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FAQ

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 duty” to the University 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 have mutual funds and a retirement account.  Some investments may be with companies that may do business with OU.  I also have a small business selling antiques on Ebay that takes no time away from my job and has nothing to do with my OU duties.  Do these need to be reported and approved?

No to all, as described.  With respect to the mutual funds and retirement account, the Individual Conflicts of Interest policy exempts “investment vehicles, such as mutual funds and retirement accounts" where the Employee "does not directly control the investment decisions made by such vehicles.”  With respect to the side business, the policy does not require reporting of employment unrelated to one’s OU duties unless the particular employment creates a risk of conflict; it also exempts “financial interests in a Company that does no business with the University, or does business with the University outside the course and scope of one’s University responsibilities.”  

I offer consulting services in the area of my OU employment.  My overall time commitment is less than a day a week.  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 with appointments between full-time and 0.8 fte, all outside professional employment must be disclosed.  For 9-month faculty, outside employment is limited to 10 hours per week during the academic year.  For staff, it is limited to time outside regular assigned hours.  For both faculty and staff, outside employment may be subject to further limitation if it otherwise constitutes a conflict of interest or commitment. 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 recently received an honorarium for giving the keynote address at a scholarly conference.  Is this reportable as outside professional employment?  

No.  The Individual Conflicts of Interest policy exempts "services of a scholarly or professional nature for which tokens of appreciation (honoraria) are traditionally conferred and are not undertaken for personal financial gain, for example a scholarly presentation or program evaluation.”  Honoraria are distinguishable from speaker fees, which are usually considerably higher and specified in advance by the speaker.

I teach one or two classes per semester at OU.  I also teach for other local colleges.  Do I need to report that?

No.  Reporting of outside professional employment is required only for OU employees from 1.0 to 0.8 fte.  Reporting for part-time employees below 0.8 fte is required only if the particular employment creates a risk of an actual conflict, or if the employee is engaged in sponsored research.

I have a full-time staff position at OU.  I also do consulting in the area of my professional duties.  What are the limitations on this activity?

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.) Consulting in the area of one’s professional duties should be disclosed for review as a possible conflict of interest.

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

  • I have any share or revenue-producing IP right in a non-publicly-traded company, or
  • I have receive more than $5,000 in the last year from a non-publicly-traded company
  • I have receiev more teh $5,000 (in equity value and income combined) from a publicly-traded company

(Significant Financial Interests do not include (1) any remuneration from the University, including IP royalties, or (2) interests in retirement accounts, mutual funds, and similar vehicles where the Employee does not control investment decisions.)

See Faculty Handbook section 5.10.6(F)

I teach courses in my professional area for another university during the summer, when I am not employed by OU.  Does this need to be reported?

Yes.    The policy provides “[d]uring any portion of the summer in which 9-month faculty are not on contract with the University, they may engage in outside professional employment without regard to the 10-hour-per-week limitation. Such outside professional employment is presumptively permitted; however, such employment must be disclosed for prior review for actual, potential, or apparent Conflicts of Interest and may not involve use of University Resources, including staff, except as otherwise provided by University policy and agreement by the appropriate office, e.g. the Office of Technology Development in the case of University-owned intellectual property. “  (Part-time instructors and lecturers with appointments less than 0.8 fte are exempt from reporting other employment unless they are engaged in sponsored research or the employment poses the risk of an actual conflict.) 

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.

To discuss options and best practices for digital publication of self-authored texts, contact Bizzell Library's Office of Open Initiatives & Scholarly Communication.