Code of Conduct



We recognize the right of all members of the Child Imaging Research on Cognition and Life Experiences (CIRCLE) Lab to learn and work in an environment that is safe and free from discrimination and harassment. Discrimination on the basis of age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, citizenship status, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status is not only illegal, it is unacceptable to us. We are committed to contributing—through our science and deeds—to a more equitable society. 

We additionally acknowledge that each person coming to the CIRCLE lab is on a journey of learning and discovery about themselves as a scientist and person, as well as about the history of systemic oppression and marginalization which has shaped and continues to shape the experience of folks with minoritized identities in the US where we do our work and with whom we do research. With a sizable dose of growth mindset we can learn and grow together which will make us better psychologists and scientists. Because this is hard work we have laid out a set of guidelines for how to go about being a lab member. 

There are some aspects of the code of conduct which are non-negotiable and reflect the values of our university. Here, as well as elsewhere in the university discrimination, harassment, sexual assault or sexual violence, interpersonal (relationship) violence, sexual exploitation, stalking, retaliation, and a lack of scientific integrity will not be tolerated. Evidence of these behaviors will be grounds for expulsion from the lab and appropriate university-level actions will be pursued. This can be found in the section on “prohibited behaviors.”

Other aspects of this code of conduct are here in an effort to help us articulate, imagine, and cultivate a shared lab culture for a positive and inclusive research and academic environment. We also believe that articulating our values and accountabilities to one another provides us with clear avenues to correct our lab culture should it stray. This can be found under ‘encouraged behaviors’. We commit to enforce and evolve this code as our team grows. We require everyone associated with the Child Imaging Research on Cognition and Life Experiences Lab to abide by this code of conduct – including, but not limited to, our lab directors, post-doctoral scholars, graduate students, post-baccalaureate staff, undergraduate students, and volunteers. This code of conduct applies in any setting associated with the CIRCLE Lab, such as in offices, lab spaces or during social outings, conferences, phone calls, video conferences, or in emails, chats, social media posts, blogs, or in any other form of online communication. 

We expect all lab members to continue their own self-education, especially in regards to the populations our lab is committed to serving. Therefore, lab members are encouraged to take 2-3 “self-education days” a year for the purpose of learning about the experiences, lives and history of the Triangle communities and their minority populations. Examples of self-education days are as follows: visiting the Hayti Heritage Center, Paul Murray Center, community events addressing minority issues, UNC Black & Blue tour, volunteering for community events etc. The hours spent at these events can be allocated from work hours. Prior to attending, please notify the lab manager that you will be using work hours for a self-education day. These events can be found independently or on the CIRCLE Lab Calendar.

Additionally, lab members are strongly encouraged to review previous anti-racism resources listed below: 

Prohibited Behaviors

This description reflects (and does not supersede) the official University Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Misconduct, which is enforced by the Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office (EOC). Violations of this code of conduct will be reported directly to the EOC. The EOC will provide follow-up and resolution, including potential disciplinary action. If there is an immediate risk to life, safety, or property, the incident should be reported to UNC Police at 919.962.8100 (or call 911). All staff members as responsible employees, must also report any violations disclosed to them to the EOC.

These policies pertain to the following prohibited behaviors:

Discrimination: Treating a person differently than others based on that person’s age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, citizenship status, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and/or veteran status.

Harassment: A type of discrimination that happens when verbal, physical, electronic, or other behavior based on a person’s identity or identities interferes with that individual’s participation in lab activities and/or creates an environment that is hostile, intimidating, or abusive. 

Below we have listed examples of harassment behaviors that are prohibited. This list is not comprehensive with regard to actions nor types of harassment.

Race or color-based harassment: 

    • Jokes, innuendos, racial slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks based on a person’s color or perceived race. 
    • Physical conduct (e.g., excessive monitoring) based on a person’s color or perceived race. 
    • Include electronic conduct (e.g., the creation, display, or distribution of racially offensive text, symbols or images) based on a person’s color or perceived race. 

Sexual or gender-based harassment: 

    • Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal, physical, or electronic conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile, intimidating, or abusive environment 
    • Verbal, physical, or electronic conduct based on a person’s sex, gender, sexual orientation, or sex-stereotyping that creates a hostile, intimidating, or abusive environment (even if acts do not involve conduct of a sexual nature)
    • Intentionally and repeatedly ignoring someone’s pronouns.

Harassment and discrimination may also occur as a function of intersectional identities (e.g., disability and race). These forms of harassment and discrimination are also prohibited under the policies outlined above. 

Complicity: Knowingly aiding, assisting, promoting, or encouraging another person through your actions to commit an act of conduct that is prohibited by this Policy. 

Retaliation: Acts or words taken (e.g., intimidation, threats, coercion, or unfavorable employment or educational actions) against a person because the person participated in good faith in:

    • The reporting, investigation, or resolution of an alleged violation of the Policy 
    • Opposing rules, practices, or actions that the person reasonably believes are in violation of the Policy 
    • Requesting accommodations on the basis of religion or disability

Research misconduct: As stated in the university’s policy on research misconduct:  “The University Policy defines research misconduct as fabrication, falsification, or plagiarism in proposing, performing, or reviewing research, or in reporting research results:

    • Fabrication is making up data or results and recording or reporting them.
    • Falsification is manipulating research materials, equipment, or processes, or changing or omitting data or results such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.
    • Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.
    • Research misconduct does not include honest error or differences of opinion.

The University Policy requires anyone having reason to believe that a member of the research community, as defined above, has engaged in research misconduct to report his/her concern for possible research misconduct to the department head (chair) or directly to the Research Integrity Officer (RIO).” 

Research misconduct. For example:

    • Plagiarism or use of material published or unpublished, in print, online, or personally communicated without the permission and crediting of the original author. 
    • Intentionally changing, misrepresenting, or biasing research data during data collection or analysis.

We highly encourage individuals to report violations of this code of conduct to the appropriate authorities and to our Lab Directors, Dr. Margaret Sheridan and Dr. Adam Miller. Note that all staff are responsible employees. Thus staff should report discrimination and harassment of any protected status of which they have been made aware to the EOC. Instructions for reporting to the EOC can be found here. Research misconduct should be reported to the department head (found here) or to the research integrity officer (found here). 

In many cases you may be unsure if what you have witnessed or experienced should be reported. In that case you can speak with the UNC Ombuds office

UNC Ombuds office is an informal, impartial, and independent service allowing all Carolina staff, faculty, students and administrators to speak in confidence about any campus issue, problem, or dispute. The UNC Ombuds office can help you navigate this process and provide you with additional resources or offices at UNC that you can contact. If you discuss an issue with the Ombuds office no future action need be taken and your confidentiality is assured. Discussion with the Ombuds office is an excellent first step. 

In addition there are many other resources at UNC, here are a few:

Carolina Ethics Line is an anonymous reporting hotline for the campus community. Carolina Ethics Line provides a simple, anonymous way to report possible unethical or improper conduct, and/or violations of University policies and procedures, regulations, or state and federal laws. The website is maintained by a third party vendor to allow people to make reports anonymously.

Office of Dean of Students: Students who feel they have been harassed or discriminated against due to a protected status are encouraged to meet with the Office of the Dean of Students and formally report their concerns. 

UNC Equal Opportunity and Compliance Office: handles student, employee, and visitor reports of discrimination and harassment based on age, color, disability, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex (including gender, gender expression, or gender identity), sexual orientation, and veteran status. This includes reports of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment and sexual violence. Their office also handles reports of relationship violence and stalking.

UNC LGBTQ Center: Allows you to complete a Harassment or Assault Report Form if you have experienced threats, discrimination, or harassment due to your sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Safe at UNC: is the main portal at UNC-CH for resources and information about discrimination, harassment, sexual violence, interpersonal violence, and stalking. 

Other reporting options are available here and here.

Expected Behaviors

Our lab’s research is based on the premise that individual differences are important and have meaningful implications for human psychology. It is important that our actions reflect this basic assumption. As such, we believe it is important to support diversity and anti-racism initiatives within our lab and within the larger campus community. Specifically, in order to actively engage in anti-racist pro-equity practices, it is important for lab members to:

    • Have and demonstrate respect for all persons. This includes:
      • Respecting persons when discussing them when they are not present as well as in group settings
      • Identifying when your own experience of privilege leads you to make assumptions or take up more ‘space’ than needed (e.g., in whole-lab discussions). 
      • Engage in, learn about and practice cultural humility when interacting with fellow lab members, research subjects, and the public.
      • Be receptive to feedback when it is pointed out that we have engaged in a microaggression 
    • Educate ourselves about equity, diversity and inclusion in STEM and beyond, including justice and systemic discrimination against marginalized communities.
    • Listen to and uplift voices, especially those from marginalized communities, even when they challenge our assumptions and make us uncomfortable. 
    • Speak out and push for change when we see microaggressions or institutional policies that disadvantage marginalized communities – both within our lab and within the larger campus community.
    • Make space and time for our community members to heal, take care of themselves and their peers, or fight for justice, and continue to provide financial, career, and other support while they do so. 
    • Prioritize contributing service to organizations that promote the success and well-being of our communities, including marginalized communities in STEM or in the larger community.
    • Support students to achieve their personal and career goals, especially those from underrepresented groups who are interested in participating in science by providing tools and resources that we think might be helpful.  
    • Directly and openly discuss societal inequity while expressing opinions in a respectful way. 
    • “Calling in” Respectfully and directly addressing microaggressions, offensive comments, and lack of appropriate pronoun use.

The burden of engaging in anti-racist practices historically falls to members of marginalized groups. We encourage all lab members, especially those with privileged identities, to make change and adopt these actions as expected responsibilities. This will be easier if you listen to and learn from your peers, mentees, and mentors and if you stay centered with a growth mindset. No one knows everything at once, keep your eyes, ears, and minds open. 

What if you experience or witness someone violate this code of conduct? 

What you can expect others to do

The lab director (Dr. Sheridan & Dr. Miller) can be expected to take action if they are told about or witness a violation of the code of conduct. If the violation is in the form of the presence of a prohibited behavior, typical university-level procedures will be applied as outlined in the Prohibited Behaviors section above. If the violation is in the form of a consistent lack of engagement in encouraged behaviors, Dr. Sheridan will engage directly with the lab member and/or directly address behaviors/attitudes in lab meetings, through engagement with scientific readings or talks, trainings, and through group conversations.

If you observe harassment or discrimination. We encourage “bystander interventions.” If you witness someone else being discriminated against or harassed or there are many ways to intervene. Remember these 4 D’s: direct, distract, delegate, delay. If you feel safe doing so, it can be valuable to step in and confront the harasser (direct). However, don’t assume that you have to confront the harasser directly, or in the moment, if you feel that doing so may put you or the person experiencing harassment in danger. In these cases, consider taking the more indirect route of speaking directly with the person being harassed –  You can ask if they need help or even just make small talk (distract). If you don’t feel safe intervening at all, recruit help from someone in a position of authority (delegate). Once the incident is over, check in with the person who was harassed and ask them what they need (delay). 

In addition, as an employee of the university, you should report harassment, discrimination, or scientific misconduct to the appropriate university bodies as described above. If you need help in reporting Dr. Sheridan or a peer can help you or in many cases, make the report for you. 

If you observe microaggressions or disrespectful behavior. You are encouraged to ‘call in’ your colleagues who are exhibiting disrespectful behavior (e.g., reminding colleagues of an individual’s pronouns, pointing out when a comment sounded offensive or could be experienced as a microaggression). Additionally, while addressing something in the moment is ideal, take time to check in with the person that was aggressed and see what actionable steps they may or may not have wanted you to take (see delay above), consider asking yourself if you are about to address a real or imagined offense (i.e. are you speaking on behalf of another group and does that other group actually feel that way), and think about how you can create a safe environment for conversation. On the other hand, and as discussed further below, these are not easy conversations and if you need help addressing microaggressions or disrespectful behavior appropriately your mentors, including the lab PI can consult with and support you. 

If someone is trying to tell you about your own harassment, discriminatory behavior, or microaggressions. Listen with an open mind and avoid becoming defensive if you are approached as having, consciously or otherwise, acted in a way that made someone feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. Remember that if someone offers you feedback, it likely took a great deal of courage for them to do so. The best way to respect that courage is to acknowledge your mistake, apologize, and move on — with a renewed commitment to educate yourself further and do better. If you need help responding appropriately, your mentors, including the lab PI can consult with and support you. 

If you experience harassment, discrimination, microaggressions, or repeated lack of engagement with encouraged behaviors. First, take care of yourself. Each person will need to deal with the experience of harassment and discrimination in a way which is best for them. Take the time you need to heal before addressing the incident.  If you need help responding, need to take time to heal, or otherwise need support, your mentors, including the lab PI are here to support you.  

If you feel comfortable doing so, tell the harasser to stop either as it happens or in a later conversation. Given our lab’s values, we expect both parties to be receptive to these types of conversations, communicate openly, listen, and allow each other to be heard — as outlined above. It cannot go unsaid, however, that these conversations are difficult and we in no way mean to control the reactions of those being harassed. Anger, sadness, and feelings of being overwhelmed are reasonable responses to being aggressed. Again, these conversations are hard and may not go perfectly. Research shows that confronting the harasser directly sometimes puts a stop to the harassment so if you need help having the conversation or want someone else to address it altogether, know that your mentors, including the lab PI, are ready to support you in that. 

Implications for Lab Participation

Minor complaints in the lab (outside the bounds of prohibited behaviors) that Dr. Sheridan/ Dr. Miller deem to threaten the learning environment will be handled using a three-strike policy. First and second strikes will include a warning and education (designed to help individuals understand why their behavior was inappropriate). Third strike will result in expulsion from the lab. 

We understand that prohibited behaviors may often not be specific to one singular person and are rather rooted in larger systemic issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ableism, ageism, etc.. We are thus committed to discussing these issues together via whole-lab discussions, edits to this code of conduct, training, readings, and any other way the lab sees fit. Our learning environment will only be strengthened through a commitment to shifting lab culture and efforts to ensure that doesn’t happen again. 

For full-time university employees, UNC-Chapel Hill Human Resources has official policies regarding disciplinary processes. For graduate students, disciplinary processes may include removal from the lab, and the Clinical Psychology Program Director would be consulted. 

Please read these non-exhaustive list of resources, embedded within this Code of Conduct, specifically. This is a living document, meaning that if you come across any resources you think may be helpful please reach out to your mediation committee or Dr. Sheridan. 

Peer Mentorship Committee

The Peer Mentorship Committee is a group of four to six individuals from the CIRCLE lab from different positions in the lab (post-bacc research assistants, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows). These members will rotate every year. Please visit their section of the website to read more about their role.