Code of Ethical Conduct

The George Washington University (“GW”) strives to create a positive and ethical environment and maintain the confidence of local, national, and global communities. The university’s ethical culture has a profound effect on the experience of the GW community. For the university to maintain the desired ethical culture and public confidence, all persons acting on behalf of the university should maintain the highest level of ethics in all of their actions and must comply with university policies as well as applicable laws and regulations. This Code of Ethical Conduct (“Code”) presents the standards of ethical conduct applicable to all persons acting on the university’s behalf. The Code should be used as a general guide in making ethical decisions in all situations, including those where the “right” answer is not always clear. 

This Code aligns with and complements GW's Values. GW's Values serve as a guiding force, shaping our everyday lives on campus and helping to ensure that we make decisions in the best interest of our university community. The components of the Code of Ethical Conduct are a reflection of GW’s long-standing commitment to upholding the highest ethical standards and compliance in all our professional and academic conduct. These standards of ethical conduct are also incorporated into other codes of conduct and policies and procedures of the university. Additionally, as overreaching documents, other codes of conduct may be applicable to more than one ethical standard. These policies are created and maintained with the purpose of encouraging a culture of ethical, professional, and lawful behavior and social responsibility. They serve to uphold GW’s values and mission while protecting its people and reputation. Examples of key relevant policies that incorporate the ethical standards outlined in this Code are highlighted below. A list of all policies can be found on the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk policy page.

Integrity and Respect

Both the Code and the GW Values emphasize the components of integrity and respect as they are central to the desired GW culture and environment. The GW community is diverse in visible and non-visible ways. The personal actions of each community member should establish and maintain the culture of acceptance and respect for which we strive. The university is committed to equal access, free inquiry, free expression, and the vigorous discussion and debate on which the advancement of its educational mission depends. At the same time, all persons acting on behalf of the university should respect the rights and dignity of others regardless of their differences, and must conscientiously comply with non-discrimination and non-retaliation laws as well as university policies.

Related codes and policies:

Responsibility and Accountability

All persons acting on behalf of the university should assume and exercise responsibility appropriate to their positions and roles. We are accountable to each other, to the university, and to ourselves for our actions and our decisions. When roles or responsibilities are unclear, we should seek clarity from leadership. We should exercise sound professional judgment in the performance of our responsibilities.

Related codes and policies:

Absence of Conflicts of Interest and Commitment

All persons acting on behalf of the university hold positions of trust and should conduct their activities accordingly. We must avoid activities that impair or appear to impair the ability to perform our duties or affect independence and objectivity of judgment in the discharge of our responsibilities to the university. Individuals should avoid potential conflicts of interest or commitment, whether of a financial, personal, or professional nature. Outside professional activities, potential conflicts of interest and potential conflicts of commitment must be disclosed, reviewed, and appropriately managed or eliminated in accordance with the reporting and other provisions of applicable university policies.

Related codes and policies:

Absence of Harassment and Abuse of Power

The university supports an environment in which harassment of others is not tolerated. No persons acting on behalf of the university may use positions of authority to violate or to pressure others to violate laws, regulations, or university policies.

Related codes and policies:

Stewardship of University Resources

As stewards of university resources, all persons acting on behalf of the university have a responsibility to ensure that all university resources are used prudently, ethically, and for their designated or contractual purposes. University resources include financial resources, physical property, and confidential, regulated, proprietary, and personal information.

We have a responsibility to treat university property with care, and to expend funds prudently. We should avoid waste and improper use, and should not use tangible or intangible university assets, funds, property, or facilities for our personal benefit or for the benefit of a non-university organization without proper approval.

Our acts should reflect the recognition of a special obligation to use university property responsibly and consistent with the tax-exempt status conferred on the university in light of its educational, research, and service missions.

Those with access to confidential, proprietary, regulated, or personal information must not make unauthorized use or inappropriately disclose this information.

Related codes and policies:

Compliance, Reporting, and Investigations

All persons acting on behalf of the university are expected to comply with university, school, and departmental codes, policies, and procedures as well as applicable laws and regulations. Violations of such may result in corrective or disciplinary action.

If you have a good-faith reason to believe noncompliance has occurred, you are responsible for reporting that noncompliance as soon as possible to an appropriate university authority. Normally, such reports should be made to the appropriate supervisor or management within your unit. Alternatively, you may report concerns about potential violations through the EthicsPoint hotline. Information on the hotline can be found on the Office of Ethics, Compliance, and Risk reporting page. Reports may be made anonymously, although doing so may impact the university’s ability to address the concern. Reporting is also available directly to senior university administrators and to the Office of Human Resources Management and Development. Confidentiality of individuals reporting suspected violations will be maintained to the extent possible.

Retaliation against members of the university community who make good faith reports regarding suspected violations of applicable laws, regulations, or university policies is prohibited. Reports of noncompliance will be reviewed in accordance with applicable policies and procedures. All persons are expected to cooperate and be truthful in investigations. Reasonable efforts will be made to complete investigations expeditiously yet thoroughly.