Message from Jennifer LaPorta
FIU’s Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer
Our Compliance Team is pleased to be sharing with all of you our inaugural edition of Compliance Matters.
It is YOU, our faculty and staff, who embody FIU’s culture. YOU are the expression of our Panther Pride. Our values live in the way you work and interact with each other, the dignity and respect you show to our students, the countless good decisions you make each and every day, the conversations you have, the questions you ask, your courage and your engagement. Every time you speak up about the things that do not seem right or the things we could be doing better, you contribute to our ethical culture.
In our first edition of Compliance Matters, we are sharing important information regarding our new Ethical Panther Hotline platform. The Hotline provides a reporting option available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to empower all of our University Community members to exercise personal responsibility by sharing concerns about suspected misconduct, illegal or unethical behavior. We’ve included some Frequently Asked Questions regarding what you can expect when you use the Hotline’s telephone or web-based reporting options to report. We also encourage you to pay close attention to our Compliance Champion section, and to consider nominating an individual or department to be featured in future Compliance Matters editions. You’ll also find in the Response-Ability Corner, information on new policies, procedures, training and other campus initiatives in place to support and resource your ability to respond to the workplace issues you may encounter. In this Edition, we highlight FIU’s Outside Activities and Conflict of Interest Policy and Training.
Our intention is for this Newsletter to serve as a communication tool and resource, supporting all of you in your daily efforts to build and maintain a culture of ethics and compliance. We encourage you to contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, to offer feedback or with your ideas for future topics!
“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.“
– Potter Stewart –
American lawyer and judge who served as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1958 to 1981. During his tenure, Justice Stewart made major contributions to criminal justice reform, civil rights, access to the courts, and Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.
New Ethical Panther Hotline
FIU will be moving to a new provider for the Ethical Panther Hotline!
Coming soon, you will be able to make reports when you witness or suspect misconduct or unethical behavior online or by phone using our new hotline platform. We will be transitioning from Convercent to our new vendor, iSight. Keep an eye out next month for a University-wide communication with details on how to access the new platform!
We at FIU believe that our ethics, integrity and commitment to compliance is essential in guiding us to make the right decisions. The Ethical Panther Hotline reporting system is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week to empower all of our University Community members to exercise personal responsibility and accountability in upholding FIU’s core values. You can report anonymously or can choose to identify yourself which will allow us to follow up with you directly.
Each member of the University community should seek to enhance a culture that promotes the University’s commitment to ethical conduct, compliance with the law, and doing the right thing! As public employees of the State of Florida, we should all seek to provide assurance to our University community and the state at large, that our conduct is in accordance with high ethical standards and compliance with applicable laws, regulations and University policies and procedures. If you suspect something may be wrong, your reporting can minimize the potential negative impact on the University and its community members. No one will be subjected to retaliatory action for inquiring about possible criminal, unethical, or otherwise inappropriate activity or behavior, or reporting them in good faith.
Also keep in mind that each unit should ensure that any internal references to the Ethical Panther Hotline are updated in any documentation and websites.
You can visit the Office of University Compliance & Integrity Website for more information related to the Ethical Panther hotline.
Ethical Panther Hotline FAQ’s
Below we answer some of your frequently asked questions regarding the Ethical Panther Hotline. These include the important purpose of the Hotline and what you may expect when filing a report. These questions can also be found on our compliance website at compliance.fiu.edu.
1. What is the Florida International University Ethical Panther Hotline?
The Ethical Panther Hotline at Florida International University is an option for making a confidential report to identify or raise any compliance, suspected misconduct or unethical behavior concerns online (web-based) or via a telephone line. The Hotline platform is not maintained on the University’s systems and is not maintained by University employees. iSight, the commercial service provider for the Ethical Panther Hotline, was chosen for its quality and experience in servicing numerous institutions throughout the United States.
2. Why does the University need an Ethical Panther Hotline?
The FIU Ethical Panther Hotline reporting system is available to empower all our University Community members to exercise personal responsibility and accountability for upholding Florida International University’s commitment to compliance, integrity and ethical conduct. A crucial part of that responsibility is speaking up when you witness or suspect misconduct or unethical behavior and sharing your concerns. As public employees of the State of Florida, we seek to provide assurance to our University community and the State of Florida at large, that our conduct is in accordance with high ethical standards and compliance with applicable laws, regulations and policies. An effective reporting system is a useful tool in identifying misconduct, reducing losses due to fraud and abuse, and reducing the possibility of inappropriate or illegal actions.
The Ethical Panther Hotline is not intended to replace other reporting options but, rather, is an additional reporting option that also allows members of the University community to raise concerns without having to disclose their name or even department, if they choose not to.
3. Can I report anonymously through the Ethical Panther Hotline?
Yes. When reporting, you may choose to provide your name and contact information, or you may choose to remain anonymous.
While many reporters do choose to remain anonymous, please understand that anonymity may affect FIU’s ability to conduct a thorough inquiry/investigation into your report since we will not be able to follow up with you for additional details or give you updates related to your report. This is especially a concern in instances where you are reporting that you personally experienced some type of inappropriate conduct or harassment. So, please consider providing your name for follow up in these instances.
Some FIU Community members are more comfortable remaining anonymous for a variety of reasons – and it is their right to do so! Please remember that if you do choose to report anonymously it is important that you provide as much detail as possible in your Hotline report. Also, should you wish to preserve anonymity, make certain that the description of the issue or incident you are providing does not reveal your identity by accident.
4. What kinds of concerns should I report?
You should report any situation in your workplace or University environment which you believe may be contrary to law, regulation, government contract, grant requirement, or University policies and regulations.
If you suspect something may be wrong, the best course of action is to report it. You may have initial knowledge of an activity that may be cause for concern but not know the exact law or requirement or be certain a violation has occurred or will occur. Even in these instances, your reporting can minimize the potential negative impact to the University and its employees.
Remember, in all instances when submitting a report, please make certain that you include as much detail as possible in order to allow the University the opportunity to perform a thorough review/investigation of the report.
5. Should I use the Ethical Panther Hotline to Report Emergency Situations?
No. Please remember that the Hotline service is not to be used in case of emergencies or as a substitute for contacting law enforcement. The information you submit may not be reviewed immediately. If you are facing an emergency, a crime or threat to property is in progress, or you believe someone is facing a threat of imminent danger or bodily harm, please contact the police or emergency responders immediately.
If an emergency situation occurs, dial 911. If you are on the Modesto Maidique Campus or Biscayne Bay Campus, you may also dial the University Policy Department at 305-348-5911 (MMC) or 305-919-5911 (BBC) in the event of an emergency.
6. Can I make a report of known or suspected child abuse, abandonment or neglect to the Ethical Panther Hotline?
All instances of known or suspected child abuse, abandonment, or neglect must be reported once you know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused, abandoned or neglected, immediately and without delay, to The Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) by telephone to the Florida Abuse Hotline: 1-800-96ABUSE or 1-800-962-2873 or TDD (Telephone Device for the Deaf): 1- 800-453-5145 (the toll-free numbers are available 24/7; DCF abuse hotline counselors will assist you). Although you may additionally report through the Ethical Panther Hotline, it does not relieve you of the duty to report directly to DCF.
IF A CHILD IS IN IMMINENT DANGER, please call 911 or the University Police Department. If you are on the Modesto Maidique Campus or Biscayne Bay Campus, you may also dial the University Policy Department at 305-348-5911 (MMC) or 305-919-5911 (BBC) in the event of an emergency.
Additionally, you may refer to the 140.130 Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse, Abandonment and Neglect Policy and Procedure for more information.
7. Where does my report go? Who at the University sees my report?
Reports submitted via the Ethical Panther Hotline are handled as promptly and discreetly as possible. Your concerns are first referred to the Ethical Panther Hotline Reports Review Committee (“Committee”) consisting of the University Compliance and Privacy Officer, the Vice President for Human Resources and the Chief Audit Executive. The Committee reviews all reports to determine the University’s immediate and initial response, and also to determine what other University personnel, if any, must be involved in the investigation and ultimate resolution of this matter. Relevant information will only be shared with other University personnel if it is necessary or appropriate to investigate or resolve a matter.
The independent third-party hotline provider, iSight, and the University are each committed to safeguarding the confidentiality of individuals who submit reports whenever possible. Further, no one submitting a report will be subjected to retaliatory action for inquiring about possible criminal, unethical, or otherwise inappropriate activity or behavior, or reporting them in good faith.
8. How do I access the Ethical Panther Hotline?
Keep an eye next month out for a University-wide communication with details on how to access the new platform! The Ethical Panther Hotline will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. By giving you multiple options, the Ethical Panther Hotline helps ensure that faculty, staff, students and the University community can file a report anonymously and in the manner most comfortable or convenient to them.
9. What happens when I decide to call the toll-free number?
If you decide to use the telephone option for reporting, you will be greeted by an independent third-party call center staff person. You will be asked to provide the same information that you would provide if you were using the online report form. The interviewer will enter your responses into the system and use that to generate an electronic report. These electronic reports have the same security and confidentiality protections as a report that you would enter directly online.
10. What if I should remember something important after I have filed a report?
If you have anonymously submitted an online reporting form and then remember or have access to additional relevant information at a later date, you may submit another report (referencing details from the initial report you submitted). If you have provided your name or otherwise feel comfortable doing so, you also have the option to contact the University Compliance and Privacy Officer directly regarding your report by calling (305) 348-2216 or sending an e-mail to compliance @fiu.edu.
11. What if the University were to need additional information to review/investigate my concern?
While reports can be made anonymously through the Ethical Panther Hotline, we encourage reporters to feel comfortable enough with providing their information so that we can follow up with them directly if additional information is needed to thoroughly review/investigate the report filed.
12. What are my responsibilities in making a report or in an investigation?
You are expected to act in “good faith” when making a report. This means that you are expected to provide information you know or suspect is true. Providing a report based on information you know is false can be hurtful to individuals who have not done anything wrong. Therefore, purposefully filing a false or malicious report can constitute grounds for disciplinary action.
13. If I were to see a violation, why can’t I just report it to my supervisor or Human Resources?
You can! And this is also encouraged. In fact, although you always have the option of submitting reports using the Ethical Panther Hotline, we suggest that you first consider reporting through your supervisor or other departmental channels (including Human Resources) if appropriate and if you are comfortable doing so. However, there are several good reasons why you may consider using the Ethical Panther Hotline. First, the Ethical Panther Hotline ensures that your report gets to the appropriate people for review and investigation. Also, reports can be filed anonymously, and all reported information is held in the strictest confidence consistent with a thorough review and investigation.
14. What are my reporting options other than the Ethical Panther Hotline?
There are several – and you may choose the reporting option you are most comfortable with and that makes the most sense for your situation.
Faculty and staff should know that direct discussion with one’s supervisor is often the most effective way to raise a concern. You may also directly contact the Division of Human Resources, the Office of Internal Audit, the Office of the General Counsel, or the Office of University Compliance & Integrity with any questions or concerns.
Students always have the option of raising concerns involving FIU faculty members directly with your professor. If your professor refuses or is the subject of the concern, you also have the option of escalating your concern to the Department Chair and then to the Dean of your College if you are comfortable doing so. In addition, you may also want to consider speaking with the acting Student Ombudsperson:
Graham Center 219
The Ombudsperson provides a forum for students to discuss and identify options to resolve student issues. The Ombudsperson helps students who have encountered problems or conflicts within the University, particularly problems not being adequately addressed through normal channels, or which processes and procedures seem incapable of, or are causing an inordinate delay in resolving. The Ombudsperson may resolve problems through various methods, including making inquiries or referrals to the appropriate University department for review.
The College of Medicine has its own Ombudsperson serving medical students only:
Heidi von Harscher, PhD
Medical Student Ombudsperson
Director of Medical Support Services
Many areas of the University have also identified a specific person to handle questions or reports about something you think may be wrong. You may also be able to raise your concerns with specific University offices established to handle certain types of issues.
15. Are anonymity and confidentiality guaranteed?
When reporting, you may choose to provide your name and contact information, or you may choose to remain anonymous. If you choose to remain anonymous, you should ensure that the description of the issue or incident you are providing does not reveal your identity by accident. If you are the only individual who could possibly know the reported facts, there may be an unintended disclosure of your identity.
If you provide your name so we are able to follow up with you to fully review/investigate your report, the University will honor and protect your request for confidentiality to every extent possible as it fulfills its obligations in responding to the report.
16. How does the State of Florida Public Records Law apply to the information I provide in my report?
Florida International University is subject to the State of Florida public records law. While we can protect any documents or identifying information you have provided while the investigation is ongoing, once the investigation closes, we may need to turn over certain documents or identifying information in response to a public records request. Florida International University will protect the confidentiality of the information we receive from you to the fullest extent permissible under applicable law.
17. What should I do if I am seeking whistleblower status?
If you are NOT reporting anonymously and are seeking whistle-blower status under the “Florida Whistle-blower’s Act”, you may file your complaint directly with the FIU Office of Internal Audit:
FIU Office of Internal Audit
11200 SW 8 ST, CSC 447
Miami, FL 33199
If whistle-blower status is granted based on the nature of your complaint, your name and identity are exempted from public record. This status will only be granted if your complaint reaches the threshold required to meet criteria for whistle-blower status as defined by Florida Statute. Please note that the statute sets a high qualification standard based on the impact of your allegations and not everyone who requests this status will receive it.
Regardless of Whistleblower status, no one submitting a report will be subjected to retaliatory action for inquiring about possible criminal, unethical, or otherwise inappropriate activity or behavior, or reporting them in good faith.
18. What if I am concerned about Retaliation?
FIU does not tolerate retaliation! No one submitting a report will be subjected to retaliatory action for inquiring about possible criminal, unethical, or otherwise inappropriate activity or behavior, or reporting them in good faith. If you file a report and feel like you are experiencing retaliation as a result, contact the Office of University Compliance & Integrity immediately.
19. How long will the investigation take?
The length of a review/investigation depends upon many factors, such as the complexity of the issue, the number of people involved, the nature and extent of documents or other evidence involved, and the urgency of the matter. The University reviews all Ethical Panther Hotline reports with the utmost importance and will perform as thorough a review as possible for all reports submitted.
20. Who should I reach out to with any questions about the Ethical Panther Hotline?
Please contact the Office of University Compliance & Integrity at 305-348-2216 or via email at email@example.com if you have questions about the Ethical Panther Hotline reporting system.
This section provides you with up-to-date information regarding the policies, procedures, training and campus initiatives in place to support and resource your ability to respond to the workplace issues you may encounter. One of the important goals of the Office of University Compliance and Integrity is to bring awareness to the FIU community about existing, new and recently updated University-wide policies and procedures.
Please expand for new or updated policies for FY 2020-2021:
Want to earn some professional development credit? Learn even more about policies and compliance by visiting FIU Develop and searching for various compliance trainings that support your day-to-day work activities.
You Asked, We Listened!
As a response to feedback from our University community, last year the Office of Compliance embarked on a comprehensive review of all University-wide policies and procedures in the Policy Library. This initiative involved policy owners and their peers substantively reviewing and updating policies and procedures into a new comprehensive template. Additionally, policies that are no longer applicable or necessary have also been removed. We continue to work through this review of almost 600 policies and procedures. Thank you to the policy owners and policy committee members who have contributed to the review process.
We have also recently revamped the Policies and Procedures Library with a more easily accessible layout. Take a look!
For guidance on developing a new policy or revising an existing policy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org directly for further assistance.
Policy and Training Highlight: Outside Activities and Conflict of Interest
To adhere to our ethical standards and support the processes related to the University’s Conflict of Interest Policies, for the 2020-2021 fiscal year reporting, the Outside Activity/Conflict of Interest disclosure process has been improved and transitioned to PantherSoft. On an annual basis, all faculty and staff are required to complete and submit a disclosure. This disclosure is to be submitted in the new PantherSoft system, whether there is an activity to report or not, and must include all activity from July 1, 2020, forward.
In-unit faculty should refer to the FIU/UFF Collective Bargaining Agreement for further information. All other employees should refer to the Conflict of Interest Policy. Further, any faculty and staff members engaged in research must refer to the Conflict of Interest in Research Policy.
If you haven’t already, we encourage you to attend a COI training session on FIU Develop to learn more about your reporting responsibilities.
In this first Compliance Champion Recognition section, we are featuring and highlighting all of you, our FIU Faculty and Staff. This past year was not one any of us envisioned, asked for or deserved as we have experienced the collective trauma of COVID-19. Throughout the enormous transition to remote work (and now back again) we have been humbled by the perseverance of our students and by the extraordinary commitment of our colleagues.
From our faculty who worked to transition their courses and keep students engaged and connected, to our essential workers who continued to come onto campus every day, to those working remotely while navigating social isolation, family responsibilities and less than ideal workspaces, we want to personally thank you. Thank you for the enthusiasm, intention and commitment you model in service to our students and our University community. Thank you for the patience and support you show each other at a time when we are all in need of kindness and connection. And most of all, thank you for continuing to “show up” in the truest, purest sense of that phrase – in the midst of the challenges we face. While we will always have much to do as we engage in continuous improvement of our legal compliance systems and policies, YOU are the embodiment of our Ethical Culture. We remain proud and deeply grateful to continue to serve you, our FIU Community.
If you become aware of a person or department who has gone that extra mile to do the right thing for our FIU Community, let us know! We would like to reach out to let them know their efforts have been recognized and they may even be featured in a future edition of Compliance Matters!
Meet our Team
Assistant Director Compliance
Sr. Coordinator of Administrative Compliance
Director Compliance & Privacy Health Affairs
Assoc. Athletic Director Compliance
Director of Athletics Compliance - Eligibility
Director of Athletics Compliance - Financial Aid
Compliance Coordinator - Athletics
Our staff in the Office of University Compliance & Integrity is here to help you do the right thing! After all, compliance begins with each of us. Our goal is to promote a culture that encourages ethical conduct and a commitment to compliance with laws and FIU community standards.
Our office is responsible for the design, implementation and maintenance of the Compliance and Ethics Program at FIU. The Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer reports functionally to the Board of Trustees and administratively to the University President.
Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns that we can help you with. We’re really very nice!