Holiday ethics: Yes on cookies, no on plane tickets

It’s that time of year. Cookies. Mugs. Flowers. Tins of caramel corn. Boxes of chocolate. They’re all starting to arrive in offices across campus from various sources.

So, under Ohio Ethics Law, what should you accept and what should you not accept?

“In general, the acceptance of something like cookies during the holidays is not a violation of the ethics law,” said Susan Willeke, education and communications administrator for the Ohio Ethics Commission.

Willeke was on campus this month to present two ethics seminars to hundreds of YSU employees. You can view the seminars on the Office of General Counsel’s website at

While Willeke talked about a variety of ethical issues, she focused on accepting gifts, i.e. something of value that creates an improper and substantial influence. While accepting trinkets, pens, notepads, popcorn, chocolates, cookies and even a modest meal is likely OK, other gifts like sports or theater tickets, travel, construction work, golf outings and the sort are likely not, she said.

If you’re not sure, call the General Counsel’s office at 330-941-2340 or the Ohio Ethics Commission at 614-466-7090.


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