Dear Mr. Ethics,
I just started working in financial aid about a year ago, after serving as a work-study student. So far I love my job, particularly attending training events and working on the technology side of things. Over the past few months, I have developed a great working relationship with the folks who deploy our Financial Aid Management System. I just got an email from our FAMS account manager that she will be at our state conference next week and inviting me to lunch. I feel like I’ve gotten to know her well over the past 12 months, and I would love to put a name with a face. Should I go?
Who Says There’s No Such Thing As Free Lunch?
Will your lunch consist of a Happy Meal and take place under the golden arches? If not, then the answer is no. NASFAA’s Code of Conduct states “No amount of cash, gift, or benefit in excess of a de minimis amount shall be accepted by a financial aid staff member from any financial aid applicant (or his/her family), or from any entity doing business with or seeking to do business with the institution.” “De minimis” is a Latin expression that refers to a level of risk that is too small to be concerned with. Some refer to this as a "virtually safe" level. It’s likely that a lunch out would not cause you to have a conflict of interest and give unfair advantage to this vendor in the future. But why risk even the perception of favoritism? Politely turn down the lunch and remind the vendor about NASFAA’s Code.
Publication Date: 3/31/2015