Last fall, at the behest of President Jim Wagner, the Emory
community worked collaboratively to develop a vision statement
that captures where the University sees itself going. Now Emory
will develop a code of ethics that will state how individuals should
conduct themselves to get there.
In an all-campus e-mail on July 13, Wagner presented a draft version
of the code and urged community members to respond. The process
is reminiscent of that used to develop the vision statement, with
the administration suggesting language as a starting point and
then amending that language as faculty, staff, students and others
"A code of ethics helps us declare to the world and to each other
how we will work to implement our vision," Wagner said. "It's in
the interest of our trustees, as well as simply the right thing
to do, to put together a document that's explicit about how we
will work with and honor each other."
That phrase--the "right thing to do"--is both included in the draft
code of ethics and used to explain the decision to develop the
code in the first place. Wagner said the initiative, much like
a decision earlier this summer to amend financial reporting practices,
is in response to the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which
requires for-profit organizations to take certain steps to ensure
As an institution of higher education, Emory is not legally bound
to take any action in response to Sarbanes-Oxley. It is, again,
simply the right thing to do, according to Kent Alexander, senior
vice president and general counsel.
"None of it specifically applies to us, but it strikes all of
us, the trustees and the administrators, as a good and ethical
governance practice," Alexander said. "We're pretty far ahead of
the game, from a national perspective, because we've already implemented
some things, and this code of ethics is just one more piece to
put in place."
Alexander looked at codes of ethics not only at other universities
but at corporations, and he said they vary widely; some are brief
paragraphs, while others go on at length. In developing a code
that is uniquely Emory's, he said the goal was to arrive at "guiding
And Wagner was quick to point out that the code of ethics is not
a policy, per se. It will have no provisions for enforcement or
penalties for those who do not abide by it. But the hope is that,
in time, it will become ingrained in the Emory culture much like
has happened in less than a year with the vision statement.
"It is hard to argue with a statement that encourages ethical
behavior and shuns lying, cheating, plagiarism and other kinds
of fraud," Alexander said. "But far from being pablum, it should
become a guiding ethic for the University, something we can always
refer back to."
Both the vision statement and the code of ethics, Wagner said,
are part of an overarching drive toward self-definition and goal-setting
that also includes the strategic planning process. Some of the
language in the ethics code was lifted from the University's mission
statement--which itself could be amended in the near future.
"It wouldn't surprise me at all to see the mission statement change;
it should be looked at as the strategic plan matures," Wagner said. "The
end of the planning process, next April or May, would be a very
good time to look back over our shoulders and make sure all the
components we have--the vision statement, the mission statement,
the ethics code, the strategic plan--are in harmony."
To provide adequate response time for faculty and others who have
been gone for the summer, Wagner has asked for comments on the
code of ethics to be submitted to University Secretary Gary
Hauk by Sept. 15. Once the
responses are compiled and examined for common themes, the code
will be amended and then formally presented to governance groups
(Council of Deans, University Senate, Employee Council, etc.) for
review and approval before it is submitted to the Board of Trustees.
Code of Ethics (draft)
Emory University is an inquiry-driven, ethically engaged
and diverse community, committed to fostering openness of thought,
experience and culture; to building on a heritage of engaging
knowledge and faith; to enhancing the environment through innovative
stewardship; to instilling integrity and honor; and to nurturing
and celebrating an unusual degree of collegiality and community.
All of these commitments will be exercised in a fair, honest
and open manner and with respect for the rights and dignity of
The University has a three-part mission: teaching, research
and service, including health care. The fundamental relationships
upon which this University is based are those among students,
teachers, researchers, patients and their families, and service
professionals. While fulfilling its mission, Emory will protect
those relationships from exploitation for purely personal gain
or base motives.
Emory University is committed to fostering and maintaining
mutual respect and tolerance for all members of the community.
Each member of the Emory community takes responsibility for respecting
the rights and dignity of others, for treating others fairly,
and for striving for honesty in all of our relationships.
Lying, cheating, plagiarism, deliberate misrepresentation,
theft, scientific fraud, dishonesty or ill use of our fellow
human beings will not be tolerated. The University's resources--and
resources entrusted to Emory that belong to others--are to be
protected from misappropriation in all forms.
All conflicts of interest on the part of faculty, staff,
students, trustees and the University as a whole are to be promptly
and openly identified and disclosed, and appropriate steps are
to be taken either to eliminate the conflicts or to ensure they
do not compromise the integrity of individuals or of the University.
compliance with all legal requirements is of paramount importance
and may often overlap with ethical behavior, we understand
that ethical behavior remains quite distinct from the law,
and we must never lose sight of "doing the right
thing," even if there is no governing legal requirement to do