NU regents vote to adopt a whistleblower policy, create a hotline for employees to use

NU regents vote to adopt a whistleblower policy, create a hotline for employees to use
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — Some employees worry that blowing the whistle on misconduct will only result in the whistleblower being demoted, alienated or fired.

The University of Nebraska Board of Regents pledged Friday that the university wouldn’t retaliate against those who report bad conduct or help in an investigation of university-related misconduct.

An NU spokeswoman said this week that no event led to the regents’ adopting their first whistleblower policy.

Instead, Melissa Lee said, the regents’ audit committee saw the policy as a “best practice” that should be adopted.

NU’s new policy supplements a State of Nebraska rule. The state encourages whistleblowers to take their concerns to the Ombudsman’s Office or to an elected state official.

But NU has created an ethics and compliance hotline that employees may use to report criminal or unethical behavior. The number is 844-348-9584. An employee may also report concerns to a supervisor, the campus ombudsperson or the compliance office.

Retaliation against a whistleblower, the policy says, may result in expulsion, firing or termination of a contract for the supervisor involved.

In other business, the regents:

  • Approved the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s union contract, which calls for salary increases of 1.3 percent over each of the next two years, plus promotion raises. The University of Nebraska at Omaha union contract calls for about 2 percent raises in each of the next two years, including promotion increases. Both agreements generally amount to 2 percent raises.
  • Heard NU President Hank Bounds talk about the impact of the partial federal government shutdown on the NU system. After the meeting, NU Vice President Mike Boehm said 14 extension educators and 34 extension assistants could ultimately experience temporary withholding of pay or job elimination.

Boehm said the agreement to temporarily reopen the government announced by President Donald Trump on Friday was good news. Some $6.5 million a month in federal research money could be affected as well if a deal to keep the government open past Feb. 15 isn’t reached.

  • Unanimously voted for Regent Jim Pillen of Columbus to serve as vice chairman of the board, which will make him chairman next year. Regent Tim Clare of Lincoln moved up from vice chairman to chairman.
  • Went along with a proposal to increase the budget for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Mabel Lee Hall replacement project to $46 million, up from $40 million. The additional $6 million is to be paid with private money. The additional money is for technology in the building for the College of Education and Human Services.
  • Heard UNO adjunct faculty member Larry Bradley describe a 2017 episode in which a racial slur was written in a UNO baseball facility. Bradley asked that the incident be placed on the regents’ agenda.
  • Backed a 10-year contract with LinPepCo that makes Pepsi the exclusive pop of UNL for 10 more years. The deal is expected to generate about $1.77 million a year for UNL.
  • Listened to Speaker of the Legislature Jim Scheer of Norfolk say the state’s economic forecast suggests that NU won’t take the budget hit it took two years ago.

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