Policy on Professionalism and Code of Student Conduct

College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences
University of Montana

Purposes of Policy

Professional and ethical conduct are of critical importance to public and community health. As such, this policy establishes standards of professionalism and professional behavior for graduate students in the School of Public and Community Health Sciences (SPCHS). This policy establishes demonstrated professional competencies as an academic graduation requirement for the MPH and Ph.D. degrees. The policy is meant to be consonant with University-wide policies regarding student conduct. It does not supersede any policy established by the University of Montana or the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences (CHPBS).

Fundamental Attributes of Professionalism

There are fundamental values of professionalism that are universal and apply to all disciplines. These include, but are not limited to, moral values such as honesty, respect, integrity and trustworthiness; values that are specific to one’s profession (e.g., confidentiality, self-determination), to society (e.g., commitment to excellence and cultural awareness), to oneself (e.g., self-reflection); and humanistic values such as empathy and compassion.

Standards for Professional Conduct

All students are expected to demonstrate high standards of professional behavior in all educational settings, including classrooms and laboratories, and in non-educational settings. Failure to meet these standards will result in disciplinary action up to, and possibly including, dismissal.

Policy for Violation of Professional Standards

This policy establishes guidelines and procedures for addressing behaviors or practices that represent failures to maintain the standards of professional behavior. The CHPBS Director of Student Affairs, or her/his designee shall be responsible for investigating alleged violations of professional conduct standards and recommending corrective measures, or discipline, as appropriate.

Faculty Observation

When a faculty member observes a student action that represents a possible violation of expected professional standards, he or she will contact the student directly to discuss the issue. If the faculty member feels that an effective resolution results from meeting with the student, no further action is required, except that the faculty member shall document the incident in the student’s file and will notify the CHPBS Director of Student Affairs.

If, after discussing the issue with the student, the faculty feels that a satisfactory resolution has not been reached, he or she will notify the CHPBS Director of Student Affairs of the incident, the alleged violation of professional conduct, and the failure to obtain resolution. The CHPBS Director of Student Affairs will  interview the student to discuss the nature of the incident and the student’s perception of that event, the faculty member involved, and other students or faculty as appropriate to determine a course of action. The CHPBS Director of Student Affairs may require remedial action, such as (for example) probationary status, mandated counseling, or the development of a corrective plan. The CHPBS Director of Student Affairs’ findings and actions shall be recorded in the student’s permanent academic file.

If the student believes that the finding and subsequent action by the CHPBS Director of Student Affairs is wrong or otherwise violates the student’s rights, the student may appeal to the Dean. The determination of the Dean shall be final within the CHPBS.

If the faculty member is unwilling or unable to contact the student directly, the matter should be referred directly to the CHPBS Director of Student Affairs. If the faculty member observing the inappropriate behavior believes that a student has committed a serious enough breach of professional conduct, one that may place the School or CHPBS in jeopardy, he or she may refer the matter directly to the Director of Student Affairs.

In the event that a student fails on three occasions (documented by formal summaries of incidents submitted to the SPHCS Chair and CHPBS Director of Student Affairs), to meet the expected standards of professional conduct (even when those incidents would not, individually, merit consideration for dismissal), the student may be dismissed from the program.

Student Observation

Professionals are expected to uphold the standards of their profession and to hold accountable their professional colleagues and peers. For that reason, students who observe a breach of professional conduct are expected actively to address the issue.

When a student observes a failure of professional conduct by another student, that student should attempt to discuss the incident in a constructive manner with the person in question. The SPCHS recognizes that this can be very difficult for students; hence, students may also report the observed behavior to a trusted faculty member, such as the faculty adviser, the SPCHS Chair, or the Director of Student Affairs. In this instance, the student must agree to report the offender by name and, in turn, to be identified as the individual filing the complaint. Anonymous complaints cannot be acted upon. All parties must recognize the need for confidentiality to protect the rights of all parties.

Once an alleged breach has been identified, the process for addressing the concern follows the same guidelines and procedures as when a faculty member observes the conduct.

Students who believe that a faculty member has behaved in an unprofessional manner are encouraged to discuss their concerns directly with that faculty member. Alternatively, a student may elect to discuss his or her concern with his or her faculty advisor, the Program Director, another faculty member, the SPCHS Chair, the Director of Student Affairs, or the Dean. Any complaint against a faculty member will be addressed in  accordance with the Collective Bargaining Agreement Student Complaint Procedure, or other appropriate University procedure (e.g., Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Stalking, Retaliation policy).

Right of Appeal

Students who feel that some disciplinary action taken against them by the SPCHS is not warranted or

appropriate may appeal that decision to the Director of Student Affairs. The Director shall review the facts of the case, the procedures followed by the School and the recommended action, in order to ensure that the SPCHS and CHPBS policies have been followed and that the rights of all parties have been preserved. The Director shall transmit a written report of his or her review to the student, to the SPCHS Chair, and to the Dean. Students who feel that the appeal decision is not correct have the right of appeal to the Provost of the University of Montana.

Professional Behavior

Examples of professional behavior include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Honesty and integrity:
    1. Act with honesty and integrity in academic matters and professional relationships.
  2. Trustworthiness:
    1. Demonstrate dependability to carry out responsibilities.
  3. Empathy and cultural diversity:
    1. Demonstrate appropriate interpersonal interaction with respect to culture, race, religion, ethnic origin, gender, and sexual orientation.
    2. Demonstrate regard for differing values, opinions, and abilities among peers, other health care professionals, and patients.
  4. Communication:
    1. Communicate effectively with faculty, staff and students.
    2. Demonstrate confidence in actions and communications.
    3. Formulate written communications with professional content and tone.
  5. Punctuality:
    1. Demonstrate punctuality in academic environments.
    2. Adhere to established times for classes, laboratories and meetings.
    3. Comply with established verbal and written deadlines.
    4. Respond to requests (written, verbal, e-mail, telephone) in a timely fashion.
  6. Professional behavior:
    1. Display professional behavior towards faculty, staff and students in the classroom and other university settings.
    2. Show regard for persons in authority in classroom (in-person and online) and other university settings.
    3. Exhibit fitting behavior when representing the SPCHS in extracurricular activities and professional meetings.
  7. Ethical standards:
    1. Demonstrate high ethical standards related to graduate education.
  8. Negotiation, compromise, and conflict resolution:
    1. Demonstrate abilities of conflict resolution.
    2. Formulate constructive evaluation of others’ performance.
    3. Display positive attitude when receiving constructive criticism.
  9. Lifelong improvement:
    1. Produce quality work in academic settings.
    2. Demonstrate a desire to exceed expectations.
    3. Demonstrate characteristics of lifelong learning.
  10. Time management and decision-making:
    1. Utilize time efficiently.
    2. Demonstrate self-direction in completing assignments.
    3. Demonstrate accountability for decisions.
  11. Appearance:
    1. Maintain dress appropriate to classroom and other university settings.
    2. Maintain personal hygiene and grooming appropriate to the academic environment.

Updated May 16, 2019