3.17 Conflicts of Interest and Commitment
University employees need to be sensitive to the possibility that outside obligations, financial interests or employment may affect their responsibilities and decisions as members of the university community. Involvement of university employees in outside activities, both public and private, often serves the interests of the individual, university and general public. Participation of individuals in activities outside the university is encouraged to the extent that they do not interfere with the mission of the university in preserving, generating and disseminating knowledge.
University employees may be faced with situations that conflict with their obligations, responsibilities and decisions related to the mission of the university. These conflicts can generally be categorized as conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment. Conflicts of interest are situations in which university employees may have the opportunity to influence university administrative, business or academic decisions in ways that could lead to personal gain, give improper advantage to self or others, or interfere with the preservation, generation, or public dissemination of knowledge. Conflicts of commitment are situations in which university employees' time and effort given to outside activities and interests interfere with their obligations and responsibilities to the university.
Conflicts of interest and commitment are not necessarily unwarranted, unethical or illegal. Furthermore, conflicts of interest and commitment are not always avoidable. The failure to disclose situations that have the potential for or involve actual conflicts of interest or commitment, however, may be unethical and/or illegal.
Disclosure and Remediation
Situations that have the appearance of, potential for, or involve actual conflicts of interest or commitment must be reported in writing to the employee's appropriate supervisor (i.e., department chair, dean, director, vice chancellor). Written disclosure should be made by the individual before any agreements are completed between the employee, university and any outside organizations. Modifications to existing agreements should be reported as they occur. In addition, continuing agreements should be reported on an annual basis. In disclosing these situations, the employee should indicate any steps that can or will be taken to avoid or minimize any conflicts.
After consulting with the employee, considering whether an actual or potential conflict of interest or commitment exists, and the ramifications for the university, the supervisor will provide the employee with a written interpretation and any proposed remedial actions within five additional working days. The supervisor will provide a copy of the document to his or her superior for approval within five additional working days and retention. Employees may appeal the interpretation, decision or proposed remediation to the chancellor or the chancellor's designee. The supervisor or superior shall refer serious conflicts to the chancellor or designated official. The chancellor or designee will immediately appoint an ad hoc committee of at least five members, along with appropriate ex officio members, to review the situation and make recommendations within 20 working days.
The decision of the chancellor or official designee will be final. (A form for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest and commitment may be found at http://vcfa.uark.edu/policies/fayetteville/vprs/4040-appendix-d.pdf or obtained from the offices of deans, directors or department heads.)
The following list provides some examples of the types of situations that may involve conflicts of interest or commitment and, hence, should be disclosed. Because a particular situation appears on the list does not necessarily mean that a conflict of interest or commitment exists. Even if a conflict exists, the situation may be unavoidable or in the university's best interest and, hence, allowed to continue.
The list of situations is not exhaustive. Other situations or activities may exist that have the appearance of, potential for, or involve actual conflicts. Situations, whether listed below or not, that have the appearance of, potential for, or involve actual conflicts of interest or commitment should be disclosed.
- Employee or immediate family member ownership, management, or other business ties with a private or public organization that has dealings with the university.
- Participation in outside business activities.
- Teaching credit or noncredit courses, seminars, or workshops not for the university.
- Requiring material for use by students for which the instructor derives direct or indirect financial benefit.
- Fees provided for professional service including consulting, honoraria, royalties or expert testimony.
- Continuing role in the scientific and technical efforts of a commercial enterprise.
- Personal payments, income, gifts, or other benefits received or promised from an organization proposing or sponsoring research.
- Private remuneration for university research provided by an individual or organization.
- Revenues from patents or licensed technology.
- Service or financial interest in an entity that provides research grants or contracts.
- Direct commercial or financial interests of immediate family members in employee's research.
- Transfer of technology to an organization in which the employee or immediate family members have an interest.
- Time and effort in extramural activities that interfere with obligations, duties and responsibilities to the university.
- Employee or immediate family member having a financial interest in university decisions.
- Use of university facilities, employees or students in personal or commercial activities.
- Use of official university position for personal/family gains/interests.
- Appointment, promotion, supervision or management of an immediate family member. (See Section 3.15.)
- Acceptance of gifts or gratuities offered because of university position.
- Use of university credit, purchasing power or facilities for non-university activities.
- Advertising endorsements based upon university position.
- Outside activities influencing decisions or behavior with respect to preservation, generation and dissemination of knowledge (e.g., delaying dissemination of research information, diverting to external organizations research opportunities that the university would have a normal expectation to obtain).
Related Board Policies include: Service on Boards of Financial Institutions (215.1), Contracting Authority (300.1), Nepotism (410.1), Outside Employment of Faculty and Staff Members for Compensation (450.1), Political Activity (465.1) and Use of University Facilities (705.1).
Grants and contracts that may involve a potential conflict of interest are subject to review and approval procedures. Board Policy provides that the university shall not, without approval of the chancellor or vice president for agriculture, enter into a contract with a current or former state employee, member of the Arkansas General Assembly, state constitutional officer, board or commission member, the immediate family member of any of those persons, or any entity in which any of those persons holds ownership interest of 10 percent or greater.
Monday, September 28, 2009 4:07 PM