AACRAO Board Report: Policy statement on prohibited bias, discrimination, and sexual misconduct

April 24, 2018
  • AACRAO Leadership and Governance
  • Competencies
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • Policies and Bylaws
  • Professional Integrity
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by Scott Dittman, Chair of the AACRAO Board's Governance Committee, 2016-2018

We have a new statement of policy affirming the value, dignity, and responsibilities of all people involved with AACRAO, whether employees or volunteers. (View the "Statement on Prohibited Bias, Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual and Related Misconduct.")  

We thought that the AACRAO membership might benefit from knowing our process and result, to better inform your own activities and to help you examine policy development at your own institution.

Research: What's been done?

In the past year, your Board of Directors has been discussing creation of a Code of Conduct for its own members. The bulk of the work for crafting the proposal fell to the Board's Governance Committee which, during 2017-18, included Jackie Carter and Scott Dittman, Vice Presidents at Large; Paul Kyle, Past President; and Jack Miner, VP for Finance. We were joined late in the year by Lara Medley, Vice President for Records and Academic Services, and Jerry Montag, Vice President-elect for Leadership and Management Development.

As part of our discussion and research on the Code of Conduct, we wanted to especially emphasize the responsibility of Board members to act ethically and legally. That led us to a review of various statements in the AACRAO "world" of web statements, handbooks, and publications. We were drawn to the one line in the AACRAO Statement of Ethics and Practice, namely, "Adhere to principles of nondiscrimination and equality within the framework of institutional mission and prevailing law." But we found only one other formal statement (in the employee handbook), and a reference to equal opportunity and non-discrimination in a single outdated flyer.

Given each of our institutions' efforts at crafting such statements and AACRAO's own core professional competencies of Diversity and Inclusion and Professional Integrity, we were surprised that our Association didn't have something already in place. And without a compact and legally sound statement of practical ethical behavior, our new Code of Conduct would be incomplete.

Draft and revise

After reviewing a few examples, we circulated drafts among ourselves and then to the full Board of Directors for comment. We reviewed at least four different drafts, comparing them with the existing examples, before coming to something we thought covered the issues and priorities we had in mind.

One significant change--suggested by AACRAO's legal counsel, James M. Goldberg of Goldberg & Associates, PLL--was to eliminate a reference to specific legislation which binds educational institutions though not necessarily professional associations. Citing specific legislation might also cause our statement to become dated more quickly. As a result, we removed the following references (which should be familiar to most of us): Civil Rights Act of 1964; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; Age Discrimination Act of 1975; Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990; Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008; Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013; and Department of Veterans' Affairs regulations.

Final draft and future efforts

The final draft was reviewed and approved as a unified "Statement on Prohibited Bias, Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual and Related Misconduct," to be used in all aspects of AACRAO's work, whether among paid staff or among volunteers like those on the Professional Activities Committees, Board of Directors, or those who develop and present the program for our various professional meetings. It will appear in handbooks, on websites, and in appropriate publications.

Questions about the new statement may be directed to Executive Director Mike Reilly or President Tina Falkner.

A future article will elucidate the new Board Code of Conduct.