Disclosure policy meets concern from Faculty Council

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Professors and administrators of the UT System would be required to disclose and receive approval for the work and activities they do outside their jobs at the University under a new policy.

The policy, titled “Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment, and Outside Activities,” was put forth during the Faculty Council meeting Monday for feedback from UT’s faculty council. The policy comes from the UT System.

Stephanie Huie, vice chancellor for the Office of Strategic Initiatives for the UT System, presented the policy alongside Daniel Sharphorn, associate vice chancellor and deputy general counsel. 

“Compliance with the policy will be a campus-wide project,” Huie said. 

The policy will require all faculty and administrative staff to annually disclose any compensated activity outside the University as well as any uncompensated activity that could create a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment. In addition, faculty would have to seek approval of their activities prior to engaging in them. 

The presentation incurred a lengthy period of questioning from several faculty members present at the meeting, with nearly all of them expressing concern about the policy’s implications for their privacy. 

“This seems to be really stepping into faculty privacy issues,” said Elizabeth Gershoff, associate professor in the School of Human Ecology. Gershoff said the policy would dampen faculty involvement outside the University. 

Martha Hilley, Faculty Council chair and music professor, also spoke out against the policy.

“We as faculty want very much to comply with what is fair,” Hilley said. “I’m concerned with the fact of why the system of regents needs to know what I do for outside activities.”

Several council members were particularly concerned about a section of the policy which would discipline noncompliance toward policy with “applicable procedures up to and including termination of employment,” according to the policy outline. There was also confusion over what the policy defined as a faculty member and what constituted approved activities.  

“You may not ask what I do with my private life and how much I make for it,” College of Education professor Jody Jensen said. “At some place we have to draw the line ... This is pure distrust that we are doing our jobs.”

Michael Morton, multimedia journalism senior and Senate of College Councils president, attended and spoke at the meeting. Morton said the policy would hurt not only faculty but students as well, since the policy could turn away prospective faculty members from the University.  

“The main reason why we choose the University of Texas at Austin is because of great faculty,” Morton said. 

Printed on Tuesday, April 16, 2013 as New disclosure policy raises privacy concerns