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Policies and Guidelines Concerning Conflicts of Commitment and Interest Affecting University Employment

Human Resources Policy: HR 06 95

Introduction:

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke's Policies and Guidelines Concerning Conflicts of Commitment and Interest Affecting University Employment documents supports the policies and guidelines adopted by the UNC Board of Governors on April 16, 1993.

UNC Pembroke subscribes to the statement of The Code of The University of North Carolina indicating that the basic mission of the faculty is "the transmission and advancement of knowledge and understanding."

University faculty engage in a number of activities within the academy related to their teaching, research, and service. In addition, because of the nature of their credentials and expertise, faculty also have opportunities to utilize their skills and knowledge in settings and activities outside the University. In most instances, this independence and flexibility work to the advantage and benefit of the faculty member, the Institution, and the community.

The same opportunities can become problems, however, when a conflict of commitment or a conflict of interest arises.

Conflict of Commitment:

A conflict of commitment arises when a faculty member's activities outside the University interfere with the performance of responsibilities within the Institution. This conflict of commitment may occur as the result of such activities as consulting, teaching, performing, and other such involvements. At The University of North Carolina at Pembroke conflict of commitment is generally discovered and resolved through the normal expectations and routine monitoring of faculty performance, through the required External Professional Activity for Pay reporting process and through reports by and interactions with colleagues, department chairs and administrators in the process of consideration for tenure and/or promotion and merit pay.

It is the policy of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke that faculty shall devote their primary professional loyalty, time and efforts to teaching, research and service and related duties, and that EPA non-teaching employees shall devote their primary professional loyalty, time, and efforts to the specific requirements of their University employment. Therefore, in accord with this policy, outside activities and financial interests must not interfere with carrying out University employment responsibilities. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has adopted the Federal standard of significant financial interest as defined in Section 50.603 of the Federal Rules and Regulations reported in the July 11, 1995, Federal Register (see HR 06 95A which follows).

The policies and procedures outlined in this document are designed to prevent circumstances that can limit and/or adversely affect impartiality in the performance of University duties. Additionally, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke has in effect a written and enforced administrative process to identify and manage, reduce or eliminate significant financial interest as outlined in 42CFR Part 50( amended), article 50.605 (see HR 06 95B which follows).

Conflict of Interest:

Conflicts of interest arise when financial or other personal considerations, "may compromise, may involve the potential for compromising, or may have the appearance of compromising a faculty member's objectivity in meeting University duties or responsibilities, including research activities" (taken from the Board of Governors April 16, 1993, policy). The biases personnel and purchases; gathering, analyzing and interpreting data and sharing research results; selecting research protocols; and employing statistical methods. Problems can occur when a faculty member is in a position to influence University business, research or other decisions in ways leading to personal gain for the faculty member or his/her family. Conflict exists when a faculty member or an immediate family member has a personal interest in an activity that could have an impact on decision making at the University. Conflict exists when a faculty member's commitments and obligations to the University are likely to be compromised by other interests and commitments. It is the policy of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke that faculty and EPA non-faculty employees will avoid conflicts of interest that may adversely affect the University's interests, compromise objectivity in carrying out University responsibilities, or compromise the performance of University responsibilities. Thus external activities and financial interests must be arranged to avoid such conflicts. External activities which may have an impact on University responsibilities fall into three categories.

Category I:  Activities Holding Little Potential for Conflict

Some external activities of faculty have little potential for creating conflicts of interest. These include, but are not limited to, such activities as receiving royalties from the publication of books or licensure of patented inventions subject to The University of North Carolina Patent and Copyright Policies; holding an equity interest in a corporation designed solely to accommodate external consulting activities; receiving honoraria or expense reimbursement for service to professional associations; service on review panels, presentation of scholarly works, or participation in accreditation reviews.

Category II:  Activities Requiring Disclosure and Review Because of Potential for Conflict

Other activities may require disclosure or administrative review because a possibility for conflict of interest is present. Such activities must be reviewed and may be limited or monitored. Examples of these activities cited in the policy adopted by The UNC Board of Governors on April 16, 1993, are presented here not as an exhaustive list but rather as further clarification of the nature of conflict of interest.

A University employee requiring students to purchase the textbook or related instructional materials of the employee or members of his or her immediate family, which produces compensation for the employee or family member.

A University employee receiving compensation or gratuities (other than occasional meals, gifts, or desk copies of textbooks, and the like) from any individual or entity doing business with the University.

A University employee serving on the board of directors or scientific advisory board of an enterprise that provides financial support for University research, and from which the employee or a member of his or her immediate family may receive such financial support.

A University employee serving in an executive position in a for-profit or not-for-profit business which conducts research or other activities in an area related to other University duties of the employee.

A University employee having a financial interest in a business that competes with services provided by the University.

A University employee engaging in any other activity that has the potential for creating a conflict of interest or commitment as defined herein.

Category III:  Activities Not allowable Because of High Potential for Conflict

Finally, there are certain activities or situations which are generally not allowable because they suggest the strong possibility that conflict of interest may be inevitable. For that reason, the University employee considering involvement in these kinds of activities would not be allowed to proceed until he or she could demonstrate that, in fact, the potential for conflict of interest does not exist. These examples of typical unallowable external involvement are from the Board of Governors' April 16, 1993, policy:

A University employee participating in University research involving a technology owned by or contractually obligated to (by license or exercise of an option to license, or otherwise) a business in which the individual or a member of his or her immediate family has a consulting relationship, has an ownership, or holds an executive position.

A University employee participating in University research which is funded by a grant or contract from a business in which the individual or a member of his or her immediate family has an ownership interest.

A University employee assigning students, post-doctoral fellows or other trainees to University research under conditions that require research results to be held confidential, unpublished, or inordinately delayed in publication (other than as allowed by University Patent and Copyright Policies or by policy of the Board of Governors dated February 12, 1988, Administrative Memorandum No. 260.)

A University employee making referrals of University business to an external enterprise in which the individual or a member of his or her immediate family has a financial interest.

A University employee associating his or her own name with the University in such a way as to profit financially by trading the reputation or goodwill of the University.

A University employee making unauthorized use of privileged information acquired in connection with his or her University responsibilities.

A University employee making use of University facilities (such as, offices, telephones, office equipment, office supplies), University services and staff for non-university sponsored activities.

A University employee publishing or formally presenting University-sponsored research results or providing expert commentary on a subject without at the same time disclosing any significant financial interest relating to such results or such subjects.

A University employee engaging in any other activity having high potential for a conflict of interest. (For further information see the UNCP Faculty Handbook.)

Avoiding Conflicts of Interests

In an attempt to avoid and forestall conflicts of interest, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke will follow these procedures:

Dissemination of Policy on Conflict of Interest: This policy will become an official part of the Faculty Handbook, which is distributed to all faculty during their first semester of employment. Any additions, deletions, or revisions are distributed to all faculty at the beginning of the academic year. In addition, UNC Pembroke will alert faculty each year to the University's policy on Conflict of Interest by inserting a printed reminder in the first pay envelope.

Requirement of Disclosure: At the beginning of each academic year, each faculty member will be required to submit a Disclosure Form (copy follows), indicating any plans for non-University activity. This form will be submitted in addition to the form on External Professional Activity for Pay. This form will be reviewed first by the department chair to determine whether it is (1) a negative disclosure, revealing no conflict or (2) a positive disclosure requiring additional review. The form, with the department chair's decision and recommendation, will be forwarded to the Office for Academic Affairs for additional review. If the activity is determined not to be in conflict with University obligations, the form will simply be filed in the faculty member's personnel file in the Academic Affairs Office. If the activity needs further review and discussion, the Office for Academic Affairs will confer with the department chair to decide on appropriate action. Updated forms must be submitted during the year if changes occur which may involve a potential conflict of interest, which eliminate a previously discussed conflict of interest, or which change any responses on the previously filed Disclosure Form.

All Disclosure Forms will be on file in the faculty member's personnel file in the Academic Affairs Office.

GUIDELINES FOR CONSIDERATION OF CASES INVOLVING CONFLICT OF INTEREST:

l.    Handling of Allegation: Allegations of conflicts of interest are a serious matter. They must be handled in a prompt and appropriate manner with due respect and concern both for the accused and the accuser. The responsibility for coordinating these procedures rests with the Chancellor.

2.    Protection of the Accused: Until a decision as to the facts of the case is made through the judicious application of the policies and procedures described in this document, the accused is to be protected by the institution. Individual parties involved must be shielded from the possible damage arising from allegations of conflict of interest, while ensuring a prompt and effective response to the allegations. The primary mechanism for this protection will be strict confidentiality. The damages resulting from spurious allegations of conflict of interest and inappropriate assumptions of guilt must be minimized.

3.    Protection of the Accuser: The accuser is also to be protected by confidentiality and anonymity in the initial handling of the case until it becomes necessary for the identity of the accuser to be revealed to the accused and to other parties who need to know. Except under extraordinary circumstances, the accused has the right to confront the accuser. Special care in this respect must be taken in cases in which the accuser is subordinate to the accused. Spurious, frivolous, or irresponsible accusations of misconduct are, themselves, a form of academic misconduct and should be dealt with accordingly. Individuals must be protected by the institution from these types of allegations.

4.    Confidentiality: An investigation of an allegation of conflict of interest must be handled with strict confidentiality at all times.

5.    Conflict of Interest: Any conflicts of interest of members of the investigation committee, real or perceived, must be avoided in the investigation of a charge of conflict of interest. The members of the investigating committee must be selected so as to avoid this difficulty.

6.    Timeliness: Fairness and justice to the parties involved require that allegations of conflict of interest be resolved in a timely manner. Any deviation from the time guidelines given below should preserve the fair and appropriate handling of the investigation. When a departure from these time constraints is judged to be necessary, the reason for the departure must be documented and agreed to in writing by the parties involved.

7.    Documentation: The investigation of an allegation of conflict of interest must be carefully documented starting with the initial allegation and proceeding through disposition and reporting of findings. Thorough documentation is important for several reasons, including potential legal proceedings that may follow from such cases. Every substantive aspect of the investigation must be documented. Personnel decisions or other actions arising from the disposition of the case need to be justified in the documentation.

8.    Organization: There will be three stages involved in the handling of an allegation of conflict of interest. The first stage, which the internal (Inquiry) stage, involves the gathering of facts as quietly and confidentially as possible with only the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Inquiry Committee, and the faculty member(s) named in the allegation being informed of the proceedings. If the inquiry indicates that a formal investigation is warranted, then an Investigating Committee is formed as described below, and the second (Investigation) stage begins. At this stage, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs informs the Chancellor that proceedings are underway. The third (Summary) stage involves actions taken by the Chancellor based on findings in the first two stages.

If in the inquiry stage it is found that a full investigation (second stage) is appropriate, then the University has the responsibility of informing various parties both within and external to the University community, including Federal agencies; such as, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Health and Human Services (HHS). Circumstances will dictate who needs to be informed; but the list may include (1) department chairs, administrators, or other faculty who will be affected by the investigation, (2) persons who have been or are currently in collaboration with the accused, and (3) any agency that requires reporting under such circumstances. It is the responsibility of the Investigating Committee to determine the extent of such reporting at the outset of the official investigation.

Procedure for Handling an Allegation of Conflict of Interest

A.    Overview

A.l    There are three stages in the handling of conflict of interest: Inquiry, Investigation, and Summary. The Inquiry stage begins with the initial allegation of conflict of interest and ends when the Vice Chancellor determines that the case does or does not warrant further action. The Investigation stage begins if and when it is decided that the case requires a full investigation and ends with a summary of findings as to the facts of the case and a recommendation for action forwarded to the Vice Chancellor. The Summary stage involves actions taken by the Chancellor based on the findings of the first two stages.

A.2    For purposes of consistency, a "day" is defined as a weekday during which classes are normally in session. University holidays are not to be counted in the deadlines established in this document. Timelines for proceedings that extend over lengthy holidays may need to be modified as circumstances require. If so, these modifications must be documented and agreed to in writing by the parties involved.

B.    Specific Procedures

B. 1   Inquiry Stage:

B.1.1    An allegation of conflict of interest should be directed to the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. The Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs determines, in consultation with the complainant, whether the charges are of a serious nature. This decision must be dated and documented in a specific file to be retained by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. The department chair or the faculty member(s) named in the allegation are informed of the matter at this time.

B.1.2    Upon finding that the complaint deserves further examination, the Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs should initiate the Inquiry stage. this stage should be concluded within 30 work days.

B.1.3    The Inquiry Committee is to be formed by the Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. This Committee may include the department chair involved and faculty members who may have knowledge concerning the present matter. Decisions to involve or not involve other parties in the inquiry must be made in light of the need to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interest and to maintain appropriate confidentiality.

B.1.4    The Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs will name one of the Committee members to serve as chair. This individual will coordinate the collection of documents, correspondence, and all other appropriate materials that are necessary for conducting the inquiry.

B.1.5    The faculty member(s) named in the allegation must be notified of the initiation of the proceedings.

B.1.6    The accused has a right to attend the Inquiry meetings at which evidence is presented and discussed and to examine and respond to any evidence or testimony presented. A discussion of the allegation with the accused should be one of the first elements of the Inquiry Committee proceedings. The accused may not attend the final meeting of the Inquiry Committee at which a decision is reached as to whether the allegation warrants a formal investigation. However, no new evidence used against the accused may be presented or discussed at this final meeting. Within these limits, Inquiry Committee meetings may be attended only by Inquiry Committee members, the accused, persons presenting evidence or testimony, and others who have, in the judgment of the Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, a substantive and demonstrable need to know. The Inquiry shall be conducted under the strictest confidentiality possible.

B.1.7    If the Inquiry Committee finds that a full investigation of the allegation is not warranted, then any reference to the allegation must be removed from the faculty or staff member's personnel file, as well as from any special files pertaining to this matter. All documentation regarding the allegation must be destroyed by the Provost/Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

B.1.8    If the Inquiry Committee finds that a full investigation of the allegation is warranted, the Chancellor should (a) appoint an ad hoc committee (composed as described below) to conduct an investigation; (b) take appropriate action to preserve and protect any data, records, or evidence pertaining to the case; (c ) notify the individual(s) involved of the proceedings being initiated and of their opportunity to appear before the committee in their own defense; and (d) report the initiation of the investigation to any pertinent people/organizations that may be involved. The Chancellor may require that the accused individual(s) temporarily cease alleged conflict of interest activities if it is determined that a continuation of such activities may result in risk or harm to parties involved.

B.2    Investigation Stage

B.2.1    The Chair of the Investigating Committee is to be designated by the Chancellor. The nature of the conflict of interest, possible conflicting interest of the designee, and departmental or administrative concerns will guide the choice of this individual.

B.2.2    The Investigating Committee should be composed of five members including: (a) the appointed chair, (b) one member representing the Faculty Senate, (c ) one member representing the Faculty Development and Welfare Subcommittee, and (d) two faculty members with particular knowledge concerning the potential conflict of interest. The Chancellor and the Chair of the Investigating Committee will confer on the four appointments (other than the Committee Chair) to assure that the Committee includes faculty with the particular expertise relevant to the nature of the allegation. These appointments shall be full-time faculty members who have no apparent conflicts of interest and who are deemed qualified and appropriate to work in this capacity.

B.2.3    The Committee shall conduct a prompt and thorough investigation in order to ascertain whether the individual has violated this policy, and if so, to what extent. Early in the course of the investigation, the committee shall discuss the matter in confidence with accused individual and with all persons with whom the accused has collaborated in relation to the conflict under review. Throughout the investigation, the Committee shall be sensitive to the effects of the proceedings on the individual, protecting the rights of the accused, and avoiding disclosure except to individuals who need to be involved in the investigation.

B.2.4    One or more hearings shall be conducted by the Investigating Committee in which information and evidence relevant to the allegation are presented, discussed, and evaluated. It is the responsibility of the Committee chair to schedule and conduct the hearing(s) as well as to provide relevant evidence, documents, and recorded testimony to Committee members. Interviews with those having special knowledge relevant to the allegation may take place in the hearing(s) as well as a review of written documents, raw data or computer files, and transcripts of testimony or discussion from previous hearings and interviews.

B.2.5    The accused individual has the right to attend these hearings, to examine all documents or evidence used to question persons being interviewed, and to introduce any evidence, documents, or interviews in support of the views of the accused. At the conclusion of the hearings, a separate meeting of the Investigating Committee shall be conducted to reach a decision as to the facts of the case. The accused individual may not be present at this final meeting and no new evidence of any sort may be presented at this meeting. The accused individual must have access to all information used by the Committee and must be given the opportunity to respond to that information.

B.2.6    The hearings may be attended only by those whose presence is required. This would normally include members of the Investigating Committee, the accused individual, and persons needed to present evidence or testimony. Others may be permitted to attend on a need-to-know basis at the discretion of the chair of the Investigating Committee in consultation with the Chancellor if necessary.

B.2.7    The scope of the investigation shall be at the discretion of the Committee chair according to the charge and the facts. The Committee shall consider only such evidence as is presented at the hearing(s). The Committee shall use its judgment in deciding whether the evidence presented is fair and reliable. A written transcript shall be kept of all proceedings in which evidence is presented. Upon request, a copy of this transcript will be furnished to the accused faculty member at the University's expense.

B.2.8    Within 30 days of the beginning of the official investigation, the Investigating Committee must produce a preliminary report to which the accused individual may respond in writing before final recommendations are made. A period of 15 work days is allowed for a response from the accused unless it is determined by the Committee chair that more time is needed to ensure fair and appropriate handling of the matter. The specifics of any agreement to alter this timing must be documented and signed by the accused, the Committee chair, and the Chancellor.

B.2.9    Within 60 work days from the beginning of the Investigation stage, the Investigating Committee must submit to the Chancellor a written report which describes its findings as to the facts of the matter. This report should specify whether a majority of the Committee believes that the accused individual has or has not engaged in a conflict of interest. If a majority of the Committee has determined that a substantive violation has occurred, the report should address the extent and seriousness of the violation. The report should also recommend a course of action to the Chancellor. Such actions may involve personnel decisions, sanctions, notifications of collaborators, or any other appropriate actions. In the management of conflict of interest, it may be necessary to require public disclosure of significant financial interests, monitoring of research by independent reviewers, modification of the research plan, disqualification of participation in a funded project, and divestiture or severance of significant financial interest.

C.    Appeal Process

The individual faculty member may appeal the decision reached in the above process through the standard faculty committees: the Faculty Grievance Committee or the Faculty Hearing Committee, as appropriate. Faculty members who feel that they have cause for a grievance in any matter other than suspension, discharge, non-reappointment (including denial of permanent tenure) or termination, which are under the jurisdiction of the Faculty Hearing Committee may submit a petition for redress to the Faculty Grievance Committee. The appeal process to both committees is outlined in The University of North Carolina at Pembroke Faculty Handbook.