Trinity University
Faculty and Contract Staff Handbook

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(7)    Administrative Policies

(7A)    FISCAL, SAFETY, AND HEALTH POLICIES

(7B)    COMPUTER POLICIES

(7C)    USE OF TRINITY UNIVERSITY FACILITIES

(7D)    CONFERENCES AND SPECIAL PROGRAMS

(7E)    BOOKSTORE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

(7F)    CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY


(7F)    CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLICY
(Approved by President, Academic Year 1991-92; amended June 1, 1995; amended August 2012)

For a summary of recent changes to this chapter, see Chapter 9A: Summary of Recent Revisions to this Handbook.

Contents of this page: 

  1. Policy

  2. Exceptions

  3. Standard for Compliance

  4. Reports and Investigation

  5. Definitions

Conflicts of interest occur when employees are in a position to influence decisions on policy, purchases, or research where they may directly or indirectly receive financial benefit or give improper advantage to associates or family. Conflicts of commitment arise when employees are involved in outside activities that substantially interfere with their primary responsibility to the University. Italicized words are defined in Section V.

Trinity University expects all employees to exercise good judgment, professional commitment, and the highest ethical standards in extramural activities that can in any way affect the University. Every employee has an obligation to avoid any activity, agreement, business investment or interest, or other situation that could be construed to be in conflict with the University’s interest or to interfere with the employee’s duty to serve the University. Where existing outside interests contravene the policy, the employee will be permitted a reasonable period, not to exceed three months, to make adjustments.

I.    POLICY

It is the policy of Trinity University that:

A.    No employee shall have a direct or indirect interest in any business enterprise that is a competitor of the University or has dealings with the University as a supplier. An employee in a position to influence a University business decision for which he/she may receive material benefit should disclose the nature of the conflict to his/her immediate supervisor, and, where possible remove himself/herself from involvement in the decision. If the individuals continue to participate in the decision process, discussion with supervisors and documentation of the potential conflict should be presented to the Conflict of Interest Committee. 

B.    No employee shall seek or receive, for personal or any other person’s gain, any payment, whether for services or otherwise, loan (except from a bank), gift or discount of more than nominal value, or entertainment that goes beyond common courtesies usually associated with accepted business practice from any business enterprise that is a competitor of the University or has current or known prospective dealings with the University as a supplier or could benefit from the employees submission of research data.

C.    No employee shall, for personal or any other person’s gain, deprive the University of any opportunity for benefit that could be construed as related to any existing or reasonably anticipated future activity of the University.

D.    No employee shall, for personal or any other person’s gain, make use of or disclose confidential information learned as a result of employment by the University. Any information that has been acquired in connection with sponsored research by University members cannot be withheld from the sponsoring organization(s) for personal benefit.

E.    No employee shall have any outside interest that materially interferes with the required time or attention that the employee must devote to the University. Employees should not undertake or orient activities to serve the needs of an outside organization at the expense of fulfilling the Mission of the University.

F.    Before considering outside employment or consulting activities, an employee should discuss potential conflicts of commitment or interest with his/her appropriate supervisor. Employees regularly involved in consulting activities from which they profit financially, are not in conflict so long as:

  1. University resources (laboratories, studios, equipment, computational facilities, and/or human resources) are not used more than incidentally without reimbursing the University.

  2. Such activities do not unduly interfere with the time and energy committed by the individuals to their primary responsibilities to the University. The allowable amount of time dedicated to consulting will be governed by the Consulting Policy (Chapter 5F).

  3. Such involvement does not inhibit the publication of research findings developed in the course of the individual’s regular University activities.

G.    The University actively encourages involvement in professional organizations, panels, advisory commissions, government, charitable and community organizations. However, such involvement should not become so dominant that University members no longer effectively satisfy their responsibilities to the University.

H.    Faculty members must exercise prudence in directing students and supervised employees toward activities from which the faculty might financially benefit. If a potential conflict exists, faculty are encouraged to consult their departmental chair or the AVPAA:BR for an independent evaluation of the activities’ educational merits.

I.    No employee shall act or be involved in any situation that potentially conflicts with the principle that this policy is intended to implement.


II.    EXCEPTIONS

A.    Specific exceptions may be made by the Conflict of Interest Committee upon application in writing by the employee. Such exceptions shall be wholly discretionary and shall be adopted at such times and under such conditions as will serve the interests of the University.

B.    The Conflict of Interest Committee is composed of four Vice Presidents or a designee. Each must be in attendance to consider the exception. Absentees will be considered negative votes. The President of the University will make the decision in case of a tie vote.

C.    The Conflict of Interest Committee will determine whether an actual or potential conflict of interest exists, and determine what conditions or restrictions, if any, should be imposed by Trinity University to manage, reduce or eliminate such conflict of interest.


III.    STANDARD FOR COMPLIANCE

A.    Prohibitions of this policy should be construed broadly rather than narrowly. A conflict of interest may be deemed to exist even though it may not result in financial loss to the University, regardless of the motive of the employee involved. If a possible conflict of interest arises, the employee is encouraged to discuss the matter with the appropriate Vice President designated by the Conflict of Interest Committee to determine whether such a conflict in fact exists and, if so, how it may be resolved.

B.    The AVPAA:BR shall be responsible for appropriate dissemination of this policy.


IV.    REPORTS AND INVESTIGATION

A.    The Conflict of Interest Committee shall have authority to direct the Internal Auditor to investigate any suspected violation of this policy by any University member.

B.    Violation of this policy may be grounds for disciplinary action. The University will make the final determination for disciplinary action. Many actions are available and may be taken in a fashion consistent and commensurate with the nature of the proven acts of misconduct. Examples include:

C.    The Conflict of Interest Committee will inform the President in a timely manner (i.e., 24 business hours) of any decisions concerning an employee being asked to reduce or eliminate certain business interests.


V.    DEFINITIONS

A.    Activities. Includes both direct activities and financial interest in the activities of other businesses.

B.    Business. Any corporation, partnership, proprietorship, firm, franchise, association, holding company, joint stock company, receivership, trust, or any other legal entity organized for profit. This does not include mutual funds over which the investigator has no control, or any governmental committee, community, political, academic, charitable, religious, social, or professional non-profit organization.

C.    Conflict of Interest Committee. A group made up of all Vice Presidents charged with determining what to do in cases of employees' conflicts of interest.

D.    Contracts. Excludes the terms of the investigators own or any family members employment contract with the University.

E.    Employee. Includes faculty (full-time and part-time), staff (contract and classified), and visiting faculty and staff.

F.    Equity Interests. Ownership or control of stock, stock options, or other investment instruments.

G.    Facilities. Excludes the investigators office, office equipment, and incidental  supplies (e.g., copying, fax, long distance telephone service) for which the investigator reimburses Trinity University.

H.    Family. Spouse and dependent children.

I.    Intellectual property. Includes organized information, ideas, fabrication methods, devices, or substances that are patented or copyrighted or have that potential, and that are partially or fully owned by Trinity University. Excludes any intellectual property for which the investigator holds a license from Trinity University or which is in the public domain.

J.    Investigator. The principal investigator, co-principal investigators, and any other person at the institution who is responsible for the design, conduct, or reporting of research or educational activities funded by a federal grant.

K.    Policy position. A director, officer, partner, manager, or agent in any managerial position.

L.    Receipts. Includes loans, gifts, royalties, and earned income other than consulting fees. Excludes grants, contracts, or any other sums that the investigator or the investigator’s family member receives from Trinity University, no matter what the original source.

M.    Staff services. Excludes infrequent secretarial support.

N.    Trinity University. Includes all units operated by the University.


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