Conflicts of Interest and Commitment

University Policy: 
Executive Summary: 

(Because formerly numbered University Policy 102.2, Conflicts of Interest and Commitment, was recently revised to be applicable to both EHRA employees and designated SHRA employees, it is no longer appropriate to include it in Chapter 102 of the University Policy series, which applies only to faculty and EHRA employees. Therefore this policy has moved to Chapter 101, Personnel Policies of General Application, and is now designated as University Policy 101.24.)

Faculty and staff are encouraged to engage in appropriate outside research or non-research activities if the activities are consonant with the objectives of the University. Outside activities and financial interests must be arranged so as not to interfere with the primacy of University commitments. Likewise, employees should avoid conflicts of interest that affect the interests of the University, or compromise objectivity in carrying out University responsibilities. Faculty and staff must complete the Annual Conflict Evaluation forms and submit the forms to their department chairs/unit supervisors no later than October 1 of each year. Updated forms must be submitted throughout the year if changes arise.

I. Policy Statement and Purpose

Faculty and staff are expected to avoid conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment that have the potential to significantly affect the University’s interests or compromise an individual’s objectivity in carrying out their university employment responsibilities, unless such conflicts are disclosed, reviewed and appropriately managed in accordance with the provisions of this Policy.  Activities undertaken by the faculty and staff of UNC Charlotte in furtherance of the University’s mission will be conducted in an ethical and transparent manner consistent with federal and state law and University policy.  Accordingly, outside activities and financial interests must be arranged so as to avoid such conflicts.

The purpose of this policy is to help faculty and staff recognize the types of personal interests, outside activities and relationships that may create conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment in the performance of their University duties, and to describe the process for disclosure and review of interests, activities and relationships.

II. Applicability

This Policy applies to all UNC Charlotte faculty and staff of the University and its affiliated entities.

III. Conflict of Interest

The term “Conflict of Interest” refers to situations in which financial or other personal considerations, circumstances or relationships may compromise, may involve the potential for compromising, or may have the appearance of compromising a faculty or staff member’s objectivity in carrying out their University duties or responsibilities.   The bias that such conflicts can cause may adversely affect many University responsibilities, including, but not limited to, decisions about University personnel, the purchase of equipment and supplies, the selection of contractors and vendors, the selection of instructional material for classroom use, the mentoring of students and assessment of their work, and the design, conduct, or reporting of research.

Faculty and staff may have a conflict of interest when they, or any member of their immediate family, possesses a significant financial interest in an activity that involves their employment responsibilities.  While a conflict of interest may result from a relationship, participation in an activity, or other nonfinancial interests, the majority of conflicts of interest result from a financial interest of a faculty or staff member who is in a position to make a supervisory, academic, or administrative decision which may be compromised because of the potential for personal financial gain.

IV. Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest

The following individuals are required to complete and submit the Annual Evaluation for Possible Conflict of Interest or Commitment ("Conflict of Interest Questionnaire") in accordance with the procedures supplemental to this policy

  • All full-time, part-time and adjunct members of the faculty;
  • All non-faculty EHRA staff;
  • Designated SHRA staff who:   
  1. hold management or supervisory positions; or,
  2. perform any of the following on behalf of the University:
    1. engage in financial transactions; or,
    2. prepare plans, specifications or estimates for contracting purposes; or,
    3. negotiate, award and/or administer contracts on behalf of the University.

The disclosure requirement applies to individuals on leave from the University if that leave is funded at least partially from University sources.  In addition to the annual disclosure requirement, faculty and staff must disclose new financial interests, relationships or activities as they may arise throughout the year. 

Categories and Examples of Potential Conflicts

Activities that may involve conflicts of interest or commitment fall into four general categories that differentiate interests, activities and relationships according to potential for adverse impact.

Category I:            Relationships that are generally allowed because they do not compromise the objectivity of research results, the integrity of faculty-student interaction, decision-making, or other interests of the University, a sponsor, or the public. These relationships are generally minimal in their personal financial impact, and otherwise do not represent a potential source of unreasonable bias. If these relationships involve the receipt of compensation or reimbursement, they must be reported at least annually so long as they continue to exist, and may be subject to investigation and further oversight by appropriate University personnel.

Category II:           Relationships that may be allowed following administrative review and analysis. Such relationships may necessitate supervisory procedures be put in place to prevent bias or inappropriate activities and to ensure academic standards and institutional integrity.

Category III:          Relationships presenting such serious problems that they are generally presumed to be inappropriate. In such cases, a heavy burden will rest with the faculty or staff member to demonstrate to the University’s satisfaction the compatibility of such practices with University policy prior to going forward with the proposed activity and the implementation of an appropriate management plan.

Category IV:          Relationships that are not permitted.

The examples provided below are representative, but not all-inclusive examples of activities in each of the four categories:

Category I:  Activities That Are Allowable but Must Be Disclosed

a.   Receipt of royalties or other payments for scholarly works, other writings, or for inventions, pursuant to University Policy 301 (Patent Policy), University Policy 315 (Copyright Policy) and University Policy 204 (Textbooks and other Instructional Materials).

b.   Receipt of compensation in the form of honoraria or reimbursement in connection with service to professional associations, service on review panels, presentation of scholarly works, and/or participation in accreditation reviews.

Category II:  Activities Requiring Disclosure for Further Administrative Review and Analysis

a.   Requirements that students purchase a textbook or related instructional materials written or copyrighted by faculty or staff, or members of their immediate family, which produces compensation for the faculty, staff or family member.

b.   Receipt of compensation or gratuities from any individual or entity doing business with the University. Note that no University employee may seek or receive any gift, reward, or promise of reward for recommending, influencing, or attempting to influence the award of a contract by their employer. (See N.C.G.S. 14-234 and N.C.G.S 138A).

c.   Service on the board of directors or scientific advisory board of an enterprise that provides financial support for University research when the faculty or staff member, or a member of their immediate family, may benefit from such financial support.

d.   An equity or ownership interest in a publicly or non-publicly-traded entity or enterprise held by a faculty or staff member, or a member of their immediate family, that does business with the University or is related to their university employment responsibilities.

e.   Receipt of financial support for University research under conditions that require research results to be held confidential, withheld from publication, or inordinately delayed in publication. Research conducted by faculty or students under any form of sponsorship must maintain the University’s open teaching and research philosophy and must adhere to a policy that prohibits secrecy in research, unless approved by the UNC President.

Category III:  Activities That Are Generally Not Allowable or Permitted Unless an Approved Conflict of Interest Management Plan is in Place

a.   University research that involves the use of a technology owned by, or contractually obligated to (by license or an option to license, or otherwise) the individual, or to an enterprise or entity, in which the individual or a member of their immediate family has a consulting relationship, holds an equity or ownership interest, or holds an executive position.

b.   Receipt of grant or contract funding for University research from an enterprise or entity in which the individual or a member of their immediate family has an equity or ownership interest.

c.   Assignments of students, post-doctoral fellows, or other trainees to University research projects sponsored by an enterprise or entity in which the individual or a member of their immediate family has an equity or ownership interest.

Category IV:  Activities that are Not Allowable under Any Circumstances

a. Referrals of University business to an external enterprise in which a faculty or staff member or a member of their immediate family has a financial interest.

b. Negotiating or administering a contract on behalf of the University from which a faculty or staff member derives a direct benefit from the contract.

c. Soliciting or receiving a gift, favor, reward or service, or promise of an award in exchange for recommending, influencing, or attempting to influence the award of a contract by the University.

d. Associating a faculty or staff member’s own name with the University in such a way as to profit financially by trading on the reputation or goodwill of the University.

e. Unauthorized use by faculty or staff of privileged information acquired in connection with one’s University responsibilities.

f. Signing agreements that assign University patent and other intellectual property rights to third parties without prior University approval.

g. Any activity otherwise prohibited by law or University policy.

V. Conflicts of Commitment

Conflict of commitment relates to an individual’s distribution of time and effort between obligations to University employment and participation in activities outside of university employment.  The latter may include generally encouraged extensions of professional expertise such as consulting or participation in associations.  These activities promote professional development and enrich the individual’s contributions to the University, to the profession, and to society.  However, a conflict of commitment occurs when the pursuit of outside activities involves an excessive investment of time, or is conducted at a time that interferes with the faculty or staff member’s fulfillment of university employment responsibilities. 

It is the policy of the University that full time faculty and staff devote their primary professional time, effort and loyalty to their University employment responsibilities and that outside activities be arranged so they do not interfere with these commitments.

VI. Federal Regulations

Although this Policy applies to conflicts that may arise with respect to any research or non-research activity conducted under University auspices, regulations issued by the National Science Foundation, and Public Health Service, and other federal agencies set specific requirements for University research funded by those agencies. This Policy is intended to comply with those federal regulations.  Faculty and staff are required to comply with the standards set forth by the relevant funding agency, and may be required to disclose additional information.

VII. North Carolina Statutes

North Carolina law prohibits state employees from directly or indirectly entering into or otherwise participating in any business transaction involving public funds (regardless of source of funds) with any firm, corporation, partnership, person or association which at any time during the preceding two-year period had a financial association with that employee. All employees should be aware of this prohibition as they recommend business transactions for University approval. North Carolina law explicitly prohibits self-dealing (using one’s University position to gain an unfair personal business advantage), misuse of confidential University information for personal gain, and having any personal interest in supplying any goods to the state.

For more detailed analysis of federal and state law provisions, contact the Office of Legal Affairs.

VIII. Policy Implementation

The Chancellor has responsibility for overseeing the implementation of this Policy and the Procedures Supplemental to this Policy in all units, including the process and mechanism for conflict disclosure, evaluation, and management. The Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development has the authority to revise the Procedures Supplemental to this Policy, as appropriate.

See also: Procedures Supplemental to University Policy 101.24, Conflicts of Interest and Commitment.