Skip to content
  • Print

3.9 Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment

Adopted by Academic Council on February 9, 2006; Approved by Administration on June 14, 2006

  1. General Principles
    1. Avoidance of Conflicts

      University officers, faculty, staff, other employees and consultants are obliged by this Policy to refrain from conduct which gives rise to conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment. [Definitions below.]

    2. Conflicts of Interest

      1. Disclosure of Conflict of Interest to Cognizant University Officer.

        University officers, faculty, staff, other employees and consultants shall, in all situations where a conflict of interest might reasonably arise, immediately disclose the matter in writing to the Provost in the case of faculty and academic administrators and academic staff, and to the Vice President for Business and Finance in the case of all others (“cognizant University officers”), and shall refrain from participating in the matter unless and until written approval from the cognizant University officer is received.

      2. Relations with Non-University Entities.

        University officers, faculty, staff, and other employees shall at all times deal on behalf of the University with non-University entities, inclusive of actual and prospective granting agencies, donors, government agencies, contractors, suppliers, consultants, and other entities or persons doing, or seeking to do business or engage in a relationship with the University (hereinafter call “non-University entities”), in a manner that excludes any consideration of personal advantage for themselves. This provision is not intended to limit faculty members from considering personal advantage for themselves in regards to works for which, under the University’s Intellectual Property Policy, the University does not claim to hold exclusive rights and such consideration is not considered an impermissible conflict of interest.
    3. Conflicts of Commitment

      1. Full-time University officers, faculty, and exempt staff owe their primary commitment of times and intellectual energies to their University functions. The definition of University functions for any such individual largely relates to the specific responsibilities, functions and professional activities of the University position held by that individual and the expectations for that position that are held by the division, school or college, department or other unit(s) to which the position reports.

      2. Full-time faculty members must take care that outside professional activities not detract from a faculty member’s obligation to his or her University duties. When any outside activity detracts from the conduct of University duties, a conflict of commitment will result. Outside activities engaged in within the time allowance of up to a maximum of one day per week (see Policy 7.6.4 For Dental School faculty on appointments of fewer than five days per week, School policies apply.) does not give rise to a conflict of commitment for faculty members.

      3. Physical Presence, Time and Energy. Full-time and part-time University officers, faculty, exempt staff, and other employees do engage in permitted non-University activities, for example, consulting, public service or pro bono work; however, they must nevertheless take care that their physical presence at the University and their dedication of time and energies to the University do not thereby diminish. Specific expectations of physical presence at the University and of time commitment to the University are determined by the position, the policies applicable to that position (e.g., faculty policy limits external professional work of full-time faculty to one work day per work week), and the directives of University officers, deans, or department heads responsible for the function or unit involved.
  2. Prohibited Conflicts of Interest

    1. University officers, faculty, staff, and other employees shall not accept personal gifts, gratuities, favors, accommodations or similar things of value, from non-University entities, if those things of value reasonably would be expected to adversely affect their discharge of University functions to the exclusive benefit for the University.

    2. Personal receipt of all gifts, gratuities, favors, accommodations or similar things of value annually exceeding a total of $500 from non-University entities (as that term is defined in A.3 above), shall be immediate disclosed in writing to the cognizant University officer.

    3. University officers, faculty, staff, or other employees shall not transmit to non-University entities, or otherwise use for their personal gain, University-owned, funded, or supported property, work product, data, or other information or materials that constitute “Institutional Works” as defined in the University’s Policy on Intellectual Property, except to the extent permitted by that Policy.

    4. There will be no transactions between the University on the one hand, and University officers, faculty, staff, and other employees or a member of their immediate family(hereinafter called “family member”) or any business entity in which an employee or a family member has a substantial interest, on the other hand, except where all facts of the matter are fully disclosed in writing to the cognizant University officer who has determined that the contract or transaction is not unfair as to the University.

    5. It is the policy of the University to hire the best-qualified candidates and to avoid potential, actual, or perceived conflicts of interest in hiring or promoting employees. A family member may only be employed in a position within the same organizational unit with the approval of the cognizant University officer. Furthermore, under no circumstances may a supervisor recommend or approve any employment-related action for any employee to whom s/he is a member of an immediate family as defined in this policy. A close personal relationship shall be treated as if it were such a family relationship if it includes a sexual or romantic relationship or a similarly close personal relationship engaged in outside the University.

    6. Other prohibited conflicts of interest occur when there is such a divergence between an individual’s private interests and his or her employment obligations to the University, such that an independent observer would reasonably question whether the individual’s actions or decisions in respect to the University are determined or influenced by considerations of personal gain, financial or otherwise. A conflict of interest depends on the situation, and not on the character or actions of the individual.
  3. Additional Policies for Faculty

    1. General

      1. The intent of these policies is primarily to inform faculty members of the kinds of situations that warrant disclosure and cooperation with direction from the provost and/or Dean in response to such disclosures, rather than to sue faculty discipline after-the-fact for situations that reasonably did not appear to call for disclosure.

      2. Appearances of conflicts of interest are not unlikely to occur in a modern University. Consulting and other professional activities on the part of faculty may permissibly result in income to faculty members for non-University work. However, the faculty member may not allow actions or decisions within the scope of his/her responsibilities as a faculty member, to be determined by considerations of personal financial gain from non-University sources; when the faculty member does so, a prohibited conflict of interest occurs. Faculty members should conduct their affairs so as to avoid conflicts of interest, and must seek direction from the Provost when facts reasonably suggest that a possible conflict will arise or has arisen. The Provost will respond to the faculty member to provide such direction where requested.

      3. The Provost may in the future provide that annual faculty work plan forms will request that each faculty member annually furnish disclosures that are called for by this policy and to affirm that the faculty member has read and agreed to abide by this policy. If the Provost does so provide, the faculty member’s timely and accurate completion of the disclosure provisions of those forms will be sufficient to comply with all disclosure obligations of this policy.
    2. Full-time faculty must not accept another position of employment with an academic, business or governmental entity, except if authorized in writing by the Provost or if otherwise permitted by section 7.6.4 of the Faculty Handbook (Non-University and Concurrent Employment).

    3. Full-time faculty must maintain a significant and substantial physical presence on the campus and/or at other non-campus workplaces in which the University program functions (e.g. internship and clinic sites) in a manner that permits in-person meetings with students, colleagues and administrators on a regular and frequent basis. Faculty working in programs which regularly require substantial electronic communications will allow less physical presence at the workplace. Part-time faculty must maintain such a physical presence in proportion to their percentage appointment.

    4. Neither full-time nor part-time faculty may permit professional or business activities to detract from their allegiance to the University or from the quality or quantity of teaching, scholarly activities, or service responsibilities which are expected of them. For example, a faculty member should work with students in a manner which does not seek to advantage the faculty member in his/her external activities, to the detriment of the students’ University needs. In this example, a faculty member who assigns students, staff or postdoctoral scholars to University tasks, for purposes of potential or real financial gain of the faculty member rather than for the advancement of the scholarly field or the students’ educational needs, engages in a conflict of interest.

    5. In accordance with University policies on Information Technology and other policies, faculty use of University resources, including telephone and electronic communications facilities, personnel, equipment, etc., for non-University business or professional activities, shall be kept to a minimal and incidental extent.

    6. Full-time faculty members must take care that outside professional activities not detract from a faculty member’s obligation to his or her University duties. When any outside activity detracts from the conduct of University duties, a conflict of commitment will result. Even activities such as pro bono work, government service in the public interest, and any outside employment unrelated to the faculty member’s University responsibilities should be managed so they do not interfere with a faculty member’s primary commitment to the University. For example, a full-time faculty member who takes on significant, continuing professional obligations to another educational or other entity, that are not part of his/her University faculty member teaching, scholarly or service duties, in certain circumstances may be diverting his/her time and intellectual focus and energy from the University. Likewise, an internal executive or other leadership or management position or similar significant commitment of a full-time faculty member to another entity, can at times be in conflict with commitments to the University and may also violate the one-day-per-week consulting policy. In these kinds of circumstances, the faculty member should seek prior direction from the Provost in the manner indicated in C.1 above.

1 Member of the immediate family means spouse, parent, domestic partner and children, and those who stand in such position by marriage, domestic partnership, adoptions, etc.

2 Substantial interest excludes a) the interest of a person in a corporation, firm, or other organization as a debt or equity holder where the debt or equity held is less than 1% of the outstanding debt or equity of such corporation, firm, or other organization; b) the interest of a person in a corporation, firm, or other organization by reason of being a director, officer, employee, or their equivalents; c) the interest of a director of a corporation or a member of one’s immediate family in another corporation, firm or other organization which arises by reason of the fact the corporation is a creditor of such other corporation, firm, or other organization.