(With gratitude to the Society of Christian Ethics for the model of their standards of professional conduct and the Society of Biblical Literature for their model of investigation procedures)
The Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States (ACHTUS) is an association of scholars dedicated to promoting research and critical theological reflection within the context of the U.S. Hispanic/Latina/o/x Experience.
ACHTUS requires professional conduct of its members and attendees as they exchange scholarly research in ACHTUS publications and when they convene at ACHTUS colloquia.
Professional conduct includes, but is not limited to, conduct based on respect for others which does not in any way exploit power and/or status differences, including but not limited to, those that exist between faculty and students, between senior and junior colleagues, between employers and those seeking employment, or between those who grant access to publication or presentation and those who seek such access. Professional conduct also includes conduct based on respect in peer to peer relationships.
Statement of Professional Conduct
This document outlines the professional conduct standards expected of our members and attendees and sets forth a grievance procedure that reinforces our standards. Members and attendees are expected to review and abide by these standards.
1. Respect for difference
As an organization that serves a diverse Latina/o/x community, we commit to sharing space that is open to the diversity of our peoples, a space where we often must disagree with each other fervently but respectfully.
Disrespect for difference occurs when a member or members engage in discrimination based on race, sex, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, or disability. Disrespect for difference also includes retaliation for reporting or participating in an investigation under this policy.
2. Respect for personal integrity
Participation in ACHTUS, its colloquia, and its publications will depend solely upon professional interest and merit. Participation will not be conditioned upon a threat, implicit or explicit, to the individual’s personal integrity.
Disrespect for personal integrity can take several different forms in the context of ACHTUS colloquia. Disrespect for personal integrity is expressed through, for example, remarks, jokes or behavior which harass or exploit other members or attendees; the display or use of degrading or pornographic images for purposes unconnected to a professional presentation; the expression of lewd remarks or conduct; and the surreptitious administration of alcohol or drugs to reduce sexual inhibitions.
ACHTUS is particularly sensitive to the way in which differences in power and position, such as those between students and teachers or junior colleagues and senior colleagues, can create or exacerbate threats to personal integrity. Persistent and unwelcome sexual advances violate personal integrity. Likewise, persistent and unwelcome social invitations can violate personal integrity.
Under this policy, private hotel rooms should not be used for functions appropriate for public spaces, including but not limited to, interviews, meetings or official ACHTUS social gatherings.
3. Respect for intellectual integrity
Respect for intellectual integrity requires proper practices of citation in accordance with the scholarly standards of our field. In addition, since our colloquia often entail the sharing of unpublished work, we commit to respect the author’s wishes for how their ideas should be circulated beyond the colloquium. When we are inspired by the ideas of our colleagues, we commit to citing them as the source, even when colleagues have not yet published their ideas. We must respect the integrity of the work people have chosen to share with us in advance of publication, and we must follow their specific requests about circulation and publication of their ideas.
Disrespect for intellectual integrity can be expressed in several ways. The most egregious form occurs when a member or attendee misrepresents the ideas from a source as his/her/their own by failing to cite sources. This last point is of particular concern to ACHTUS because members or attendees often present works-in-progress at colloquia. If an individual publishes based on the work of another member’s or attendee’s colloquium paper but fails to cite that source, then that individual has violated this standard.
Grievance Processes and Procedures
Any person who has experienced a serious verbal threat or any physical assault should contact law enforcement officials immediately.
Any person who desires to report a possible violation of the ACHTUS Professional Conduct Policy at a sponsored or sanctioned event should promptly contact the ACHTUS President, or if contacting the ACHTUS President is not feasible due to conflict of interest or otherwise, the ACHTUS Past President, or the Professional Conduct Committee Chair (contact information available at achtus.us).
ACHTUS has established Professional Conduct Investigation Procedures that provide guidelines for gathering information, maintaining confidentiality to the extent possible, reaching an initial determination, allowing for an appeal, and determining appropriate discipline. ACHTUS will investigate all complaints according to these guidelines. No individual will be retaliated against for making a complaint or assisting with the investigation of a complaint. Retaliation will be considered a violation of this policy.
Anyone who is found to have violated ACHTUS’s professional conduct policy will be subject to discipline, which may include, but is not limited to, reprimand and/or suspension or termination of the individual’s membership and/or participation in current or future ACHTUS events.
Summary of Procedures
These Investigation Procedures apply to complaints of professional conduct violations at an ACHTUS sponsored or sanctioned event, an ACHTUS colloquium, or publication. For purposes of these Investigation Procedures all actions in violation of our statement of professional conduct are hereinafter called “professional misconduct.” ACHTUS’s internal process for resolving professional misconduct issues is independent of processes of other outside entities, such as institutions, judicial bodies, or governmental agencies.
ACHTUS’s Professional Conduct Policy applies to conduct at ACHTUS colloquia, ACHTUS publications, and ACHTUS events. Complaints involving professional misconduct should be directly reported to the ACHTUS President; if, however, it is not feasible to directly report to the ACHTUS President due conflict of interest or otherwise, complaints should be directly reported to ACHTUS’s Past President, or the Professional Conduct Committee Chair (Chair). [contact information available at achtus.us]
ACHTUS maintains a Professional Conduct Committee (Committee), with six members, including its Chair. ACHTUS offers two procedures for reporting and resolving complaints of professional misconduct: an Informal Resolution Process and a Formal Resolution Process. The Informal Resolution Process will be conducted by the Chair in conjunction with the President or Past President, and it encourages members or attendees to report incidences of professional misconduct in an environment that highlights dialogue and discretion. The Formal Resolution Process will be conducted by the Chair and a Professional Conduct Panel (Panel) consisting of two members of the Committee.
Importance of Prompt Reporting
If you or someone you know is in imminent danger or experiencing verbal or physical assault, contact local police or law enforcement immediately.
An individual who believes that ACHTUS’ professional conduct policy has been violated at ACHTUS’s sponsored or sanctioned event, annual colloquium, publication, etc. should notify the President immediately, or the Past President, or the Chair if it is not feasible to notify the President due to conflict of interest or otherwise. The President and Past President will convey any such complaints to the Chair, unless the complaint is against the Chair, in which case the Past President or President will step into the role of chair of the Professional Conduct Committee.
ACHTUS is in the best position to take action against professional misconduct when both parties to the complaint have a current affiliation with ACHTUS and when an incident took place at an ACHTUS event. ACHTUS may be limited in action it can take regarding an accused person who is not, or no longer, affiliated with ACHTUS.
Professional Conduct Committee
Each year the President shall appoint two members to the Committee for a three-year term, totaling six members and chaired by one of the members. Committee members serve three-year, staggered terms, renewable for a second term, and are responsible for reviewing the Professional Conduct Policy and the Investigation Procedures. The President also shall appoint the Chair for the coming year. The outgoing committee members term ends at the conclusion of the Business Meeting at the annual colloquium. If an investigation is pending, the Chair will continue on until its resolution. The President shall strive to appoint Committee members who are seasoned members of ACHTUS, who possess sound and sober judgment, as well as tact, discretion, and skill with people. In aggregate, the Committee should represent the ACHTUS community in all its diversity. Committee members are encouraged to take relevant training for their role at their home institution or elsewhere if it is available to them. If a Committee member believes that there is a possible conflict of interest between herself/himself/themselves and a party to the complaint, then the Committee member will inform the Chair, and the Chair will assess the concern. If warranted, the Chair will appoint a new committee member.
Informal and Formal Processes to Address Professional Misconduct
There are a variety of responses for dealing with professional misconduct. Depending on the situation, some individuals may wish initially to confront the person who is engaging in the objectionable conduct. However, it is not necessary for a person to confront the person engaging in professional misconduct before reporting it to ACHTUS.
1. Informal Resolution Process
In certain cases, an informal resolution may be the preferred way to handle the complaint. The informal resolution process encourages individuals to report incidences of professional misconduct in an environment that highlights dialogue and discretion. Informal resolution must always be voluntarily agreed to in writing by the complainant, with no requirement that the complainant use the informal resolution process before filing a formal complaint.
Individuals who wish to pursue ACHTUS’s informal resolution process should promptly report the incident and ask for informal resolution from the President, or if not feasible due to conflict of interest or otherwise, the Past President or Chair. To ensure accurate communication of the allegations, the person reporting professional misconduct is strongly encouraged to submit a written account to ACHTUS. However, reporting the incident should take precedence over completing a written account.
During the informal resolution process, the Chair should take appropriate action consistent with the intent of the Professional Conduct Policy. Ordinarily, this may involve providing a copy of the Policy and these Procedures to the complainant, discussing these, listening to the complainant’s concern, discussing options, encouraging the complainant to submit a written account, and attempting to learn the complainant’s desired resolution. The Chair or the Past President if the Chair cannot handle the complaint then would ordinarily attempt to communicate with the person responding to the complaint (respondent) to mediate a resolution, involving others on the Committee as necessary to promote resolution. If a satisfactory resolution occurs, the person handling the complaint should notify the President (or Past President, in cases where the President is the respondent or complainant), in writing, identifying the parties and, in general terms, the allegations and how the complaint was resolved.
When a complaint is resolved through the informal resolution process, the Chair ordinarily will provide both parties to the complaint a letter outlining the resolution steps. Each party will be asked to sign a copy of the letter that will become a part of the ACHTUS secretary’s files for the later of: five years after the investigation is concluded, until the parties are no longer affiliated with ACHTUS, or such other period as required by law.
If a complaint is not informally resolved satisfactorily to the complainant or the respondent, the person handling the investigation must notify the Professional Conduct Committee within fourteen days.
2. Formal Resolution Process
When a person desires formal resolution of his/her/their concern over professional misconduct, that person should promptly contact the Chair. In the event the Chair is not available, or might have a conflict of interest, contact a current member of the Committee, the President, or the Past President.
The Chair will attempt to interview the complainant (the person bringing the complaint) to understand the allegations and ask the complainant to put in writing, date, and sign off on the details of the complaint. The complainant should identify for the Chair any witnesses and any pertinent evidence (such as documents, e-mails, etc.).
The Chair will attempt to contact the respondent (the person responding to the complaint), apprise that person of the nature of the complaint, and share with the respondent relevant portions of the complainant’s written allegations. The respondent may also answer in writing, and her/his/their response will be shared with the complainant before any additional interviews take place.
Two individuals will be chosen by the Chair from the ACHTUS Professional Conduct Committee to serve on the Professional Conduct Panel. The Professional Conduct Committee Chair will choose, provided there are no conflicts of interests, panelists whom the Professional Conduct Committee Chair believes can be fair and impartial to particular parties involved.
In addition to interviewing the complainant and the respondent, the Panel will attempt to interview other individuals or witnesses, who might be able to assist the Panel in determining the facts.
The Panel should schedule interviews as soon as practicable. Interviews will be scheduled by any means necessary to gather the necessary information to the investigation. The Panel may recall the parties or witnesses for more than one interview. Interviews are not to be taped; however, members of the Panel may take confidential personal notes. Those notes will become part of the file maintained by the Professional Conduct Committee Chair.
The complainant and the respondent will not be interviewed at the same time. If an individual wishes to bring legal counsel during their/his/her interview by the Panel, the Professional Conduct Committee Chair must be notified well in advance. No Panel investigation with legal counsel will take place unless ACHTUS legal counsel is available. Neither party nor their legal counsel will be allowed to attend any interviews of others involved in the investigation.
The Panel has sole discretion to determine how many and which interviews are appropriate. The Panel and the Professional Conduct Committee Chair may consult, and at the end of its investigation, the Panel will present its findings and make a recommendation to the Professional Conduct Committee Chair. Anyone who is found to have engaged in professional misconduct will be subject to disciplinary action, which may include, but are not limited to, reprimand and/or suspension or termination of the individual’s membership, engagement, and/or participation in current and/or future ACHTUS operated, sponsored, and/or affiliated events.
The Professional Conduct Committee Chair will review the findings and recommendation, and make a report to the President. In the case the President is the complainant or the respondent, the Professional Conduct Committee Chair will make a report to the Past President. The President, or Past President, will review the recommendation of the Chair and consult as needed with the Chair and/or Panel. The President, or Past President, will provide a written notice to the complainant and respondent of the final decision. The written notice shall include the parties’ right to appeal the final decision, provided that the appeal is filed in writing with the President or Past President, within ten (10) days of receipt of the decision of the Board.
If civil or criminal legal proceedings related to alleged professional misconduct are initiated, ACHTUS, in its sole discretion, may indefinitely suspend or postpone any pending informal or formal professional misconduct resolution process. Such resolution process may be reinstated at any time either by the Board or the PCC Chair, in case the PCC Chair drops the ball and the person who raised the allegation would like to see it reinstated.
The final decision may be appealed provided that the appeal is filed in writing with the President, or Past President if applicable, within ten (10) days of receipt of the written notice of the final decision. Grounds for appeal must be specified and include new evidence or demonstration of a flawed procedure. The appeal shall be based on the written record of findings by the Professional Conduct Panel and the report of the Professional Conduct Committee Chair. The appeal shall be determined in a special meeting of the Board. A majority of all of the members of the Board shall vote on the appeal and determine if any amended action is required. The Board’s decision on appeals will be final.
A complainant and respondent should maintain confidentiality. ACHTUS will endeavor to keep a professional misconduct complaint and information obtained during an investigation of a professional misconduct complaint confidential; however, ACHTUS cannot guarantee complete confidentiality, for example, where it would conflict with ACHTUS’s investigation, or its efforts to take appropriate action, or to otherwise comply with the intent of this policy or its legal obligations. Nevertheless, everyone within the organization must strive for appropriate confidentiality. Rumor and innuendo are not productive, and appropriate confidentiality protects the complainant as well as the respondent.
Committee members are prohibited from communicating about the existence of, or information learned during, or outcome of, any internal professional misconduct investigation under the Policy, except as provided otherwise by law or as necessary to effectuate the Policy or these Procedures.
Information about a professional misconduct investigation or its results will ordinarily not be disseminated to the ACHTUS membership or to the public, except as provided otherwise by law or as necessary to effectuate the Policy or these Procedures.
In June, the Professional Conduct Committee Chair will report to the ACHTUS Board whether any formal professional misconduct investigations have been completed during the year.
All other records pertaining to professional misconduct allegations, including the notes of the Panel investigation will be confidentially retained until the later of the following: five years after the investigation is concluded, until the parties are no longer affiliated with ACHTUS, or such other later period required by law. It is intended that the Professional Conduct Committee Chair will periodically review its files for ones that are outside this retention period, so that these files can be destroyed. These records are ACHTUS’s confidential work-product and not available to other entities except where provided otherwise by law or ACHTUS’s Policy or Procedures.