Published February 18, 2014
At the University of Southern California, ethical behavior is predicated on two main pillars: a commitment to discharging our obligations to others in a fair and honest manner, and a commitment to respecting the rights and dignity of all persons. As faculty, staff, students, and trustees, we each bear responsibility not only for the ethics of our own behavior, but also for building USC’s stature as an ethical institution.
We recognize that the fundamental relationships upon which our university is based are those between individual students and individual professors; thus, such relationships are especially sacred and deserve special care that they not be prostituted or exploited for base motives or personal gain.
When we make promises as an institution, or as individuals who are authorized to speak on behalf of USC, we keep those promises, including especially the promises expressed and implied in our Role and Mission Statement. We try to do what is right even if no one is watching us or compelling us to do the right thing.
We promptly and openly identify and disclose conflicts of interest on the part of faculty, staff, students, trustees, and the institution as a whole, and we take appropriate steps to either eliminate such conflicts or ensure that they do not compromise the integrity of the individuals involved or that of the university.
We nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance. As members of the USC community, we treat everyone with respect and dignity, even when the values, beliefs, behavior, or background of a person or group is repugnant to us. This last is one of the bedrocks of ethical behavior at USC and the basis of civil discourse within our academic community. Because we are responsible not only for ourselves but also for others, we speak out against hatred and bigotry whenever and wherever we find them.
We do not harass, mistreat, belittle, harm, or take unfair advantage of anyone. We do not tolerate plagiarism, lying, deliberate misrepresentation, theft, scientific fraud, cheating, invidious discrimination, or ill use of our fellow human beings — whether such persons be volunteer subjects of scientific research, peers, patients, superiors, subordinates, students, professors, trustees, parents, alumni, donors, or members of the public.
We do not misappropriate the university’s resources, or resources belonging to others, which are entrusted to our care, nor do we permit any such misappropriation to go unchallenged.
We are careful to distinguish between legal behavior on the one hand and ethical behavior on the other, knowing that, while the two overlap in many areas, they are at bottom quite distinct from each other. While we follow legal requirements, we must never lose sight of ethical considerations. Because of the special bonds that bind us together as members of the Trojan Family, we have a familial duty as well as a fiduciary duty to one another. Our faculty and staff are attentive to the well-being of students and others who are entrusted to our care or who are especially vulnerable, including patients, volunteer subjects of research, and the children in our daycare and community outreach programs.
By respecting the rights and dignity of others, and by striving for fairness and honesty in our dealings with others, we create an ethical university of which we can all be proud, and which will serve as a bright beacon for all peoples in our day and in the centuries to come.