An Ethics Program for Divine Word University
Divine Word University is a 47-year-old tertiary institution of higher learning established in 1961 as a stock university. It is run by the Congregation of the Divine Word through its Board of Directors. The Program is aimed at articulating the mission of the school in every aspect of its acts, decisions, relationships, instruction, processes and services with every stakeholder across all units of the community.
In its mission-vision-goal system, DWU asserts that it is an academic Christian community, serving the people of God by working together in faith, towards the holistic development of the person, faithful to the teachings and traditions of the church, under the inspiration of its founding patrons, responsive to the needs of the region, the country and beyond.
The purpose of the Ethics Program is to showcase an effective implementation of the ideals of ethical practices, compliance and benchmarking as best practices for the industry (USOGE 2004); and for DWU, a testimonial that a school run by a congregation be the working model of a functional practice of business ethics. Its mission is a model base of ethical behavior in relation, but not limited to: (a) the nature of the organization; (b) the means by which organizational goals are achieved; (c) its goals and objectives; (d) its fundamental difference with other organizations; (e) the guiding philosophy; and (f) the role and the scope by which it aims to play in the general environment.
DWU administrators and employees highly regard their positions of employment as a form of trust and responsibility. It aims to become a center of development and excellence in learning through instruction, research and extension services, manifesting that goal through listing of the school in the stock exchange as means of generating funds to sustain its societal role as an AACSB-accredited educational institution.
Thus, in the fulfillment of that trust, all sectors are expected to: (a) act in the best interest of the organization; (b) serve as models of integrity and professional conduct in dealing within and outside the organization; (c) act and decide impartially under the principle of equal opportunity; (d) coordinate closely and professionally with all departments in a spirit of teamwork and common purpose; (e) use the school’s mission-vision-goals as framework to guide in present and future decision-making, curriculum design, development and implementation; (f) strictly refer to existing laws on good governance, professional ethics required of all academic and non-academic employees, labor laws and other relevant regulatory provisions; (g) assess such other acts, activities and decision-making issues that impact A company-wide practice of professional ethics; and (h) adoption of a system of rewards and discipline to institutionalize ethical behavior and impose appropriate sanctions for any violation; ( i ) whether as a publicly listed firm, it complies with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act provision on Code of Ethics for senior financial officers and Code of Business Conduct for all employees (Myers/AICPA 2008) .
Benefits of an Ethics Program
An Ethics Program for DWU serves as operational enhancement policy in pursuance to its thrusts of excellence, professionalism and service. This is expected to strengthen the quality of services to the different sectors in pursuant to a balance scorecard template (Kaplan & Norton 1996) adopted by the school. The actual practice of ethics in the school processes shall be witnessed by the students themselves to give them the real experience of an ethical environment as means to enhance the credibility and usefulness of the school curricula.
An Ethics Program brings employee relationships at a higher professional level which becomes the emerging standards of relationships. This will improve the morale and esteem of every employee, enhancing in the process, their productivity. In addition, it enables the school administration an easier way to implement policies and guidelines through the existing structural compliance mechanism already in place through the Ethics Program.
Through the collaborative esprit d’ corps inherent in an ethical environment, improvements in the effectiveness levels of the school are assured without the stress normally characterizing an unhealthy work environment. Consequently, employee loyalty becomes a resultant outcome of an atmosphere of healthy relationships, good governance and transparency. Some other benefits such as a strong mutual respect among people, an atmosphere of self-regulated behavior accrue to the organization.
Structure of the DWU Ethics Program
The DWU Ethics Program is an integrated set of framework by which the administration, faculty members, employees, students, alumni and other stakeholders express their commitments and active participation in every aspect of university processes as means of providing each sector a sense of importance in their institutional and societal roles. A university is an institution of higher learning, henceforth it is necessary that the core processes of instruction, research and extension be provided with initiatives and response mechanisms vital to the attainment of quality outcomes to each sector.
In the setup of the Ethics Program, the primary initiatives rest with the Board of Directors through the Audit Committee which formulates policies, creates the appropriate ethical environment supported by the top level administration composed of the President’s cabinet representing the Vice Presidents for Academics, Administration and Finance. Likewise, the middle level executives composed of the Deans, Assistant Deans, Program Heads, Subject Area Coordinators and Heads of administrative support services perform operating roles down the line. Here, they serve as models because people look to their leaders for cues about what’s acceptable and what isn’t, notwithstanding what the written policies say. Leaders create culture (Shaw 2003).
In this regard, an Ethics Program Executive Committee, representing a cross functional team composed of representatives from the different academic and non-academic sectors, is organized to recommend to the Board of Directors through the President’s Cabinet and Audit Committee policy measures for implementation, to help review the Program, setup an Ethics Implementation, Oversight and Review Manual, serve as Oversight Board and Advisory committee in cases where ethical issues may arise or whenever certain sectors raise ethical issues. A sample organizational and functional setup for the Ethics program follows:
Ethics Program Organizational Setup
The Scope of the Ethics Program
The aspect of ethical and governance issues must be a regular part of the agenda of the meetings of the Audit Committee and the Board of Directors (Deloitte 2004). The Ethics Program, initially, will cover the issues of Gifts, Gratuities, Bribes and Improper payments, which prohibits all employees from soliciting, receiving monies or gifts in connection with their job functions; Conflict of Interest where employees are required to disclose, inhibit from or probable instances of conflicts of interest in every aspect of school operations; Inside Proprietary Information and Confidentiality where all employees are under oath to protect the confidentiality of school, student and investor information; Outside employment which states the instances where teaching in other schools are prohibited; issue of whistle blowers protection; Human resource practices which requires compliance with relevant government rules and regulations; Use of company property which requires employees compliance with protocol and ethical conduct accordingly; Student contributions which mandates all financial dealings with all sectors proper disclosure and approval; Electronic Communications requiring employees compliance with official use of communications at work; and Drugs and Alcohol prohibition and use, among others.
The Ethics Program of DWU shall be considered dynamic in the sense that the Program shall continue to be extremely relevant and must be the result of the active participation of the sectors involved in drafting it. Ownership of the Program by all stakeholders is paramount and necessary so that implementation and review shall serve to comply with the good governance, transparency and social responsibility perspectives as a listed company deserving the trust and confidence of the investing public.
List of References
Myers, Ellen (2008). New Ethics Program in American Schools, http://www.creationism.org/csshs/v11n4p14.htm, retrieved April 24, 2008
Deloitte (2008). Business Ethics and Compliance in the Sarbanes-Oxley Era, (A Survey by Deloitte and Corporate Board Member Magazine)
U.S. Office of Government Etics (2004). Ethics Program Review Guidelines.
Shaw, John C. (2003). Corporate Governance and Risk, A Systems Approach, John Wiley & Sons.
Kaplan, Robert & Norton, David P. (2004). Strategy Maps: Converting Intangible Assets into Tangible Outcomes, Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation