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Appendix 3: Conflict of Interest Policy and Procedures for Faculty Personnel Matters

Approved by the Committee on Faculty and the Administration, Dec. 7, 2008.

In order to ensure that faculty personnel processes are as fair as possible, DePauw University has adopted the following policy and procedures.

INTRODUCTION

At an institution such as DePauw, a variety of personal relationships may exist among faculty members which create the potential of a conflict of interest between a person who handles personnel matters (performance reviews, hiring requests, supervision) or a member of a committee that handles personnel matters (Full-Time Position Request Committee, Search Committee, Special Review Committee (for faculty librarians) or Department (or School) Personnel Committee referred to hereinafter as the “DPC”) or a member of the Committee on Faculty "COF" or the VPAA and a faculty member or job candidate under review. However, in the shared work environment, common interactions – e.g., friendships and antagonisms, likes and dislikes, concurrences and disagreements, and praise or criticisms – do not represent Conflicts of Interest if they fall within the bounds of University policies governing professional working relationships (1). It is also in the best interests of the University (and of the confidence that should be placed in the faculty personnel processes) that appropriate steps be taken to limit the appearance of Conflicts of Interest by excluding the participation of some who might otherwise serve, if there are reasonable alternatives to participation in a faculty review process (i.e., when others may fairly judge the relevant evidence). This policy is intended to alert faculty members to the types of concerns for which a Conflict of Interest may exist and to encourage members of the relevant committees and the VPAA, and faculty members under review, to avoid situations for which a potential conflict of interest exists. The successful application of this policy requires all faculty members to familiarize themselves with the contents of this policy. Anyone with a Conflict of Interest should request to be recused from the committee in question and from other personnel responsibilities. Further, any faculty member who has knowledge that a conflict of interest may exist, or is in doubt as to whether a conflict exists regarding an issue before one of these committees, should follow the procedures set out within this policy.

DEFINITION

A Conflict of Interest exists when a faculty member is in a position to exercise judgment on a personnel matter, either personally or as a member of a committee reviewing a faculty colleague or candidate and when that exercise of judgment could be (or is perceived to be) influenced by a current or past personal relationship (as defined herein). A Conflict of Interest may exist even though it may not be acknowledged by one or more of the parties.

PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS SUBJECT TO THIS POLICY

Circumstances that are of concern under this policy are those in which a person with personnel responsibilities has, or has the appearance of having, such a bias so strong as to undermine the presumption of fairness in the execution of those responsibilities. These circumstances include, but are not limited to, a situation of dependency or interdependency, or a commission of a policy violation in dealings with the faculty member to be affected by a pending committee recommendation. Examples of circumstances that could result in a conflict of interest, or the possibility of perceived conflict of interest, include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • shared financial interests;
  • familial relationship;
  • former or present marital, romantic, amorous, or other intimate relationships;
  • current co-living arrangement;
  • giving or receiving of substantial gifts or benefits;
  • employment relationship outside of DePauw; and
  • an incident involving violation of the harassment policy or the consensual relations policy.

There may be other circumstances for which a faculty member believes that a colleague could not render an impartial judgment in a personnel matter. A faculty member concerned about a bias that might hinder impartiality due to any circumstance should report the situation or relationship to the Vice President for Academic Affairs (or to the designated prior chair of COF if the conflict involves the VPAA) for evaluation pursuant to these procedures. The designated prior chair of COF for matters of conflict of interest involving the VPAA shall be recorded on the annually published list of faculty members of committees.

CONFLICT OF INTEREST PROCEDURES

  1. A faculty member who believing that his or her service in personnel matters will be affected by (or may be affected by) a Conflict of Interest should consult with the VPAA. In such circumstances the faculty member may request to be recused from service on these personnel matters. The VPAA will consider any request to be recused from work on personnel matters; and if the request is granted, the VPAA will notify the appropriate individuals about this recusal (such as the chair of the relevant committee).
  2. To report a conflict of interest of another faculty member, a faculty member should notify the Vice President for Academic Affairs confidentially of the existence of a conflict of interest as soon as practical after it is identified. However, to protect privacy, information regarding the nature of the circumstances leading to the conflict of interest (e.g., financial, family, romantic, etc,) need not be divulged beyond that information which the Vice President for Academic Affairs would reasonably require in order to determine whether a Conflict of Interest exists. If the Vice President for Academic Affairs is a party to the conflict of interest, then the most recent past chair of the COF who is not currently serving on COF and not on leave shall substitute for the roles designated in this policy for the Vice President.
  3. Once notified, the Vice President for Academic Affairs will exercise discretion in determining what are the prudent steps to take in order to determine whether a Conflict of Interest exists. The Vice President for Academic Affairs may investigate the conflict of interest through gathering information and interviewing relevant parties. While that determination is underway, the Vice President for Academic Affairs shall suspend the related work of the relevant committee if it has already begun. In assessing conflicts of interest, the Vice President for Academic Affairs should focus on whether the particular interest and/or personal circumstance of the faculty member are likely to compromise, or are likely to be perceived as compromising, a committee member's ability to function impartially.
  4. Once an assessment has been made, the Vice President for Academic Affairs must promptly share his or her decision by confidential memorandum to the faculty member about whom a question of conflict of interest has been raised. Where it has been decided that a Conflict of Interest exists, the Vice President for Academic Affairs must promptly instruct the person who has been determined to have a Conflict of Interest not to participate in the decisions regarding the affected faculty member with whom the Conflict of Interest exists. Depending on the nature of the Conflict of Interest, the exclusion of a member of a particular committee from personnel responsibility for another faculty member may apply for certain other personnel responsibilities and/or for a certain length of time as determined by the Vice President for Academic Affairs.
  5. The Vice President for Academic Affairs will also notify the chair of the relevant committee if a committee member is to be excluded for reason of Conflict of Interest. The Vice President for Academic Affairs shall also then authorize the committee to resume the review process; that authorization may include instructions returning the committee to an earlier point in its process so that the work is not influenced by the person (or persons) who has (have) been excluded, such as when a person determined to have a Conflict of Interest had already participated in part of the deliberations. The Vice President may also amend the evidence (such as in an application or decision file) on which the considerations are to be based in order to remove items that may have been influenced by the Conflict of Interest. For other personnel matters, the Vice President will take steps to reassign tasks and responsibilities as needed to re-create an impartial personnel process.
  6. Retaliation against any individual who discloses an actual or perceived conflict of interest is not permitted and may result in use of sanctions and disciplinary procedures for unprofessional conduct.
  7. Questions regarding this policy and/or its interpretation should be directed to the chair of the COF and the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

CONFIDENTIALITY AND RECORDKEEPING

It is imperative that all information regarding conflicts of interest be kept as confidential as circumstances permit. It is legitimate for those involved in resolving a conflict of interest to seek advice and/or guidance from other University officials or faculty members with relevant experience. Internal disclosure of information about potential or actual conflicts of interest should be limited strictly to those faculty members or employees who need to have access for official purposes. However, if through investigation of a potential conflict of interest the VPAA (or surrogate) discovers a violation of a University policy, then this information may require additional action and some level of confidentiality may be lost in that case. Details of matters relating to conflicts of interest shall be kept in confidential files held in the Office of Academic Affairs and access to such files will be restricted to the Vice President for Academic Affairs or others serving in a surrogate role as provided for in this policy. All records shall be kept for a period of at least ten (10) years with the actual duration of the record keeping to be determined by the Vice President for Academic Affairs or the surrogate.

Notes

(1). Whenever the phrase "conflict of interest" is used, it means not only actual conflicts but potential or perceived conflicts of interest as well; whenever the phrase is capitalized "Conflict of Interest" this refers to an actual conflict of interest.