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Dartmouth's "Corporate Conscience:" Untangling the Web

New online resource explains business ethics

Every day, as they carry out the work of the College, members of the Dartmouth community rely on a complex web of relationships to get things done and sustain an environment of trust and goodwill. Whether those relationships involve the work of the Board of Trustees, collaborations among faculty, policies on student employment, or the administrative support that helps Dartmouth fulfill its mission, the welfare of the institution rests on a foundation of ethical standards and a spirit of integrity.

Michael Wagner, Adam Keller, and Robert Donin
Left to right: Michael Wagner, Adam Keller, and Robert Donin developed Business Ethics at Dartmouth, a new online resource that provides guidance on ethical business practices for College employees. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)

"The reputation and success of Dartmouth depend on each member of the community following applicable laws, regulations, and College procedures, and dealing fairly and honestly with each other and with those outside the College," wrote President James Wright in a recent message encouraging employees to use the new online resource, Business Ethics at Dartmouth.

Developed by Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Adam Keller, General Counsel Robert Donin, and Controller Michael Wagner, the site provides guidance on such areas as business practices, regulatory compliance, and conflict of interest matters, and includes a section, called Business Ethics Helplines, where employees can ask questions or confidentially report suspected violations. The practices are guided by Dartmouth's Code of Ethical Business Conduct, which outlines the expectations and responsibilities of each person employed by the College.

The Code describes a broad spectrum of topics that College employees deal with in different ways and at different times. Contractual and grant obligations, compliance with laws, financial reporting, and the use of confidential information are just a few of the areas that fall within its scope. "These may seem like highly technical matters," says Donin, "but in fact, almost every Dartmouth employee will encounter them at one point or another."

Donin acknowledges that it isn't always easy to identify what constitutes ethical conduct in business and other areas, and that College employees are involved in complicated transactions that can be confusing. "We tried to ask ourselves all the questions that might come up for people, and to provide answers in a 'Frequently Asked Questions' section," he says. Donin notes that there's also a "Resources" section with links to Dartmouth departments for people to use if they have questions about policies and procedures. "Our hope is that this will clarify the issues in ways that are easily understandable."

In his message, Wright noted that the careful adherence to ethical standards and practices is nothing new to the College. "As long ago as 1919," he wrote, "former President William Jewett Tucker observed that '[a]' college administrator is expected to be more than a financier, more than a school master. He [or she] must be in some tangible and expressive way the 'corporate conscience of the College.'"

"Everyone who works here represents the College," adds Keller. "We have a shared responsibility to protect Dartmouth's assets and resources, including its good name. This means not only complying with specific laws or regulations, but also practicing fairness and honesty, and treating others with care and respect."

By LAUREL STAVIS

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Last Updated: 1/22/13