Standard 9 - Institutional Integrity
The institution adheres to the highest ethical standards in its representation to its constituencies and the public; in its teaching, scholarship, and service; in its treatment of its students, faculty, and staff; and in its relationships with regulatory and accrediting agencies.
9.A.1 The institution, including governing board members, administrators, faculty, and staff, subscribes to, exemplifies, and advocates high ethical standards in the management and operations and in all of its dealings with students, the public, organizations, and external agencies.
As a public institution, Evergreen has a framework for institutional integrity that begins with the applicable state laws. These include the Ethics in Public Service Act, the Open Public Meetings Act, and the Public Records law. These laws in turn are implemented in college policies, including the college’s ethics policy, its whistleblower policy, and others. In 2005, the college reestablished the staff position of internal auditor to provide a more systematic and professional implementation of these policies. In the past decade, the expansion of the Web resulted in improved transparency, as meeting minutes and other college documents are now routinely posted on the Web site.
9.A.2 The institution regularly evaluates and revises as necessary its policies, procedures, and publications to ensure continuing integrity throughout the institution.
The college's publications are regularly reviewed and updated. Over the last several years, the college has reviewed and revised policies and procedures as needed. In 2008, the college recognized that continued turnover of faculty and staff made clear documentation of policies and practices more urgent. At the same time, the collective bargaining environment made it important that the college clearly document its policies and procedures. In response, the president's office began a more comprehensive review of college policies and procedures, hiring a half-time policy coordinator and establishing an interdivisional Policy Coordinating Committee to undertake the project.
9.A.3 The institution represents itself accurately and consistently to its constituencies, the public, and prospective students through its catalogs, publications, and official statements.
Evergreen's distinctive approach to curriculum planning requires regular review and revision of the college's catalogs and other publications. Historically, the primary challenge the college faced in keeping publications accurate stemmed from changes to the curriculum that occurred after publication deadlines had passed. In the past year, the college took significant steps to address this issue by moving the online catalog into a content management database. Changes to the curriculum can now be posted online much more easily by the deans responsible for developing the curriculum. As a result, the online catalog is both more current and more easily searchable.
The college's Social Contract makes clear the responsibility for officially representing the college to external constituencies: "The Evergreen community will support the right of its members, individually or in groups, to express ideas, judgments, and opinions in speech or writing. The members of the community, however, are obligated to make statements in their own names and not as expressions on behalf of the college. The board of trustees or the president speaks on behalf of the college and may at times share or delegate the responsibility to others within the college."
The college represents itself to prospective students through the Office of Admissions. As described above, Evergreen has taken care to ensure that the college catalog and other publications used to explain the college to prospective and current students and their families are accurate, up-to-date, and developed in close consultation with the faculty and academic administrators where appropriate.
Representation to the local community and to state policy makers occurs through the Office of College Relations and through the director of Government Relations. Both offices are represented on the senior staff, meet regularly with the president, and so are able to accurately represent the college. Furthermore, Evergreen's location in the seat of state government ensures that the college's official statements to state policy makers match the reality on campus.
9.A.4 Institutional policy defines and prohibits conflict of interest on the part of governing board members, administrators, faculty, and staff.
As a public institution, trustees, faculty, staff, and administrators are bound by the state's Ethics law, which defines and prohibits conflicts of interest and includes strong enforcement mechanisms.
9.A.5 The institution demonstrates, through its policies and practices, its commitment to the free pursuit and dissemination of knowledge consistent with the institution's mission and goals.
The college’s foundational policy documents include strong statements supporting academic freedom. The college subscribes to the AAUP's Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Section 4.600 of the Faculty Handbook states, "It is the policy of The Evergreen State College that no faculty member will be separated from the college because of his/her written or spoken views, according to the guarantees of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The Evergreen State College subscribes to the AAUP's Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure as modified by the college's Faculty Reappointment Policy."
The vice president for Student Affairs notifies new students each year of key college policies, including the Social Contract. Evergreen’s Social Contract has been in place for many years and is widely known on campus. The Social Contract includes a strong statement of academic freedom:
- "Evergreen's members live under a special set of rights and responsibilities, foremost among which is that of enjoying the freedom to explore ideas and to discuss their explorations in both speech and print. Both institutional and individual censorship are at variance with this basic freedom. Research or other intellectual efforts, the results of which must be kept secret or may be used only for the benefit of a special interest group, violate the principle of free inquiry.
- "An essential condition for learning is the freedom and right on the part of an individual or group to express minority, unpopular, or controversial points of view. Only if minority and unpopular points of view are listened to and given opportunity for expression will Evergreen provide bona fide opportunities for significant learning.
- "Honesty is an essential condition of learning, teaching or working. It includes the presentation of one's own work in one's own name, the necessity to claim only those honors earned, and the recognition of one's own biases and prejudices."
The college has reaffirmed these commitments on several occasions during the past ten years. Following the selection of a controversial graduation speaker in 1999, President Jane Jervis resisted nationally-organized pressure to revoke the speaking invitation and used the commencement ceremony as an opportunity to speak on the importance – both to an academic community and to a democratic society -- of hearing from unpopular points of view.
In 2005, in response to events at another university, the faculty passed a resolution reaffirming the value of academic freedom. In response to that resolution, President Thomas L. "Les" Purce published an essay on academic freedom in the local newspaper. The administration’s public statements during times of controversy and protest on campus have consistently sought to reinforce these principles. (See, for instance Dodge, “Evergreen president opens door to protest,” The Olympian, March 6, 2003, and Purce, Astolphi, Minneart, “School presidents stand united against neo-Nazi hatred,” The Olympian, July 2, 2006).
Finally, and most fundamentally, the structures and processes that Evergreen uses to construct and deliver its curriculum reflect a deep and continuing commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry. Evergreen remains committed to supporting its faculty in continuously designing and delivering the curriculum through an extraordinary interdisciplinary effort, without the constraints of academic departments or majors, under the guidance of deans who are chosen from and return to the faculty. We remain “an institution and a community that continues to organize itself so that it can clear away obstacles to learning’s academic work.”
Standard 9 Findings, Conclusions, Recommendations and Plans
The college and its administration have actively defended academic freedom, in both policy and action. Turnover among faculty and staff, an increasingly complex external environment, and an evolving framework of collective-bargaining agreements, make it important that college policies be clear and up-to-date. The college has begun a comprehensive review and revision of college policies and should follow through on plans to continue with that work.