These Policies and Procedures describe the responsibilities of the
Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE) of the Mid-South Sociological
Association (MSSA), the general operating rules of COPE, and the policies
and procedures related to submission and resolution of complaints of
violations of the MSSA Code of Ethics.
Part 1. Responsibilities and authority of COPE
COPE has been established by the Executive Council of MSSA to promote
ethical conduct by sociologists and others at the highest professional
level through development and sponsorship of educational activities for
MSSA members and MSSA conference participants; investigation of complaints
concerning the ethical conduct of members of MSSA and MSSA conference
participants; and imposition of sanctions when a violation of the Code has
2. Authority of COPE
COPE is authorized to (a) Publicize the Code of Ethics to the members
MSSA and other interested persons. (b) Educate the members of MSSA and
other interested persons concerning the ethical obligations of
sociologists under the Code of Ethics through articles, seminars,
lectures, casebooks, or other materials. (c) Recommend to the MSSA
Executive Council changes in the Code of Ethics and these Policies and
Procedures. (d) Provide to individual members of MSSA on an informal and
confidential basis advice regarding their ethical obligations under the
Code of Ethics. (e) Seek to resolve allegations of unethical conduct of
members of MSSA and MSSA conference participants informally though
mediation or other means. (f) Investigate allegations of unethical conduct
of members of MSSA and MSSA conference participants, determine violations
of the Code of Ethics and, where appropriate, impose sanctions. (g) Adopt
such rules and procedures governing the conduct of all matters within its
jurisdiction as are consistent with the Constitution and Operating
Procedures of the Association, the Code of Ethics, and these Policies and
3. Responsibilities of the Executive Council
(a) Works with COPE in the administration of 2(a)-(g).
(b) Reports to COPE on an annual basis the number and types of complaints
received, the number recommended for informal resolution, and any other
pertinent information regarding the involvement of the Executive Council
in ethics inquiries.
Part II. Operating Rules of COPE
The members of COPE shall be appointed in accordance with the By-laws
the Association. After the end of his/her term of office a member of COPE
may continue to participate in the investigation of a matter to which
he/she was previously assigned, and such member may participate in reading
the findings and recommendation with respect to that matter.
The Chair of the Committee on Professions will serve as Chair of
addition to the Chair, COPE consists of 5 members who serve staggered
terms of two years each. The members of COPE and a designated CO-Chair are
appointed by the Executive Council on the recommendation of the President
and Chair. No member is to serve more than two successive terms. At least
one month prior to the Annual Meeting, the President and Chair of COPE
shall deliver to the Council their recommendation for new members and a
designated CO-Chair. Members shall then be appointed at the Council
meeting held during the Annual Meeting of the MSSA and shall serve a term
of two (2) years beginning the last day of the Annual Meeting. The Chair
shall have primary responsibility for carrying out the mandate of COPE.
The CO-Chair shall have the authority to perform all of the duties of the
Chair when the latter is unavailable or unable to perform them, and shall
perform other tasks as delegated by the Chair.
A regular meeting of COPE shall be held annually in connection with
Annual Meeting of the Association. Additional meetings may be held, upon
the call of the Chair, from time to time in person or by telephone
4. Quorum and Voting
A quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting of COPE
consist of a majority of the members then in office. All decisions shall
be by majority vote of the members present at a meeting.
5. Voting by Mail
Any action of COPE which could be taken at a meeting may be taken
affirmative vote, in writing or by electronic communication, of a majority
of members then in office.
6. Conflicts of Interest.
No member of COPE shall participate in the deliberations or decision
any matter with respect to which the member has a conflict of interest as
outlined in the Code of Ethics.
Part III. Enforcement of the Code of Ethics
(a) COPE shall have jurisdiction to receive and determine any timely
complaint of the violation of the MSSA Code of Ethics by a current member
of MSSA in any category of membership or conference participant. In the
event that a complainee resigns from MSSA subsequent to the filing of a
complaint against him or her, COPE shall have discretion to resolve the
complaint as if the complainee were still a member.
(b) In the event that a complaint alleges conduct which is, or may
subject of other legal or institutional proceedings, COPE may, in its
discretion, defer further proceedings with respect to the complaint until
the conclusion of the other legal or institutional proceedings.
2. Filing of Complaint
(a) Any member or nonmember of MSSA who perceives that an MSSA member
conference participant has violated an ethical standard may file a
complaint with COPE.
(b) A complaint may be initiated by COPE on its own behalf.
(c) Initial telephone contact with the President or his/her designee
encouraged to clarify whether concerns about a possible ethical violation
are covered by the CODE. If it appears that a potential complaint may be
covered by the Code, a copy of the Code and a complaint form shall be sent
to the potential complainant. Informal dispute resolution and use of other
venues of investigation will be encouraged.
(d) A complaint may not be accepted or initiated if it is received
than 18 months after the alleged conduct either occurred or was
discovered. A complaint received after the 18-month time limit set forth
in this paragraph shall not be accepted unless the Chair of COPE
determines that there is good cause for the complaint not to have been
filed within the 18-month time limit. No complaint will be considered if
it is received more than five years after the alleged conduct occurred or
(e) A complaint shall include the name and address of the complainant;
name and address of the complainee; the provisions of the Code of Ethics
alleged to have been violated; a statement that other legal or
institutional proceedings involving the alleged conduct have not been
initiated or, if initiated, the status of such proceedings; a full
statement of conduct alleged to have violated the Cope of Ethics,
including the sources of all information on which the allegations are
based; copies of any documents supporting the allegations; and, if
necessary, a request that the 18-month time limit be waived. Anonymous
complaints shall not be accepted. If material in the public domain is
provided anonymously, COPE may choose to use such material in support of
it own complaint.
3. Preliminary Screening of Complaint
(a) The President of MSSA or her/his designee shall screen each
to determine whether the complainee is a member of MSSA or a conference
participant, and whether the alleged conduct is covered by the Code. If
the complaint does not include the information required by 2(e), the
President or his/her designee shall so inform the complainant, who will be
given the opportunity to provide additional information. If no response is
received from the complainant within 30 days, the matter will be closed
and the complainant so notified.
(b) If the complaint is complete as set forth in 2(e), the President
her/his designee shall notify the Chair of COPE and provide relevant
materials regarding the complain. The Chair of COPE and the President or
his/her designee shall evaluate whether there is cause for action by COPE.
Cause for action shall exist when the complainee's alleged actions and/or
omission, if substantiated, would in the judgment of the Chair of COPE and
the President or her/his designee constitute a breach of ethics. For
purposes of determining whether cause for action exists, incredible,
speculative, and/or internally inconsistent allegations may be
disregarded. If cause for action exists, a formal case is initiated, as
set forth in 4(a). If cause for action does not exist, the complaint will
be dismissed at this stage and the complainant so notified.
4. Notice of Complaint and Informal Resolution
(a) If cause for action is found, the President or his/her designee
provide a copy of the complaint and all supporting materials, and a copy
of the Code of Ethics and these Policies and Procedures, to the complainee
and encourage a settlement through informal means. If a method of informal
dispute settlement is not otherwise available to the complainant and
complainee, a mediator who is not a member of COPE may be recommended by
the President or her/his designee. Mediation services will in most cases
be by written correspondence or telephone. If informal dispute resolution
is declined, the members of COPE shall not be informed which party
(b) Any person appointed to serve as a mediator shall agree to maintain
the confidentiality of the proceedings as set forth in the Cope of Ethics
and these Policies and Procedures. The mediator shall report to the
President or his/her designee only whether or not a matter has been
resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.
5. Response to Complaint
If either or both the complainant and complainee decline informal
settlement or if informal dispute settlement fails to resolve the
complaint, the President or her/his designee shall notify the complainee
that the case will go forward in accordance with these Policies and
Procedures. Complainee shall have 30 days after receipt of this notice to
respond in writing to the complaint. An extension may be granted by the
President if good cause is shown, but the extension shall not exceed 90
6. Initial Determination of the Chair
The complaint and response shall be submitted to the Chair of COPE
initial determination whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed with
the case. The Chair may, in her/his discretion, request additional
information from the complainant and/or any other appropriate source
before making the initial determination, provided, however, that the Chair
shall not rely on such additional information unless it has been shared
with the complainee, and the complainee has been afforded an opportunity
to respond. If the Chair shall decide that there is insufficient evidence
to proceed, the matter shall be closed and the complainant and complainee
notified in writing.
7. Investigation and Recommendation
If the Chair determines that there is sufficient evidence to proceed
the complaint, he/she shall appoint an Investigation Panel composed of the
Chair or CO-Chair and at least two other members of COPE to investigate
the complaint. The Panel may communicate with the complainant, complainee,
witnesses, or other sources of information necessary to carry out its
functions. The Panel shall conduct as much of its business as is practical
through written correspondence or verbal communication. Although
complainants and complainees have the right to consult with attorneys
concerning all phases of the ethics process, the complainant must file and
the complainee must respond to charges of unethical conduct personally and
not through legal counsel or another third part, unless the complainant or
complainee provides good cause as to why she or he cannot respond
personally. The Panel shall submit a written report of its findings and
any recommendation for sanction to the full Committee within ninety (90)
days, unless a longer period is necessary in the opinion of the Chair or
CO-Chair. A copy of the Panel's findings and recommendation shall be
provided to the complainant and complainee, who may submit a response in
writing within a time frame of not more than 30 days.
8. Determination of Violation
COPE shall determine whether a violation of the Code of Ethics has
occurred on the basis of the complaint, the response, any other
information provided to the Investigation Panel the recommendation and
findings of the Panel, and the responses of the parties thereto, provided,
however, that COPE may hear the testimony of witnesses where in its view
it is essential to the fairness of the proceeding. COPE may return any
matter to the Investigation Panel for further investigation. Upon
completion of its review, COPE shall issue a determination of whether one
or more violations of the Code of Ethics have occurred, including a
summary of the factual basis for this determination, and of the
In any case in which it has determined that a violation of the Code
Ethics has been substantiated, COPE may impose no sanction or one or more
of the following, as appropriate:
(a) Private Reprimand. In cases where there has been an ethics violation
but the violation did not cause serious personal and/or professional harm,
an educative letter concerning the violation, including any stipulated
conditions of redress, may be sent to the complainee. Failure to comply
with stipulated conditions of redress in a reprimand may result in the
imposition of a more severe sanction.
(b) Public Reprimand. Where COPE determines that the seriousness
violation warrants more than a private reprimand, it may direct that a
copy of the letter of reprimand be made public in an appropriate manner.
(c) Denial of Privileges. In appropriate cases, COPE may determine
complainee shall be denied one or more of the privileges of MSSA
membership and/or the opportunity to participate in MSSA sponsored
activities including but not limited to appointment to the editorial board
of Sociological Spectrum, election or appointment to any MSSA office or
committee, receipt of any MSSA awards, publishing in or serving as editor
of Sociological Spectrum, presenting a paper or otherwise participating at
the annual meeting of MSSA, or receiving research or scholarship
assistance from any program sponsored by MSSA.
(d) Termination of Membership. In cases where there has been an
violation and the violation caused serious personal and/or professional
harm, the MSSA membership of the complainee may be terminated for a period
to be determined by COPE. Eligibility to renew membership at the
expiration of this period may be automatic or may be conditioned on a
future determination by COPE that eligibility is appropriate.
10. Notice of Determination
The Chair of COPE shall notify the complainant and complainee of
decision of COPE. If a sanction is imposed under 9(c) or 9(d), COPE shall
instruct the President to take the appropriate actions called for under
COPE's determination, except that such notice shall be postponed if an
appeal is filed as set forth in paragraph 11.
11. Appeal of Termination
A complainee who is found by COPE to have violated the Code of Ethics
who receives a sanction under 9(b) through 9(d) may appeal this
determination by filing a Notice of Appeal and Statement of Reasons no
later than thirty (30) days after receipt of the Notice of Determination.
If an appeal is filed, the President of MSSA shall appoint a three-member
Appeal Panel of past members of COPE (or past Executive Officers of MSSA
if insufficient time has passed since establishment of the original COPE)
to review all information considered by COPE and, within 90 days, make a
decision to uphold or reverse the determination. The Appeal Panel may set
aside COPE's determination that a violation has been substantiated or it
may determine that the sanction imposed by COPE is not appropriate and
impose a less severe sanction. The decision of the Appeal Panel shall
constitute the final decision of MSSA with respect to all matters subject
to this paragraph.
(a) The filing of a complaint against an MSSA member or conference
participant and all proceedings held under this Part III shall be kept
confidential by COPE, the Investigation Panel, the Appeal Panel and the
President of MSSA prior to a final determination of the matter, except
that information regarding complaints may be shared with any staff
designated by the President to assist COPE and MSSA legal counsel.
Determinations of violations of the Code of Ethics by COPE or by an Appeal
Panel shall be kept confidential, except in the case of termination of
membership, or unless disclosure of the determination to the public is
imposed as part of another sanction. The name of each individual whose
membership is terminated and a brief statement of the reason for
termination shall be reported annually to the MSSA Council and in the
newsletter of MSSA, The Forum.
(b) The committee may disclose such information when compelled by
subpoena or by a final court order.
(c) Notwithstanding the foregoing, COPE may publish reports of its
determination s in order to educate the membership about the requirements
of the Code of Ethics, but not make the identity of the parties public
unless otherwise provided for in Part III, section 12(b).
(d) Initiation of legal action against the MSSA or its officers
employees shall constitute a waiver of confidentiality by the person
initiating such action.
(e) Records relating to the investigation of complaints of violations
the Code, whether or not COPE determined that a violation was
substantiated, shall be maintained in a secure place indefinitely. These
records should always remain confidential, unless otherwise provided for
in 12(b) and 12 (d). Permission to use these materials for research and
educational purposes may be granted by the President within the first 50
years of the closing of the complaint, as long as the materials do not
identify the individuals involved. After 50 years, these materials are
available for research or educational purposes without special approval as
long as the commitment to confidentiality is honored and the materials do
not identify the individuals involved.
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