Ethics Matters Newsletter header images for the three campuses of the University of Illinois. Also contains the Ethics Office Mission statement.

Conflicts of Commitment and Interest, February 2008

February 2008 / Issue 2

MAIN MATTERS

2007 Online Ethics Training Program

The Inspector General's 2007 online training program closed on 11/14/07, with nearly 100% compliance. Great Job! The disciplinary process is currently being coordinated by Human Resources.

Undergraduate student workers, extra help, and medical residents

These employees can train year-round. Please get a jump start on the 2008 training program by visiting our web site. All new and returning undergraduate student workers, temporary extra help employees, and medical residents are encouraged to train at the beginning of each semester if they have not already done so for the respective calendar year.


UPCOMING MATTERS

Statements of Economic Interests

Those employees required to file a Statement with the Secretary of State will be receiving their forms in the mail in late March. Please return completed forms to the Ethics Office. These are due to our office by April 24th so they can be reviewed and forwarded to the Office of the Secretary of State by the May 1st deadline.

University Ethics Office:
ethicsofficer@uillinois.edu
Ethics Help Line: 866-758-2146

Human Resources Bldg., Rm. 20
One University Plaza, HRB 20 Springfield, IL 62703-5407

Image of two people having a discussion

Conflicts of Commitment and Interest:

Disclosure, Roles, and Responsibilities

What is a conflict of commitment?

A conflict of commitment arises when the external activities of an academic staff member are so demanding of time or attention that they interfere with the individual's responsibilities to the University.

What is a conflict of interest?

A conflict of interest occurs for academic staff members (including academic professionals, faculty, and postdoctoral associates) when an academic staff member is in a position to advance his or her own interests or those of family members or close friends.

For civil service employees, a conflict of interest occurs when an employee's business judgment is or may be influenced by personal interests.

Who must disclose?

Disclosure is required by all academic staff (both full and part time), individuals serving as investigators in research, individuals conducting research involving human subjects, and civil service employees.

What should I disclose?

It is often difficult to define what is and is not a conflict. Providing complete disclosure of all actual and potential conflicts (civil service employees) and all non-University income-producing activities (academic staff) protects both you and the University of Illinois, as there is no penalty for proactive disclosure. In fact, the more information you provide to your supervisor, the better-equipped the University is to identify a method for managing the conflict and ensuring you are able to actively pursue interests external to the University. If you are ever in doubt, you may contact your respective offices of the Vice Chancellor for Research (UIC and UIUC), the Provost (UIS), the Vice President for Academic Affairs (UA), or the University Ethics Office. Outside activities, regardless of the level of pay, can create an actual or perceived conflict, and require prior written approval. As an employee of the University of Illinois, there are certain disclosure requirements that must be addressed. Academic staff must disclose and obtain prior written approval for all non-University income-producing activities, even if they do not present a conflict of interest. Civil service employees must disclose in writing all actual or perceived conflicts of interest. Some examples of required reporting include, but are not limited to:

  • External consulting, such as peer reviews and paid advisory services
  • Part-time employment, regardless of whether or not it is related to University responsibilities
  • Management of rental properties
  • Making referrals to your or a family member's external business while using University time and/or resources
  • Holding an ownership interest in an entity doing business with the University

Why should I disclose?

Disclosing all potential or actual conflicts serves to protect both you and the University. Potential conflicts are not typically an inhibiting factor, as long as they are fully disclosed and managed. It is also important to recognize the damage a perceived conflict of commitment or interest could impose on both your reputation and the University's. In recent months, many articles have been published in public and private higher education exposing conflicts of interest that were not appropriately disclosed and managed. University policies, state law, and federal regulations all require disclosure and management of conflicts.

What does managing a conflict mean?

Managing a conflict involves cooperating with your supervisor and, if necessary, University management, to develop a method for identifying and ensuring all conflicts are addressed. This involves implementing a plan to ensure the conflict does not negatively interfere with the obligations of the employee or the mission of the University. Depending on the job responsibilities of the employee, their position, or the impact on the University, plans for managing the conflict may be elevated to the campus Vice Chancellor for Research.

image of a handshake

When should I disclose?

All academic staff must disclose annually, through the Report of Non-University Activities (RNUA) process, and update during the year if their activities change. Individuals serving as investigators in research at the University must disclose potential conflicts of interest when submitting grant proposals and research protocols involving human subjects. All employees, including civil service, should contact their supervisor or other respective campus office (as listed below) prior to engaging in activities which may present actual or potential conflicts of interest. The University can then take the necessary steps to ensure adequate disclosure and, if needed, to develop a conflict management plan to address and monitor the activity.

 

Academic staff contacts:

Chicago: 312-996-4995 (Vice Chancellor for Research - VCR)
Springfield: 217-206-6614 (Provost)
Urbana-Champaign: 217-333-0030 (VCR)
University Administration: 217-333-3077 (Vice President for Academic Affairs - VPAA)

Civil Service contacts:

Chicago: 312-413-4848 (Labor and Employee Relations)
Springfield: 217-206-6652 (Human Resources)
Urbana-Champaign: 217-333-3101 (Staff Human Resources)

You may also contact the University Ethics Office on the Toll-free Ethics Help Line at: 866-758-2146 for assistance.

My supervisor's role/responsibilities?

Supervisors are tasked with the review of employee activities to determine whether or not the activity conflicts with the employee's University responsibilities.The unit head reviews submitted reports, evaluates the nature and extent of actual or potential conflicts, and works with employees to manage or eliminate conflicts. It is incumbent upon the employee and the unit head to manage or resolve real or apparent conflicts. The supervisor inquires as to the extent of the time commitment, financial interest, resources required, and any other components that may be relevant. The supervisor must then determine whether the activities should be allowed, and, if so, whether a plan for managing that conflict should be developed. It is recommended that supervisors document the management plan or requirements to the employee. The unit head may seek advice from a multitude of sources, including but not limited to: campus Human Resources, the campus Vice Chancellor for Research for UIUC and UIC, the Provost for UIS, or the Vice President for Academic Affairs for UA. If a conflict exists, the supervisor should elevate any formal management plan or process through their reporting line to ensure awareness and agreement with the proposed method for managing the conflict.

Conflict management plans are devised to allow employees the opportunity to explore other interests, while at the same time, ensuring all applicable policies, procedures, and laws are being taken into consideration to maximize the benefit and minimize unwanted exposure to all parties involved.

 

Myth Exposed!
If I tell my supervisor, they're not going to let me do it.

Janet, a University employee, has decided to start moonlighting in the evenings. She has not yet begun working outside of her University position and is unsure of whether or not she should tell her supervisor. Since the second position is in the same area of work as her University job, Janet is concerned that revealing her intended employment may prohibit her from accepting any moonlighting positions. The potential employers are not looking to hire the University and would allow Janet to work in the evenings, outside of her scheduled University work hours. Additionally, Janet does not plan to use any University materials for her second position. From this perspective, she does not see the employment as a threat to the University and feels that disclosure will certainly prevent her from being able to accept additional employment.

Does she need to disclose this opportunity as a potential conflict?
Why or why not?

Yes. All actual and potential conflicts must be disclosed. This does not mean the supervisor will prohibit Janet from moonlighting. In fact, the University of Illinois encourages active participation in outside activities that enhance the professional skills of staff members or constitute a public service activity. A failure to wholly disclose outside activities to the University can result in negative media publicity, loss of funding (federal and grant), legal action, and internal discipline. As a result, processes have been developed to provide employees with an opportunity to discuss their proposed involvement and identify a means for pursuing such interests in a manner that is positive for both the employee and the University. Janet should disclose the opportunity to work as an independent contractor to her University supervisor for the good of herself and the University.

Related Policy Links:

Policy on Conflicts of Commitment and Interest:
www.vpaa.uillinois.edu/Policies/conflict_toc.cfm

Good Ethical Practice: A Handbook for Faculty and Staff at the University of Illinois

Civil Service Policy on Conflicts of Interest:
https://nessie.uihr.uillinois.edu/pdf/policy/rules/pr16r01.pdf

UIC Policy on Conflicts of Interest:
www.uic.edu/depts/hr/relations/PolicyDocs/HRPP%200300/301_062507.pdf

UIUC Policy on Conflicts of Commitment and Interest:
www.fs.uiuc.edu/cam/cam/ix/ix-c/ix-c-3.html

UIS Policy on Conflicts of Interest:
www.uis.edu/academicstaffhandbook/sections/responsibilities/ConflictsofCommitmentandInterest.html

Internal vs. External Disclosure Requirements

All members of the academic staff (both full and part time) must participate in the RNUA reporting process each fall. This is an internal process and is completely separate from the Statement of Economic Interests filing process. The Statement of Economic Interests is a process that takes place in the Spring for the Secretary of State. Individuals required to file a Statement of Economic Interests are determined through Banner coding and discussions with campus units. The criteria for being required to file a Statement of Economic Interests form are:

  • Persons who are or who function as the head of a department or other administrative unit;
  • Those who have supervisory authority over or direct responsibility for the formulation, negotiation, issuance or execution of contracts entered into by the State in the amount of $5,000 or more;
  • Those who are a Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-PI on a grant; or
  • Those who have supervisory responsibility for 20 or more employees.

For additional details related to the Statement of Economic Interests, please visit:
http://www.ethics.uillinois.edu/statements