Faculty Code of Conduct
The Center for Group Studies seeks to provide an environment conducive to teaching, extending, and critically examining techniques for group leadership grounded in a Modern Group Analytic perspective. Promoting positive relationships between faculty and students, between colleagues, and between faculty and the Center itself are central to sustaining such an environment; these relationships are the source of the professional responsibilities of all faculty. It is the intent of the Faculty Code of Conduct to help preserve the highest standards of teaching and professionalism for all who teach at the Center for Group Studies.
Part I of this Code elaborates standards of professional conduct, derived from general professional consensus about the existence of certain precepts as basic to acceptable faculty behavior. Conduct which departs from these precepts is viewed by faculty as unacceptable because it is inconsistent with the mission of the Center. The Faculty Code of Conduct is grounded in a clear distinction between statements of (1) ethical principles and (2) types of unacceptable behavior:
1. Ethical Principles
The Ethical Principles encompass major concerns traditionally and currently important to the teaching and clinical professions. These comprise ethical prescriptions affirming the highest professional ideals. They are aspirational in character, and represent objectives toward which faculty members should strive.
2. Types of Unacceptable Faculty Conduct
Derived from the Ethical Principles, these statements specify non-exhaustive examples of types of unacceptable faculty behavior which are subject to discipline because they significantly impair the Center’s central function. The examples of types of unacceptable faculty conduct set forth below are not exhaustive. It is expected that faculty may be subjected to disciplinary action up to and including termination under this Code for any type of conduct which, although not specifically enumerated herein, meets the standard for unacceptable faculty behavior set forth above.
Part II of this Code deals with the policies and procedures for grievance adjudication applicable to unacceptable faculty behavior. That process must meet basic standards of fairness and must reflect significant faculty involvement.
I. Principles and Guidelines for Faculty Conduct
A. Faculty Relationship to Students
Ethical Principles. As instructors and supervisors, faculty encourage the free pursuit of learning of their students. They hold before them the best training standards of their discipline. Faculty demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as professional mentors. Faculty make every reasonable effort to foster honest intellectual and emotional conduct and to assure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit. They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between faculty and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students. When managing multiple roles with a student with whom the faculty member has an ongoing relationship, the faculty member prioritizes the interests, and well-being, of the student first and foremost, as well as those of CGS. Faculty are bound by the respective ethical guidelines and principles of their professional organizations, their license to practice granted by their state licensing agency, and the laws and regulations related to mental health practice and training in the State of New York.
The integrity of the faculty-student relationship is the foundation of the Center's educational and training mission. This relationship vests considerable trust in the faculty member, who, in turn, bears authority and accountability as mentor, educator, and evaluator. The unequal institutional power inherent in this relationship heightens the vulnerability of the student and the potential for coercion. The teaching relationship between faculty member and student must be protected from influences or activities that can interfere with learning consistent with the goals and ideals of the Center. Whenever a faculty member is responsible for the training or supervision of a student, a personal relationship between them of a romantic or sexual nature, even if consensual, is inappropriate. Any such relationship jeopardizes the integrity of the educational process and is, thus, to be avoided. When a faculty member and student entering the training program have a pre-existing sexual or romantic relationship, the faculty member takes responsibility for preventing actual or apparent conflicts of interests or role conflict by avoiding positions of evaluation or authority with that student. When a faculty member and student entering the training program have a pre-existing clinical or supervisory relationship, the faculty member takes responsibility for preventing actual or apparent conflicts of interest or role conflict by avoiding positions of evaluation or authority with that student.
In short, faculty members at the Center for Group Studies recognize and abide by their respective discipline's ethical guidelines with respect to actively avoiding dual relationships and conflicts of interests.
Examples of unacceptable conduct:
1. Failure to meet the responsibilities of instruction, including: (a) arbitrary denial of access to instruction; (b) significant intrusion of material unrelated to the course; (c) significant failure to adhere, without legitimate reason, to the expected rules and requirements of teaching and supervision; (d) evaluation of student work by criteria not directly reflective of course performance; (e) undue and unexcused delay in evaluating or the administrative processing of student work.
2. Discrimination, including harassment, against a student on political grounds, or for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, theoretical clinical orientation, ethnic origin, national origin, ancestry, marital status, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, or service in the uniformed services.
3. Any behavior involving unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature--including sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, or sexual violence.
4. Use of the position or powers of a faculty member to coerce the judgment, conscience, or behavior of a student or to cause harm to a student for arbitrary or personal reasons, such as direct solicitation of students to enter a faculty member's clinical practice as patients or supervisees.
5. Entering into a clinical relationship as a therapist or supervisor, as initiated by the student, within three (3) months of the student's original request, in circumstances where the student and faculty member's first substantial contact occurs within the CGS training program.
6. Entering into, or attempting to enter into, a romantic or sexual relationship with any student for whom a faculty member has, or should reasonably expect to have in the future, academic responsibility (instructional, evaluative, or supervisory).
7. Exercising academic responsibility (instructional, evaluative, or supervisory) for any student with whom a faculty member has a preexisting romantic or sexual relationship.
8. Accepting a gift or other favors from a student that could create the appearance of, or actual, conflict of interest.
B. Faculty Relationship to Colleagues
Ethical Principles. As colleagues, faculty have obligations that derive from common membership in the community of group leaders and clinicians. Faculty do not discriminate against or harass colleagues. In the exchange of ideas and viewpoints regarding training programs at CGS, faculty show due respect for the opinions of others. Faculty members acknowledge and strive to be objective in their professional judgment of colleagues. Faculty accept their share of faculty responsibilities for the governance of the Center, including participation in teaching and supervision components of the training program, attendance at faculty meetings, and participating in committee work.
Examples of unacceptable conduct:
1. Harassment or hostility directed toward any faculty or staff member that could interfere with their ability to perform duties on behalf of CGS.
2. Being convicted of a criminal act in a court of law, or being sanctioned for breach of ethics by a professional board, that clearly demonstrates unfitness to continue as a member of CGS faculty.
3. Failure to cooperate with colleagues in performing committee work in a timely and responsive manner.
4. Failure to attend faculty meetings regularly (i.e., at least one meeting per year).
5. Breach of privacy or ethical principles respecting confidentiality in personnel or student matters.
6. Any behavior directed toward a faculty or staff member involving unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature---including sexual harassment, gender-based harassment, or sexual violence.
C. Faculty Relationship to the Center
Ethical Principles. As members of the faculty of the Center for Group Studies we all are expressing a commitment to the teaching and furtherance of Modern Group Analysis as developed by Dr. Louis Ormont. This commitment involves accepting and fulfilling all teaching, supervisory and evaluative responsibilities as dictated by the policies of the Center. Included in this is adherence to the requirements of external accrediting bodies (e.g., American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, or the New York State Board of Education) upon which we are reliant for our standing in the educational community.
Our commitment to the Center is also to be expressed not only in our striving for excellence as educators, but also as representatives of the Center in the world of group leaders and therapists at large. A key expression of this commitment is respecting the intellectual and emotional diversity that exists within the group community. This is demonstrated by a curious, non-judgmental attitude towards all professionals who interact with the Center. Additionally, as therapists, our conduct both professionally and personally is expected to be a model of that which we seek to enable our clients to achieve—i.e., professional competence and personal maturation. While our private lives are our own, as public representatives of the Center, whose vision is not only to educate but inspire others to strive for professional excellence and psychological health, we would do well to hold ourselves to a higher level of conduct than were we to be solely private citizens.
Examples of unacceptable conduct:
1. Failure to adhere to and meet the teaching and evaluative requirements outlined by the Center and its sponsoring accrediting organizations;
2. Failure to maintain appropriate licensure/credentials essential to the continued professional practice;
3. Presentation of inappropriate material (salacious, sexual, violent or racist) on the internet;
4. Public behaviors ( e.g, maligning of other Center colleagues, or colleagues from other psychological institutions) which reflect badly on the reputation and standing of the Center.
5. Participating in relationships or circumstances in which any reasonable observer might construe the existence of a professional conflict of interest (or role conflict) that could compromise one's professional judgement;
6. Failure to report suspected violations of the Faculty Code of Conduct by other faculty to the ombudsperson or Director of Training.
II. Grievance Adjudication – Policies and Procedures
As a training center devoted to the principles of Modern Psychoanalysis, the Center for Group Studies (CGS) embraces the philosophy that groups thrive amidst the open, constructive communication of a wide range of diverse thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and attitudes. By inviting the expression of a broad range of human experience, CGS acknowledges that conflicts, tensions, and differences among participants are an inevitable aspect of the group training process. In fact, enhancing one’s capacity to engage and resolve interpersonal conflict is considered a critical aspect of the training curriculum, both experientially and academically. Consequently, it is expected that students and faculty will, as a matter of course, devote themselves to proactively identifying and resolving complaints and concerns (including concerns about faculty conduct) with one another as an integral part of the educational process. There may be circumstances, however, that require additional resources to address and remediate conflicts caused by faculty conduct, including both formal and informal grievance processes that can be initiated when organic efforts at resolution reach an impasse.
The grievance adjudication framework, as outlined below, organizes a process to address alleged breaches of the Faculty Code of Conduct that may give rise to complaints about faculty behavior. In keeping with the mission of CGS, the principles of the adjudication process are to be guided by an emphasis on education, interpersonal reconciliation, conflict resolution, and at times, the application of sanctions to address Faculty Code of Conduct violations. To that end, CGS has a designated representative (hereafter referred to as the grievance “ombudsperson”) tasked with facilitating the adjudication process when a student, faculty member, or board member files a complaint (hereafter referred to as the “complainant”). Note that if a faculty member receives a complaint from a member of the public unaffiliated with CGS, he or she will contact the Director of Training with the information, who will refer the reported complaint to the ombudsperson. The ombudsperson, a faculty member with five or more years on the faculty at CGS, executes the role continuously for a three-year term and is identified as such in relevant CGS documentation and on the website.
In order to initiate either the formal or informal grievance process, it is recommended that the complainant demonstrate to the ombudsperson that he or she has made "reasonable efforts" to resolve the complaint directly and privately with the faculty member involved. However, some situations may occur in which direct student-faculty interaction is ill-advised or unwarranted, e.g. complaints regarding alleged sexual harassment or misconduct. Whether efforts at conflict resolution are considered reasonable will be determined by the ombudsperson on a case-by-case basis. If the ombudsperson determines that the complainant has not made reasonable efforts to resolve the situation, the complainant is referred back to the faculty member in question to try to reach a mutually satisfying resolution of the complaint. If the complainant, as determined by the ombudsperson, has exhausted reasonable avenues for resolving the matter with the faculty member, the ombudsperson then moves to educate the complainant about both the informal and formal adjudication process as well as the rights and responsibilities of the complainant and the faculty member, and the range of possible outcomes of the adjudication process.
Both the formal and informal grievance processes are meant to ensure fairness and the protection of the rights, dignity, and interests of students, faculty members, the Center for Group Studies, and the integrity of the training program. The adjudication process aims to promote conflict resolution, remediation of grievances, education about ethical conduct and, in some cases, the application of penalties and sanctions related to violations of the Faculty Code of Conduct.
Nomination process for ombudsperson
The ombudsperson will be a faculty member who is elected by the entire faculty to serve in this role for three years. A three-person nominating committee--comprised of the current ombudsperson, and two faculty members, ideally having diverse years of experience at CGS--will collect nominations (including self-nominations) for the role of ombudsperson. The nominating committee will then present the candidates to the faculty and request an electronic (email) vote; the candidate who receives a simple majority of votes will become the next ombudsperson for the Center.
The Informal Grievance Process:
The informal grievance process directly inserts the ombudsperson into the conflict resolution efforts that have been ongoing between the complainant and faculty member. Both parties must agree to the participation of the ombudsperson in attempting to resolve the complainant’s concerns. The informal adjudication process and outcome are both considered confidential within the parameters set forth below. If either party objects to the informal process, the matter is automatically referred to the formal adjudication process. In this case, the complainant may drop the complaint at his or her discretion. The faculty member may not stop or obstruct the complaint from being referred to the formal process.
The central feature of the informal process is that the complainant, the ombudsperson, and the faculty member agree to a process that the ombudsperson defines and implements. To initiate the informal process, the ombudsperson discusses the complaint’s concerns with the faculty member. After the initial contact with the faculty member, additional efforts may include direct personal discussions with both parties individually and collectively, in person, by phone or via video conferencing. The purpose of the process is to facilitate mutual understanding between the complainant and faculty member such that the complainant feels that the issue has been addressed and resolved. As defined by an informal process, no records or recordings of the proceedings will be kept. Confidentiality is established to protect the disclosures of all parties, though a summary of the proceedings is reviewed by the Board of Directors (who are also bound by confidentiality). At the conclusion of the process, the ombudsperson will write a report that summarizes the key elements of the complaint and resolution process. This report will be confidential and sealed, subject to approval by the Board of Directors. The only circumstance in which the report will be unsealed is in the event that the same faculty member receives additional complaints in the future. At that time, the ombudsperson may unseal the report in order to determine if a pattern of unethical conduct may be emerging with a particular faculty member.
Filing a Formal Complaint:
The act of filing a formal complaint against a faculty member is a significant matter with potentially serious consequences. Therefore, to be acted upon, a formal complaint must meet specific predetermined conditions in order to ensure a meaningful and fair grievance process. Faculty behavior that is merely upsetting to the complainant without an accompanying allegation of a violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct would not meet the criteria for a formal complaint and the matter would be referred back to the complainant and faculty member to address. In order to trigger the adjudication procedures, a formal complaint must involve an instance in which the following two conditions are met: (1) A violation of a guideline or principle of the Faculty Code of Conduct is alleged (in spirit or letter) and (2) The alleged behavior causes significant, meaningful emotional distress and/or material harm or where the alleged conduct threatens to damage the integrity or reputation of the CGS training program (or both). A formal complaint that lacks one of these conditions (1 or 2) will be dismissed by the ombudsperson and no adjudication process will ensue.
In order to file a formal complaint, and thereby trigger the formal adjudication process, the complainant must provide a signed letter to the Director of Training that outlines the details of the complaint and includes any relevant information to support the complainant’s allegations. As stated above, the complaint itself must involve an alleged violation of the letter or spirit of Faculty Code of Conduct or other formally stated policies, procedures or legal statutes. Upon receipt of the letter, the Director of Training initiates the adjudication process by referring the matter to the ombudsperson. In order to protect the complainant from real or perceived pressure to drop the complaint, the complaint may not be withdrawn until the conclusion of the formal process. However, in unusual or rare circumstances, the ombudsperson has the right to dismiss the complaint at his or her discretion after receiving an application to do so from the complainant. A faculty member who is subject to a formal complaint must participate in the adjudication process until its conclusion or will be subject to the immediate suspension or termination as determined by the Board of Directors.
Types of Ethical Complaints:
Formal complaints are reviewed by the Disciplinary Committee (defined below) and designated to one of two possible categories: Minor or Major Violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct. This distinction is relevant in determining the scope of possible outcomes that may result from the Disciplinary Committee’s findings and recommendations. Each category is defined below.
Minor Violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct:
A circumstance in which the complainant accuses a faculty member of violating the spirit or letter of the Code of Conduct, thereby causing the complainant emotional distress or harm but without incurring a tangible, material effect on the complainant or threatening the integrity or reputation of the training program. An example would be, but is not limited to, actions by the faculty member that violate the Code of Conduct and produce feelings of shame, fear, humiliation, etc., but does not result in any tangible, measurable effect on the complainant’s personal or professional life and does not threaten damage to the integrity of the training program or organization as a whole.
Major Violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct:
A circumstance in which the complainant accuses a faculty member of violating the spirit or letter of the Code of Conduct, thereby causing the complainant emotional distress or harm and causes either (or both) of the following effects: (1) tangible, material damage to the complainant, or (2) a threat to damage the integrity or reputation of the training program. An example would be, but is not limited to, actions by the faculty member that produce feelings of shame, fear, humiliation, etc., and negative material effects on the complainant such as damaging one’s personal or professional reputation, permanent, lasting psychological or physical harm, loss of professional or training opportunities, or financial damages, and/or causing undue legal risk or liability to CGS as an organization or otherwise damaging or threatening the integrity of the training program.
Forming the Disciplinary Committee:
Upon receipt of a valid formal complaint in writing, the Director of Training alerts the ombudsperson and the Board of Directors. The ombudsperson is then tasked with forming the Disciplinary Committee, which will consist of three members as follows: The ombudsperson, an additional CGS faculty member, and a non-CGS affiliated professional. To be eligible, the CGS Disciplinary Committee member must have served in the faculty role for at least three years. The non-CGS committee member should be an impartial person who is familiar with both group therapy training and mental health as a profession. That committee is subject to approval by the Board of Directors before the adjudication process can begin and no member of the committee may have a vested interest in the matter being considered.
In addition, the complainant may select a CGS faculty member (or outside person) to serve as a supportive presence or advocate during the proceedings, and the faculty member involved may also retain a representative to provide support through the process. The latter should be a person unaffiliated with the Center for Group Studies and may not be an attorney, as the adjudication process does not have legal authority, standing or judicial review. The persons chosen by the complainant and faculty member may be present throughout the proceedings and may confer privately with the complainant or faculty member, but may not speak on behalf of either during the proceedings, as they are informal rather than formal representatives in the process. Any member of the Board of Directors who chooses to serve on the Disciplinary Committee as a member of the faculty, must recuse himself or herself from their role on the Board of Directors in providing oversight for evaluation of the final disposition of any given ethics case.
Disciplinary procedures (i.e., the time, place and structure of the meeting) are to be determined by mutual consent of all parties involved and the specific circumstances under review. In addition, a formal record is kept of the proceeding in the form of audio or videotape. Due to the physical distances that may separate students, faculty and administrators, disciplinary meetings may be held via conference call or video conferencing with the consent of all parties and providing that the proceedings can be recorded. After a full hearing of the evidence, the Disciplinary Committee meets to determine their findings and recommendations to the Board of Directors concerning the extent to which the complaint was substantiated (see below) and which of a range of sanctions should be applied in the case, if any.
All three members must sign the report generated by the Committee and their findings must be unanimous. In instances of disagreement, the report indicates this and the deliberation process is opened to the Board of Directors where the differences among Committee members will be discussed and resolved. The combined Board of Directors and Disciplinary Committee collectively make the determination of whether the claim is substantiated and what, if any, sanctions are to be applied. In circumstances where the claims against the faculty member are found to be fully unsubstantiated, the claim and all proceedings will be kept sealed and confidential. In the case where the claim is found to be partially or fully substantiated, the CGS Board of Directors will use their discretion and legal counsel to determine how the information shall be handled in order to balance the interests of the parties involved and the Center for Group Studies as an organization.
Categories of Possible Findings by the Disciplinary Committee:
The complainant’s allegations are found to be without merit based upon the facts as determined by the disciplinary process.
2. Partially Substantiated:
The complainant’s allegations are found to be partially supported by the facts as determined by the disciplinary process.
3. Fully Substantiated:
The complainant’s allegations are found to be fully supported by the facts as determined by the disciplinary process.
Possible Sanctions for Faculty in Violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct:
· Unsubstantiated Minor or Major Claims:
No action is taken by the CGS Disciplinary Committee or Board of Directors.
All records of the adjudication process and outcome are sealed and kept confidential, unless there are future claims of the same faculty member violating the Code of Conduct. In this case, unsubstantiated claim findings may be relevant to establishing a pattern of unethical conduct and the record may be reviewed; however, the finding in the unsealed case remains permanent and binding, and may not be reversed without new evidence.
· Partially or Fully Substantiated Minor Claims:
Sanctions may include, but are not limited to, such things as writing a formal letter of apology, mandated mentoring or other continuing education or supervision, or a period of probation.
· Partially or Fully Substantiated Major Claims:
Sanctions may include, but are not limited to, such things as writing a formal letter of apology, mandated mentoring or other continuing education or supervision, or a period of probation. In addition, faculty found to be in violation of a major breach of the Faculty Code of Conduct may be subject to suspension or removal from the faculty based upon the circumstances involved, the recommendations of the Disciplinary Committee, and the judgment of the Board of Directors of CGS, which will be required to approve of any sanction applied to a faculty member found to be in violation of the Faculty Code of Conduct.
 For the initial selection, the Code of Conduct committee will act as the first nominating committee, accepting nominations (including self-nominations) from the faculty, and presenting all interested candidates to the entire faculty for an electronic vote. The Code of Conduct committee will also serve as an informal advisory committee to the first ombudsperson for the first three-year term, providing consultation as needed.