Report: Ohio State should create an ethics office

JoANNE VIVIANO Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Consultants have recommended that Ohio State hire a vice president to oversee a new office and new committee responsible for monitoring ethics compliance across the university system in the wake of the school's football memorabilia scandal.

The report given to a university board of trustees committee Thursday is a response to the scandal that led to the resignation of coach Jim Tressel, but its recommendations would apply to numerous departments, including athletics. The trustees' audit committee accepted the recommendations, and they head to the full board on Friday.

If approved, the next step would be implementing the recommendations during the next six to 12 months, said university Chief Financial Officer Geoff Chatas.

He said a university-wide ethics office would help provide consistency among the university's department-level compliance teams that make sure various regulations are followed.

"We're always trying to be better at Ohio State and trying to be best in class," Chatas said.

The university would maintain its compliance offices for athletics, research, the medical center, financial aid, disability services and information security.

University-wide compliance offices are a growing trend across the country, said Ada Meloy, general counsel at the American Council on Education. She said they likely started at schools with hospitals and Medicare regulations and then expanded as the number of regulations governing higher education in general mushroomed.

"With the many regulations and laws that cover institutions of higher education, it is a little too easy for something to fall between the cracks, and this kind of approach is one of the very highly regarded ways to try to avoid that," she said.

The Ohio State review by the Menlo Park, Calif.-based Protiviti Inc. looked at rules compliance across the university, with an emphasis on athletics, research, student financial aid and the medical center.

Consultants reviewed policies at 23 other universities as well as certain companies while preparing the report. A few had centralized functions, Chatas said. He said the recommendations show that the Ohio State proposal would be one of the more complete efforts in balancing a central function with expertise in each area of the university.

The report also recommends the university ensure that employees are appropriately trained, develop a risk-assessment methodology and monitor risks. Key risks would be subject to consistent monitoring.

A code of ethics would be expanded university-wide and reviewed at least once every five years.

The review came following the scandal in which football players violated NCAA rules by selling game memorabilia for cash and tattoos. The revelation led to a lengthy NCAA investigation, several player suspensions, the forced resignation of 10-year coach Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor giving up his senior year to jump to the NFL.

Chatas said the university didn't try to determine if recommended policies would have prevented the infractions in the football program.

"We really were looking forward," he said.