SEPTEMBER 16, 2013


In response to the president’s comments about technology in the classroom, Hillary Hart (distinguished senior lecturer, civil, architectural, and environmental engineering) informed Council members that the Faculty Council Executive Committee was working on proposing a new standing committee “called something like ‘Oversight of Technology-Enhanced Education’.” Dr. Hart then presented a gift to outgoing Provost Steve Leslie with the Faculty Council’s deep appreciation for his support of faculty and faculty governance during his tenure as provost. Chair Hart suggested that committee members limit remarks at Faculty Council meetings to three minutes to allow as many people as possible to voice opinions. If somebody wanted to present something that would take more than three minutes, the individual could request a waiver. After some comments from Hans Hofmann (associate professor, biology) and Snehal Shingavi (assistant professor, English), Dr. Hart asked the Council to try the three-minute limit. She also reminded Council members to state their name and University affiliation when stepping to the microphone to speak. Dr. Hart reported that there had been an issue regarding a quorum at the special meeting last March, which was call to consider a proposed fall break. Because there are different rules for different meetings (five percent for regular meetings of the General Faculty, fifteen percent for specially called meetings, and fifty-one percent for Faculty Council meetings), the Faculty Rules and Governance Committee had been asked to look into the issue. She said comments could be addressed to her or Martha Hilley (General Faculty Rules and Governance Committee chair and professor, music).

A. Update on UTS 180.
Referencing the September 3, 2013, version of the UTS 180 policy provided by UT System, Dr. Hart presented a summary of changes made to the proposed policy since it was last presented to the Faculty Council in April by UT System’s Associate Vice Chancellor and Deputy General Counsel Dan Sharphorn and Vice Chancellor Stephanie Huie. Many of the changes were the result of feedback provided by faculty to UT System following that meeting. She announced that all UT System campuses had to come up with model policies for their respective Handbook of Operating Procedures by November 4, 2013, to which end the Faculty Council Executive Committee had formed a subcommittee to establish reporting requirements. The new policy is to be implemented in January 2014.

Chair Hart’s summary indicated that requirements fall into two categories: activities that require approval and activities that require disclosure. She noted that there was a list of pre-approved activities (e.g., scholarly activities, conferences, publishing in journals), while outside compensated activities require prior approval, unless they are pre-approved. Any activity that reasonably appears to create a conflict of interest (COI) or conflict of commitment (COC) must be disclosed. While this rule has already been in place, the information will now be collected in an electronic database. Section 6.2 of the proposed System policy lists any information that has to be disclosed. Dr. Hart noted some points where the policy has eased as a result of faculty member push-back. In particular, disclosure of the range of total compensation, if over $5,000, is only required when the activity could reasonably be expected to create a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment. She pointed out that the “description of activity and range of compensation if over $5,000 and for managed conflict of interest and conflict of commitment” will end up on a searchable public database. The administration is still working on who will decide what constitutes a conflict, who gives approval, etc., and the Faculty Council Executive Committee is also drafting its own version for the process. Chair Hart then opened the floor for comments and questions.

Professor Brian Evans (electrical and computer engineering) asked if a legally binding non-disclosure agreement “would prevent the disclosure of the amount of money” a faculty member gets paid and also if it would be possible to exclude graduate students from the policy.

Chair Hart conceded that she was in no way equipped to provide a legal opinion, but pondered that since graduate students generally are part-time employees, they would only have to disclose if they feel that there were a conflict. She agreed, though, that a firm ruling should be in place.

Professor Jody Jensen (kinesiology and health education) saw no need for all disclosures to be collected in a database and not only in those cases with an actual conflict. She wondered why it was necessary for private information to be stored and to be accessible considering the small amount of disclosures that actually led to a managed conflict.

President Powers acknowledged that once information is collected, it is subject to open records. He also commented on the fact that people do not like to have their financial information disclosed, which is an issue for recruitment. The president reiterated that section 6.2 raises the duty to disclose and that only if there is, or likely is, a conflict, does the amount of compensation have to be disclosed (if over $5,000), and he stressed that the order of the wording is important. He pointed out that section 6.6 (Electronic Database) says that it only goes on the public display if compensation is over $5,000 and constitutes a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment. He cautioned regarding the conflicting language of sections 6.2 and 6.6 and advised that input be provided to circumvent any interpretational language between the two sections.

Professor Neikirk opined that there was a substantial change between earlier versions and this new one, in which “the full language is explicitly for managed COIs and COCs, but of course it would not be a managed COC or COI, unless you had already disclosed it.” In his opinion, if and only if, according to section 6.2, a conflict exists, is disclosure required and a possible management plan necessary.

Dr. Dana Cloud (associate professor, communication studies) expressed her concerns about section 6.1 (b) (iii), which requires approval for “any uncompensated activity that reasonably appears to be a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment.” She saw a possible infringement of political rights or free expression for staff or faculty.

Dr. Blinda McClelland (lecturer, biology) asked about the consequences if a faculty member were to choose not to disclose a potential conflict. Chair Hart responded that the disclosure requirement was not new and President Powers confirmed that outside employment always had to be disclosed, although not the amount of compensation.

Mariah Wade (associate professor, anthropology) asked if there was a legal definition of “commitment.” Dr. Hart said that in her layman opinion the University had a right to expect what it is paying for. Generally, a work week was forty hours, but she was not sure what commitment means in this context for faculty members.

Chair Hart concluded the discussion assuring Council members that the subcommittee of the Faculty Council Executive Committee, together with Vice Provost Neil Armstrong’s office, is working on crafting a UT Austin policy.

B. Update on eCIS.
Professor Martha Hilley was not available to present an update.

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