Statement of University Policy

HOP 5-2011 and UTS 180

It is the policy of The University of Texas at Austin to provide a transparent system of disclosure, approval, and documentation of employees’ activities outside of the University that might otherwise raise concerns about conflicts of interest or conflicts of commitment. HOP 5-2011 Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, and Outside Activities provides the institutional framework to protect the credibility and reputation of the University and its faculty and staff when those employees are engaged in outside activities. It is a companion policy to HOP 7-1210, Promoting Objectivity in Research by Managing, Reducing, or Eliminating Conflicts of Interest. These two policies are the local expressions of UT System policies UTS 180 Conflicts of Interests, Conflicts of Commitment, and Outside Activities and UTS 175 Disclosure of Significant Financial Interests and Management and Reporting of Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research, respectively.

The definitions of conflict of interest and conflict of commitment are:

Conflict of Interest: A significant outside interest of a University employee or one of the employee’s immediate family members that could directly or significantly affect the employee’s performance of the employee’s institutional responsibilities. The proper discharge of an employee’s University responsibilities could be directly or significantly affected if the employment, service, activity or interest: (1) might tend to influence the way the employee performs his or her University responsibilities, or the employee knows or should know the interest is or has been offered with the intent to influence the employee’s conduct or decisions; (2) could reasonably be expected to impair the employee’s judgment in performing his or her University responsibilities; or (3) might require or induce the employee to disclose confidential or proprietary information acquired through the performance of University responsibilities.

Conflict of Commitment: A state in which the time or effort that a University employee devotes to an outside activity directly or significantly interferes with the employee’s fulfillment of University responsibilities or when the employee uses state property without authority in connection with the employee’s outside employment, board service, or other activity (See Sec. 8, Regents' Rule 30104). Exceeding the amount of total time permitted by UT System or University policy for outside activities creates the appearance of a conflict of commitment.

Who Is Affected?

Faculty and some staff

HOP 5-2011 applies generally to all University employees, but only those who engage in certain outside activities need to take action to be in compliance with it as follows:

  • Faculty - UT Austin faculty subject to this policy include all full-time and part-time faculty.
    • Those engaged in research are also affected by HOP 7-1210 which is implemented by the Office of Research Support. Information regarding disclosures relevant to this policy may be found in the Office of Research Support.
    • Faculty who disclose under HOP 7-1210 through the Office of Research Support do NOT need to disclose the same information under HOP 5-2011. They do, however, have to disclose other outside activities that produce an actual or potential conflict of interest with the University or which require an unusual amount of time commitment which could interfere with their University duties.
  • Staff – UT Austin staff subject to this policy are full-time staff exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), full-time non-exempt staff who are authorized to execute contracts on behalf of UT or who because of their job duties at UT have authority to exercise discretion with regard to the award of contracts or other financial transactions, part-time exempt staff, and part-time non-exempt staff with same job responsibilities as described above for full-time non-exempt staff. Human Resources can help staff determine if they are subject to the policy. HOP 7-1210 also applies to staff engaged in research.
  • Students - graduate student academic employees including but not limited to teaching assistants, instructional assistants, and research assistants are not subject to the disclosure and approval section of the policy.

Here are examples of employee profiles.

Expectations of Affected Employees

What affected employees need to do

University employees may not be engaged in outside activities that are in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of their duties for the University. They may also not have outside activities that would interfere with the fulfillment of their duties and responsibilities to the University. If they do, they are expected to disclose those activities annually using UT System’s Outside Activity Portal (OAP), obtain prior approval for each, and if needed develop a management plan with their supervisor or in the case of conflicts related to research do so with the Office of Research Support.

This Quick Reference Table can help you determine if you need to take action. For the activities listed in the left-most column titled “Activity Type” and the category of employment you find yourself in listed across the top of the table, you can locate the particular set of actions you must take. The list of “Activity Type” includes:

  • outside employment/other compensated activity;
  • substantial interest in a business entity;
  • service on outside boards;
  • other outside activity; and
  • gifts over $250.

The category of employment includes:

  • full-time faculty and full-time exempt staff plus full-time non-exempt staff with contracting authority;
  • part-time faculty and part-time exempt staff plus part-time non-exempt staff with contracting authority;
  • full-time immediate family; and
  • part-time immediate family

For any combination of “Activity Type” and employment category, there is a set of actions – Disclosure and/or Prior Approval – that must be taken. These actions and the context in which they are made are embedded in UT System’s OAP. Thus, it is important that faculty and staff become familiar with “disclosure” and “prior approval,” what these actions mean within the conflict of interest/conflict of commitment/outside activity framework, and how faculty and staff can use UT System’s OAP to prepare and submit disclosures and prior approvals.

Disclosure is generally about activities that have already occurred or interests that already exist, and disclosures are required when faculty and staff are engaged in those activities subject to this policy. What disclosures are needed can be determined from the Quick Reference Table. For example:

  • if you are a full-time faculty member employed outside the University, you must disclose your outside employment.
  • If you are a full-time faculty member employed outside the University and have a substantial interest in a business entity, you must disclose only if your business interest constitutes a Conflict of Interest.
  • If you are serving on an outside board, it most likely must be disclosed but see HOP 5-2011 for more information.
  • For any other outside activity, disclosure is required only if there is a Conflict of Interest and/or a Conflict of Commitment.
  • Full-time exempt staff and full-time non-exempt staff with contracting authority are similarly required to disclose under these same combinations.
  • It is important to note that only full-time faculty and full-time exempt staff and full-time non-exempt staff with contracting authority who earn more than $5,000 from outside activities AND whose activity may reasonably appear to be a Conflict of Interest and/or Commitment need to report their compensation. If there is no Conflict of Interest or Conflict of Commitment, then compensation does not need to be disclosed.

Part-time faculty and part-time exempt staff plus part-time non-exempt staff with contracting authority must disclose only if there is a conflict of interest for any of the activities listed.

Immediate family members of full-time faculty and full-time exempt staff plus full-time non-exempt staff with contracting authority must disclose only if there is a conflict of interest, and immediate families of part-time faculty or part-time exempt staff plus part-time non-exempt staff with contracting authority need not report at all.

In summary, it is important to note that whether you are faculty or staff, your activities outside the University, with the exception of outside employment or other compensated activity and service on outside boards, are only subject to disclosure if there is a Conflict of Interest and/or a Conflict of Commitment.

Disclosures are made using the “Make A Disclosure” portal in UT System’s OAP, and they are made as the potential conflict arises during the calendar year (CY). In addition, there is a Finalization Period of January 1 through March 31 of the year following the CY in which those activities took place. This is also the time when disclosures, after thorough checking, are certified as to their accuracy. After Certification, the contents of disclosures may not be changed or deleted from the database.

As faculty and staff navigate the “Make A Disclosure” portal, there are a number of steps at which information will be requested and a series of drop-down menus from which to select the correct option. With the 10-minute time limit to enter that information, it is helpful to know what steps to anticipate. Likewise, it will be important to know what information need to be at hand and records to have accumulated over time. This Disclosure Information document may be helpful in that regard.

Prior Approval is generally needed for activities that have not yet occurred such as entering into outside employment, service on an outside board, uncompensated activity that may reasonably appear to create a conflict of interest and/or conflict of commitment. There are exclusions and exemptions noted in HOP 5-2011. In a fashion similar to Disclosures, the need for Prior Approvals can be determined from the Quick Reference Table. Approvals must be obtained from your supervisor using the “Request Approval” portal in UT System’s OAP to enter information necessary to making that determination. Requests are made during the calendar year as faculty and staff engage in new outside activities.

Some activities, such as those commonly practiced by faculty, have been pre-approved and thus do not require prior-approval. These preapproved faculty activities listed in HOP 5-2011 are as follows:

  1. Serving on a federal, state, or local governmental agency committee, panel, or commission;
  2. Acting in an editorial capacity for a professional journal;
  3. Reviewing journal manuscripts, book manuscripts, or grant or contract proposals;
  4. Attending and presenting talks at scholarly colloquia and conferences;
  5. Developing scholarly communications in the form of books or journal articles, reviews, movies, television productions, and similar works, even when such activities result in financial gain, consistent with intellectual property and other applicable U. T. System and institutional policies and guidelines; and
  6. Serving as a committee member, an officer, or board member of a professional or scholarly society.

While these activities may not require preapproval, they may require disclosure if there is a potential of conflict of interest or conflict of commitment.

As faculty and staff navigate the “Request Approval” portal, there are a number of steps at which information, such as your supervisor’s email address, will be requested and a series of drop-down menus from which to select the correct option. With a 10-minute time limit to enter that information, it is helpful to know what steps to anticipate. Likewise, it will be important to know what data need to be at hand and what records should have been accumulated over time. This Prior Approval Information document may be helpful in that regard.

The University requires the disclosure of a description of the nature and extent of some or all such activities as part of a faculty or staff member’s periodic performance evaluation.

Management Plans

When a conflict occurs

Management plans must be in place for all faculty and professional and administrative staff for outside activities that may create a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment before activity begins. All management plans related to research will be developed by the employee in conjunction with the Office of Research Support and approved by the Office of the Vice President for Research. Management plans unrelated to research must be developed by the employee in conjunction with the employee’s director, department chair or head, dean or vice president as appropriate and approved by the Office of the Vice President for Legal Affairs.

Training

Training for policies and procedures

A training module (CW 0181 Outside Activities, Conflicts of Interest and Commitment) for HOP 5-2011 is available through University Compliance Services, and faculty and staff are advised to read through it as part of their familiarization with this new policy. This module will help you better understand your responsibilities under UT System policy UTS 180 and UT Austin policy HOP 5-2011. These policies cover outside activities, conflicts of interest, and conflicts of commitment. Requirements as UT employees change under these policies depending on your role and responsibilities at the university. The module takes about 30 minutes to complete. To receive credit for this module, you will be required to certify that you have read the material.

UT System’s Outside Activity Portal (OAP)

How to use this application

UTS 180 and hence HOP 5-2011 requires that faculty and staff outside activity data be entered into an electronic database so that employees may electronically request prior approval, make necessary disclosures for outside activities, obtain approval or some other action from their approver, and, if necessary, enter into Management Plans that resolve conflicts. UT System developed the Outside Activity Portal or OAP, an electronic database, for this purpose.

Access to the OAP is available at http://outsideactivity.utsystem.edu. Please note that it is best viewed with Internet Explorer (v. 9 or later), but it should work with Chrome (v. 32) and Safari (v. 7.0.1). Full functionality may be missing in Firefox. It does not work on iPad or Android Tablet.

Users entering the OAP will see the UT System Outside Activity Portal (OAP) or “Home Portal” with four portals:

  • Request [Prior] Approval - generally activities that have not yet occurred, activities such as outside employment and other compensated activity, service on outside boards, and uncompensated activity that may reasonably appear to create a conflict (there are exclusions and exemptions, e.g., UT Austin’s preapproved activities);
  • Make a Disclosure - generally about activities that have already occurred or interests that already exist;
  • Employee Portal - single portal in which faculty and staff can take actions, view status of requests and approvals, make disclosures, acknowledge policies, etc.; and
  • Approver Portal – for use by final approver and other approvers in the approval chain, e.g., department chair, associate dean, dean, for a particular school/college or administrative unit take action on requests and disclosures.

UT System has created the Tool Tip Training document (PDF) for users of the OAP. It is a step by step description of how the OAP is used by employees to request prior approvals and make disclosures and how to use the employee portal to track approvals and disclosures through the review and approval process. The document also provides instructions for the Approvers and how they fulfill their roles.

OAP users can get help in its use through the Help links on each webpage. Clicking on Help causes a Support Request Form to appear with a menu of error types from which the user can select and provide a brief description of the problem. For technical issues, users will receive a response within 24 business hours.

Annual Cycle

When to do what

The OAP uses the calendar year (CY) as the basis for its annual cycle to align with the tax year. It uses the first quarter of the following year as its Annual Finalization Period. For example, January 1 through March 31 of 2014 was the Annual Finalization Period for the 2013 calendar year. Thus, during this time period, faculty and staff disclosed activities and resolved actual or potential conflicts of interest and/or conflicts of commitment that took place the previous year, n CY2013. They will also finalize these activities and declare them ended through a certification process. At the same time and through the rest of CY2014 they will be doing the same for activities originating in CY2014.

Activities During Fall 2014

In the past, faculty and staff have filed Requests for Outside Employment at the start of the fall semester and any time thereafter during the academic year (AY) with each new outside employment. These requests expired at the end of the academic year and had to be renewed for the subsequent AY if they extended into the next AY. Under the new policy (HOP 5-2011) the Calendar Year (CY) is the basis for filing Requests for Prior Approval. Faculty and staff will file those requests at the start of the CY for any new or continuing outside activity or within a CY whenever it occurs. If the activity extends beyond the end of the CY, then a new Request needs to be filed to cover that extension. This is easily accomplished using the Duplicate feature in the Request for Prior Approval process. Supervisors will review and approve these Requests as appropriate.

Each Request for Prior Approval created in UT System’s OAP generates a Disclosure which is finalized by the faculty member or staff any time after the disclosure is created, the activity is approved, once the outside activity is completed, or during the Annual Finalization Period, i.e., the first quarter of the subsequent CY. If the activity continues past a given calendar year then not only can the Request for Prior Approval be extended easily but the Disclosure may be also.

With the start of the Fall 2014 semester, faculty and staff may file Requests for Prior Approvals for outside activities that start during the fall semester as well as those that begin after January 1 (the beginning of CY2015). These requests are good for one year only, so Requests for Prior Approval submitted at the start of the Fall 2014 semester that extend into the next calendar year will need to be renewed sometime on or after January 1 so the activity is ultimately disclosed during the Annual Finalization Period.

Activities During CY 2015

During the first quarter of CY2015 (January 1 through March 31, 2015), Disclosures for outside employment and other activities that took place in CY 2014 must be finalized. Once faculty and staff have checked over these disclosures and confirmed they are accurate and complete, they finalize the disclosures (in effect, they electronically sign the disclosures) then certify them, all within the “Make A Disclosure” portal. Once certified the disclosures may not be edited or deactivated.

Requests for Prior Approval can be made anytime during the calendar year, but these Requests must be prepared and submitted before the outside employment or activity actually begins so they may be reviewed and approved by the supervisor. Many of these Requests may have been submitted at the start of the fall 2014 semester as noted above and carried forward. When possible, faculty and staff should prepare these requests at the start of CY2015 to stay in the calendar year cycle. However, if the outside employment or activity is scheduled to start during the Fall 2014 semester, then “Requests for Prior Approval” must be submitted before that employment or activity begins. Supervisors will review and approve these Requests as they are submitted.

Outside employment or activity that will continue beyond CY 2015 can easily be accommodated within the “Request for Prior Approval” portal using the Duplicate feature. All of the information submitted will be duplicated except the start and end dates, and that information must be updated.

Disclosures may also be made anytime during CY2015. Any changes in the Disclosure that take place before the Annual Finalization Period begins can be made during that period. Disclosures may also be carried forward for outside activities that extend beyond the calendar year.

Approvers

What do approvers do and when?

Approvers are anyone who has faculty and/or staff reporting to them. Approvers must log into the OAP to create their identity in the system; this needs to be done only one time. The procedure for loging in is described in the “Accessing the Outside Activity Portal & Getting Help” section of the Tool Tip Training document (PDF).

It is recommended that approvers log in to the OAP as soon as possible. Once their identity is established, then those who report to them can route prior approval requests and disclosures to them for action. Approvers should review “The Approval Portal” section in the Tool Tip Training document (PDF).

UT Austin Preapproved Activities

You don’t need prior approval for these activities unless…

Some activity is so integral to the mission of the University that it is encouraged, so long as the activity does not reasonably appear to create a conflict of interest and the amount of time committed does not interfere with the faculty member’s University duties and responsibilities. This may include activities such as the following:

  • Serving on a federal, state, or local government agency committee, panel, or commission.
  • Acting in an editorial capacity for a professional journal.
  • Reviewing journal manuscripts, book manuscripts, grant or contract proposals.
  • Attending and presenting talks at scholarly colloquia and conferences.
  • Developing scholarly communications in books, journal articles, movies, television productions, and similar works, even when such activities result in financial gain, consistent with intellectual property and other applicable UT System and University policies and guidelines.
  • Serving as a committee member or an officer of a professional or scholarly organization.

Caveats

Things you will want to know

The following caveats apply:

  • Entering the system is NOT required of all employees. If an employee does not have a request to make or activity to disclose, they may not have to enter the OAP at all unless they need to approve the request of someone else.
  • Only faculty who earn more than $5,000 from outside activities AND whose activity may reasonably appear to be a conflict of interest and/or commitment need to report their compensation (explicitly stated in the guidance and in the OAP).
  • Gifts of $250 need to be disclosed (see Government Code Chapter 572.023 Personal Financial Disclosure, Standards of Conduct, and Conflict of Interest as cited in RR 30104).

Help

Information About HOP 5-2011

For information about HOP 5-2011 Conflicts of Interest, Conflicts of Commitment, and Outside Activities:

  • Find and become familiar with the policy at HOP 5-2011 (becoming familiar with this UT Austin policy, particularly the definitions of conflict of interest and conflict of commitment, will be most helpful);
  • Check all the material on the Provost’s Office website pertaining to this policy;
  • Take University Compliance Services’ Training module CW 0181 Outside Activities, Conflicts of Interest and Commitment (this is an optional training module that provides some case studies);
  • Review the Employee Profiles and Examples for some case studies of conflicts of interest;
  • Use the Quick Reference Table: Overview of Disclosure and Prior Approval Requirements (PDF) as an overview of the COC/COI/OA policy;
  • Call 512-232-3305 or email evpp_coi@austin.utexas.edu with questions.

Assistance from the Provost, Human Resources, and University Compliance Services

There are several web pages pertaining to the Conflict of Interest/Conflict of Commitment/Outside Activities policy:

These web pages are updated periodically.

UT System’s Outside Activity Portal

UT System’s Outside Activity Portal (OAP), is itself a source of information with its web interfaces for gathering information within two portals, “Request Approval” and “Make A Disclosure,” and two other portals, “Employee Portal” and “Approver Portal,” which are interfaces for employees and supervisors (i.e., approvers). Training for using this Portal is through System’s Tool Tip Training document (PDF).

“Help” links on each page of each portal provide the user access to information that explains actions to be taken on that page. These links also have a Support Request Form that can be completed and submitted when the software itself appears to malfunction. For technical issues, users will receive a response within 24 business hours.

As you move through the application you may receive an error similar to “SAS Stored Process Error.” In most cases, the best solution is to close your browser and then re-enter the application. “Save Early, Save Often” is your best defense.




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