SJP structure changed to avoid conflict of interest following relationship
As of Feb. 20, Director of Student Judicial Programs Lisa DeLaTorre reports directly to Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson rather than Associate Dean of Undergraduates Don Ostdiek. According to Hutchinson, the change comes after Ostdiek and DeLaTorre disclosed a romantic relationship to him on Feb. 16.
“Under ordinary circumstances, we don’t share personal information about the private lives of any of our staff members, but in this case with the agreement of my staff member it seems entirely appropriate to say that I in fact do know that a relationship exists,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson said Ostdiek and DeLaTorre informed him in February and he restructured the line of reporting after consulting with human resources, general counsel and his superiors to ensure full compliance with university policies.
“As soon as they made me aware of the relationship I took the appropriate actions under the university’s policies and practices to eliminate any possible conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Hutchinson said. “I have no information to indicate that there is anything that should cause me concern prior to the date they disclosed to me.”
Rice’s conflict of interest policy prohibits a supervisor from engaging in a personal relationship with an employee. Hutchinson said he focused on ensuring that there is no violation of university regulations.
“There are lots of [inter-employee] relationships out there,” he said. “The key is not that there should not be an interpersonal relationship but that they cannot produce conflicts of interest due to reporting lines.”
Hutchinson said he has no reason to believe any university policies were broken or any university resources were used in an incorrect manner, and that the university has extensive procedures in place to ensure accountability in administrative, financial and student judicial activities. Hutchinson oversees Ostdiek and DeLaTorre and said he has not seen anything that raises concerns.
If any members of the Rice community raise concerns with him, Hutchinson said he looks into them. He said he would not discuss any specific case, but that the process of ensuring compliance with university policies and practices is always ongoing.
DeLaTorre now joins the director of student health services as the only director-level positions to report directly to the dean. Generally, directors report to one of the four associate deans, who report to Hutchinson.
DeLaTorre declined to comment on personal matters or career plans. Ostdiek did not respond to a request for comment.
“I am not interested in rumors or the opportunity to redirect campus chatter, and would prefer to spend my working hours on the mission of Student Judicial Programs,” DeLaTorre said.
Hutchinson urged students to stick to what they know to be factual.
“We should have our conversations around what we know to be factually true and not based upon idle speculation,” he said.
More from The Rice Thresher
A task force on slavery, segregation and racial injustice has been established by the university, according to an email sent by President David Leebron and Provost Marie Lynn Miranda. In the email, sent out on Tuesday, Leebron said that the task force was created to learn about instances of racial injustice in Rice’s past and examine ways to promote diversity and inclusion in its future.
Provost Marie Lynn Miranda announced that she will be stepping down from her role as provost, a position she has held for the last four years, at the end of June, in an email sent last Sunday. Miranda will go on sabbatical for the 2019-2020 academic year, after which she plans on reassuming her faculty position in the department of statistics, according to Miranda’s email. Her decision follows the diagnosis of her youngest child with cancer last year.
“The broader university has a strategic plan — the V2C2 — and then each of the different schools are tasked with coming up with their own strategic plan,” Karlgaard said. “So I think there is a question about, ‘Should the general student body be involved in each of those strategic plans? If you are an English major, should you have input in the engineering strategic plan? If you are a non student-athlete, should you have input into the athletics strategic plan?’“