Faculty protection needed in unit-level conflict policies
Faculty members should be heavily involved when conflict of interest (COI) and conflict of commitment (COC) guidelines are developed at the unit level, say Senate Assembly members who recently adopted a model policy they hope will help protect faculty interests during the process.
In July, the University revised Standard Practice Guide 201.65-1, "Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment," which, among other things, says "the dean of each school and college, in consultation with the faculty ... and the director of each administrative unit, must articulate and disseminate implementation policies that apply to faculty and/or staff within that unit."
A Model Policy for Conflict of Interest/Conflict of Commitment Issue approved by the Senate Assembly Oct. 31 states any such policies developed at the unit level should be mindful of faculty rights to due process, assumption of no conflict, and rights to appeal to a determinative committee of faculty peers.
Assembly members are recommending faculty members take the model policy back to their units to help address concerns as COI/COC policies take shape.
"Because the role of the faculty is unique within an academic setting, conflict of interest and conflict of commitment policies should center on faculty-based evaluation and management," the model policy states. "Any requirements for disclosure of potential conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment must focus strictly on legitimate academic areas of concern and must not properly interfere with the privacy rights of faculty members and their families."
Senate Assembly and Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) Chair Bruno Giordani, said the University's desire for individual units to develop their own policies will allow faculty to participate in the process, something SACUA has stressed since the SPG came up for review during the summer.
The SPG states a COI may exist "whenever personal, professional, commercial or financial interests or activities outside of the University" have the potential to:
• compromise a faculty or staff member's judgment;
• bias the nature or direction of scholarly research;
• influence a decision or behavior regarding teaching, student affairs, appointments and promotions, use of University resources or human subjects; or
• result in personal or family gain at the expense of the University.
A COC is defined as potentially existing when the faculty or staff member's external relationships, in reality or appearance, interfere or compete with the educational, research or service missions of the University, or with the individual's ability to "perform the full range of responsibilities associated with his or her position."
The SPG states when a faculty member disputes any action or decision related to a potential COI/COC, existing University policies for disputes will be used (see http://www.provost.umich.edu/faculty/handbook/10/index.html). The Assembly policy calls for the election of seven members of the governing faculty to a COI/COC Committee to review and assess cases of possible conflicts.
"The committees should be nominated and elected 100 percent by faculty," said Assembly member Dr. Charles Koopmann Jr., professor and associate chair of otorhinolaryngology, and professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases.
The Assembly policy is available at: http://www.umich.edu/~sacua/SenAssb/COI-COC_Resolution.pdf. To view the SPG, go to: http://spg.umich.edu/pdf/201.65-1.pdf.