Promoting a culture of integrity at Stanford

Tina Hua, Stanford’s chief ethics and compliance officer, discusses the role her office plays in promoting the culture of integrity at Stanford.

Stanford’s chief ethics and compliance officer Tina Hua has a message for all members of the Stanford community: Her office is here to help you. Whether it be questions about the rules, regulations and policies that govern their own individual conduct, or concerns about someone else’s behavior, Hua says her office is a good place to start if you’re not sure who to ask.

Tina Hua is Stanford’s chief ethics and compliance officer. (Image credit: Farrin Abbott)

Hua’s arrival on campus last spring marked a homecoming of sorts since she earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology at Stanford. After earning a law degree at Harvard Law School, Hua clerked for a federal judge, worked in a private law firm, served as a federal prosecutor and held several positions at HP, ending with the responsibility for overseeing all worldwide internal investigations and ethics programming at the technology company.

At Stanford, she is responsible for designing and implementing Stanford’s Ethics and Compliance Program. She was attracted to Stanford’s deep commitment to integrity and serving the university during this transformational period in Stanford’s history as it embarks on the new vision announced last year.

After arriving on campus, Hua launched a listening tour visiting offices, departments and schools to meet staff members responsible for promoting a culture of integrity at Stanford. It is a journey that has taken her across campus: from Student Affairs to Residential and Dining Enterprises, and from Stanford Athletics to the School of Medicine.

In a recent interview, Hua discussed what she learned during the listening tour, Stanford’s Code of Conduct, the role her office plays on campus, the key part individuals play in maintaining the university’s culture of integrity and the Ethics and Compliance Helpline.


Is there anything in particular that struck you during your introductory listening tour?

Throughout the listening tour, everyone I met with was very welcoming, offered support, and stressed the importance of integrity and values at Stanford. I was especially struck by how committed certain schools and departments were to making sure our values were embodied within their culture.

For example, Land, Buildings & Real Estate recently rolled out their own set of core values through their LEGACY Initiative. LEGACY stands for Leadership, Exploration, Gratitude, Accountability, Community and You. These core values serve as guiding principles for staff and management behavior and decision-making.

This is just one example of many throughout Stanford. I think there is great synergy between these local initiatives and the university’s long-range vision, including the Presidential Initiatives of Purposeful Engagement, IDEAL, and Ethics, Society and Technology. I am really looking forward to working more closely with the different schools and departments as we collectively strive toward promoting Stanford’s values.


What is Stanford’s Code of Conduct and how does it apply to me?

Stanford’s Code of Conduct, which can be found here, is a shared statement of goals, rules and values designed to build trust, protect members of the university community and help people act with integrity. The code applies to a broad group, ranging from faculty, staff, students and trustees to consultants, contractors and volunteers.

Members of the community can use the code to help identify and avoid problem areas, such as workplace, scientific and research misconduct, discrimination and harassment, conflicts of interest or commitment, privacy issues and financial mismanagement.

The code has an anti-retaliation provision that protects people who raise a concern in good faith from retaliation. A recent Q&A about the Code of Conduct can be found here.


What role does your office play within the constellation of people responsible for ethics and compliance across campus?

The Ethics and Compliance program is really the collective effort of all the schools and units, as well as the students, faculty, staff, parents, alums and other individuals who make up our community. Increasingly, our community expects that Stanford has an effective framework and program to make sure we are meeting high ethical standards.

It is our office’s job to help promote our shared responsibility to support Stanford’s values and the expectation of the highest standards of ethical and lawful conduct in all of our academic and business activities. The program promotes a culture that encourages ethical conduct and compliance with the law, regulations, university policies and our core values without disrupting the autonomous and successful decentralized operations.

We really serve as an additional point of contact for ethics and compliance inquiries and concerns, and support the ongoing work of our partners by facilitating communications across compliance areas, and encouraging and supporting a coordinated and collaborative approach, especially in areas where there are issues of university-wide significance or impact.

During the listening tour, I learned that there are many different ethics and compliance helplines and investigative bodies throughout Stanford. We are planning an event this year that will gather the people who staff the different helplines and investigators so that we can meet and share best practices with each other.

Similarly, we hope to raise awareness of stories that exemplify our values and by sharing ideas for how to implement programs or practices within individual units that encourage each of us to incorporate these values into our research, teaching and day-to-day work.


What role can an individual play in upholding the highest standards of ethics, professional and legal conduct at Stanford?

Central to Stanford’s academic and research excellence is our commitment to creating a culture in which individuals feel respected and supported, enabling them to create, innovate and thrive.

Given our rich and diverse academic and research environment, our program cannot be about policing behavior but rather about helping our community members understand the expectations and why these expectations benefit all of us. Each member of the Stanford community plays an important role in creating this culture.

Throughout the listening tour, I heard stories that exemplify the sort of behavior and values we are hoping to promote. One such story involved the coaching staff of the women’s rowing team at an NCAA championship regatta on the East Coast. A storm whipped through the racecourse, capsizing and damaging a boat belonging to the Yale team. The Stanford coaches helped repair the boat and configure an alternate one that would allow Yale to participate in the race. Because of their efforts, Yale was able to compete in the regatta. The behavior of the Stanford coaches is an example of sportsmanship and of people living our values.

Individuals can contribute to our culture of integrity by aspiring to live the values of integrity, diversity, respect, trust, honesty and fairness.

Additionally, community members can help protect our values by speaking up when they have questions or witness behavior that potentially violates university policies and procedures, including the Code of Conduct and state and federal laws and regulations, or otherwise threatens the culture of integrity at Stanford.

In a speak-up culture, people seek help if they have questions by reaching out to their manager, human resources or to a helpline. If someone doesn’t know who to reach out to, we can help. In a speak-up culture, someone who sees something that they think may be damaging to Stanford’s culture or something that doesn’t live with the university’s values, will say something, as opposed to thinking, “Oh, it’s not my problem” or “This is not important.” These things are important. We need everyone’s help maintaining a culture that promotes Stanford’s excellence in research, education and service.


What happens when someone reaches out to your office through the Ethics and Compliance Helpline?

Our Ethics & Compliance Helpline supports Stanford’s community in several ways. When someone calls our helpline at (650) 721-2667, or sends us an email at, we will review the information, figure out what’s going on, and if we have questions, ask for more information.

We are available to answer questions about the Code of Conduct and expectations for behavior. This is a great way for individuals to utilize the Helpline; we really want to encourage people to reach out when they want to do the right thing, but are unsure what rules apply or how to best proceed. We also receive concerns people may have about the behavior of others via the Helpline.

People can also send complaints anonymously through our web form, which is available on the Helpline webpage here. When filing an anonymous complaint, it’s important to be as specific as possible, or to leave a generic email address so that we can contact you if needed. If the complaint lacks sufficient detail and we can’t ask follow up questions, there’s only so much we can do with it.

Our response – and referral – will depend on what the question or concern is about. And what population it involves – faculty, staff, students, etc. We will work with subject matter experts throughout campus to review or investigate the concern. All told, there are more than a dozen campus entities responsible for helping all members of the Stanford community uphold the highest standards of ethical, professional and legal conduct.

Depending on the case, we will work with the office investigating the complaint to make sure the process is moving along and to provide some level of input. We will follow it until the matter is resolved.


What are your goals for 2020?

In 2020, we are focused on promoting a strong ethical culture by raising awareness of our office, the Code of Conduct and the Helpline.

We are also focused on ensuring mechanisms for reporting and handling concerns are coordinated and as effective as possible.

We also hope to gain a better understanding of the training and communications related to the Code of Conduct provisions happening throughout campus and look for ways to support these efforts. We are particularly focused on promoting respect for others and healthy communication in the workplace.