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Gift or Gaffe? – the dilemma of students bearing gifts

‘Tis the season for giving and it’s not uncommon for students to offer their lecturers a gift as a token of their appreciation. But there is a difference between a token and a “gift of influence” which could be intended or perceived as a bribe.

Students offering gifts or incentives (financial & otherwise) to staff in the hope of receiving favourable assessment outcomes, academic opportunities or references are inappropriate and you should not be accepted.  Accepting an inappropriate gift could call into question your professional and academic integrity – or worse.

Accepting goods of significant value or offers of services from students may be considered bribery under the University’s Fraud and Corruption Control Policy. Bribery is “a reward or inducement in order to influence another’s behaviour or influence the exercise of official duties”. The University has a zero tolerance approach to bribery, fraud and corruption.

Consequences for the staff member
So what’s appropriate and what’s not?

Gifts of gratitude, offered in appreciation of performing specific tasks or for exemplary performance of duties, such as at the end of semester or on the submission of a thesis are appropriate. A gift of gratitude might be; chocolates, flowers or a bottle of inexpensive wine.

Gifts of influence that is, gifts that are intended to influence the conduct or judgement of a person in a position of trust, are NEVER appropriate. Examples of inappropriate gifts include;

  • Money or cash cards
  • Expensive gifts (Ipads, event tickets, holiday packages)
  • Any gift accompanying any form of application or assessment process.
If you are offered any gifts by students, ask yourself:
  • What is the value of the gift?
  • What is the motivation of the student offering it?
  • Does the student have anything tangible to gain from the gift?
  • How would others perceive the gift?
  • Would accepting the gift raise suspicions about an improper relationship between me and the student?
  • Would accepting the gift create a conflict of interest and compromise a decision-making process or my professional judgement?
  • Should I accept the gift on the understanding that it will be shared with colleagues?
  • Could the gift be donated to the University giving program?
  • Am I worried that the gift be construed as a bribe?

Students at the University come from a wide range of backgrounds. In some cultures, gift giving is a common practice in professional relationships. You should be sensitive, but cultural differences are not a sufficient reason to give or receive a gift. Be clear with all your students – let them know that their thanks is really enough.

If you receive and accept a gift or benefit exceeding the value of $250, you must make a disclose to you Manager/ Supervisor (for staff) or University contact person (for affiliates).

All gifts and benefits over $500 must be disclosed on the gift and benefit register and approved using the Disclosure of Conflict of Interest Form and added to your local area’s gift and benefit register.

If you receive an inappropriate gift and…
… you think it is a misunderstanding:
  • Explain that you can’t accept the gift
    • because of the connotation that may arise: – the gift might be seen as an attempt to influence an outcome you are responsible for
    • but consider whether the student is motivated is experiencing anxiety, stress or academic difficulty and the gift was an act of desperation.
…you consider that it is offered as a bribe:
  • Refuse to accept the gift or arrange for it to be returned – be clear that you think it is inappropriate in the circumstances
  • Consider whether it is simply a cultural misunderstanding about gift giving:- Don’t instantly make an accusations of bribery but consider whether the student needs to be counselled?
  • Report all incidents to your Head of School or Branch Director or line manager (Refer to the Fraud and Corruption Control Reporting Procedure).

 

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