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Queen's University
 

University Secretariat

Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment Policy (Faculty)

Approved by the Senate September 28, 1995
Ratified by the Board of Trustees on September 28, 2001

(This policy applies to all faculty who are not members of the Queen's University Faculty Association bargaining unit.)

[Supersedes Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment approved by Senate, May 22, 1986 and by the Board of Trustees, October 17, 1986]


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Conflict of Interest
  3. Conflict of Commitment
  4. Reporting Conflicts of Interest and/or Commitment
  5. Approval Requirement
  6. Appeal
  7. Confidential Disclosure
  8. Distribution and Notification

I. Introduction

Policy Objective

The primary responsibility of faculty members at Queen's lies in the teaching, research, administrative and scholarly duties inherent in their appointment. Commitments to activities outside the University at the local, national and international level are actively encouraged to broaden scholarly activity and enhance the reputation of Queen's and its faculty. The University Appointment: Freedom and Responsibility (1992), recognizes that "the nature and extent of each Faculty member's endeavours are matters to be agreed upon with the University. These professional endeavours in total comprising some combination of teaching, supervision, research, scholarship, professional service or consultative work, and administration may vary from time to time for any individual and may differ among individuals. A faculty member's responsibilities may require absence from the campus for periods of time".

To avoid a potential conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment (time) with outside activities, faculty members should make formal prior disclosure to ensure that primary responsibilities are met, that a given commitment may enhance the reputation of the faculty member and the University or that a conflict or potential conflict is resolved.

The objective of this policy is to clarify Queen's University's expectations regarding conflicts of interest and commitment. The policy sets out general expectations and examples, recognizing the impracticality of attempting to address the specifics of all eventualities which may lead to or result in a conflict.

The University Appointment

A university is an institution of intellectual inquiry responsible for advancing and disseminating knowledge. The Senate document entitled The University Appointment: Freedom and Responsibility (1992) confirms that the faculty member holding a university appointment has no exact counterpart elsewhere. Because of the nature of the university as an institution of intellectual enquiry, faculty members require distinctive freedom in the use of their time and in the direction of their enterprises, at the same time, they must accept the responsibility of ensuring that their time is well spent and that their enterprises are directed fruitfully. This concept of freedom, coupled with responsibility, is embodied in our university custom and tradition.

Role of Faculty

Faculty members at Queen's University, defined as members of the University who hold the academic rank of professor, associate professor, assistant professor or lecturer, have a primary responsibility to execute the teaching, research, scholarly, clinical and other duties for which they were appointed. Commitments outside Queen's University, remunerated or otherwise, are encouraged, provided that they do not impinge on the fulfillment of the faculty member's primary responsibility. Many outside commitments may enhance both a faculty member's execution of that primary responsibility and the outreach of Queen's University to local and international communities. The freedom that faculty members enjoy to engage in these outside activities may, however, lead to circumstances in which their personal interests conflict or may appear to conflict with their primary responsibility to the University.

All faculty members have an obligation to disclose activities that a reasonably informed objective observer would believe conflict with his or her primary responsibilities. Formal prior disclosure of an actual or potential conflict is the essential first step to establishing that undue interference with a faculty member's primary responsibilities does not occur and that the pursuit of an outside commitment is of value to Queen's University in that it adds to the skills or experience of the faculty member and/or expands the outreach of the University.

This policy will replace the Senate Statement on Conflict of Interest and Conflict of Commitment, 1986. It should be read in conjunction with other relevant University policy statements. Reference should be made to the following documents which are available on the University Secretariat website:

  • The University Appointment: Freedom and Responsibility as amended November 1992

  • Regulations Governing Appointment, Renewal of Appointment, Tenure and Termination for Academic Staff as amended March 2, 1995

  • A Code of Research Ethics, October 22, 1987

Individual faculties may retain existing policies in this area or may develop more detailed or more restrictive policies, provided they ar consistent with this policy and have been approved by Senate.

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II. Conflict of Interest

An actual or potential conflict of interest arises when a person is placed in a situation where his or her personal interest, financial or other, or that of an immediate family member or of a person with whom there exists, or has recently existed an intimate, personal relationship, conflicts or appears to conflict with his or her primary responsibility to the University. For the purposes of this Policy, immediate family member means a spouse, partner, parent, child or sibling.

The existence of an actual or potential conflict of interest does not necessarily preclude the involvement of the individual in the situation where the conflict has arisen or may arise, but it does mean that the conflict should be declared by the individual and resolved in conjunction with the person to whom the faculty member reports.It is recognized that in some situations, there may be legitimate doubt as to whether a conflict of interest exists, in which case, discussion with the person to whom the faculty member reports may clarify the issue and/or lead to a solution.

Examples

The following examples, while not comprehensive, are illustrative of situations which may lead to a conflict of interest and which should be disclosed.

  • Entering into a research, business or other contract/transaction on behalf of the University with a company or firm in which the faculty member, a member of his or her immediate family or a person with whom there exists, or has recently existed, an intimate personal relationship, has a financial interest.

  • Influencing the purchase of equipment, materials or services for the University from a company or firm in which the faculty member, a member of his or her immediate family or a person with whom there exists, or has recently existed, an intimate personal relationship, has a financial interest.

  • Accepting gifts, benefits or favours from individuals or firms with which the University does business, with the exception of minor gifts as token courtesies.

  • Assigning reading material, software or other teaching material to students, when the assignment will result in personal gain for the assigning faculty member.

  • Directing students or staff to carry out work for a company or firm in which the supervising faculty member, a member of his or her immediate family, or a person with whom there exists or has recently existed an intimate, personal relationship, has a financial interest.

  • Use of University resources or facilities for the faculty member's personal benefit or the benefit of the faculty member's immediate family or a person with whom there exists or has recently existed an intimate, personal relationship.

  • Participating in the appointment, hiring, promotion, or evaluation of a person with whom the faculty member has a marital or familial relationship, or with whom there exists or has recently existed an intimate, personal relationship.

  • Supervising or evaluating a student who is a member of the immediate family or with whom there exists or has recently existed an intimate, personal relationship.

  • Using for personal gain, or other unauthorized purpose, information acquired as a result of the faculty member's University activities which is not available to the general public; such information might include, for example, knowledge of forthcoming developments requiring contractor or consultant selection or bulk purchases, but not the faculty member's own intellectual property.

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III. Conflict of Commitment

A full-time appointment to the University entails a year round commitment to teaching, research and service to the University. Paragraph 3.1 of the University Appointment: Freedom and Responsibility provides that " a member of faculty, holding either a full or part-time appointment, is responsible to the University throughout the twelve months of the year unless a shorter period of responsibility has been negotiated.

A conflict of commitment arises when an individual's external activities or commitments, paid or unpaid, interfere with his or her primary responsibilities to the University because they detract from rather than enhance the faculty member's ability to meet those responsibilities.

Example

  • Undertaking external teaching, consulting, professional or non-professional activities or commitments which, by virtue of their time commitment, interfere with the faculty member's ability to fulfill his or her primary responsibilities to the University.

 

IV. Reporting Conflicts of Interest and/or Commitment

  1. In addition to reporting requirements contained in other University policies, a faculty member has an obligation to disclose, as soon as she or he could reasonably be aware that a potential conflict exists, all actual or potential conflicts of interest and/or commitment to the person to whom she or he reports.

  2. If the person to whom the faculty member reports has an interest in the matter to be discussed, the disclosure should be made to the person at the next higher level of authority (usually the Dean, Vice-Principal, or the Principal).

  3. The person to whom the faculty member reports, in consultation with the faculty member and others, where appropriate, will determine whether a conflict exists.

  4. In the event that there is an actual or potential conflict, the person to whom the faculty member reports and the member will agree on a course of action to resolve the conflict, and the agreement will be in writing.

  5. In the event that agreement cannot be reached, the case will be referred to the next higher level of authority for resolution, up to and including the Dean, the appropriate Vice-Principal, or the Principal.

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V. Approval Requirement

    1. If a faculty member plans to undertake a major external activity, which will involve a commitment of more time then is allowable in the relevant Faculty, the faculty member must disclose and seek approval to undertake the activity in accordance with the steps set out in IV. The disclosure shall specify:

      1. the nature of the work;

      2. an estimate of the time required to perform the work;

      3. the extent, if any, of the use of University facilities, supplies, support staff or students;

      4. any other external activities that have already been approved in that year or which are continuing from an earlier year; and

      5. the impact the activity will have on teaching, research and service responsibilities.

    2. The person to whom the faculty member reports shall evaluate the request in light of the extent to which the activity will enhance or detract from the fulfillment of the primary teaching, research, and service responsibilities of the faculty member.

    3. The person to whom the faculty member reports shall consider the request for approval as soon as possible and shall render a decision in writing within 10 days. The decision must reflect consistency of treatment among the faculty members in the division or department.

    4. If the major external activity would detract from the fulfillment of the faculty member's primary responsibilities, the person to whom the faculty member reports may require, in granting approval, that the faculty member take full or partial released time without pay-, moreover, if a faculty member wishes to continue such activity indefinitely, the faculty member may be required to relinquish his or her status as a full-time appointee.

    5. If approval is denied, the faculty member shall be provided with the reasons for the denial in the letter of denial.

 

VI. Appeal

Any faculty member dissatisfied with the application of this Policy may file a grievance pursuant to The Senate Statement on Grievance, Discipline and Related Matters.

 

VII. Confidential Disclosure

All information or reports disclosed in accordance with this Policy will be held in confidence.

 

VIII. Distribution and Notification

This Policy shall be distributed to each faculty member upon its approval. Thereafter, it shall be given to each faculty member upon initial appointment.

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Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000