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Code of Ethics

National Women’s Studies Association Code of Ethics
Adopted by the Governing Council June 2005

The National Women’s Studies Association’s (NWSA’s) Code of Ethics sets forth the values, provisions, and ethical standards that underlie staff/members’ responsibilities and conduct. These values, provisions and standards should be used as guidelines when examining everyday organizational activities. They constitute normative statements for NWSA members and staff and provide guidance on issues that members/staff may encounter in their work with and for the organization.

NWSA’s Code of Ethics consists of an Introduction, a Preamble with a statement of values, General Provisions, and specific Ethical Standards. The Preamble and General Provisions of the Code are goals to guide members/staff toward the highest ideals of NWSA. Although the Preamble and General Principles are not enforceable rules, they should be considered by members/staff in arriving at an ethical course of action and may be considered by ethics bodies (Ethics, Equity and Diversity Committee and Conflict Resolution Committee) in interpreting the Ethical Standards. The Ethical Standards set forth enforceable rules for conduct by members/staff. The Ethical Standards are not exhaustive. Any conduct that is not specifically addressed by this Code of Ethics is not necessarily ethical or unethical.

Membership/employment in the NWSA commits members/staff to adhere to the NWSA Code of Ethics and to the Policies and Procedures of the NWSA Conflict Resolution Committee. Members/staff are advised of this obligation upon joining the Association and are informed that violations of the Code may lead to the imposition of sanctions, including termination of membership and/or employment. NWSA members/staff subject to the Code of Ethics may be reviewed under these Ethical Standards only if the activity is part of or affects their NWSA work-related functions.

This Code of Ethics articulates a common set of values, consistent with NWSA’s mission, which sets the framework for NWSA’s organizational structure and practices. The mission statement of the National Women’s Studies Association states that: "NWSA has a vision of a world in which all persons can develop to their fullest potential and be free from all the ideologies and structures that consciously oppress and exploit some for the advantage of others."

NWSA recognizes that this is a vision for which we strive, and at the same time recognizes that members of NWSA have different conceptions of feminism and the best methods for achieving NWSA’s mission. However, we affirm Aurora Morales’ vision for an inclusive approach to our work in NWSA; she writes, “Real inclusion is both straightforward and intricate, complex and interesting enough to spend a lifetime working for. It just requires that we understand enough about how our lives are entwined that whatever activist task we undertake we figure out how the question we’re asking or the particular piece of injustice we’re confronting can be made big enough, connected enough, to be useful to everyone.The most useful theory will be that which teaches us to use the particular, to frame big and inclusive questions, to integrate seemingly conflicting needs and sacrifice no one” (Morales, Medicine Stories, 1998).

Our goal is to create a code of ethics that is more than a set of inflexible rules, but one that helps us move toward our vision of a world of equality, respect, and social justice. Key values underlying this mission include: inclusiveness and social justice; respect for plurality and diversity; transparency, integrity and honesty; respect for the worth and dignity of individuals; and accountability of the organization to its membership with regard to its code of ethics. This is what we hope to accomplish with this code.

Accessibility: NWSA, in all of its activities, will seek to make itself accessible to all members and potential members, whenever feasible, with regards to factors such as communications, mobility, ability to pay, and age.

Personal and Professional Integrity: All members and staff of NWSA must act with honesty, integrity, and openness in their dealings with other members and staff. The organization promotes an environment that values respect, fairness, and integrity.

Transparency, Openness, and Disclosure: NWSA will seek to provide comprehensive and timely information to its members concerning the governance of the organization, including changing goals, directions, and internal structures. All financial, organizational, and program reports will be complete and accurate in all material respects and fully disclosed to members through annual conferences and the organizational website. All annual and mid-year Governing Council meetings will be open to the membership.

Recognition of Institutional Racism and White Privilege: NWSA recognizes that institutional racism and white privilege are ongoing issues within its organizational culture and structure. The organization will commit to an ongoing process of evaluation of the organization with the goal of identifying and dismantling those structures and practices that maintain an institutional culture and hierarchy of white privilege and power.

Conflict of Interest: Any conflicts of interest, or the appearance thereof, should be appropriately managed through disclosure, recusal or other means (see Conflict of Interest Policy).

Co-Sponsorship: NWSA will strive to accept sponsorship only from groups that are not organized with racism, sexism, and other forms of oppression inherent in their attitudes and practices. NWSA recognizes the difficulty of this goal; however, it is clear that some institutions have practices that are more consistent with our goals than others, and we will give these organizations priority.

Requests from outside groups to electronically link web pages will be considered under these guidelines of co-sponsorship.

Each year the Chair of the Ethics, Equity and Diversity Committee will issue a written report to the Governing Council about any sponsorships that NWSA has accepted. Any member of the organization may request to see the report by contacting the national office.

Equity in Employment: NWSA will comply with all appropriate nondiscrimination and pay equity laws. We will pursue a vigorous affirmative action program so that any hiring will reflect or surpass the diversity of the membership in terms of age; gender; race; ethnicity; national origin; religion; sexual orientation; disability; health conditions; marital, domestic, or parental status, gender identity and gender expression. Further, we will strive to be an employer that treats all of its employees in a humane and fair manner guaranteeing them due process and fair treatment (see Personnel Policy for more specific guidelines).

Endorsement Policy: NWSA is a nonprofit organization. This structure prohibits us from making any endorsements that can be perceived as endorsing particular political candidates. Therefore, while it may be desirable for individuals and Women’s Studies organizations to take such stands, NWSA cannot do so.

The organization will not endorse any commercial products (see NWSA’s Endorsement Policy for reference to other types of endorsements).

Gifts: NWSA will accept unrestricted gifts from any group or individual who indicates understanding of our goals. However, no donor will be permitted to advertise any donation as if to imply that NWSA endorses that organization. Any gift donated for a specific purpose will be considered under the guidelines for co-sponsorship.

Investments: If NWSA has funds that are to be invested for future growth, NWSA will make every effort to make investments that are as socially responsible as possible.

Conference Book Exhibits: NWSA reserves the right to deny space to organizations or individuals whose products, services or business practices are inconsistent with our mission.

Appeal: Any member who believes the organization or any of its components has failed to live up to the General Provisions stated above may address their concerns to the Ethics, Equity and Diversity Committee. Violations of the specific Ethical Standards and Code of Conduct can be addressed to the Chair of the Conflict Resolution Committee. The Chair will convene the Conflict Resolution Committee to hear the allegation. The Committee, by a two-thirds majority vote, will assess the complaint and pass on its decision to the Executive Committee.

Nondiscrimination: NWSA members/staff may not engage in discrimination in the organization based on age; gender; race; ethnicity; national origin; religion; sexual orientation; disability; health conditions; marital, domestic, or parental status, gender identity and gender expression; or any other applicable basis proscribed by law.

Harassment: NWSA members/staff may not engage in harassment of any person, including members, supervisees, or employees. Harassment occurs when someone’s actions or words, based on the relevant grounds (e.g., gender, race, sexuality), are unwelcome and violate another person’s dignity or create an environment that is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive.

Sexual harassment may include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if that behavior negatively affects or interferes with an individual’s participation in the organization, and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Harassment on the basis of race, color, or national origin, may include objectionable epithets, threatened or actual physical harm or abuse, or other intimidating or insulting conduct directed against the individual because of his/her race, color, or national origin that negatively affects or interferes with an individual’s participation in the organization, and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Non-exploitation: (a) Whether for personal, economic, or professional advantage, NWSA members/staff may not exploit persons over whom they work within the organization; (b) NWSA members/staff may not directly supervise or exercise evaluative authority over any person with whom they have a sexual relationship, including students, supervisees, or employees within the context of NWSA work.

Electronic Communication: The following guidelines should be followed when engaging in electronic communication.

NWSA listserves should be used for NWSA-related business only.

Do not send sexually explicit, offensive, demeaning, insulting or intimidating e-communications, ethnic or racial slurs, or anything that harasses or disparages others.

No electronic mail may be sent that is abusive or threatens the safety of a person or persons.

Do not send messages to people who don’t need to receive them.

Be thoughtful about clipping and pasting others’ messages in those you send.

Do not forward e-mail sent to you to others without the original author’s permission.

If you receive a message sent to a list of people, do not respond needlessly to the entire list.

Use a professional tone in your messages.

Be careful when using sarcasm and humor. Your “joke” could be misunderstood.