Institutional integrity must include adherence to local, state, and federal law; professional ethics; standards of honesty and fair practices in all interactions with internal and external entities; publication of materials which accurately describe the mission and programs of the institution; publication of policies and procedures which are clearly communicated and consistently followed; confidentiality of records or open records, as appropriate; academic freedom; and fair evaluations and fair workloads. By offering academic programs, the University implies that those programs are of high quality. The reputation of the institution depends upon the credibility of those who represent it; thus, a high standard of behavior must be modeled by the institution's administrators, faculty, staff, and students.
The primary documents through which the institution disseminates information to its constituencies are the Catalog, published biennially in hard copy and on-line; the University website, updated continuously; the VCSU Student Handbook, printed annually and also available on the website; the staff handbook (NDUS Human Resource Policy Manual); and the faculty handbook (SBHE/VCSU Policy Manual) (both available online, and excerpted in The Employee Handbook). As the new Human Resource Director and VPAA have become more experienced in their positions, both have noted the need for more accessible handbooks for faculty and staff and have begun organizing new handbooks. Copies of documents published by the University are located in the resource room.
Evidence that the University is committed to ethical standards is found throughout the institution's printed literature. The University Purposes speak to a "quality educational experience;" the Core Values include "quality and integrity". The VCSU Student Handbook states that "Academic integrity in students is recognized as a fundamental objective of higher education." The objectives of the teacher education program include the awareness "of the importance of professional and personal characteristics of effective teachers, such as...ethical behavior". Policies and publications relating to institutional integrity may be found in the resource room.
Effective July 1, 2010, new VCSU employees must certify that the employee has read and agrees to comply with the code of conduct per Policy V308.1. In addition, all employees participate in fraud awareness training annually and are reminded biannually of Policy 611.14, Reporting and Investigating Theft and Fraud. VCSU contracts with Eide Bailly to provide an anonymous fraud hotline. In addition, employees provide annual disclosures of any nepotism or conflict of business interest.
VCSU's examination of institutional integrity included a review of campus documents and policies, as well as the practices of specific offices and areas, to discern the qualities of clarity and fairness in the University's relationships with students, faculty, staff, and the community.
In its interactions with students, the University follows North Dakota University System (NDUS) and Federal rules and guidelines. To ensure multiple opportunities to locate information, VCSU publishes significant student documents both online and in hard copy form. The VCSU Student Handbook is available in the annual planner, which also includes significant deadlines throughout the year. In addition, the VCSU Student Handbook is available online and embedded in the Blackboard course template provided for every online course. The more pertinent items, for example, the incomplete policy, course withdrawal, academic integrity, and computer usage, are posted separately in the template, to make certain these items are readily available without additional search. The Catalog, available online and in hard copy, also documents academic policy and guidelines.
Recruitment & Admissions. NDUS guidelines direct the campus admission policy. The guidelines describe the high school core curriculum requirements, potential exceptions, and the appeal process for candidates who are denied admission. The University conducts its recruitment process in a nondiscriminatory manner; a wide variety of activities are utilized throughout the recruitment process and applied to all students consistently and fairly. The application process and admissions requirements are described in the Catalog.
Tuition & Refunds. Tuition rates and the refund policy are printed in the Catalog and on the Business Office website. Tuition is assessed based on the number of credits for which the student has registered, delivery method, and the residency status of the student. When a student drops a course or withdraws from all classes, tuition refunds, if applicable, are calculated in accordance with the policy published in the Catalog.
Housing & Refunds. Residence hall students sign a VCSU Room and Board Contract at the beginning of each year. The specific language of the contract addresses residence hall cancellation or withdrawal. In addition, all residence hall students receive timely e-mail notices on upcoming dates and deadlines.
Bookstore. The NDUS Registrars' Council recommended to the Academic Affairs Council a procedure for making required textbook information available to students within the functionality of Campus Connection (the NDUS student information system). Effective July 1, 2010, class textbook information, including ISBN information, was made available through a web link on the internet course schedule. The live web link allows the Bookstore to provide students with a current and accurate list of textbooks for each class (HEOA 2008-112, HEA-133).
Financial Aid. Valley City State University follows the rules and guidelines for distributing financial aid as outlined in Federal Regulations and the Department of Education Student Financial Aid Handbook. The University practices debt management that reflects well in the Department of Education Cohort Default Rate.
Orientation. The University's orientation activities are outlined in the Catalog. Prospective students and admitted students are informed of the schedule for summer orientation and opening school activities through direct mail pieces, brochures, and newsletters; these activities are also explained to new students and parents during the summer orientation/registration program. The "Learning to Live, Living to Learn" program is a required freshman seminar program facilitated by upper-level students and faculty members that further assists student orientation efforts during the first semester. Assessments are conducted annually on all orientation programs, and committees of students, faculty, and staff are involved in annual planning to make certain that communication-the purpose of orientation-is clear and effective.
Student Records & Privacy Act. The Office of the Registrar maintains directory information and educational records for all students, ensuring full protection and confidentiality of these records in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). These records are maintained in a password-secured student information system (Campus Connection) or, in the case of paper documents, in files secured by locks. Students are notified of their rights under the FERPA policy (as it pertains to release of directory information and educational records) through the Catalog and the VCSU Student Handbook.
Student Policies. The VCSU Student Handbook is updated and printed on an annual basis. The Handbook contains policy statements on Academic Integrity, Sexual Harassment, and Student Rights and Responsibilities. Each policy is reviewed annually prior to reprinting. Hard copies are made available throughout the campus (in the annual planner) and distributed at new student orientation activities, in addition to student access through the VCSU Website and their Blackboard courses.
Policies related to Campus Security, The Drug Free School Policy, Sex Offenses, and Campus Crime Statistics are reviewed, updated, published, and distributed to all students annually. Institutional records of student complaints are kept on file in the Vice President for Student Affairs Office and in accordance with federal regulations. Records are kept of all formal written complaints, signed by a student, and submitted to an institutional officer with the responsibility to handle the complaint.
The Academic & Scholastic Standing Committee (Vice President for Academic Affairs, Registrar, Director of Student Academic Services, two faculty) considers petitions and routine matters concerning student academic affairs and advises the VPAA on academic and scholastic standing. The Judicial Council (membership representing faculty and students) handles appeals on decisions regarding violations of the Student Code of Conduct and hearings on judicial matters. The University Hearings & Appeals Board (membership from administration, faculty, and students) provides an avenue of final appeal of a decision by a University official or by an established University committee and serves as a hearing body in matters dealing with alleged violations of the Student Bill of Rights.
Departmental Publications for Students. In addition to the Catalog, academic program requirements are communicated to students through Fact Sheets developed by the Office of Enrollment Services and various departmental publications. Documents are reviewed and updated regularly to ensure consistency and currency.
Guidelines for Student Athletes. Valley City State University is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and competes as a member of the Association of Independent Institutions. VCSU follows rules for eligibility, participation, length of season, and dates of practice as established by the NAIA.
Student Government. The Student Senate is the governing body for the Student Association that includes all Valley City State students. All student organizations are directly responsible to the Student Senate. The Senate is comprised of officers and student senators elected each spring semester. Through the Student Senate Finance Commission, the Student Senate controls and administers the student activity fee. The Student Senate appoints numerous student representatives to University and Senate administrative duties and committees such as Faculty Senate, Athletic Committee, Curriculum Committee, Diversity Waiver Committee, Financial Aid Committee, Library Committee, Marketing Committee, and Teacher Education Committee. Students have also participated in searches for faculty and administrative positions.
Information Technology Center. Valley City State University has several policies and procedures that govern use of information technology. The following policies and procedures apply to all faculty, staff, students and other users of the information technology, unless explicitly stated otherwise.
The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education policies 1901.2, 1902, and the related procedures provide the foundation for VCSU policies related to computer and network usage. VCSU has participated in the creation and modification of these policies and procedures. The procedures define the basic privileges and responsibilities of internal constituents, as well as the privileges and responsibilities of the NDUS and individual institutions, including VCSU. VCSU has expanded the SBHE procedures associated with 1901.2 and these addendums and procedures are published in the VCSU Policy Manual.
VCSU has several other procedures related to information technology published in the VCSU Policy Manual, including the following:
With the exception of a few cases of illegal sharing of copyrighted music titles, there have been no cases identified that utilized VCSU computing resources to facilitate an illegal act. A record of security issues and illegal acts is maintained by the Information Technology Security Officer. A few cases of inappropriate use (as defined in the student contract) occur each semester and are referred to the Vice President for Student Affairs for disciplinary action: their nature is rarely malicious (a typical example is an electronic message intended for a specific person inadvertently sent to an individual who is offended by the message).
VCSU has made efforts to comply with Title II of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 and the Higher Education Act, as passed in August 2008, including the following actions:
Student violations related to the responsibility for computer hardware cause the greatest concern for Information Technology Center staff. A few computers are lost each year due to students leaving with the computers and not returning them by the specific dates listed in the contract.
The VCSU Policy Manual follows the framework of the NDUS Policy Manual and conforms to its requirements. Web links allow all employees ready access to system and University policy via their laptops or desktop computers. Policy changes made by the State Board of Higher Education at scheduled board meetings are distributed to faculty and staff by the President's Office. Academic policy, grievance, personnel issues, and tenure and promotion procedures are clearly identified in both Policy Manuals.
Academic Policy. VCSU review of academic programs complies with national, state, and disciplinary accreditation and statutory responsibilities. NDUS sections 100-900, in addition to the Century Code of the State of North Dakota, govern delegated authority for oversight of academic programs ranging from the hiring and termination of academic staff to program review. The VCSU Policy Manual, publicly available on the VCSU website, provides the local policy additions for the VCSU campus. These policies range from Academic Freedom (401) to admissions policies, curriculum review, program termination, program review, enrollment reporting, common NDUS academic calendar, and continuing education.
Orientation. New faculty sign the state-mandated loyalty oath for teachers, affirming that they will support the constitutions of the United States and state of North Dakota and faithfully discharge their duties as assigned. Copies of the signed oath are retained by the President's Office. In addition, all faculty and staff sign the VCSU Code of Conduct certification.
Rights and Responsibilities/Policy and Practice. North Dakota delegates governing authority of higher education to the State Board of Higher Education. Their authority is vested in the Chancellor while campus presidents exercise statutory and delegated authority. Board policy flows from the state government through the SBHE, to the Chancellor and the campus President. Individual campuses are free to set their own policy-making processes that comply with and extend NDUS policy.
VCSU policy development honors and respects the notion of shared governance. Policy is developed through the faculty governance processes outlined in the charter for the Faculty Association. Committees are charged to read, review, and recommend revisions. The Faculty Association Constitution allows the Faculty Senate to settle most issues with a unanimous vote. One dissenting vote from any divisional representative moves the proposal for general consideration and vote to the entire Faculty Association. Upon approval, the policy proposal is forwarded to the University Policy Committee for review and recommendation. The Policy Committee forwards revised and proposed policy to the President for final approval and insertion in the VCSU Policy Manual. The University Policy Committee has developed a rotating review of policies, to make certain policies are kept up to date and to raise awareness of campus policy among all campus constituents.
Evaluation, Promotion, and Tenure. Faculty evaluation, promotion, and the award of tenure is conducted according to Valley City State University and NDUS Policy (V605.1; SBHE 605.1). Instructional efforts are subject to regular evaluations. Pre-tenure or probationary faculty have a period of six years to attain tenure per the recommendation of the divisional evaluation committee to the Academic Policy and Affairs Committee (APAC) and eventually to the President. The President makes a recommendation to the State Board of Higher Education. Tenure status is granted only by the State Board; promotions are granted by the local campus president.
Faculty on yearly or term contracts (part time or special appointment) complete an annual teaching evaluation which is reviewed by their Division Chair and the VPAA. Post-tenure faculty complete an annual review process using Form AA-04, which allows them to document achievements, set goals, and reflect on yearly progress. These forms are also reviewed by their Division Chair and VPAA.
Faculty Records. The official faculty files, with application materials, transcripts, letters of appointment, and evaluation, tenure, and promotion documents, are kept in the Office of the President. Should disciplinary letters result from grievance proceedings or disciplinary hearings, they are also retained in that official file. Correspondence files and other documents relating to faculty work are kept in the VPAA and divisional offices. The University conforms to federal and state privacy regulations.
Grievance Procedure and Resolution of Disputes. Since VCSU's last accreditation, the Special Review Committee has been removed from NDUS Policy, VCSU Policy, and the Faculty Association Constitution. The Standing Committee on Faculty Rights hears grievances from faculty. NDUS policies describing the process of faculty appeal include 605.2 Standing Committee on Faculty Rights, 605.3 Nonrenewal, Termination or Dismissal of Faculty, 605.4 Hearings and Appeals, 605.5 Mediation, and 612 Faculty Grievances. There have been no incidents requiring the use of these procedures on VCSU's campus in the past decade.
Hiring and Orientation. Procedures for filling vacant staff positions at Valley City State University are described in the institution's Equal Opportunity guidelines. Following the completion of the form, "Request to Offer a Position," and the return of an acceptable criminal history background check, letters of appointment are issued to staff.
Evaluation. New employees (not in a senior administrator position) are in a probationary status pending a satisfactory evaluation at the end of the initial six months of employment. During such period, the employee may be terminated with one week's notice with no right to appeal (NDUS Policy 4). Responsibility Reviews (evaluations) are administered to each broadbanded staff member annually. The position description for each staff position and the University's values and guiding principles generate the Responsibility Reviews. The NDUS Human Resource Policy Manual informs the campus about policies and procedures related to staff employment.
Staff Senate. The Staff Senate was established to be a representative body of broadbanded staff. The Staff Senate strives to promote communication among administrators, faculty and staff employees. The Staff Senate also informs and serves the broadbanded staff of Valley City State University.
Grievance Procedure and Resolution of Disputes. The Staff Personnel Board, a staff grievance committee appointed by the President, hears appeals and employee grievances as per Sections 27 and 28 of the NDUS Human Resource Policy Manual. Potential grievances have been settled according to Policy 28.2. Records are kept with personnel records through the Human Resources Office.
Valley City State University places the safety and well-being of its students, faculty, staff, and visitors above all other considerations. It is the policy of VCSU to provide and maintain safe and healthful working conditions. VCSU subscribes to recognized national standards of safety as defined in published materials of the North Dakota Workers Compensation Bureau, the State Fire Laws, and the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. Information about the Campus Security Act of 1990 is available through VCSU Policy 916 and SBHE 916.
Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment. Valley City State University does not tolerate sexual harassment. Such action shall be reported to the next level supervisor or the Human Resources office. Individuals experiencing harassment from co-workers shall make it clear that such behavior is offensive and unwanted. If this does not resolve the problem, the appropriate supervisor must be notified. Supervisors are expected to resolve this situation by referencing Policy V603.1.1 or V603.1.2, and by taking more direct disciplinary action if necessary. An individual making a false accusation may also be subject to disciplinary action.
Workplace Violence. Employees who observe or experience violence, threats, harassment, intimidation, or other disruptive behavior are to report the behavior to a supervisor and to assist the supervisor to complete the Workplace Violence report and Incident report. No reports have been filed in the past ten years.
Background Checks. VCSU conducts a criminal history records check on all employees including student employees in positions listed in Policy V602.3.
Risk Management. With the loss of sovereign immunity, the state of North Dakota, through the Office of Management and Budget, established a Risk Management Division. This Division manages the Risk Management Fund, a self-retention fund, which pays liability claims against the state and its employees. Legislative and policy changes with regard to safety and risk management were also outlined by the State Board of Higher Education in Section 1901.1 of its Policy Manual. This clarified the duties and responsibilities that the Risk Management Division has with regard to the universities and their Loss Control Committees in managing potential liability exposures.
The VCSU Director of Facilities Services, with the assistance of the Office Manager/Safety Coordinator, has been assigned the responsibility of administering the University’s safety management program. All faculty, supervisors, staff, and other persons in authority are enjoined in the prevention of accidents and reduction of claims in the environment and operations under their control. New staff receive instruction on general safety rules, emergency procedures, and procedures for reporting injuries and incidents. Various safety trainings are conducted periodically during the year. In addition, every employee must review certain policies and provide designated medical provider information annually.
Valley City State University follows the North Dakota Risk Management mandates, which comply with federal OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, 29.CFR 1910.1200. The Facilities Services Department updates and maintains all Material Safety Data Sheets for chemicals used by the custodians and Sodexo (food services). The chair of the Chemistry Department maintains a master list of chemicals that are used in the labs. Laboratory chemicals are stored in an explosion-proof, ventilated room and a licensed, professional organization takes care of waste removal.
The campus Loss Control Committee is comprised of the Facilities Director (who serves as chair), several staff members, a faculty representative from each division, and a student representative. The VCSU Loss Control Committee meets each semester and the records are kept in the Facilities Services Office. State Risk Management and Workforce Safety keep all incident reports and worker’s compensation claims. The Human Resources Director manages employee aspects of Worker’s Compensation claims and retains return-to-work documentation. VCSU offers employees defensive driving, CPR/AED training, and other life safety trainings.
Assessments of various state facilities provide an opportunity for present and future liability exposures to be identified and assessed; recommendations to be made regarding risk and financial management; and supporting documentation to be provided. Facilities Services and the Loss Control Committee conduct annual assessments of the campus, in addition to State Risk Management’s assessments which are completed every four years (the most recent assessment was in February 2010). State Risk Management provides a report of their finding to the Facilities Director and the Safety Coordinator. The report is reviewed by the Loss Control Committee and assignments are made for addressing the identified risk areas within a specific time period.
Although students report general feelings of safety on campus and campus crime statistics show very low levels of criminal activity, VCSU takes the safety and security of faculty, staff and students very seriously. On the 2010 administration of the Noel-Levitz Student Satisfaction Inventory, the item The Campus is Safe and Secure for All Students, received the third highest satisfaction score, (6.22 on a 7.0 scale) out of 72 items. Campus crime statistics are published and distributed every year according to the Clery Act and committees of students, faculty and staff meet regularly to discuss campus safety issues. A Loss Control Committee and a Student Senate Campus Security Committee work to achieve similar goals for a safe and secure campus. Campus security efforts include:
In 2008, Homeland Security / ND Fusion visited the campus and assessed critical assets and security. In their report, Homeland Security / ND Fusion stated,
As this report demonstrates, the University takes seriously its responsibility to provide safe facilities and a secure campus environment.
Full Disclosure / Public Access. North Dakota has an open meetings/open records law. The open meetings portion of the law applies only to campus entities to which the State Board of Higher Education has specifically delegated decision-making authority. In addition, a limited number of meetings to review personnel grievances are open only if the grievant approves. Generally speaking, minutes of campus groups are posted on a shared computer drive accessible to all faculty and staff.
The open records law provides that virtually all University documents may be viewed upon request and copies provided for a nominal fee. The University's annual budget is placed in the University library each year. The University reports campus crime statistics in accordance with federal law.
Fraud Reporting. The VCSU Policy 308.1 Employee Code of Conduct, adopted in accordance with SBHE Policy 308.1, applies to all Valley City State University employees. The State Board of Higher Education, NDUS and VCSU are committed to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards. All VCSU officers and employees must, at all times, comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Activities that achieve results unlawfully or by unethical behavior, including, but not limited to, payments for illegal acts, indirect contributions, rebates, and bribery, are not tolerated and must be reported. All conduct must meet or exceed minimum standards established by law.
The SBHE Policy 600 index details employer and employee personnel responsibilities and activities to ensure that the organization operates legally, responsibly, and with fiscal honesty. Specifically, SBHE Section 611.10 states that each employee, as a basic condition of employment, assumes responsibility for safeguarding and preserving the assets and resources of the state and University system and its institutions. The VCSU Policy 611.14 Reporting and Investigating Theft and Fraud provides specific procedures for campus employees who suspect or detect fraudulent activity.
The University has other programs and policies in place which are designed to deter fraud and unethical practices:
A Risk Assessment Framework. The SBHE contracted with a third party to conduct an entity-wide risk assessment of each of the 11 campuses of the NDUS. An enterprise-wide risk assessment is the first step in a risk management program of assessing risks, evaluating risks and controls, reviewing control effectiveness, and implementation of strategies to achieve the Board's acceptable risk level. The enterprise-wide risk assessment project was designed to provide Valley City State University with insight to inherent and specific risks throughout the institution. The next step will be for VCSU administration to determine mitigative actions to address identified risks.
Public Relations. The Director of Communications and Marketing serves as the University's public relations officer. He/she works with the President's administrative assistant to produce a weekly campus newsletter called the Hotline, with input from all on campus. All significant press coverage of the University is sent to the Office of the Chancellor for distribution to the Board. The Director of Marketing and Communication is the primary point of contact for relations with all media. The President and the Director of Marketing and Communication are the designated spokespersons for the University on all major events.
The primary vehicle for internal communication is email and voice mail with mass distribution lists available for faculty, staff, students, and other groups. In addition, the Hotline newsletter is published weekly and distributed electronically to all faculty and staff. Baselines is a key publication distributed annually to all university employees at the beginning of the school year which contains the University's mission, vision, core values, University purposes, strategic plan, progress report, organizational chart, committees, and other fundamental information.
The University strives to maintain and enhance relations with the community through diverse methods. The Director of Marketing and Communication prepares and distributes press releases on university news, and coordinates with various departments and divisions that are authorized to issue their own. The President writes a bi-weekly column for the local newspaper. The University has a voting ex-officio seat on the Chamber of Commerce board of directors, and a university representative actively participates in that organization. The President is a voting ex-officio member of the Valley City-Barnes County Development Corporation, the local economic development organization. That group has formally declared that the information technology skills of VCSU graduates are the area's most valuable renewable resource, making information technology the focus of many initiatives. At their own initiative, VCSU employees are also actively involved in many community committees, events, and projects.
VCSU values good communication and transparency in its dealings with its students, employees, and external constituencies.
Strengths: VCSU has established policies and processes to ensure fair and safe treatment, and it complies with all laws and regulations established by the federal government, state constitution, and the State Board of Higher Education. These policies and processes are provided to internal constituents through email, print, and web-based documents, and to external constituents through the Director of Communications and Marketing.
New Initiatives: Having recently become aware of the expectation that distance delivery requires state authorization in many states, VCSU has been making efforts to determine expectations in each state where programs are delivered online so the University is operating legally in each state.
Challenges: Communicating policy and processes with distance students has become an increasing challenge as the University has developed more articulation agreements. In Fall 2011 the Academic Affairs office plans to publish a "Distance Programs" catalog in tandem with the biennial VCSU Catalog, to make access to important information more accessible to students at a distance.