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My collaboration with colleagues at another university has resulted in an offer of a part-time position there. This will provide significant professional opportunities, and I have determined that I can fulfill the obligations of the position within OU’s limits on outside employment. Is this a conflict?

Yes, such employment is a conflict – usually a manageable one. Employment by another university creates conflicts with respect to teaching, research, and service.  A full-time faculty member’s “primary professional obligation” to the University (see Conflicts policy 5.7.1) may easily be compromised by professional obligations to another institution.  No paid position at another institution should be accepted without first disclosing the proposed arrangement and discussing the potential conflicts. Matters such as the listing of institutional affiliations in publications, recruiting of graduate students or postdoctoral fellows, and reporting of scholarly activities for evaluation must all be considered before the position is approved.

I offer consulting services in the area of my OU employment.  My overall time commitment is less than a day a week, but I earn well over 20% of my OU salary through that activity.  I do most consulting from home, but I do use my OU computer, email account and telephone to communicate with clients, and I occasionally use equipment in my OU lab to analyze samples.  Must any of this be disclosed?

For faculty and academic staff, all outside professional employment must be disclosed. Furthermore, outside employment becomes a conflict of commitment when it detracts from one’s full-time professional effort at OU.  The outside employment policy limits such employment to 25% of one’s full-time “effort”.  While time and effort usually coincide, there are occasions when a highly-compensated activity does not cross the traditional “day a week” threshold, yet may so distract from one’s OU duties that it constitutes a conflict of commitment.  Thus some discussion as a potential conflict of commitment is expected for any activity that exceeds 25% of either time or base salary.  As to computer, phone and lab use,  using OU resources to run a business is prohibited.  While truly minimal personal uses of OU telephones and email are generally not a problem, using those resources in a systematic way for a private business purpose is different.  Use of lab facilities or time for a private purpose is similarly prohibited unless covered under a facilities use agreement.

I am a part-time instructor, paid by the course, in the department where my ex-husband serves on Committee A.  I do not receive annual evaluations, my salary is the same as that of all other instructors, and my course assignments are determined by the coordinator of the program I teach in, not Committee A.  Are we subject to the nepotism policy?

Whether or not the nepotism policy applies, the relationship should be disclosed and a management plan may be required.  OU’s nepotism policy applies whenever two people are “related by affinity or consanguinity within the third degree” and either (1) one is “directly responsible” for making salary or advancement recommendations for the other; or (2) is in an “executive or administrative position”  in the department (or otherwise has administrative authority over it).  Here, the parties are no longer married, so the relation by “affinity” may be terminated.  However, there are many relationships outside the scope of the nepotism policy that may reasonably be seen to affect the exercise of one’s  OU duties — current or former romantic relationships, cohabitation, business partnerships, etc.  Any relationship than can reasonably appear to affect OU duties requires disclosure.

I am teaching a class this semester that my son, an OU student, wants to take.  Is this covered by the nepotism policy?

The relationship should be disclosed and may require management.  OU’s nepotism policy covers employment only.  The conflict of interest policy and state ethics rules cover other institutional functions where personal relationships may well create a conflict.  While teaching and grading one’s own family members obviously allows favoritism and can often be avoided by having the relative take another class, sometimes no other class is available.  In those instances, the conflict may be managed with the assistance of the unit chair or college, as appropriate

A leading software company is offering me a free laptop if I require my students to purchase the company’s application for my class.  The app is the best one on the market and I was going to make it a required purchase anyway.  May I accept the laptop?

No. State ethics rules provide that “No state officer or state employee shall accept any gift for himself or herself or his or her family member from any vendor or vendor’s agent at any time the vendor is doing business with the state officer or state employee’s agency through a contract involving property or services.”   There are exceptions for certain kinds of small or customary gifts but no exception applies here.  

I have a full-time staff position at OU.  I also do consulting in the area of my professional duties.  Since the limit on outside employment is 25%, am I free to take up to a day each week for my consulting?

Except for flexible-scheduling arrangements that should be clearly described and approved (see Staff Handbook sec. 3.9.1, Flexible Scheduling), holding a full-time staff position means being available at work full-time during normal business hours.  Whatever schedule is approved, it is expected that absence from work during scheduled work hours will be taken as leave.  (See Staff Handbook sec. 3.10 for discussion of paid leave.) The 25% limit on outside activity supplements these rules on leave and does not supersede them.  

I (i.e., myself personally, and/or my family) have a “Significant Financial Interest” in a company, consulting service, or other enterprise when

  • I own more than 5% of it, or
  • My share’s market value exceeds $5,000, or
  • I earned more than $1,000 in dividends from it last year, or
  • I have any share whatsoever in a “spin-off” company (one licensed to commercialize my OU research), or
  • I earn more than 25% of my individual OU salary from professional consulting

See Faculty Handbook secs. 5.10.3(T) and 5.10.5(A)

Can I require my students to purchase a textbook that I wrote?  Am I required to relinquish the royalties and if so, how should I do that?

Faculty may receive royalties from sales of required textbooks pursuant to Faculty Handbook sec. 4.25.1.  However, it is expected that this permission extends only to texts published by scholarly or other national or regional presses after some form of peer review.  Personal receipt of royalties from OU students for self-published texts, instructional material posted on the Internet, and the like is not permitted.  Some faculty choose to donate royalties to the OU Foundation, but this is not required, nor does donation legitimize a personal profit that is not otherwise permissible