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Policy on Reporting Improper or Unlawful Activities and Prohibition of Retaliation

This policy governs the reporting and investigation of claims of certain types of improper or unlawful activities as defined below and the prohibition of retaliation against individuals reporting such activities. It describes the procedures to be followed for investigation of reports of improper or unlawful activities and for addressing complaints of retaliation for raising such issues. Nothing in this policy statement replaces the existing policies and procedures governing harassment and discrimination, equal opportunity, the handling of employment grievances and other personnel policies detailed in official handbooks and contracts governing employment conditions.  This policy must be distributed to trustees, officers, and employees, and to volunteers who provide substantial services to Vassar College.

Policy

Vassar College (the “College”) seeks to achieve its mission as an educational institution by conducting its affairs ethically, and in full compliance with all federal, state and local laws.  The College acknowledges its responsibility for the stewardship of public and private resources provided in pursuit of that mission. Vassar trustees, officers, employees, and volunteers (“Protected Persons”) are expected to adhere to high standards of professional and ethical conduct in carrying out their duties.  The College’s Governance, policies, management, internal controls and operating procedures are designed to prevent, deter, and, if necessary, detect improper or unlawful activities.  To these ends, the College has established the following procedures to investigate, address, and report, as appropriate, claims of improper activities.  These procedures include measures to prevent, and if necessary to respond to, any retaliatory action taken against a Protected Person who, in good faith, reports improper activities.

“Improper activities” are defined, for purposes of this policy, as actions or failures to act by the College itself, or by its trustees, officers, employees, or volunteers in the course of their duties, which may result in either violations of Federal, State, or local law, or create a danger to public health or safety.  The term also includes fraudulent or dishonest conduct by College officers or employees in the course of their duties, such as providing false or misleading information with regard to the College’s financial status, and violations of the College’s policies.

The College prohibits any retaliation against Protected Persons who in good faith report improper activities, who participate in an investigation pertaining to alleged improper activity, or who refuse to engage in what they believe in good faith to be illegal activities. A College trustee, officer, or employee may not use official authority, directly or indirectly, in order to discourage a Protected Person to come forward with a suspected improper activity.

Protected Persons are encouraged to use the procedures outlined below to report improper activities.

This policy is not a vehicle for reporting violations of the College’s applicable human resources policies, problems with co-workers or managers, or issues related to alleged employment discrimination or sexual or any other form of prohibited discrimination or harassment, all of which should be dealt with in accordance with the applicable College policies.  The matters that should be reported under this policy include suspected fraud, theft, embezzlement, accounting or auditing irregularities, bribery, kickbacks, misuse of the College’s assets, or suspected regulatory, compliance, or ethics-related issues, concerns, or violations.

Procedures

  1. How to Make a Report.  A report of improper activities may be made by any Protected Person by writing to the Chair of the Audit Committee, in care of the Secretary of the Board (Vassar College Box 720) or, if the report involves the Chair of the Audit Committee, to the Chair of the Board of Trustees.  The Chair of the Audit Committee is hereby designated to administer this policy.
  2. Report in Writing.  Reports of improper activities should be made in writing for the sake of clarity.  Reports should be factual and contain the specific information that is known by the person making the report.
  3. Report Promptly.  Reports should be made promptly; the passage of time increases the difficulty of verifying allegations.
  4. Handling of Reports.  The Chair of the Audit Committee or the Chair of the Board of Trustees, as applicable, will ensure that an investigation appropriate to the allegation, including, if appropriate, the retention of legal counsel, accounting, or other specialists, takes place promptly and thoroughly.  The College will treat the information provided with discretion and, to the extent permitted under law, confidentially.  There may exist circumstances where the College is required to disclose information it is provided.  The Chair of the Audit Committee or the Chair of the Board of Trustees, as applicable, will report the findings of any investigations to the Audit Committee.
  5. Response to Violations.  The Chair of the Audit Committee or the Chair of the Board of Trustees, as applicable, will review reports relating to investigations and will make recommendations as to appropriate responses to the Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees.  The Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees will review all recommendations and will respond with remedial or disciplinary action as appropriate to a finding of improper activities.  Any person who is the subject of a whistleblower complaint may not be present at or participate in Board of Trustees or Audit Committee deliberations or votes on the matter relating to such complaint, provided that the Board of Trustees or Audit Committee may request that such person present information as background or answer questions at a meeting prior to the commencement of deliberations or voting relating thereto.  No trustee who is an employee of the College may participate in any Board of Trustees or Audit Committee deliberations or voting relating to administration of this policy.
  6. Policy of Non-Retaliation.  The College has a strict policy prohibiting any retaliatory action against any Protected Person who reports in good faith improper activities or who refuses to perform actions that a Protected Person in good faith believes would result in a violation of law.  No Protected Person who in good faith reports any action or suspected action taken by or within the College that is illegal, fraudulent, or in violation of any adopted policy of the College shall suffer intimidation, harassment, discrimination, or other retaliation or, in the case of employees, adverse employment consequences.  Incidents of retaliation should be reported to the Director of Equal Opportunity for issues involving administrators or staff, to the Faculty Director of Affirmative Action for issues involving faculty, or to the Chair of the Board of Trustees for issues involving Trustees or volunteers, and such person will investigate and report the findings to the Chair of the Audit Committee.  Reports of improper retaliation will be investigated promptly, and disciplinary action will be taken where the report is verified and/or substantiated.
  7. Report to Audit Committee.  All investigations and claims of retaliation under this policy will be compiled annually by the Chair of the Audit Committee, the Director of Equal Opportunity, and the Faculty Director of Affirmative Action and a summary written report will be provided to the Audit Committee.

For adoption by the Executive Committee, February 2017.