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From the Editor

At Yale, 2007 will be a year of rectitude. Or at least administrators hope it will, particularly in three areas that have recently seen upheavals: underage drinking, grants accounting, and scholarly honesty. Interestingly, a different system of behavior modification has been introduced in each of these.

Punishment. Connecticut has tightened its laws on imbibing while young. The new laws, however, aren’t directed at the under-21s themselves but at their elder enablers. As of last October, if you run an establishment in which youth are found drinking, you will get an infraction for the first offense and a fine or jail term for the second. Toad’s will be closed all summer in penance for the many underage drinkers found in a raid last fall (see “Toad’s Won’t Be Hopping”).

But you don’t have to be a nightclub owner to get into trouble. The law applies just as much to, say, residential college masters. In a campus culture so fond of alcohol that, in some colleges, the seniors who run the Social Committee get to live in a suite equipped with a kegerator, this is no small problem. “Do you tell the students you could go to prison?” I asked one college master. “I tell them,” he said. “And they laugh, and they say, ‘We’ll visit you!’”


Five stiff new policies were issued in December.

Disincentives. A small phalanx of federal auditors is currently studying Yale’s records on research grants going back as far as ten years (see “Yale Under Scrutiny,” September/October). What are they looking for? How long will they be here? Why are they examining faculty’s personal calendars and work computers? Nobody knows. But the review could have been triggered when Yale failed a much smaller audit back in February, partly because researchers had shuffled costs from one grant to another without recording why. (It didn’t help that in one case, an e-mail said it was “to spend down the [grant] funds.”)

Yale is taking it all seriously. Emphatic messages about full compliance and high ethical standards go out periodically to faculty and staff. A new top post for research oversight has been created. Consultants are revamping the finance and administrative systems. And five stiff new policies were issued in December. Today, if you buy a bottle of solvent or an MRI scanner for one grant, but you end up using it on another, you can no longer just transfer the cost. You have to document why the transfer is merited, and “an explanation merely stating 'to transfer to correct project' is insufficient.” The expense then goes into a holding account to await review by the Grants and Contracts office. The kicker: if Grants and Contracts doesn’t think the transfer is justified, the department that requested it has to pay for the review.

Moral suasion. Six graduate students and seventeen undergrads were charged with cheating in the last academic year. Yale already has policies and penalties in place for plagiarism, but now administrators are trying to recruit the faculty and TAs to actively and preemptively promote honesty. Paul Bass ’82 describes it all in “Students Who Cheat.”

Ethics can have risks. Too much regulation, too many approval procedures, and the faculty could become rebellious; worse, Yale might become a less attractive place to scholars. But it’s admirable that Yale is putting out the message that there will be no corner-cutting here. And it’s fitting for a place that was founded because, back in 1701, the other schools simply weren’t righteous enough.  the end


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