Staff Policy on Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment
Revised: July 1, 2013
The University of Michigan updated its policies as they relate to conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment in 2005. The University’s update of the Standard Practice Guide (SPG 201.65-1) requires the deans of the schools or colleges and the directors of administrative units to articulate and disseminate implementation policies that apply to faculty and/or staff within those units. The implementation policy and procedures for Dearborn staff are provided below. This policy and its procedures apply to all full-time staff, whether permanent or temporary, and to all permanent part-time staff in the unit. The University expects all staff to be familiar with the contents of SPG 201.65-1 and with the applicable set of unit implementation procedures.
A. Statement of Principles for University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Policy
The policy section of SPG 201.65-1 outlines a set of key principles relevant to conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment, including the principles stated below.
All staff members are to act with honesty, integrity, and in the best interest of the University when performing their duties, and to abide by the highest standards of research, educational, professional, and fiscal conduct. Outside activities should not interfere with an individual’s University obligations. Staff must not use their official University positions or influence for further gain or advancement for themselves, parents, siblings, spouse or partner, children, dependent relatives, or other personal associates, at the expense of the University. In accordance with its mission, however, the University of Michigan allows and encourages staff to engage in outside activities and relationships that enhance the mission of the University. As a result, potential conflicts of interest and commitment are inevitable and are not necessarily problematic. Rather, the essential point is that faculty and staff must disclose these potential conflicts of interest so that they can be evaluated and, if necessary, managed or eliminated.
The specific definitions for a potential conflict of interest and potential conflict of commitment in Section II.A of SPG 201.65-1 also apply to the procedures described below. Broadly defined, a potential conflict of interest encompasses external ties that may or may appear to improperly bias a staff member’s judgment in performing his or her University job responsibilities. A potential conflict of commitment, broadly defined, encompasses situations in which a staff member’s external relationships or activities may or may appear to interfere or compete with the University’s mission, or with the staff member’s ability or willingness to perform his or her job responsibilities.
B. Disclosing, Evaluating, and Managing Potential Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment
1. Disclosing potential conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment
When a potential conflict of interest or conflict of commitment exists for a staff member, he or she must promptly disclose it in accordance with University policy (SPG 201.65-1, Section III.A.3.). UM-Dearborn staff members are required to disclose potential conflicts in the University’s COI disclosure system, M-Inform, which can be accessed through Wolverine Access. Details are posted on the Dearborn Provost’s website.
Examples of potential conflicts include (but are not limited to):
- Performing work for other University departments or units for additional pay;
- Participating in decisions or deliberations where your own personal financial interests are or could be affected;
- Participating in decisions or deliberations where a family member is or could be affected, financially or otherwise (Note: As stated in SPG 201.65-1, family members include parents, siblings, a spouse or partner, children, and dependent relatives);
- Performing activities for non-University entities for pay;
- Accepting gifts, entertainment, or other items of value from vendors or other third parties that have or might have business with the University;
- Accepting an incentive or benefit to gain access to a staff member’s supervisor;
- Selling goods or services to the University by an employee or by a company in which the employee has an interest.
A potential conflict exists when a vendor, current or potential, gives a gift or a benefit to a staff member. General University policy prohibits employees from accepting any gift of substantial value from vendors or students (Regents’ Bylaw 2.16).
2. Evaluating disclosures of potential conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment
The Dean, Director or Department Head, shall review all disclosed potential conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment. The Dean, Director or Department Head may require the staff member to provide additional information or documentation that may be relevant to evaluating the potential conflict of interest or conflict of commitment.
The Dean, Director or Department Head will inform and, as needed, consult with appropriate supporting administrative offices (e.g., Dearborn Office of the Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Dearborn Human Resources and Affirmative Action, Dearborn Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Office of the Vice President for Research, Office of Procurement Services, Office of the Vice President and General Counsel).
3. Developing plans to manage potential conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment
When the Dean, Director or Department Head has determined that a potential conflict of interest or conflict of commitment exists that must be managed or eliminated, he or she must develop, in consultation with the employee, a recommended plan for managing the potential conflict. The Dean, Director or Department Head will then provide the plan to the employee’s supervisor, who has authority for approving it. The supervisor will provide the employee with a copy of the approved conflict management plan and will discuss any related ambiguities or issues that arise.
4. Involving other University individuals or offices, as required
When a potential conflict involves the purchase of goods or services, the Dean, Director or Department Head must also disclose the conflict to the appropriate staff person in the University’s Office of Procurement Services, and also to the unit staff member responsible for handling unit purchases. If the Dean, Director or Department Head determines that a conflict exists that must be managed or eliminated, he or she will consult with these individuals in developing a plan to manage the conflict.
When a potential conflict involves work performed for a research project, the Dean, Director or Department Head must inform the project director or principal investigator of the research project and the Director of the Dearborn Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. If it is determined that a conflict exists that must be further disclosed, managed, or eliminated, it is the responsibility of the Dean, Director or Department Head to ensure that the appropriate University Conflict of Interest Committee is notified. When the conflict is disclosed in M-Inform, associated with a sponsored project, normally the University’s Conflict of Interest Committee is automatically notified.
C. Administering the Policy
1. Record-Keeping and Issues of Confidentiality and Privacy
When personal financial or associational documents are provided to the Dean, Director or Department Head, the documents shall be placed in a secure file accessible only to the Dean, Director or Department Head and the unit supervisor. Where any other staff member has a legitimate business reason to access the documentation, then the Dean, Director or Department Head or the unit supervisor may authorize access to the file and provide either copies and/or information, as may be required for the stated business purpose. If the Dean, Director or Department Head, the supervisor, or his or her designate, provides copies of information in the files to a staff member, he or she must also ask that staff member to maintain the same level of confidentiality for the copied information as applies to the original information or documents. Documentation of the staff member’s disclosure, the approved management plan, and description of action taken shall be included within M-Inform record, if this feature is available, otherwise it will be stored in a secure file or in the individual’s personnel file.
In some circumstances, the University is required to disclose potential conflicts to people within or outside the University. For example, if a conflict exists within the context of a federally sponsored project, the University is required both to disclose the existence of that conflict to the federal government and to indicate whether it has managed the conflict. Also, the University may be legally required to disclose information in response to requests made under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In addition to the people listed above, should any other individual have a legitimate educational or business reason to access the confidential records, whether in the context of a federally sponsored project, a FOIA request, or otherwise, the Dean, Director or Department Head, the unit supervisor, or other authorized University official may authorize access to the file, provide copies, or provide oral or written summaries of the information in the file. Where possible, the individual to whom the Dean, Director or Department Head or unit supervisor authorizes disclosure shall be required to maintain at least the same level of confidentiality as applies to the original information.
Administrators of this policy will make every reasonable effort to preserve confidentiality and protect the privacy of all parties in the course of investigating a potential conflict of interest or commitment and, as applicable, in developing a plan to manage the conflict. (See Regents’ Bylaw 14.07 Privacy and Access to Information and SPG 201.46 Personnel Records – Collection, Retention and Release.)
Any faculty or staff member who becomes aware of an individual who has provided or may have provided unwarranted access to conflict documentation or information, as defined in this policy, should inform the Chancellor. To follow up, the Chancellor will investigate the allegation and, where appropriate, take personnel action.
2. Resolving Disputes
When a staff member disputes any action or decision related to a potential conflict of interest or conflict of commitment, the staff member should first ask that the action or decision be reviewed by his or her supervisor.
If, following the above review, the staff member remains unsatisfied with the determination, action, decision, or management plan, the staff member may initiate existing University policies and procedures for handling disputes, when available.
Any violation of SPG 201.65-1 or this implementing policy may be a cause for disciplinary action. In the first instance, the employee’s supervisor shall evaluate the violation and take appropriate action, if needed, all in accordance with existing University policies and procedures. Consultation with the employee’s Human Resources representative may be appropriate. If appropriate, all relevant documentation may also be included within the employee’s personnel file maintained as provided under SPG 201.46.
4. Policy Review and Revision
The Dean, Director or Department Head shall regularly review all potential conflict disclosures and actions taken with the appropriate Vice Chancellor to ensure a consistent approach to potential conflicts within the unit. The Vice Chancellor shall similarly regularly consult and review potential conflict management issues with the Chancellor. If the Chancellor determines that any of the changes he or she would like to adopt will materially change the policy, the Vice Chancellor will follow the procedures used to adopt the original policy. The Chancellor will submit the approved policy to the President for formal adoption. A current version of the Dearborn’s policy should be on file with the Chancellor, included in the Dearborn Administrative Guide, and posted on the Dearborn Provost’s website.
D. Governing Policies
This policy implements Standard Practice Guide (“SPG”) 201.65-1, Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment, and incorporates SPG 201.65-1 in its entirety. Implementation of SPG 201.65-1 at the University of Michigan-Dearborn should conform to other University of Michigan policies and procedures, including all Regents’ Bylaws and Standard Practice Guide (SPG) sections, as well as with any relevant external rules of professional conduct and applicable law. Relevant policies, procedures, rules, and law include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Regents’ Bylaw 2.16, regarding gifts to University employees;
- Regents’ Bylaw 5.13, regarding governmental elected or appointed service;
- Regents’ Bylaw 5.14, regarding leaves of absence;
- SPG 201.12, regarding misconduct and discipline;
- SPG 201.23, regarding appointment of individuals with close personal or external business relationships;
- SPG 201.65-0, regarding employment outside the University;
- SPG 201.65-1, regarding Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment;
- SPG 201.85, regarding special stipends for work performed for other University units, the payment of honoraria, and the payment of travel expenses;
- SPG 500.01, 601.03-2, and 601.11, in particular to the extent that they address copyright and other appropriate use of University resources, such as the libraries, office space, computers, secretarial and administrative support staff, and supplies;
- Office of Vice President for Research (OVPR) Policy on Conflict of Interest in Sponsored Research and Technology Transfer Agreements; and
- Michigan Compiled Laws § 15.321 et seq., regarding contracts of public employees with their employers.
- Where applicable, the relevant collective bargaining agreement.
In the event of any inconsistency between this policy and other University or external requirements, those other requirements will prevail. In interpreting this policy the Dean, Director or Department Head should be attentive to preserve the principle of academic freedom of speech and thought. In addition, policy administrators will make every reasonable effort to preserve confidentiality and protect the privacy of all parties in the course of investigating and managing a potential conflict of interest or commitment.
This revision includes formatting to improve readability, revise text for clarification, and incorporate the procedures for using M-Inform, the University’s Disclosure System. These changes are considered to be not material changes to policy as described in this document.