here) about faculty codes of conduct. I'm sure you have one, administrations love to set up elaborate ones with lots of process and meetings and decisions and stuff.

I've got some questions for you, gentle readers:

1. What things are covered in your code of conduct? Sexual harassment, plagiarism, forced attendance at football games?

2. Who decides at your school what happens when a violation occurs? The president, a committee, the janitorial board?

3. Does anyone ever get busted? Okay, other than Penn State. You guys are exempt from answering this question, there's been enough coverage of this.

4. Do you do formal ceremonies for new faculty, or just throw the faculty handbook at them?

Thanks ever so much!
Suzy from Square State.


  1. Most schools operate mostly by unwritten rules.
    (Blackmail is popular. Threats are big.)

    I think the two people most likely to follow rules on any given campus are the head librarian and the HR director. No, not the police chief, the president, the head coach, the proffies, the students, the fry cooks, or even the lawyers.

    The top business officer is a wildcard. Some of them are straight arrows; others are crooks. Not much in between.

    People get busted at every school. The only question is how much publicity the busting will get. Some schools are much better at sweeping things under the carpet.

  2. There's no dress code here at Middlin' State. Our outgoing Chair, a field theorist like Sheldon Cooper from the show "The Big Bang Theory," and almost as geeky but somewhat less socially inept, teaches intro and advanced physics in scuzzy gym pants and t-shirts. I often look, probably smell, and certainly feel pretty bad as an observational astronomer who's been up all night observing, particularly in an extended campaign extending for weeks, since California weather is famous. At least I'm usually in a dress or polo shirt and slacks, referred to here as "business casual." When I get 8 a.m. meetings to run under those circumstances, they run snappily, since I am no mood for nonsense. Foul language among faculty and in class is frowned upon, although there are no explicit rules about it, but then as you may know there are limits to what sensible faculty should say to deans, even if those faculty do have tenure.

    Attendance at football games isn't required. Attendance by faculty at graduation and other ceremonies is supposed to be required, but it's not enforced. I do my best to attend, particularly if I have graduating students. This is especially so for the hooding ceremony from grad students. Few of the other faculty are as good about this as I am. Regalia are required: a couple years ago a couple of our physics geeks---ahem, faculty---were sent home because they weren't wearing them.

    Graduation ceremonies here are great cures for getting too cynical. This is because we have such large populations of first-generation and immigrant students. Every time, there's at least one good student bedecked with academic honors, who from the podium thanks Mom, who only ever could get a third-grade education and helped by working as a hotel maid, and she cries.

    Sexual harassment is a definite no-no. Our department Chairs are required to report it to our Deans, who report it to a committee. A real, actionable case of sexual harassment could result in revocation of tenure. So far, I've never known anyone who's been busted, or has deserved to be. Guys in physics departments can be terribly socially inept: what's the matter, haven't you ever seen "The Big Bang Theory?" Still, I think we're pretty successful on limiting this: the daughter of the new Chair is starting as an undergraduate physics major, and wants to be an astronomer, of all things. One of our women physics faculty has one of the best research programs, because it's interesting, brings in lots of funding, and involves lots of students.

    Plagiarism is formally a no-no, but the proscribed procedure of reporting it to our Incompetent Dean of Students is like dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon. Nothing whatsoever has ever happened whenever I have followed this procedure. Still, every time I have awarded the guilty student an F for the entire the course whenever I found the first instance of plagiarism, and so far I've made every one stick. Only one student has ever tried to contest it. The result was a meeting between him, me, and our department Chair, in which I took a stern enough tone for him to back down. He tried the excuse, "It was an honest mistake: I downloaded that article for research purposes by accident." I pointed out the numerous modifications made to the article to make it look like it was his. He wasn't a smart one, but then he wasn't a physics major either. I've never known a physics major who's tried to cheat: they may know that I'd catch them.

    We have a good orientation week for new faculty, in which I think we do a genuinely useful job at orienting them. At least, I found it useful when I went through it, 12 years ago. Like anything, it's not all good: we have to invite people from instructional technology and the center for excellence in teaching to give talks, but at least they don't go on too long. At the conclusion of the new faculty orientation week, we have a ceremony.

  3. P.s. I was glad this high school teacher got five years in prison today for fucking five of her 18-year-old students.

    And I'm glad I wouldn't go to prison for fucking any of my 18-year-old students.

    Clear message: College is not high school.

  4. 1. Most of the usual legal boilerplate that in a civilized society would be understood by all unwritten.

    2. Nobody knows. The local rag publishes our PR department's materials unedited, so the only time bad things happen is when there's an actual police report. I've been a designated faculty member of a judicial board that's not met in years. I assume there's a Star Chamber, probably in the old library, with access to a deep well for disposing of victims.

    3. Does anyone ever get busted? Only if shots ring out. Otherwise "busted" means "don't take anything from that prof again and you'll be fine."

    4. We have a formal ceremony where we all line up and throw the faculty handbook at new faculty. Doesn't everyone?

  5. @FFF, awwww, the graduation ceremony sounds great. I love the "dropping a rose petal into the Grand Canyon" metaphor, I'm going to plagiarize that, if you don't mind. And I wonder if it's the Peter Principle that is responsible for all of these incompetent deans?

    @ahistoricality, ha ha, no, we don't even have faculty handbooks. That's kind of why I'm asking.

  6. @Suzy: go ahead, since I got it from Robert Burnham, and I'm pretty sure he "borrowed" it, himself.

  7. @Suzy: go ahead, since I got it from Robert Burnham, and I'm pretty sure he "borrowed" it, himself.

  8. At LD3C (a community college) we have clear sexual harassment policies, defined and codified. We also have to attend graduation ceremonies and that is a rule that is enforced--as is our participation in a certain amount of professional development each year. There is a codified rule about how far away from campus we can live but it isn't enforced. There is nothing anywhere about dress codes, but not dating students is codified and would be enforced by HR if anyone among the faculty were stupid or desperate enough to date a student. (Seriously, why would anyone want to?) We have a heavy load of office hours that we must keep and--oh, yes--keeping them is enforced. There are other things in the faculty handbook about not demeaning LD3C.

    We all get the handbook. There is serious, extensive orientation for full-timers and mandatory one-day (paid) orientation for part-timers.

    There are many rules laid out in our contracts and both the faculty and the administration strive to live by them, to the letter. Each department also codifies its own rules for operating and as long as those don't violate terms of the faculty contract, the college has no problem with them.

    LD3C also takes very seriously the academic rules--including course outcomes--that we work hard to shape and codify.

    Yes, we are all about the rules here at LD3C; sometimes that's very good, and sometimes it's ridiculous.


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