Policies on Conflicts of Interest and Commitment

(revised 8/17/2012)

In summary, with the acceptance of a full-time faculty appointment, an individual makes a full-time commitment to the university. Every faculty member is expected to accord the university his or her primary professional loyalty and to arrange outside obligations, financial interests and activities so as not to conflict or interfere with this overriding commitment to the university. At the same time, the university does not wish to interfere with external activities of officers of instruction who are fulfilling their primary duties. Indeed, the involvement of faculty members in outside professional activities, both public and private, often serves not only the participants but also the university. Instead of detailed rules or codes of ethics, the university has provided guidelines on conflicts of interest that leave much to individual discretion. It is assumed that all faculty members will be alert to the possible effects of outside activities on the objectivity of their decisions, their obligations to the university and the university’s responsibilities to others.

Activities which may compromise a faculty member’s responsibility to the university have been described as conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment. All members of the Faculty of Public Health, both full-and part-time, are required to complete and submit disclosure forms on an annual basis. The university’s full policy regarding individual financial conflicts of interest can be found here.

The school’s full policy/implementation plan regarding conflicts of interest can be found here.

Conflicts of interests arise when faculty members have the opportunity to make decisions or influence the university’s business decisions in ways that are, or appear to be, influenced by the financial interest of the faculty member. Issues may arise when sponsors of university-based research influence, or appear to influence, the outcome of that research or when the outside activities of faculty members reflect on the reputation of the university or otherwise rebound to its detriment. Protection for the university may come from the traditional academic practices of unrestricted rights to publication and public disclosure of author and sponsor. However, faculty members should be alert to the possibility of the appearance of conflict of interest and, if in doubt, discuss issues with an administrative supervisor–usually the department chair or dean. It is particularly important to avoid involvement of students in situations in which conflict of interest may be perceived.

Conflicts of commitment arise when a faculty member’s activities, either at the university or elsewhere, interfere with his or her teaching responsibilities or with student’s ready access to advice. A faculty member is expected to arrange teaching, research and administrative commitments so that students have necessary and appropriate access to the faculty member. It is customary to permit faculty members to engage in activities that are not part of their university’s responsibilities (so-called “outside activities”) up to a maximum of one day per week. These activities should be of a nature that broadens the faculty member’s experience and contributes to his or her growth as an academician. In addition, faculty members are frequently asked to serve on an advisory body to government and other agencies which involve little or no remuneration but the functioning of which is essential to academia in general and to our university specifically. Whether the activity is seen as an “outside” activity or one which could be visualized as falling broadly within one’s responsibility to the university, these activities must not be permitted to interfere with one’s responsibilities to teaching, advising, university-sponsored research and other academic duties.