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Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct for the W&M Physics Department

Professional Conduct

Promotion of a safe, healthy, and supportive work environment is everyone’s responsibility, including faculty, staff, and students. In addition to the policies applicable to all W&M faculty, students, and staff, the Department holds itself to this Code of Conduct. Toward that end, we commit to the following:

  1. All members of the Department1 are expected to conduct themselves in a professional and considerate manner at all times while at work or otherwise representing the Department.
  2. Department members will actively encourage a healthy, safe, supportive, and welcoming environment in which the creation and dissemination of scientific knowledge is our shared mission, as outlined in the Statement of Values.
    1. Department members commit to intervening if they become aware of a threat to health or safety.
    2. All members of the Department will take personal responsibility for informing themselves of University policies and legal obligations concerning safety and harassment, including mandatory reporting obligations as well as procedures for dealing with complaints and the avoidance of retaliation.2
    3. We reaffirm our commitment to the University’s Code of Ethics and non-discrimination policy3, and endeavor that all members of the Department will be treated with respect and dignity both inside and outside the classroom. Behaviors that undermine our mission, including harassment3, bullying, and disruptive behavior, will not be tolerated.
    4. When appropriate, for example when incidents don’t rise to the level of items 2a through 2c, in order to strengthen the supportive environment within the department, intervention is encouraged. This should start with a respectful conversation, if possible, or by seeking help from a trusted third party.4
    5. Private matters should not be discussed publicly as that can lead to destructive rumors.
  3. The work and contributions of Department members will be evaluated impartially, based upon academically relevant criteria and without consideration of irrelevant characteristics.5 All criticism and praise should be kept professional and constructive.
Ethical Conduct

Members of the William and Mary Physics Department are expected to conduct themselves in an ethical manner at all times. Breaches of professional conduct are also breaches of ethical conduct, specifically:

  1. Department members commit to familiarizing themselves with and respecting the University’s Honor Code.6
  2. Research is to be conducted in an open and transparent manner and to be performed in such a way as to allow for outside review and reproduction, while respecting intellectual property and priority of discovery.
  3. Manufacturing or manipulating data with the intent to deceive others or falsify results is unethical.
  4. Plagiarism or any appropriation of another’s work without proper attribution is unethical.
  5. It is understood that honest errors and mistakes will be made in the normal course of scientific research and are not a violation of ethical conduct as long as they are corrected in a timely manner after they are discovered.
  6. We have both a professional and an ethical obligation to report violations of safety and harassment policies and to use the reporting mechanisms responsibly.
  7. Department members should be careful to avoid conflicts of interest7 or the appearance thereof, to disclose them when they arise, and to recuse themselves when possible from situations where these could undermine the culture of trust.

This Code of Conduct and a Statement of Values were approved by the faculty, staff, research staff, graduate students, undergraduate students in October, 2016 after a year-long Department-wide conversation organized by the Physics Climate Discussion Steering Committee. 

Definitions, References, and Links to University Policy Documents

1Members of the department are anyone present in Small Hall or representing the department at other locations. This includes faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate physics majors, and other students taking physics courses.

2Information regarding reporting obligations can be found at,
with additional guidance for reporting sexual violence available at
Information regarding procedures for dealing with complaints is collected at
Guidance on avoiding retaliation can be found at

3The University’s definition of harassment and the University non-discrimination policy.

4Examples of third parties include advisors, professors, TAs, PGSA leadership, SPS leadership, the department chair, graduate and undergraduate committee members, the university’s Title IX Coordinator, ombudspersons (graduate, faculty/staff), Deans (Students, Undergraduate Studies, Graduate Studies, etc.).

5The University defines irrelevant characteristics (i.e. categories protected against discrimination) to include (without limitation) race or color, citizenship, national origin or ethnicity, ancestry, religion or creed, political affiliation or belief, age, sex or sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, physical or mental disability, marital status, pregnancy status, parental status, height, weight, military service, veteran status, caretaker status, or family medical or genetic information.

6The University's Honor Code.

7The University’s Conflict of Interest Policy

Additional resources include the Faculty Handbook and Student Handbook.

With acknowledgement to