Arts & Humanities

Strom-Gottfried touts the value—and safety—of Carolina Ethics Line

“Upholding the highest standards of integrity is a responsibility that belongs to all of us and can begin with any one of us,” said Kim Strom-Gottfried.

Kim Strom-Gottfried poses for a photograph
Kim Strom-Gottfried (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Carolina is dedicated to fostering a campus community that upholds the highest standards of ethics and integrity.

That commitment was affirmed in summer 2017 when Chancellor Carol L. Folt established the Office of Ethics Education and Policy Management and named Kim Strom-Gottfried to serve as the University’s director of ethics education and policy management. Strom-Gottfried remains the Smith P. Theimann Jr. Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Professional Practice in the School of Social Work.

For the past two years, Strom-Gottfried has met with an array of campus groups to explore

the challenges in upholding the highest standards of integrity and affirming the shared responsibility to do so. Now, she wants everyone to know more about the newly improved anonymous hotline they can use to meet that obligation.

It’s called the Carolina Ethics Line and while an earlier version was adopted at Carolina in 2005, the office has expanded the scope and visibility of the website with new reporting software to make it even easier for people to find and use.

“The EthicsPoint system is used by hundreds of colleges and universities to provide a secure avenue to raise ethics concerns and questions,” Strom-Gottfried said. “The launch of the expanded Carolina Ethics Line brings us in step with our peers by offering an array of issue categories and a coordinated system to investigate reports.

Perhaps most importantly, it allows us to identify trends and patterns that we can address through consultation, policies or training to encourage accountability and prevent continued problems.

“The Chancellor’s Ethics and Integrity Working Group envisioned the expanded reporting tool as an important element in creating an ethical culture at Carolina. With the help of many colleagues charged with compliance and integrity, it’s gratifying to bring the ethics line vision to fruition,” Strom-Gottfried said.

NAVEX Global’s EthicsPoint is the third-party provider for the Carolina Ethics Line reporting tool that is designed to provide a simple, anonymous way for concerned persons to report questions of unethical and improper conduct, including possible violations of University policies, regulations or state and federal laws.

While there are many existing avenues for people to raise concerns that may arise around a variety of University functions, Carolina Ethics Line provides a way to report concerns anonymously through an independent party, Strom-Gottfried said. If a person does not have access to the internet or prefers using a telephone, they can call the EthicsPoint service toll-free at 866-294-8688.

Just as important, it allows the University to send follow-up questions about a report though the same anonymous service.

After a person files a report, he or she will receive a unique user name, called a “report key” and be asked to choose a password. The report key and password can be used to return to the
Carolina Ethics Line to check the report for comments or follow-up questions. Meanwhile, EthicsPoint notifies Strom-Gottfried that there is a report posted to a secure access site on the
EthicsPoint system.

Within three business days, the University administrator will review the allegations in the report and acknowledge receipt of the report. The administrator uses Carolina Ethics Line’s internal features to assign the report to an incident manager within the University for review and resolution.

The person making the report should return to Carolina Ethics Line and click “Track a Report” periodically to check for a University response.

Some issues are difficult to resolve on the basis of anonymous allegations, which is why direct discussion with one’s supervisor or using other existing channels of communication are preferred methods of raising concerns, Strom-Gottfried said.

The Carolina Ethics Line exists for people faced with circumstances where they prefer to remain anonymous.

“Upholding the highest standards of integrity is a responsibility that belongs to all of us and can begin with any one of us,” Strom-Gottfried said. “Carolina Ethics Line is another resource to help us make continuous progress in achieving that goal.”