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  • Related Documents:  Conflict of Interest Policy
  • Approval Dates:  March 2003, April 2003, Updated May 2008
  • Approved by:  Board of Governors
  • Jurisdiction:  Provost and Vice President Academic; Vice President, Administration and Finance; Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs; Human Resources

Procedure

All new and existing employees are required to review this policy and provide written acknowledgment that they have read and understood the requirements. The written acknowledgement shall be placed in the employee’s personnel file.

Employees of the University are expected to use good judgement to avoid situations that constitute a conflict of interest, or create the appearance of a conflict of interest.  Where employees are in doubt about a particular set of circumstances, they must discuss the situation with their manager prior to engaging in the activity under question.  Senior administrators and executives of the University should, in addition to discussing the situation with the individual to whom they report, seek the advice of the Executive Director, Human Resources and/or the Internal Auditor.

Depending on the type and nature of the conflict, there are a number of different procedures that apply.  In general, the policy requires disclosure of conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest to an employee’s manager, prior to engaging in an activity that may pose a conflict, unless otherwise specified below.  Managers, in consultation with any appropriate parties, will determine if a conflict exists or the appearance of a conflict exists.  The manager and employee will agree on a course of action to monitor or avoid the conflict, which shall be made in writing.  In the event that agreement cannot be reached, the case will be referred through the appropriate line management channels for resolution, up to an including the vice president level.

For conflict of interest situations involving a vice president, the President will review the facts and make a determination regarding the appropriate course of action.  For conflict of interest situations involving the President, the Chair of the Board of Governors will make a determination regarding the appropriate course of action.  The President and the Chair of the Board of Governors may consult with the Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs, the Executive Director, Human Resources, the Internal Auditor or other individuals they deem necessary in order to make decisions concerning conflict of interest situations.

Following are activities that have special restrictions or prohibitions.  

Employment of Relatives

The existing policy on the Employment of Relatives does not provide a general prohibition against relatives being employed at the University.  One of the objectives of the policy is to avoid current or potential conflicts of interest and/or influence and, therefore, some restrictions are placed on hiring relatives.  Relatives include the employee’s family, or an individual with whom the employee has, or recently had, an intimate personal relationship.  In general, the policy prohibits hiring or transferring relatives when the result is, or has the potential to result in a conflict of interest/influence.  Each case is reviewed on its merits.

Human Resources and the Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs share responsibility for administering and interpreting the policy.  When a conflict, or potential conflict, is identified by one or both of the employees and/or the manager, Human Resources, or the Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs (in cases involving faculty members or instructors) must be contacted in order to ascertain the facts and make recommendations to the appropriate vice president, who will make a final decision on the matter.

Service to the Profession and the Community and Outside Professional Activities of Faculty, Librarians, Counsellors and Midwifery Faculty

Service to the profession and the community and outside professional activities of faculty, counsellors, librarians and midwifery faculty are governed by the Ryerson Faculty Association Collective Agreement.  The policy on Private Consulting also applies.

In general, the collective agreement requires that faculty members (Mode II), counsellors and librarians submit a written statement of the nature, scope and extent of outside activities to the dean, director, or Chief Librarian, as applicable, prior to engaging in the activity.

In addition to collective agreement requirements, the policy on Private Consulting prohibits the use of student work done for academic credit for consulting, and prohibits academic credit for work done for use in consulting.  Faculty members may, however, pay students to do work for use in consulting.  The policy also requires approval of the dean, where students fulfilling their academic requirements are working for a company in which faculty have an interest, or where work done for academic credit evolves into paid employment in consulting.

Evaluation of Academic Work of Relatives and Access to Academic Information

Where a faculty member, part-time or sessional instructor, Continuing Education instructor, or academic assistant has a close personal relationship with a student, or recently had a close personal relationship with a student, there is, or may be perceived to be, a conflict of interest and risk of favouritism in the evaluation of academic work.  In addition, an academic support staff member who works in a department responsible for a course or courses taken by a student who has a close personal relationship with the employee, may have, or appear to have a conflict of interest related to access to tests and exams.

Faculty members, instructors, academic support staff and academic assistants must declare a relationship with a student that creates a conflict of interest or the appearance of conflict of interest.  Where the student is a family member or an individual with whom the employee has a close personal relationship, the faculty member, instructor, academic support staff member or academic assistant should decline or terminate a supervisory or evaluative role, or any role that provides the employee with access to tests or exams, with respect to the student in question.  The approval of the director or chair, as applicable, is required before the student can enrol or continue in the specific course(s).

At a minimum, alternative arrangements must be made, in writing, to monitor and manage the situation, and must be approved by the director or chair.

Purchasing and Disposal of Assets

A conflict of interest, or potential conflict of interest exists when an employee:

1.     purchases or influences the purchase of equipment, supplies or services from a company in which he or she has a personal interest;

2.     disposes of University assets to him or herself, a family member, an individual with whom the employee has an intimate personal relationship, or a company in which he or she has a personal interest.

In accordance with the University’s existing policies, the approach to avoiding conflicts of interest in purchasing and selling is to deal at arm’s length with suppliers and customers.  This is done by appointing agents authorized to make decisions on purchasing and selling who are separate from units and individuals standing to benefit from the purchase/sale.  Conflicts or potential conflicts must be handled as follows:

1.     All employees who have decision-making authority, or who are in a position to influence a decision about a purchase or contract, must disclose in writing any personal interest in a prospective vendor to her or his manager and the Manager, Purchasing and Payment Services and withdraw from the decision-making process, if that is deemed appropriate by the manager and Manager, Purchasing and Payment Services.

2.     All employees who have decision-making authority, or who are in a position to influence a decision about a sale, must disclose any personal interest in the transaction to the appropriate vice president to whom their department reports, and withdraw from the sale process if deemed appropriate by the vice president. 

3.     Financial Services’ managers, including the Manager, Purchasing and Payment Services and purchasing officers who act as agents for purchasing must disclose, in writing, any personal interest in a prospective vendor to their manager and the senior director responsible for their department.

Individuals in these positions are prohibited from participating in the selection process, or from influencing in any way the decision making process, including the development of contractual agreements, where a personal interest is involved.

Acceptance of Gifts

The acceptance of gifts by an employee of the University from anyone doing business with, or soliciting business from, the University, or from students or subordinates is not permitted.  The only exceptions to this are minor gifts and token courtesies which do not place, or do not have the appearance of placing, the recipient under any obligation.

When in doubt as to whether to accept a gift, employees must discuss the situation with their manager.  The manager will then decide whether the acceptance of the gift places, or appears to place, the employee under any obligation.  In making this determination a variety of factors should be considered including:

1.     whether the gift is provided before or after the employee makes a decision concerning, or provides a service to, the individual who is offering the gift;

2.     the value of the gift greater than $250.00;

3.     any cultural issues that affect whether the gift is considered to be minor or a token.

Confidential Information

It is a breach of this policy, and the employment contract, to take improper advantage of confidential information.  In general, employees are prohibited from using or releasing confidential information to further their own interests.  Confidential information refers to information that an employee is privy to as a result of his or her employment, and is not otherwise generally available.

In addition, Ryerson’s guidelines on Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection specify that the Freedom of Information Officer is responsible for responding to requests for access to University records.  The release of personal information is subject to further regulations under the guidelines.

With respect to scholarly, research and creative activities (SRC), it is a conflict to withhold information in order to further an employee’s personal interest.  The University policy on Confidentiality of Research Results states that:

1.     In the case of research undertaken for, in conjunction with, private sector sponsors certain restrictions will be necessary for practical reasons, but at no time may private sector sponsors be allowed to control the publication of research results.             

2.     The Office of Research Services is responsible for reviewing all research contracts to ensure that confidentiality provisions conform to University policy.  If an application is made for an extension of confidentiality beyond two years, the requests, and supporting documents, will be submitted to the Provost and Vice President Academic for a decision.

Voting and Participation on Committees

Employees may participate on University, Faculty, or departmental committees or councils.  At a minimum, employees should declare to the committee or council members, any personal interest they may have in such matters before the committee or council, and should not vote on these matters.  Committees and councils should establish their own rules concerning conflict of interest.

Members of appointment, tenure, promotion, student appeal, scholarship and award, and other such committees within the University, should not serve on the committee in a specific case, if the member or the Chair of the committee concludes that the member has an improper bias or motive for or against the person being considered.

Conflict of Commitment (other than Outside Professional Activities of Faculty, Librarians and Counsellors): 

No employee shall, without the written consent of the person to whom he or she reports, engage in any activity that conflicts or competes with the University, or which materially encroaches on the time or attention which should be devoted to the University, or affects his or her ability to fully discharge his or her University responsibilities.

While situations involving conflict of commitment are more applicable to full-time employees, part-time employees are also required to ensure that they have the ability to devote the time and attention required to fulfill their duties and responsibilities as employees of the University.

Print and Electronic Course Materials

Ryerson faculty and instructors, who may profit from the sale of materials related to a Ryerson course, must declare this interest to the dean of the Faculty prior to the adoption of these materials.  The dean will ensure that materials are selected based on what is best for the course.

In addition, all textual materials sold by the University to students must be ordered through the Ryerson Bookstore.

SRC Activities and Agreements

SRC activities and agreements have the potential for complex and numerous types of conflicts of interest.  It is necessary, therefore, to ensure there is an appropriate review of these activities and agreements with respect to conflict of interest, prior to a researcher making a commitment.  Many of the potential areas for conflict of interest related to SRC activities are dealt with in existing University research policies, in particular the Principles and Policy Respecting the Proper Conduct of Scholarly, Research and Creative Activity (SRC) and Guidelines for the Investigation and Disposition of Allegations of SRC Misconduct.  The latter policy requires:

(v) Full disclosure of all actual or potential conflicts of interest, financial or otherwise, to all parties who are, in any way might be, involved in the SRC project;

SRC misconduct is defined to include a “failure to reveal a conflict of interest to any party involved in the SRC project.”  Allegations are reported through the appropriate administrative channels.

In addition to existing policy requirements, prior to undertaking a significant SRC commitment or entering into an agreement, a researcher shall submit a written statement of the nature scope and extent of the activity or agreement to the Manager, and the Director, Research Services.  The statement shall specify:

1.     the category or type of client;

2.     the nature of the work, or terms of an agreement;

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

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

5.     any payments to be made to the researcher;

6.     any involvement or interest by the researcher, his or her family or an individual with whom the researcher has an intimate personal relationship, with companies under consideration for licensing a discovery or invention, or organization that is sponsoring research;

7.     any other conflicts or potential conflicts (see examples above).

The Manager and the Director, Research Services may withhold approval, or may attach conditions they deem appropriate to ensure conflict of interest issues are addressed.  In general, agreements and commitments should not be approved where the conflict: (i) can be expected with reasonable certainty to compromise the integrity of the SRC activity or undermine the employee’s obligations to the University, to the sponsor, or to students; and (ii) cannot satisfactorily be managed with appropriate administrative oversight.

If the agreement cannot be reached between the Manager, Director, Research Services and the employee, the matter will be referred to the Associate Vice President, Academic.  If the Associate Vice President,

Academic cannot resolve the situation, the matter will be referred to the Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs for a final decision after consulting with the Provost and Vice President Academic.

Jurisdiction

This procedure, falls under the jurisdiction of the Provost and Vice President Academic and the Vice President, Administration and Finance.   The interpretation and application of this procedure and its associated policy is a shared responsibility of the Vice Provost, Faculty Affairs (in cases involving faculty members or instructors) and Human Resources.