The hotline that enables GW faculty, students and employees to file anonymous complaints against any University employee is too vulnerable for abuse and an illegitimate solution to the problem that spurred its creation – protecting the University from potential lawsuits stemming from a staff member’s conduct.
The new complaint line, dubbed the compliance line by the University, allows an accuser to remain completely anonymous, and the accused is unable to confront his accuser or even know he is being investigated for wrongdoing.
The line creates problems that only compound each other. If an anonymous caller lodges a serious complaint, the University is forced to investigate without knowing the validity or identity of the caller. If the University wants to take action, it has no leg to stand on without knowing who the victim is. If tips are ignored, then credible ones may never get investigated.
There is no way to investigate an anonymous tip without dragging someone’s name through the mud. But how will the University know whether or not the harmful process has been started by someone with an axe to grind?
The new 24-hour hotline, which is handled and staffed by an outside company, allows students, teachers or employees with grudges to file erroneous complaints anonymously that might have serious implications to a person’s character and reputation. Is this really the environment GW wants to foster?
The Faculty Senate rightfully condemned the hotline but for the wrong season. The Senate said it threatens academic freedom, but in actually it promotes a community of distrust.
Although the line serves some legitimate interests – granting anonymity to those who have been legitimately harmed and following the law – there are better ways of achieving these goals.
Directing complaints in-house, not completely anonymously, to the Office of Compliance might be the solution. This way, the University can keep an accuser’s name unknown to the accused but can also ask follow-up questions and address erroneous claims with the accuser while still getting accusations of misconduct on file. It will also make the idea of filing a false claim more daunting if it at least a name needs to be given and it is handled on campus.
This article appeared in the April 25, 2002 issue of the Hatchet.