18.4 Conflicts of Commitment (Effort)

(Amended 4/05; 10/1/13; 1/14; 7/1/17)

Effective July 1, 2017, this policy has been revised. For individual changes, see the redlined version.

  1. Policy. All full-time regular UI faculty members, including administrators with faculty appointments, owe their primary professional commitment, commensurate with their appointment percentage, to the fulfillment of the University's mission. A "conflict of commitment" involves a situation in which a faculty member engages in an "external activity" (see II-18.4d for definition), which requires time and/or effort such that the activity interferes, or appears to interfere, with fulfillment of the faculty member's obligations to the University. Faculty members are expected to disclose potential conflicts of commitment per the guidelines below (see II-18.4e(1)). DEOs or equivalent are responsible for reviewing the disclosure and developing a management plan, if needed. Faculty members are encouraged to actively participate in external activities, but must also ensure that the activities do not compromise their ability to fulfill university duties. In general, the time allotted to external activities in lieu of university obligations and excluding "academic activities" (see definitions below), should not exceed nine business days per academic term (i.e., Fall, Spring, and Summer session for fiscal year appointments).
  2. Scope of Policy.
    1. Faculty. The Conflict of Commitment policy applies to all full-time regular UI faculty members, including administrators with faculty appointments. Nothing in these rules shall be construed to require the disclosure of external activities for any period during which a faculty member is not on a University appointment (e.g., activities performed during an unpaid leave of absence, activities during the summer for academic year faculty).
    2. Professional and scientific or merit staff, or student employees, including graduate assistants. A member of the professional and scientific or merit staff, or a student employee, who engages in external activities, compensated or uncompensated, can do so during regularly scheduled work hours only if the employee uses vacation time, is on an unpaid leave of absence, or has made special arrangements with his or her supervisor.
  3. Oversight of Policy. This policy is overseen by the Office of the Provost (for faculty commitment) and the University Human Resources (for staff-related circumstances). Departmental Executive Officers (DEOs) and/or equivalent supervisors play a key role in reviewing disclosures to determine whether a conflict exists and, if so, in the development and monitoring of a written management plan.
  4. Definitions.
    1. "Academic activities" include activities which are often an expected part of a faculty member's professional portfolio, whether compensated or uncompensated. These activities do not typically require disclosure unless the time committed to them interferes with the performance of other assigned duties (e.g., classes, scheduled office hours). Examples of academic activities include (but are not limited to):
      1. Holding office in, or undertaking an editorial office or duties for a scholarly journal, academic press, or professional organization;
      2. Serving as a referee for a scholarly journal or an academic press;
      3. Serving on a professional review board or peer review bodies;
      4. Attending or presenting at professional meetings, workshops, colloquia, symposia, seminars, or training programs;
      5. Visiting other sites in connection with accreditation, audits, sponsored project reviews, research, or like activities;
      6. Writing or producing academically related books, articles, software and similar materials, or other creative works ordinarily considered in decisions relating to the employee's employment status or salary; or
      7. University-related public engagement.
    2. "Annual Report of Outside Professional Activities and Interests" is an annual online report completed by faculty members, including administrators with faculty appointments, for the purpose of disclosing all outside professional activities, compensated or uncompensated, from the previous calendar year. "Academic activities" are excluded from this reporting requirement.
    3. "Business day" means every Monday through Friday during regular business hours and the time on any Saturday, Sunday, or evening when a faculty member is scheduled to work, but does not include any University holiday or day that the faculty member takes a vacation day or sick leave.
    4. "Compensation" is remuneration or valuable goods received for work performed and does not include reimbursement for reasonable expenses.
    5. "Disclose" means providing written notice of a specific external activity (see definition below) in advance of engaging in the activity or whenever the situation changes to provide an opportunity for the review and management of possible conflicts or commitment and interest in the workplace.
    6. "Entity" means a non-UI organization, whether public, private, or not-for-profit.
    7. "External activities" are services to a non-University entity, whether or not related to the faculty member's professional expertise. These activities may require disclosure in advance of engaging in the activity per paragraph e(1)(c) below.
    8. "Outside professional activities" are services to a non-university entity, whether compensated or not, which involve the use of a faculty member's expertise or the practice of their profession and are not a part of the employee's position responsibilities. These activities require disclosure per paragraph e(1)(a) below before engaging in the activity.
  5. Implementation of Policy.
    1. (1) Disclosure of External Activities: This policy requires that all regular full-time faculty members, including administrators with faculty appointments, shall use the following guidelines in determining whether to submit a written disclosure of external activities to their DEO or equivalent in advance of initiating the activity (or whenever the situation changes):
      1. Outside Professional Activities (e.g., consulting with or otherwise working for a non-University entity) that take place during a standard "business day" (see definition) shall be disclosed in advance of initiating the work;
      2. Academic Activities shall be disclosed in advance only if the time required to conduct the activity interferes with the performance of assigned duties (e.g., faculty member will miss a class, regular office hours); or
      3. External Activities, which are not related to a faculty member's professional expertise, shall be disclosed in advance of undertaking the activity only if engaging in the activity requires a substantial commitment of time or compromises, or has the appearance of compromising, a faculty member's professional judgment in performing his or her University duties (e.g., teaching, research, business decision making) (see II-18.5 Conflicts of Interest in the Workplace below).
    2.  Additional disclosure may be required under different policies (see II-18.5 Conflict of Interest in the Workplace, II-18.6 Conflict of Interest in Research, II-18.8 Other University of Iowa Policies Related to Conflict of Interest, and UI Health Care Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy).
    3. The existence of a conflict of commitment is not always clear-cut. University employees are expected to make a reasonable effort to determine whether their activities create, or appear to create, such conflicts. If there is any uncertainty, faculty members should consult their DEO or equivalent.
    4. (2) Review by DEO or Equivalent: When an external activity is disclosed, the DEO or equivalent will evaluate the disclosure to determine whether: 1) a conflict of commitment exists and, 2) if yes, whether any further action is needed. The DEO or equivalent shall consider the following questions in the review:
      1. Has the faculty member made satisfactory arrangements to cover all university responsibilities during his or her absence?
      2. Has the faculty member engaged in "outside professional activities" during the current appointment year in excess of nine business days per academic term (i.e., Fall, Spring, Summer)?
      3. Does engaging in the professional activity advance the skills and abilities of the faculty member, with resultant benefit to the employing unit?
      4. Will engaging in the activity be detrimental to the unit or university?
      5. Is the faculty member in good standing and meeting expected standards of performance?
      6. Does the activity interfere or have the appearance of interfering with the faculty member's assigned duties?
    5. When reviewing disclosures it should be acknowledged that much faculty work is conducted outside of the traditional business day and often outside of the office (e.g., course preparation, writing and other forms of research/scholarship). It can be difficult, therefore, to monitor whether the time devoted to external activities conflicts with fulfillment of a faculty member's university commitments. DEOs are encouraged to monitor whether a faculty member is meeting his or her expected performance standards when determining whether a conflict of commitment exists. Annual reviews and five-year peer reviews for tenured faculty may assist in making this determination (see III-10.7 Review of Tenured Faculty Members).
    6. (3) Management Plan: If the DEO or equivalent determines that engaging in the external activity poses a conflict of commitment, the DEO or equivalent will work with the faculty member to develop a written management plan using a template provided by the Provost Office (https://provost.uiowa.edu/conflict-commitment). Management plan actions will vary based on the situation and may include: requiring nothing beyond documentation of disclosure, arrangements to cover all university responsibilities during his or her absence, strategies to eliminate the conflictual elements of the activity, and/or prohibition of the activity. A management strategy for a conflict of commitment shall not include any reduction in an employee's salary and shall not otherwise take into account payments received by an employee for outside activities, unless the management strategy also includes a formal reduction in employee effort or a leave of absence from the University.
    7. A copy of management plans related to Conflicts of Commitment shall be maintained in the employee's personnel file. No account of disclosures or management plans shall be taken into consideration at a later date when setting the annual salary of an employee, including any payments received by an employee from outside sources that are disclosed in connection with the employee's disclosure of any conflict of commitment or interest.
    8. (4) Monitoring: An employee's disclosures and any existing management plans will be reviewed annually (e.g., at annual review), or as needed.
    9. (5) Annual Report of Outside Professional Activities and Interests: All regular UI faculty members with a 50 percent or greater appointment, including administrators with faculty appointments, are required to complete an Annual Report of Outside Professional Activities and Interests for the previous calendar year by April 30 of each year.
  6. Appeal. If an employee wishes to dispute a proposed management plan, the governing procedures for faculty are the Faculty Dispute Procedures (III-29) and that portion of those procedures dealing with faculty grievances (III-29.6); for professional and scientific staff the governing procedures are the Grievance Procedures for Professional and Scientific Personnel (III-28.4); for merit staff the governing procedures are the Merit System Members Grievance Procedures (III-28.3). Student employees may appeal through any existing contractual grievance procedures.
  7. Noncompliance. Failure to disclose a conflict and/or comply with required management strategies constitutes a violation of University policy and may also violate state and federal law. Employees may be subject to sanctions for violation of this policy, including disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.
  8. Campus Education/Training. An annual notification will be sent to all UI employees by the Office of the Provost, University Human Resources, and the Office of Vice President for Research to remind the campus of the existence of conflicts of interest and commitment policies and the importance of campus compliance with the disclosure and management provisions. Additionally, campuswide resources will be available online for individuals and DEOs/supervisors regarding how to disclose, review, and manage conflicts.
  9.  Reporting. The University will provide initial and ongoing reports of its management of conflicts of commitment to external governance bodies as required by law and in accordance with this policy.
  10. Records. Records relating to all employee disclosures and the University's review and management of such disclosures, will be maintained by the University for as long as the employee is engaging in the activity that is the subject of the disclosure and/or three years after the faculty member's termination.