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

Educational Materials and Missions, June, 2008

June 2008 / Issue 3

MAIN MATTERS

Employees are permitted to accept gifts from prohibited sources that are aligned with the University's mission.

Golf outings and tickets to sporting events are popular vendor gifts in the summer months. Be sure to check with the University Ethics Office prior to acceptance.

Call the University Ethics Office on the Toll-free Ethics Help Line at 866-758-2146.

UPCOMING MATTERS

2008 Annual Ethics Training - Online Window

The Inspector General has not yet released the University's online training dates for the fall of 2008 window. However, we anticipate this will be sometime during the months of October and November. More information will be provided via your official University email account as it becomes available.

Attention Unit Contacts:

Please remember to train all extra help and undergraduate student employees throughout the summer months.

Ethics Handbooks

Request copies of the fifth edition of our Handbook for Good Ethical Practice available now!

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

An Exception to the Rule:

Educational Materials and Missions

Did you realize that as a University employee, you can accept certain gifts or benefits from prohibited sources without breaking the law?

Most University employees associate the State Officials and Employees Ethics Act (Ethics Act) with things they can not do. However, one of the twelve exceptions within the Ethics Act allows University employees to accept gifts from prohibited sources; this is known as the educational materials and missions exception. The basic concept of this exception is to allow employees to accept those gifts or services that are aligned with the mission of the University (e.g., teaching, research, facility or public improvement).

This exception, further defined by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), allows employees to accept gifts from prohibited sources that meet the following criteria:

  • image of books and a cd-romare closely connected to their work as a University employee or the mission of the University;
  • predominately benefit the public; and
  • are approved by the University Ethics Officer in advance of actual receipt (unless specifically noted as not requiring approval).

 

Travel expenses may also be paid by a prohibited source provided the expenses are for state business and meet the above-listed criteria. Additionally, the accommodations must be in a style and manner consistent with typical state business (e.g., coach seating, state-rate hotel accommodations).

University Mission Statement

The University of Illinois will transform lives and serve society by educating, creating knowledge and putting knowledge to work on a large scale and with excellence.

So, what does this mean and how does it apply to University employees?

To simplify the requirements, a few common examples can be used to illustrate the exception in action....

1. Text books and related teaching materials

University faculty members regularly receive text books, software, and other related teaching materials from publishing companies. Publishing companies typically make these unsolicited gifts to various faculty members in an effort to promote and encourage faculty utilization of their products. Faculty members are allowed to accept one copy of a publication or software, provided it is related to their area of responsibility or field of study. The JCAR specifically indicates that the acceptance of teaching materials of this nature does not require approval by the University Ethics Officer.

2. Site visits by University faculty and staff

An employee (faculty or staff), who is involved in the selection of a vendor for a particular product, may be invited by the prospective vendor to tour the site or facility where the product is made or is currently in use. The intent of the site visit is to allow employees from the unit an opportunity to more thoroughly evaluate the product. The JCAR permits site visits that are necessary as part of a purchasing or product review process, but requires these activities to be disclosed to the University Ethics Officer. Please note that when a site visit is required within the Request for Proposal (RFP), the travel is considered part of the contract and is not a gift.

3. Conference registration waivers

Many software companies and vendors invite employees to attend conferences where the vendor waives the registration fee and/or provides meals and accommodations in exchange for employee participation or feedback. Though this is allowable per the law, don't be surprised if a corporation such as Microsoft or IBM requests that you have a form signed by your Ethics Officer, indicating the appropriateness and legality of accepting such gifts and/or accommodations. This pre-certification is becoming somewhat standard practice. To obtain Ethics Office approval, please submit the offer letter, along with any other agenda provided by the vendor (such as lodging accommodations and flight reservations), and an explanation of the value received by the University as a result of your attendance. This information will assist in our review and evaluation of the material as it relates to the law. University Ethics Office staff are typically able to respond to such requests within 24 hours, but we do ask that you provide as much advance notice as possible. All information can be emailed to ethicsofficer@uillinois.edu or faxed to 217-206-6211.

For more information related to the educational materials and missions, please review the Illinois Executive Ethics Commission JCAR ruling at: http://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/002/002016200G07000R.html.

The educational materials and mission exception is just one of twelve exceptions provided within the Ethics Act. To review a complete listing of the exceptions, please visit the Article 10: Gift Ban section of our web site at: http://www.ethics.uillinois.edu/policies_and_legislation/state_officials_and_employees_ethics_act. Here, you will find additional information related to the acceptance of meals, gifts based on personal friendship, nominal gifts, travel, lodging, inheritances, and intergovernmental gifts.

image of fireworks

To avoid creating fireworks (e.g., negative media, publicity, repercussions), employees should take into consideration any practices and/or procedures within their unit that may be more restrictive in regard to the acceptance of gifts. The more restrictive policy must always be followed.

Thank you for taking the time to read about the educational materials and missions exception to the Ethics Act. Please feel free to contact the University Ethics Office at 866-758-2146 with any questions or concerns you may have related to this or other aspects of the law.