Office of the General Counsel
Conflict of Interest & Commitment Opinion
General Rule: Employees of the institution may not benefit directly or indirectly from a decision made or influenced by the employee.
Example One: Where Faculty Member A is the author of a textbook.
1. Would it violate UCM Policy for A to assign A’s students the text authored by A? No, so long as A receives no royalties, see Opinion 1. below.
2. Would it violate UCM Policy for A to receive royalties from texts purchased by students in A’s classes? Yes, see Opinion 1. below.
3. Would it violate UCM Policy for A to benefit from the royalties of texts purchased by students in classes taught by faculty members other than A at UCM? Yes, if A has the ability to influence the textbook selection. No, if A has no ability to make or influence the textbook selection decision.
Opinion 1: UCM Board of Governors Policy, 2.1.050 prohibits officers or employees of the university from being interested, directly or indirectly, in transactions involving the sale or provision of materials for the university’s use. The UCM policy, promulgated to implement enforcement of RSMo 174.220, prohibits university officers or employees from making decisions that may appear to be tainted by potential self-interest. A faculty member may assign texts they have authored to their students at UCM only if the faculty member diverts the royalties that would be earned to the benefit of some other. The faculty member does not receive a direct benefit.
Payment of an amount equal to royalties received to the University Foundation is one acceptable way to avoid an interest so long as the faculty member cannot access the funds to accomplish a direct or indirect benefit. It may be argued that many Foundation expenditures indirectly benefit the faculty member such as providing a scholarship for a student in the faculty member’s department but this is first, remote and secondly, not within the control of the faculty member. Therefore it does not create an impermissible indirect interest. It is true that some donations to the Foundation, including diverting royalty payments, may result in a tax deduction. The possible beneficial impact of such a deduction is too remote to create a prohibited interest. Faculty members should maintain documentation of the fact that they did not benefit from royalties generated by texts sold to the faculty member’s students at UCM.
Example Two: Where Faculty Member A is the author of a textbook and also a member of the Board of Directors of Do Good, Inc., a non-profit corporation.
1. Would it violate UCM Policy for Do Good Inc., to receive royalties from A’s text sales for texts purchased by A’s students? Yes, if A is a member of the Do Gook, Inc. Board of Directors.
2. Would it violate UCM Policy for Do Good Inc., to receive royalties from A’s text sales for texts purchased by students who do not attend UCM? No, unless A has the ability to influence the textbook selection of those non-UCM students.
Opinion 2: While A is serving as a member of the Board of Directors for Do Good, Inc., A has a "Business Relationship" with the non-profit corporation. Assigning one’s own textbook will generate royalties and if A diverts them to Do Good, Inc., while A may not have a direct or indirect interest in them, diverting the royalties to Do Good, Inc., will create the appearance that A could be influenced by the business relationship.
Example Three: Would it violate UCM policy where Faculty Member A assigns a text of which A is not the author, but A is aware that the author will donate royalties from textbook sales to a charity favored by A. No, this is not a conflict of interest under the UCM policy.
First let me say that A should select a textbook based upon educational considerations alone. Still, this situation does not pose a conflict of interest. Since A does not control the donative decisions of the author there is no conflict for A. Believing the textbook royalties will go to a favorite charity does not create a conflict of interest because benefit to the charity is not a direct or indirect benefit to A.