Whose Views—Yours or Your Institution's?
Excitedly, Professor Jordan skimmed through the article. The newspaper reported, in detail, the major features of the plan that was being studied by a legislative committee. As he read on, his feelings changed from excitement to distress. In his view, what was being considered was not in the best interest of the higher-education system of the state. It was obvious that the planning committee either had not listened to him or just didn't understand his ideas.
Convinced that the state was about to make a big mistake and knowing that time was of the essence, John inserted some university departmental letter paper into his laser printer, turned to his word processor, and composed a lengthy letter to several key state legislators explaining how the plan should be altered.
A few days later, Professor Jordan received a call to arrange a meeting with Mr. Samuels, the university's governmental relations officer. "I wonder what this is all about?" he muttered to himself.
The AECT Code of Ethics—Section 2, Principle 1 In fulfilling obligations to society, the member shall honestly represent the institution or organization with which that person is affiliated, and shall take adequate precautions to distinguish between personal and institutional or organizational views.
The meeting with Mr. Samuels was cordial and informative. Professor Jordan was alerted to some policies and processes of governmental relations with which he was not familiar. As Mr. Samuels pointed out, the statewide university planning committee on the use of technology had been working for several years to accomplish its mission. Because they were dealing with a number of campuses and a broad spectrum of competing viewpoints, extensive compromise was necessary in order to arrive at a consensus that could be presented to the legislature and that would have university-wide support. As a result of this careful and deliberate process, it appeared that state funding was virtually assured. However, Mr. Samuels pointed out, he had received a call from the chair of the legislative committee considering the technology legislation indicating that he had received Professor Jordan's letter. The legislator had asked if this meant that there was, indeed, serious disagreement within the university system over the proposed plan. Mr. Samuels explained that he pointed out to the legislator that Professor Jordan was expressing his personal views and was not speaking on behalf of the university.
With this background, Mr. Samuels shared with Professor Jordan a copy of university policy on legislative contacts. He pointed out that the policy addressed the delicate nature of legislative relations and, in order to avoid confusion, the need for the state university to speak with a united voice. The policy went on to recognize the right of any member of the faculty or staff to express an opinion and advance a point of view. However, to avoid misunderstanding on the part of legislators, this should be done through personal correspondence and not on official university stationery without clearance from the governmental relations office.
Mr. Samuels thanked Professor Jordan for his concern over this important issue and assured him that the situation had been resolved with the legislative committee chair. However, he requested that, in such situations in the future, Professor Jordan review university policy and check with the governmental relations office before making legislative contacts that might appear to reflect a position of the university.
Paul W. Welliver