“Our office became increasingly aware of a lack of awareness;” said Director of Human Resources Catherine Pratson about the college’s whistleblower policies.
In 2003, the State of Maryland passed the whistleblower protection act. This legislation, according to the state’s official informational brochure, protects state employees’ ability to reveal information “that the employee reasonably believes evidences an abuse of authority, gross mismanagement, or gross waste of money; a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety; or a violation of law.” The idea behind the law is that people could be dissuaded from reporting such things for fear of retribution from their superiors. The law allows people to seek remediation if they feel that they have been punished for revealing unsavory information.
St. Mary’s adopted its own whistleblower policy in 2012. The college’s policy makes use of a 3rd party vendor, EthicsPoint, who receives, handles, and passes on reports. An important aspect of the college’s system is that no college organization or employee has any role in the reporting process; reports sent to EthicsPoint are forwarded directly to the State Attorney General’s office. If the office finds that the report is viable, the college simply receives a notice that the office is investigating a report.
According to Pratson, the EthicsPoint has received four reports since 2012, 2 reports involved human resource issues, 1 report was empty, and 1 report involved a sexual misconduct issue that was addressed through existing systems. The Human Resources department is striving to publicize the whistleblower policy and make it more easily accessible. The all student email titled “Whistleblower Announcement” that came out on March 9 was the first of what is now going to be an annual reminder. In addition to raising awareness about the policy among existing employees, new employees are receiving increased training in order to ensure that the entire college staff is familiar with the whistleblower policy.
College employees can submit reports through the SMCM Whistleblower Site or by calling 855-481-6236; an independent hotline operated by EthicsPoint. This policy applies to any member of SMCM personnel or any person who interacts with the college.