Policy is Beautiful

The university’s Conflict-of-Interest policy is a beautiful piece of work. It puts the crime in the intention of trying to get away with it. If an issue comes up and you didn’t disclose that that issue could have been a problem and you ought to have known that it would have, nothing else matters.

But it also shows the intent around the Provost in his co-workers. The language is very clear. If a COI is *suspected* it should be reported. The provost should have sat down with his advisor and said, “This student has a legitimate complaint against their program and I kind of gave them the smoking gun. But I don’t want to hear it, so can I manipulate the system to remove their academic freedom so I never have to hear their complaint on the record?”

Being a tail-end Gen-Xer like me, permanent jobs that last until retirement haven’t ever been my reality. It worked for my wife who was and always will be a librarian but I did a heck of a lot of things with my teaching degree.

I started as a junior high school teacher. And the one thing you never want to teach a junior high student is the only time they have to confess is when you’ve got them dead to rights. Sometimes the teachers have no idea what the kids were really doing behind the gym. And sometimes a teacher happened to be behind the gym and watched them do it.

A child that needs absolute proof of their wrongdoing before confessing learns they don’t have to be honest until a judge would have convicted them in a criminal case. But policy isn’t set to criminal law.

It’s set to civil expectations. Civil law only needs to prove that it was more likely to have happened than it didn’t. Every single person’s actions are judged against what a reasonable person who heard both sides of the story objectively would have done. This is even the standard in the COI Policy.

The Provost spent five hours with my email with my initial complaint in his inbox, from a Friday afternoon to a Monday morning. There was zero chance he had registered his COI and even if he had, there was zero chance from that zero chance they’d have said, “Do you know what’s fine? Sum up the student’s complaint to an issue they’ve never mentioned and then make sure your decision is never appealed.”

Legal counsel seems as though they were happy to help him along with his (incredibly foolish) plan, but a COI advisor would have gone down to the shop to buy a newspaper just so they could roll it up and thwack the provost across the nose.

Not that they would have ever done that to a dog.

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