Code of Conduct
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche commented on this as follows:
With these wise words in mind, Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation has adopted formal ethics policies and procedures to maintain both the spirit and the letter of right conduct in our organization.
Part I: Introduction
Conflicts will inevitably arise within the community. It is important to note that our collective well-being is not measured by the presence or absence of conflict as much as by our willingness to find practical, responsible, and compassionate means to resolve interpersonal tensions. The intention to learn from conflict and misunderstandings is a clear application of Buddhist practice in our daily lives.
Buddhist conflict resolution is not based on good or bad, blame or guilt, winning or losing, offenders or victims, but a commitment to address the suffering of all concerned. Hurt, fear, and anger are taken seriously through forums in which everyone may speak honestly and safely about their own direct experiences and feelings. In looking for resolution, Buddhist practice values dialogue over silence, reconciliation over estrangement, forgiveness over resentment, confession over an accusation, and atonement over punishment.
A fundamental responsibility of Representatives (all parties subject to this policy; see Application of this Policy below) of the Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation is to uphold an environment that is safe, respectful, and supportive of Dharma practice. This responsibility includes refraining from behavior that harms others or negatively affects Dharma. Misconduct by persons in positions of power or trust can undermine the integrity of the organization, causing demoralization and loss of faith.
Representatives are required to act on any appearance or complaint of misconduct, which includes the identification of what may be harmful in accord with the Policies and Procedures described below.
Part 2: Ethics Guidelines
It is the policy of Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation to address complaints by donors or staff that may arise through the ongoing business of the Foundation. A person or group that feels that a policy or practice has adversely affected them should initially try to resolve the issue informally through skillful communications with affected parties before a formal complaint is initiated.
Each Representative has formally consented to the following ethics guidelines:
The Five Lay Precepts
The five basic rules, based on ahimsa or non-harming, are not to kill, steal, engage in sexual misconduct, lie or misuse substances of any kind. Their corresponding virtues are kindness and compassion, generosity and renunciation, contentment and respect for fidelity, honesty, and dependability, and mindfulness and responsibility.
Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation shall not discriminate in its programs, services, employment, volunteer opportunities, or other activities based on race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, affectional or sexual orientation, marital status, age, or disability.
Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation is committed to promoting safe environments wherein the dignity of every person is respected. Everyone participating in Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation related activities has the right to be free from harassment of any type, be it sexual harassment, intimidation, bullying, or other forms.
Sexual relationships between donors, the board, and staff members are prohibited. In addition, volunteers, staff members, or other representatives shall not make sexual advances to any participant.
Representatives must avoid gossip and harsh or abusive language. This language may also constitute harassment or bullying.
All income and expenditures must be accounted for according to generally accepted accounting principles with annual reports reviewed by the Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation Board of Directors.
If a person believes that an action by the Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation is illegal and/or against this Ethics Policy and brings their concern to the President, that person is protected from retaliation.
In any situation where there is a stated need for privacy, Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation will treat all communications as confidential unless otherwise required by law.
Dharma teachers and class leaders are to be honest about their qualifications and shall correct any misrepresentation or misimpression concerning their background as soon as this comes to their attention.
Conflict of Interest
If a Representative has a conflict of interest concerning informal and formal complaints, they must recuse themselves from participation. If that person is the President, then a neutral third party will be used.
Application of This Policy
This policy applies to all Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation staff, whether volunteer or not. It includes the Board and staff members in their specific duties on behalf of Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation. This policy does not apply to students, vendors, independent contractors, or host institutions.
PART 3: Complaint Resolution Process
A written complaint must be filed within 30 calendar days from the date in which the adverse action occurred. If this is a pattern and not a one-time event, then the complaint must be filed within 30 days of the last incident.
Mediation may be used by both parties to resolve issues at this stage. The parties would mutually agree on a mediator and share equally the costs of these services.
Withdrawal of a Complaint
Withdrawal must be in writing and received before a final decision by the President concerning the complaint. Typically, a final decision will be made within 60 days of the filing.
Failure to Participate
If the complainant does not participate in a timely manner during the review process, the case can be closed by formal notification by Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation.
The standard of proof will be the preponderance of the evidence.
Conflict of Interest
If a complainant has concerns about a conflict of interest on the part of a fact finder, Director or President, this concern will be communicated within 30 calendar days from the filing of the initial complaint.
Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation will not retaliate against anyone who uses this process.
PART 4: Complaint Resolution Steps
1. Bringing a Concern
A formal complaint process is initiated by communicating in writing to the Board President of the Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation. This “letter of request” must include:
- A clear statement that a formal review process is requested.
- Date(s), time(s) and place(s) of the alleged adverse action.
- The name of the person(s) whose behavior the complaint concerns.
- Names of witnesses (if any) who were present at the events.
- A clear and detailed description of the alleged behavior.
- A history of the attempts, if any, to resolve the complaint through other means.
- A general statement about the resolution or remedy desired.
- Once submitted, this complaint will be reviewed by the President and a decision made as to whether it will be accepted as a valid complaint.
2. Accepting the Concern
If a complaint is filed, the President will let the complainant know of its acceptance within two weeks. The party named in the complaint will also be notified. The President will state their understanding of the issue and distribute a copy of the original “letter of request” to the party named in the complaint.
3. Forming a Review Committee
Once a complaint is accepted, the President selects three people to constitute a Review Committee to investigate, issue findings, and render a decision on the complaint.
4. Investigating the Concern
The Committee schedules closed hearings in which all parties are given a chance to present their understanding of the issue under investigation. It may question all parties and may request additional information. A Committee member will document the proceedings.
The Committee may ask other people to provide information pertinent to the complaint. All parties will have a full and fair opportunity to respond to all information – oral, written, or otherwise – gathered by the Committee
The proceedings will be held confidentially for the duration of the proceedings.
PART 5: Committee Findings
When the Committee is satisfied that they are adequately informed, they will review and discuss the case among themselves. At its discretion, the Committee may seek non-binding advice from any other source. Its final decision should be reached by consensus. Within two weeks of a decision, all parties will reconvene, at which time the Committee will distribute copies of its written findings and read them aloud.
We extend our gratitude to the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition and Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Their efforts and skill were of great assistance to us in preparing this document for the Tsoknyi Humanitarian Foundation.