The Committee on Professional Ethics
The Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE) is charged with addressing complaints of ethical problems, personal abuse, and/or retaliation allegedly caused by political scientists during their professional capacity at the MPSA. Activities include the investigation and adjudication of complaints and counter-complaints made by: 1) MPSA conference participants regarding the ethical conduct of other conference participants; and 2) members’ complaints about the volunteers or leaders in the MPSA (including AJPS editors, staff and editorial board members) who are operating in their professional capacities. Informed by APSA’s Ethics Guide (2012), the COPE responds to any complaints relating to the MPSA Anti-Harassment Policy, the MPSA Council Member’s Code of Conduct, and the MPSA Policy on Editorial Conflicts of Interest.
A. OPERATING RULES OF COPE
1. Membership. The Committee on Professional Ethics is comprised of nine members, serving staggered three-year terms. Nominations for potential COPE members will be solicited by MPSA from MPSA members, the MPSA status committees on gender and sexual minorities and on ethnic and racial minorities, and relevant groups. Such nominations are due to the MPSA Executive Director at least 60 days prior to the first day of the Annual Meeting. The Executive Committee, comprised of the current MPSA President, the immediate Past President of the MPSA, the MPSA President-elect and the Executive Director (ex officio), will appoint COPE members from among the nominations and other qualified MPSA members willing to serve.
Once the initial membership is determined, the COPE members will elect one of the nine members to serve as the COPE Chair. The initial COPE members will select three members to serve a three-year term, three members to serve a two-year term and three members to serve a one-year term. After the initial year of membership is completed, each new incoming COPE member will serve a three-year term. After the initial year of membership, new COPE members will be appointed by the Executive Committee according to the nomination process outlined above for the initial membership.
The COPE Chair is selected by a majority of currently serving COPE members. The COPE Chair will appoint a subset of 3 members of COPE (subcommittee) to examine each individual complaint (“Investigation Panel”). Any reference to COPE below may also refer to an appointed subcommittee.
After the end of their term of office, members of COPE may continue to participate in the investigation of a matter to which they were previously assigned. Such members may also participate in reaching the findings and recommendation of the Investigation Panel with respect to that matter.
2. Quorum and Voting. A quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting of COPE shall consist of a majority of the members serving in office or on an appointed subcommittee. All motions will be decided by a majority of members present and voting.
Any action of COPE that could be taken at an in-person meeting may be taken without an in-person meeting upon the affirmative majority vote, in writing, including by electronic communication, of all members of COPE then in office or of the given subcommittee).
3. Code of Conduct. Members of COPE will be subject to the MPSA Council Member’s Code of Conduct. No member of COPE shall participate in the deliberations or decision of any matter with respect to which the member has a conflict of interest as outlined in the MPSA Council Members’ Code of Conduct. In the event of such a conflict, the member should inform COPE and recuse themselves from any deliberation or decision on the matter. This provision will not apply when COPE itself is the complainant.
4. Types of Complaints. The Committee will not consider disputes being litigated, as exhibited by an initial complaint filed in court or a charge filed with an administrative agency. COPE will also not consider disputes that are currently being reviewed by another professional body, such as the American Association of University Professors. If timely, parties to a dispute are free to bring their allegations to COPE after a dispute has been litigated or after a professional body has rendered its decision. Members of MPSA are obliged to respond to the informational needs of the COPE and its representatives.
A complaint may not be accepted or initiated if it is received more than 24 months after the alleged conduct either occurred or was discovered, except as set forth below. A complaint received after the 24-month time limit set forth in this paragraph may be accepted only if the Chair of COPE determines that there is good cause for the complaint not to have been filed within the 24-month time limit. No complaint will be considered if it is received more than five years after the alleged conduct occurred or was discovered.
Although COPE will investigate complaints related to participation in the MPSA conference, the MPSA Council, and the MPSA Policy on Editorial Conflicts of Interest, it does not investigate complaints about political scientists that do not involve the MPSA nor does it consider complaints about editorial decisions of the American Journal of Political Science unless the complaint relates to one of the policies covered by COPE.
5. Confidentiality. The filing of a complaint and all related proceedings shall be kept confidential to the fullest extent possible under applicable laws by COPE, the investigators, the Appeals Committee, and the MPSA President prior to a final determination of the matter, except that information regarding the complaint and investigation of the complaint may be shared with the Executive Director, any staff designated by the Executive Director to assist COPE, MPSA legal counsel, the complainant, the subject of the complaint, and third party sources of information, except where a conflict of interest may exist. COPE or Appeals Committee decisions shall be kept confidential, unless otherwise required under applicable legal rules.
B. SUBMITTING AN INDIVIDUAL GRIEVANCE
Individuals who believe they have been the subject of conduct in violation of MPSA’s policies have two options.
1. Contact the Ombudsperson. The first is to consult with the Ombudsperson (Ombuds) of the MPSA, who is available for confidential consultation about a range of concerns, including but not limited to sexual harassment. The second is to register a complaint by phone or the internet using the process described in C-2. To the extent a complainant is comfortable, the complainant should first consult with the Ombuds for clarification about their options. The MPSA administrative office hires the Ombuds.
The Ombuds plays no role in MPSA’s formal complaint procedure but can offer confidential guidance about submitting a complaint and the types of conduct covered. The Ombuds can explain the options for reporting alleged misconduct to the MPSA and can provide information regarding whether other avenues for pursuing such a complaint are available based on the nature of the complaint, such as state or local government, human rights or law enforcement agencies, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the U.S. Office for Civil Rights. If appropriate and if the complainant requests it, the Ombuds may recommend conciliation. The Ombuds cannot provide legal advice but can offer support and guidance even if no further action is taken.
This consultation is confidential and the details of any conversation between an MPSA member and the MPSA Ombuds will be kept confidential to the extent allowable by law, and will not be reported to any administrator, officer, or committee of the MPSA. However, if in the Ombuds’ sole discretion, the Ombuds determines that the information that the member provides involves a serious threat of harm to any individual, the Ombuds will make any necessary reporting in an attempt to protect the individuals from harm. At all times, the role of the Ombuds is entirely independent of any complaint a participant may decide to pursue through the following MPSA complaint procedure. Contacting the Ombuds does not trigger the complaint process. The Ombuds will not keep any written records of complaints or consultations. The Ombuds can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the event that the Ombuds has a conflict of interest with any party to the dispute, the Ombuds will be recused after contacting another Ombuds to address the issue.
2. Submit a Formal Complaint to COPE. Individuals may submit a grievance or concern using the MPSA’s online, confidential incident reporting platform. T his confidential reporting tool assists MPSA with reports of alleged violations of the MPSA Anti-Harassment Policy, the MPSA Council Member’s Code of Conduct, and the MPSA Policy on Editorial Conflicts of Interest . If any actions that may be in violation of the MPSA Anti-Harassment Policy, the MPSA Council Member’s Code of Conduct, and/or the MPSA Policy on Editorial Conflicts of Interest are observed or reported to any MPSA staff member, Council member, conference attendee, or venue employee, and there is a question of immediate physical danger, steps should be taken to ensure immediate safety of all attendees and staff, regardless of any complaint procedure that may follow.
a. Acknowledgement of a Complaint. Upon receipt of a complaint via the online incident reporting platform, the Executive Director or their designee shall communicate to the complainant that the complaint has been received as soon as possible and no later than within 3 business days.
b. Preliminary Screening of a Complaint. The complaint will initially be reviewed by the Executive Director. If the Executive Director has a conflict of interest, the Executive Director will immediately recuse themselves and appoint another MPSA staff member to conduct an initial review. If the initial review shows that the complaint does not include all the information required or is untimely, the Executive Director or his or her designee shall so inform the complainant and provide them with thirty (30) days to provide additional information. If the complainant fails to provide additional information within 30 days of being contacted by the Executive Director or their designee, or the matter was untimely, the matter will be closed, and the complainant will be so notified.
Once a determination is made that the complaint is timely and complete, the Chair of COPE and the Executive Director or his or her designee shall then evaluate whether there is a viable claim for COPE to consider. A viable claim shall exist when the allegations, if proved, would in the judgment of the Chair of COPE and the Executive Director or their designee constitute a violation of the policies and standards in Section A. If a viable claim is determined to exist, a formal case is initiated, and the complainant will be notified within 15 business days of the acknowledgement of receipt of the claim. If a determination is made that a viable claim does not exist, the complaint will be dismissed, and the complainant shall be notified within 15 business days of the acknowledgement of the complaint. The complainant will then have 15 business days to seek reconsideration of this decision. If reconsideration is sought, the COPE chair shall appoint within 15 business days three members of the COPE to review the complaint in addition to the complainant’s request for reconsideration (Review Committee). If the Review Committee determines there is a viable claim and overturns the initial decision, a formal case is initiated, and the complainant will be notified within 15 business days. If the Review Committee affirms there is not a viable claim, the complaint will be dismissed, and the complainant shall be notified. The Review Committee shall have 15 business days of being appointed to review the complaint to reach a decision.
If a formal complaint is initiated, the Chair will appoint an Investigation Panel of three members and provide all relevant materials to the Investigation Panel regarding the complaint.
c. Investigation. The Investigation Panel will conduct an appropriate investigation, which includes interviewing both parties and any witnesses to the incident identified by either party, as well as reviewing relevant documentation. If the respondent to a complaint is a staff member, officer, or member of the AJPS editorial staff, the Investigation Panel may recommend at this time that the respondent be temporarily relieved (with pay) from their MPSA responsibilities directly related to the allegations for the duration of the investigation. This recommendation by the Investigation Panel must be unanimous and may be appealed by the respondent according to the procedures outlined in Section g below.
The Investigation Panel may consult legal counsel before issuing a decision, so they are certain that the correct standards are being applied. They may also use the vendor that the MPSA contracts with to conduct human resources investigations. Normally, investigations should be completed within 30 business days of the acknowledgement of the complaint, but in the event of delays, the complainant and respondent should each be notified of the delay every 30 business days until the investigation is completed.
d. Report. Upon completion of the investigation, the Investigation Panel will write a brief preliminary report stating whether it finds that the respondent violated MPSA policies and the recommended correctional measures, if any. The Investigation Panel will provide the respondent and complainant with 15 business days to respond to the preliminary report and recommended correctional measures in writing prior to issuing a final report and imposing any applicable correctional measures.
If after receiving a respondent’s and complainant’s responses to the preliminary report, the decision of the Investigation Panel has changed, a second preliminary report will be issued within 15 business days giving respondent and complainant a second opportunity to provide a response within 15 business days.
After reviewing the respondent’s and complainant’s responses, the Investigation Panel will draft a written summary of its final decision and any recommended correctional measures for presentation to the full COPE upon adoption by majority vote of the Investigation Panel.
e. Final Decision. A COPE meeting will be held to vote on the Investigation Panel’s decision and recommendations. The COPE will vote on adopting the Investigation Panel’s decision and recommendations in full, to reject both the Investigation Panel’s decision and recommendations, or to adopt the Investigation Panel’s decision but change the Correctional Measures to be implemented. If the COPE votes to accept the Investigation Panel’s decision, but changes the Correctional Measures, the COPE must specify which Correctional Measures will be implemented and the reasons supporting the change. All votes taken on these matters will be by a majority. The final decision will be sent in a final report to respondent and complainant within 3 business days of the COPE meeting. If the COPE requires more time to make its final decision, both the respondent and complainant will be notified every 15 business days. The entire process, from submitting a complaint to receiving a final report, may take as long as 5-6 months.
f. Correctional Measures. When a complaint is found to have merit, the respondent may be subject to one or more of the following correctional measures:
1. Verbal counseling by appropriate parties
2. Issuing a written warning and retaining a record of that warning in case of future violations
3. Requiring attendance in a relevant training course
4. Termination of any current or scheduled MPSA conference participation and any MPSA responsibilities or appointments held
5. Barring the person from assuming any future governance positions within MPSA
6. Barring the person from participating in future MPSA conferences or events, and/or
7. Revoking MPSA membership.
g. Appeals. Should either party wish to appeal the final decisions and/or any correctional measures in the final report, an ad-hoc appeals committee will be comprised of the Executive Committee of the MPSA, with the Chair of COPE as an ex-officio member for information purposes. Any party who is involved in the dispute or closely related to a party involved in the dispute would be recused and replaced by the MPSA Vice President(s) with the most seniority. All appeals must be made in writing within 15 business days of the final report being sent to respondent and complainant.
A copy of the appeal request will be shared with the other party, and that party will have 15 business days to submit a response, should they decide to do so.
The ad-hoc committee will not re-investigate the complaint, but will review the COPE reports, appeal, and response, if available. Decisions of the ad-hoc appeals committee are final and should be made and conveyed to both the complainant(s) and respondent(s) within 15 business days.