C04.0 Conflict of Interest and Commitment Policy

I. Scope of Policy

This Individual Conflict of Interest and Commitment (“ICIC”) Policy applies to all Regular Staff and Regular Faculty as defined in RIT’s Employee Work Classification Policy (“Employees”).  Officers of the university are also subject to the Conflict of Interest Policy set forth in the Rochester Institute of Technology By-Laws (Article XXI) (B00.1).  In addition, individuals involved in Externally Sponsored Research or Activities may also be subject to additional policies, procedures, and sponsor requirements.  Refer to the Administrative Policy and Procedures for Externally Sponsored Projects for additional guidance on addressing conflicts of interest related to Externally Sponsored Research or Activities.

This policy may also apply to other groups, such as student Employees, visiting scholars and scientists, consultants, adjuncts, and vendors, at the discretion of the immediate Supervisor, as set forth in writing by that Supervisor.  Students participating in Externally Sponsored Research or Activities may also be required to complete a Disclosure Statement consistent with requirements of the external research sponsor.

This policy continues to apply to Employees while on sabbatical or other leaves, or on vacation, while visiting other institutions, and while consulting with external entities.

II. Statement of Policy

All Employees owe the university professional loyalty and are expected to act in the best interest of the university, and to conduct university business ethically and with integrity.  This includes avoiding a Conflict of Interest or a Conflict of Commitment (collectively, “Conflict”) that might impede or otherwise compromise their university responsibilities or the mission of RIT. 

Outside Activities, Financial Interests, and relationships, including Immediate Family or Relatives, can affect that commitment.  Therefore, upon hire and at least annually thereafter, all Employees must disclose to their Supervisor any current, proposed, or pending Financial Interests, Outside Activities or relationships that create or constitute a Conflict.

Employees are required to disclose Financial Interests, Outside Activities, and relationships promptly upon changes to current or prospective circumstances that may raise Conflict issues, regardless when the initial Disclosure Statement was completed.

Supervisors must determine whether a Conflict is manageable before an Employee may undertake the activity giving rise to the Conflict.  Employees must comply with all measures put in place to manage, reduce, eliminate or otherwise treat the Conflict. 

III. Policy Purpose and Rationale

RIT encourages interactions with external entities that are beneficial to the professional standing of Employees, promote the reputation and mission of the university, and serve the community or profession at large.  Such interactions may create a Conflict, which can arise during the course of an individual’s engagement with the world outside of the university.  The mere existence of a Conflict does not necessarily imply wrong-doing on anyone’s part.  As a general matter, a Conflict can be managed through disclosure and transparency.  Unreported or unresolved Conflicts, on the other hand, can disrupt or threaten the integrity and reputation of the individual and the university, as well as the integrity of scholarship, research, instruction, evaluation, and administration of the university. 
This policy, in conjunction with the Individual Conflicts of Interest and Commitment Guidelines (“ICIC Guidelines”), is intended to educate Employees about situations that generate Conflicts; to clarify expectations about disclosing activities and interests that might result in Conflicts; to promote the best interest of the members of the RIT community who depend on faculty and staff direction; and to identify means to manage, reduce, eliminate, or otherwise treat such Conflicts. 

IV. Definitions

    1. “Conflict of Commitment” means any circumstance in which an Employee’s external activities, either paid or unpaid, actually or potentially, or may reasonably be perceived to actually or potentially, interfere with, compete with, or diverge from, the mission of the university or the Employee’s ability or willingness to fully perform their University Responsibilities.
    2. “Conflict of Interest” means any circumstance in which an Employee’s personal, professional, commercial, financial, or other interests outside the university actually or potentially, or may reasonably be perceived to actually or potentially:
      1. compromise the Employee’s judgment;
      2. bias the nature or direction of scholarship;
      3. influence the Employee’s decisions or behavior with respect to the duties of the Employee’s university position; or
      4. result in personal gain or benefit, or the personal gain or benefit of Immediate Family or Relatives, at the expense of the university.
    3. “Disclosure Statement” means the Conflict of Interest and Commitment Disclosure Statement which must be submitted by Employees upon hire, annually, and any other time when there is a change in Financial Interests and Outside Activities that may create or constitute a Conflict.
    4. “Employees” means Regular Faculty and Regular Staff as those terms are defined in RIT’s Employee Work Classification Policy (E1.0).  Unless otherwise required by a Supervisor in writing, Student Employees, Adjuncts, and other groups, are not Employees under this policy.
    5. “Externally Sponsored Research or Activities” means research, projects, programs, or activities that are originated and conducted primarily by faculty or, in some instances, by staff, and which are supported wholly or in part by external restricted funds awarded to the university. 
    6. “Fiduciary” means a position involving service, in either a personal or representative capacity, as an employee, executive, manager, officer, director, trustee, or equivalent in a business, enterprise, or entity.
    7. “Financial Interest” means the interest in a business or right to receive certain types of remuneration over $5,000, or more than 5% ownership or equity interest for any single business regardless of dollar value, held by the Employee or the Employee’s Immediate Family or Relatives.  Financial Interests may include (1) salary or any payment for services not otherwise identified as salary (e.g., consulting fees, honoraria, paid authorship), (2) equity interests such as stock, stock options, or other ownership, or (3) intellectual property rights and interests (e.g., copyrights or patents) upon receipt of income related to such rights with the exception of intellectual property rights assigned to the university or agreements to share in royalties related to such rights as set forth below.

      A Financial Interest excludes:
      1. Salary, royalties or other remuneration paid by the university to the Employee;
      2. Intellectual property rights assigned to the university and agreements to share in royalties related to such rights;
      3. Income from investment vehicles, such as mutual funds and retirement accounts, as long as the Employee does not directly control the investment decision made in these vehicles; or
      4. Income from seminars, lectures, service on advisory committees or review panels sponsored by a federal, state, or local government agency.

Employees participating in Externally Sponsored Research or Activities will be subject to the dollar thresholds indicated by the sponsor.

  1. “Immediate Family or Relatives” shall have the same meaning as set forth in RIT’s Nepotism Policy (E01.2) unless the Employee is participating in Externally Sponsored Research or Activities, in which case the Employee will be subject to the sponsor’s definition of familiar relationship for disclosure and reporting purposes.
  2. “Individual Conflicts of Interest or Commitment Management Plan” or “Management Plan” means a written document created by a Supervisor, with input from the Employee as needed, that outlines measures to actively reduce, manage, mitigate, eliminate, or otherwise treat a Conflict, and which has been approved in writing by both the Supervisor and the next-level Supervisor.
  3. “Outside Activities” means an activity outside of an Employee’s regular university duties that is either paid or unpaid.  Outside Activities may include, but are not limited to, consulting, participating in civic, charitable, or professional organizations, working as a technical or professional advisor or practitioner, creating published content, holding a part-time job with another employer whether that job is working in one’s university occupation or another, public service or pro bono work, performed outside of the Employee’s appointment, employment, or association with RIT.
  4. “RIT Business” means providing goods, services, or anything else of value (e.g., intellectual property) to or from the university.  It also includes interactions or negotiations on behalf of RIT related to obtaining goods and services. 
  5. “Supervisor” means any Employee whose primary responsibility is the management of other RIT Employees.  Management shall include, but is not limited to, directing the work of others, hiring, firing, evaluating, advancing, promoting, or otherwise having input into the employment status of other Employees.
  6. “University Responsibilities” means all scholarly or professional activities that derive or descend from an Employee’s professional standing, job, expertise, or status at RIT and are carried out by the Employee on behalf of the university.  University Responsibilities includes activities such teaching, research, scholarship, professional practice, and service on committees and generally include activities related to an Employee’s field of professional expertise.

V. Managing Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment

Upon disclosure by an Employee of Financial Interests or Outside Activities, Supervisors shall review and evaluate the disclosure to determine whether the disclosure identifies a Conflict.  If the Supervisor determines that the Employee’s Financial Interests or Outside Activities create a Conflict, then the Supervisor must make a determination whether the Conflict should be managed, reduced, or eliminated and put this determination in writing.  Any action taken to treat the Conflict must be documented in a written Management Plan created by the Supervisor in consultation with the Employee, where appropriate, within thirty (30) days of the Employee’s submission of the Disclosure Statement.  If the Management Plan cannot be finalized within thirty (30) day of disclosure, the Supervisor should document the reason for the delay.  

The disclosed Financial Interests or Outside Activities and resulting Management Plan must be approved by two levels of management, beginning with the immediate Supervisor (see Section X, below, “Questions Concerning Application or Interpretation of Policy.”)

VI. Appeals

  1. Any Employee who disagrees with their Conflict determination or their proposed Management Plan may submit an appeal, in writing, to the Individual Conflict of Interest and Commitment Committee (the “ICIC Committee”).  In addition, the Employee’s Supervisor(s), Office of Compliance and Ethics, or the Office of Sponsored Research Services may also appeal the Conflict determination or proposed Management Plan to the ICIC Committee. 

    The Individual Conflict of Interest and Commitment Committee

    The ICIC Committee is a committee of faculty and staff empowered to (1) review appeals regarding a Conflict determination and Management Plan, (2) make recommendations to the appropriate divisional vice president regarding an appealed Conflict determination and Management Plan, and (3) recommend changes to this policy as needed. 

    The committee shall be comprised of:
    • one (1) representative from the Office of the Provost
    • one (1) representative from the office of a dean or department chair selected by the provost
    • one (1) representative from the Office of the Vice President for Finance and Administration
    • two (2) representatives from the Office of the Vice President for Research
    • one (1) member from Faculty Senate not already identified as a representative above
    • one (1) member from Staff Council not already identified as a representative above

    The ICIC Committee shall be co-chaired by the assistant vice president for Compliance and Ethics and the General Counsel, both ex officio, non-voting members, or their designees. Except to the extent necessary to carry out its functions, the ICIC Committee’s proceedings shall be kept confidential by its members.

  2. Final Determinations of Conflicts and Management Plans

    The divisional vice president or their designee shall review the recommendation of the ICIC Committee and shall render a final determination of the appeal.  In addition, SRS shall review, and the vice president of research shall approve all Management Plans of Employees participating in Externally Sponsored Research or Activities.
  3. Appropriate Use of University Proprietary Information and Resources

    University resources are to be used only in the interest of the university.  Unauthorized use of confidential, privileged, or proprietary information obtained in connection with an Employee’s position or University Responsibilities, or use of such information for an Employee’s personal benefit or Outside Activities is prohibited. 

    Employees may not use university resources (except for incidental use), including facilities, personnel, equipment, as part of their Outside Activities, or for any other non-university purposes.
  4. Gifts

    Favors or gifts of any value should be recognized for their potential influence on the objectivity or judgment with respect to the provider and the recipient of the favor or gift.  As a result, Employees are prohibited from soliciting gifts of any value.  Nor may Employees accept Gifts of cash or cash equivalents (e.g., gift cards). 

    Unless otherwise stated in this policy, Employees may accept gifts, entertainment, meals, or travel (collectively “Gifts”) from a vendor, bidder, contractor, subcontractor or anyone doing business with the university (collectively “Vendor”), provided that: (1) the total value of the Gifts does not exceed $150 in any 12-month period (“Nominal Value”), and (2) the Vendor is not in the process of bidding, in a waiting period for a contract or contract renewal, or in on-going negotiations with RIT for any goods or services.  Contact Procurement Services Office to confirm the status of any Vendor.  Prior to accepting any gift(s) over Nominal Value, Employees must disclose the offer of the gift(s) and obtain written approval from their Supervisor. 

    This policy is not intended to prohibit reasonable business practices, such as meetings over meals, corporate items given to participants in meetings and conferences, or token hosting gifts, as long as they promote the university’s legitimate business interests and does not influence or appear to influence an Employee’s decision-making, or duties to the university.  Accordingly, Employees may accept the following Gifts of greater than Nominal Value:
    1. Charitable gifts made to or for the benefit of the university. Such gifts shall be accepted by University Advancement (“UA”) in accordance with the Gift Acceptance Policy established by UA;
    2. Gifts from a potential contributor or donor to RIT when development activities are part of the Employee’s University Responsibilities; 
    3. Gifts to academic, professional, or social events where the Employee is representing the university’s interest;
    4. Gifts of fees for and travel to conferences, business meetings, or similar functions when the Employee is presenting at the conference or business meeting and representing the university’s interest;    
    5. Gifts such as meals or beverages from Vendors when offered to participants generally at a trade show, exhibit, conference, or other professional meeting;
    6. Gifts from a current or potential Vendor when unrelated to the Employee’s University Responsibilities when the Employee has a personal existing relationship.

Invitations to purely social events, such as plays, concerts, sporting events, or other entertainment must be subject to prudent judgment regarding whether the invitation actually or potentially places, or may reasonably be perceived to actually or potentially place, the recipient under any obligation or create a Conflict.  Prior to accepting such invitations, Employees should consult with their Supervisor.  Supervisors may seek guidance from the Office of Compliance & Ethics.

Certain divisions or departments may have gift policies that are tailored to the activities of that division or department.[1]  Applicable Employees are also subject to those policies.  Moreover, all Employees must comply with the requirements of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Policy including provisions regarding acceptance of favors, gifts, or entertainment. 

VII. Policy Violations

Completion of the annual Disclosure Statement process shall be considered part of an Employee’s performance.  Noncompliance with this ICIC Policy, including failure to submit the annual Disclosure Statement, or providing incomplete, false, erroneous, or misleading information may subject the Employee to a range of disciplinary action, up to and including termination for Regular Staff, or the initiation of dismissal for cause proceedings for tenured-track and non-tenure track Regular Faculty.  A violation of this policy shall be considered personal conduct that substantially impairs one’s fulfillment of institutional responsibilities and shall be adequate cause as defined in RIT’s Dismissal of a Tenure-Track Faculty Member for Cause (E23.0) and Dismissal of a Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Member for Cause (E23.1).

VIII. Questions Concerning Application or Interpretation of Policy

The Office of Compliance and Ethics provides assistance and consultation to all members of the RIT community regarding this policy.  OCE also provides oversight and support for the disclosures, management of Conflicts, and appeals.  With regard to disclosures made by Employees participating in Externally Sponsored Research or Activities, the Office of Sponsored Research shall review all such disclosures and shall assist the Supervisor in the determination whether a Conflict exists.  Any Employee or Supervisor who has questions about this policy, its application, or interpretation are encouraged to contact OCE or SRS as applicable.  In addition, Employees and Supervisors should review the ICIC Guidelines, which provide detailed information relating to the annual and ad hoc required disclosures and information concerning management of conflicts, sanctions, and the appeals processes. The ICIC Guidelines also includes Frequently Asked Questions and sample Management Plans. 

Related Policies
Honor Code (P03.3)
Core Values (P04.0)
Compliance Policy and Code of Ethical Conduct (C0.0)
Policy on Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships (C23.0)
Nepotism Policy (E01.2)
Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Policy

Responsible Office:  Office of Compliance and Ethics 

Effective Date:  Approved prior to July 1975

Policy History
Last revised May 9, 2007
Edited August, 2010
Edited October 10, 2011
Edited September 27, 2012 to correct URL and formatting
Revised April 22, 2020

[1] See, e.g., Procurement Services Manual, the Gift Acceptance Policy for the Development and Alumni Relations, and Administrative Policy and Procedures for Externally Sponsored Projects.