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The Daily Tar Heel

Relaunch of ethics hotline encourages reporting of unethical behavior

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The Compliance Line, a confidential hotline to report unethical behavior, will be re-launching in November. The new version will allow for more reports to be filed and easier access to the line through internet and phone. 

Although the line is related to UNC, it is facilitated through EthicsPoint, a third party that provides the confidentiality that many reporters seek. Universities and companies across America use systems like EthicsPoint, so unethical behavior can be anonymously reported with ease. The company claims that unethical conduct hurts more than the organization and ensures that anonymity is guarded unless required by law. 

Professor Kim Strom-Gottfried is the Director of the Office of Ethics Education and Policy Management, and runs the UNC-side of the hotline. Her research focuses on moral courage, and she said one of the reasons people don't do the right thing is because of fear.

“It’s really important to have a place for people who do fear retaliation for speaking truth to power, and it helps us (the University) to deal with it," Strom-Gottfried said.

Chancellor Carol Folt created Strom-Gottfried’s group for ethics and integrity two years ago, in part to revamp and expand the hotline, which has been in place since 2005. Strom-Gottfried presented on the hotline at the Faculty Council meeting on Friday, Oct. 13. She has been promoting the service throughout the University. 

She believes that awareness is low and that reporting to the hotline is necessary to ensure the university is doing things the right way.

"Most companies and universities have them, and it's a place that people go if they don't feel safe to use regular channels of reporting ethical and legal concerns," she said.

When a claim is made through the hotline, EthicsPoint sends the report to Strom-Goffried’s office and either she or a colleague will refer the claim to the appropriate department. When she comes across claims concerning accounting and auditing, she passes them along to Chief Audit Officer Phyllis Petree. Petree’s job did not initially include the hotline, but now she handles investigations that are brought to her attention. 

“Even if their concerns aren’t valid, we want to know about them,” Petree said. “(The hotline) gives people at the University the chance to pose a question back to the person who made the report or if we find something that we’d like more information about, we can request through the third party.”

Both Petree and Strom-Gottfried are eagerly anticipating the hotline’s update in one month. The current system only allows for three categories of reporting, while the updated version will have eight. 

“I think it’s really an underused system,” Strom-Gottfried said. “With the update, we’re casting a bigger invitation and hopefully we’re making the existence of the line more visible. We’ll get more traffic and in this case that's a good thing.”

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