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Ethical concerns committee: no cause for concern.

When the Code of Ethics Revision Committee considered the formation of an Ethical Concerns Committee (ECC), we grappled at length with the issues so clearly articulated by LeAnne Baehni-Schultz in the June/July AMT. It was well known to us that the MTNA Board of Directors had previously decided against any enforcement of ethical standards on the grounds that MTNA recommends, but does not require ethical behavior and since no process of enforcement existed at the time, complaints were basically at the local level, and the violation of ethical standards brought about its own consequences.

It was appropriate to revisit this decision as we updated the Code itself. Instructive to us were examples of ethical complaint procedures in the business world as well as in sister arts associations. We examined the requirements for due process, as outlined in the Association Law Handbook and saw them fleshed out in the documents of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS), among other organizations.

Committee member and NATS Executive Director William Vessels noted that during his total 23 years on the NATS Board in various capacities, its ethics committee successfully resolved numerous complaints over the years, with only one revocation of membership.

Central to our deliberation in MTNA was the purpose of an Ethical Concerns Committee. Our goal was not to police members, but rather to assist them with ethical complaints and work with them toward solutions. We realized that several local and state affiliates had such committees in place. If these affiliates stood ready to assist members with ethical dilemmas, it seemed incongruous for the national level to take a hands-off approach largely based on the narrow concept of an ethics committee for "enforcement." And while local problems might best be solved at the local level, is it not in the spirit of MTNA to have a national resource, should local attempts fail? Another benefit of the establishment of the ECC is that it adds an additional facet to our self-regulation, decreasing the likelihood of outside regulation.

The procedures for ethical concerns, as adopted by the Board of Directors, are organized into three sections: a) Submission of a Concern; b) Ethical Concerns Committee and c) Referral to MTNA Board of Directors. Members are strongly encouraged to work out ethical problems themselves. If the involved parties cannot resolve issues, a member may report an alleged ethical infringement to the executive director, who may be able to expedite a resolution. When ethical concerns cannot be immediately resolved, the ECC will be called upon to work toward a resolution. At both of these stages, steps are prescribed to ensure communication and as much anonymity as possible. There are also provisions for the executive director or the ECC to stop the process if, for example, a resolution is not forthcoming and further intervention would not be productive. Particularly grievous offences may be referred by the ECC to the Board of Directors. The reported member has the right to a comment or hearing. The Board may exonerate the member, determine that certain conditions should be met in order to continue membership or terminate membership according to MTNA Bylaws, Article III/Sec. 2.

It is important to note that the establishment of the ECC adds no punitive measures. In the very unlikely event of an unresolved and grievous complaint, there already was in place a possibility of revocation of membership as outlined in the Bylaws. Even before the establishment of the ECC, such an extreme situation might very well have resulted in termination of membership. The ECC in effect becomes a cushion between such a situation and a possible punitive result. The end result is that with the ECC, MTNA offers more assistance before judgment for serious ethical problems, should they occur.

The MTNA Ethical Concerns Committee was appointed in September, 2004. To date, no ethical concern has been referred to our committee, and "no business" for the ECC is a very good problem to have! Should our committee ever become activated, we anticipate a function similar to the NATS committee. As NATS Executive Director Vessels explains, "Really, there is little for the committee to do. What most people want is someone to talk with, to show concern and to offer them advice on how to deal with a relationship or ethical problem." Similarly, the MTNA Ethical Concerns Committee is a resource, not a threat.

--Sigrid Luther, NCTM

Code of Ethics Revision

Committee, Chair

Ethical Concerns Committee Member

I have been a member for over 30 years, and even as a new member I have never made any "ethical mistakes." And, I didn't need a code of ethics to behave myself--it's called the Golden Rule.

That being said, we do need a code of ethics to cover those few who do not seem to understand the Golden Rule.

The author of the [June/July 2005] article wrote extensively about frivolous lawsuits and expenses. That is exactly why we do need our own Ethical Concerns Committee.

Most ethical problems in our state (and that has been three or four [cases] in 30 years) have been handled on the local level. Such examples as a member having a screaming tantrum at a public meeting; a member handing out her resume after association recitals; a member confronting an adjudicator, loudly and in public after a festival. These are not events that need to go into the judicial system. For more serious events like child abuse, the ECC is a good place to start.

So I suggest you keep the ECC in place and everybody just be nicer!

--Kathleen Legere, NCTM

Nevada State President

Editor's Note: The following letters were received in response to the letter, "MTNA Code of Ethics: One Member's Response," which originally appeared in the June/July 2005 AMT.
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Title Annotation:Code of Ethics Revision Committee
Author:Legere, Kathleen
Publication:American Music Teacher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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