Revised conflict of interest policy is up for regent review

Robin Huiras

Pending approval by the Board of Regents in June, a policy allowing employers more outside earnings without being questioned about conflicts of interest will be one step closer to ratification.
Under the revised plan, employees wouldn’t report outside income until it reached more than $10,000. The previous amount had been $5,000, said Kent Bales, chairman of the Faculty Affairs Committee.
“The major change is that now employees have to report income from royalties on books,” said Frances Lawrenz, assistant vice president for research and associate dean of the Graduate School. “The University is not telling people they cannot make the money, but it requires the employee to be open about what he or she is getting money for.”
Disclosure assures that an individual’s outside business interests do not interfere with the teaching or research they are conducting, said Victor Bloomfield, chairman of the Faculty Consultative Committee.
The revision brings the University into compliance with recent changes in money distribution policies made by the federal and state governments.
“The federal government has requirements about the funds it allots to universities. It doesn’t want its funds to be misused,” Lawrenz said.
The University Senate Consultative and Faculty Affairs Committees approved the revised conflict of interest policy at the University Senate meeting on May 14.
Because the University receives federal money, certain aspects of the conflict of interest policy needed to be updated. The changes were necessary to remain in accordance with the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation programs, Lawrenz said.
Katie De Boer, Board of Regents coordinator, said after the board reviews the revised policy in June, it will vote on adoption in July.
Employees aren’t required to report all additional income. Exceptions to the policy include money from engagements sponsored by public or nonprofit organizations and earnings under $10,000 from a business for educational materials.
For example, if a University employee receives an additional income of $10,000 during a 12-month period from a book he or she has authored, the employee is required to inform the University of this income.
The conflict of interest policy, last revised in 1994, has existed at the University since 1973. Revisions during the past 25 years have created principles for identifying potential conflicts.
The policy determines procedures for dealing with conflicts that do occur to assure they do not improperly affect University research and other activities.