Ethics and Reconciliation
The Ethics and Reconciliation (EAR) Council has a twofold purpose: to address ethical concerns of teachers’ behavior; and to provide a healthy way to address conflicts and grievances. The three-person EAR Council acts as a third party to address sangha members’ concerns outside the teaching team and board, available to anyone within the larger SIMS community requesting help.
The EAR Council’s primary intention is to foster an environment of responsibility and integrity and to treat all parties involved with fairness, compassion, and respect.
To foster and ensure safety of the teacher/student relationship, SIMS teachers, local dharma leaders, and instructors all agree to follow the Teacher Code of Ethics. These five training precepts have an expanded scope, making them explicitly appropriate to the role of teachers and instructors at SIMS. The EAR Council’s primary role is to provide confidential consultation to anyone with ethical concerns under the Informal Resolution guidelines below. In the rare occasion that a more formal process is necessary, the Formal Grievance procedures may be used.
Conflicts and Grievances
Conflicts will inevitably arise within the SIMS community. The health of our community is not measured by the presence or absence of conflict, rather by our willingness to find effective, responsible, and compassionate resolution of interpersonal tensions when they arise. The intention to attend to and learn from conflict is a clear application of Buddhist practice in our daily lives. Without this intention, practice can become simply a comfort rather than a deep transformative vehicle for our lives.
Buddhist conflict resolution is not based on right or wrong, blame or guilt, winning or losing, or offenders or victims. Rather, it is based on addressing the suffering of all concerned. Hurt, fear, and anger are taken seriously through forums where everyone may speak honestly, safely, and completely about their own direct experiences and feelings. In seeking resolution, Buddhist practice values dialogue over silence, reconciliation over estrangement, forgiveness over resentment, confession over accusation, and atonement over punishment.
Because the process of reaching such resolution is often difficult, the SIMS EAR Council has been established to offer support for this process within the sangha. The purpose of the EAR Council is to facilitate the resolution of grievances, ethical concerns, and other interpersonal conflict within the sangha. The Council is available for teacher/student issues and conflicts between sangha members.
Any sangha member may approach any EAR Council member for consultation. EAR Council members may be contacted by email at EAR@seattleinsight.org, or by personally contacting any one of the Council members.
An EAR Council member will listen to the concerns carefully and will discuss possible directions or courses of action depending on the situation. The EAR Council member and the sangha member may choose to prepare a written summary, including any agreed next steps, to be provided to the full EAR Council. Once the EAR Council is notified about a concern, it will determine how it can best be of service to the parties concerned and, if appropriate, the sangha as a whole, including whether the informal resolution process or a formal grievance process is appropriate. In most cases, the informal process should be used. In determining how to respond, the EAR Council will consider whether the concern directly or indirectly affects the health of the SIMS community.
To avoid compromising its role as an impartial friend to all community members, the EAR Council will not be involved in deciding individual disputes but will set up an impartial Grievance Committee, as necessary, to facilitate resolution of the issue. In addition, to avoid any conflict of interest, any member of the EAR Council, a person asked to serve on a Grievance Committee, member of the SIMS Board, or other person involved in informal consultations or a formal grievance process, who feels that he or she cannot be objective and impartial for any reason should excuse him or herself from the process.
A. Informal Resolution
An important function of the EAR Council is to encourage an intention of mutual respect and reconciliation when conflict arises in our community. In this role, the EAR Council will seek to be of service to the parties concerned and, if appropriate, the sangha as a whole. For most issues that do not involve a serious transgression of ethical concern, the EAR Council will use an informal process to resolve the concerns. In this process, the EAR Council may function:
- As a sounding board for a sangha member’s concerns;
- As a source of questions to facilitate deeper personal reflection;
- As a source of advice on how best to resolve the conflict; and/or
- As a facilitator of helpful discussion between parties in conflict.
In addition, the EAR Council may sometimes recommend and arrange for the involvement of neutral third parties, such as a mediator or a teacher from outside the SIMS sangha.
B. Formal Grievance
A request for a formal grievance process may be made by any person at any time by submitting to the EAR Council a written request that includes:
- A statement that a formal grievance procedure is requested;
- The name of the person(s) whose behavior the complaint involves;
- A detailed description of the alleged behavior so the EAR Council can decide if the complaint is appropriate for initiating a formal grievance;
- A history of attempt(s), if any, to resolve the complaint through other means; and
- A general statement about the resolution desired.
Examples of ethical concerns for which the Formal Grievance process may be appropriate include:
- Misappropriation of SIMS funds by teachers, leaders or volunteers
- Alleged abusive behavior by a SIMS teacher, leader or sangha member
- Inappropriate sexual behavior or harassment by a SIMS leader or teacher
The EAR Council will decide whether or not to accept a sangha member’s request or, instead, to address the matter under the Informal Resolution procedures. If the EAR Council determines that the Formal Grievance process is appropriate, it will notify all affected parties and set up an impartial Grievance Committee to hear the concern(s).
Please contact the EAR Council for the full formal procedures at EAR@seattleinsight.org.