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A Message from the Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs

Frederick P. Schaffer, Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs The CUNY Board of Trustees approved the new CUNY Conflict of Interest Policy on June 23, 2008. Under the Policy, which is effective as of July 1, 2008, all University activities are to be conducted in accordance with the highest standards of integrity and ethics and in a manner that will not reflect or appear to reflect adversely on the University's credibility, objectivity, or fairness.

The Policy sets forth the general standards of conduct and the rules regarding hiring, employment, and contracting decisions and supervisory responsibility involving certain family members that apply to any individual who is, or at any time becomes, an officer, full-time or part-time employee, or post-doctoral associate at the University, or a student engaged in faculty-directed research at the University other than as part of his or her coursework, whether or not the student is paid for the engagement.

The Policy also sets forth specific obligations of covered individuals who are involved in research or similar educational activities at the University and the University's procedures for managing Conflicts of Interest that may arise in connection with those activities.

Below is a summary of the Policy. The full Policy can be accessed in full at the CUNY website at http://urdox1.cuny.edu/academics/info-central/addresources/faculty-staff/conflict-of-interest.html. The provisions of the Policy are to be interpreted in light of the paramount importance of academic freedom in the activities of the University.

Frederick P. Schaffer
General Counsel and Senior Vice Chancellor for Legal Affairs

1. General Statement of Policy

Under the CUNY Conflict of Interest Policy, which was approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees on June 23, 2008, and is effective as of July 1, 2008, all University activities shall be conducted in accordance with the highest standards of integrity and ethics and in a manner that will not reflect or appear to reflect adversely on the University's credibility, objectivity, or fairness. No individual covered by the Policy shall have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any business or transaction or professional activity, or incur any obligation of any nature, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties and responsibilities at the University. "Covered Individuals" under the Policy include any individual who is, or at any time becomes an officer, full-time or part-time employee, or post-doctoral associate at the University, or a student engaged in faculty-directed research at the University other than as part of his or her coursework, whether or not the student is paid for such engagement.

Sections 2 and 3 of the Policy, which set forth the general standards of conduct and the rules regarding hiring, employment, and contracting decisions and supervisory responsibility involving Family Members (as defined below), apply to all Covered Individuals. Section 4 sets forth specific obligations of Covered Individuals who are involved in research or similar educational activities at the University ("research") and the University's procedures for managing Conflicts of Interest that may arise in connection with such activities. The following is a summary of the Policy, which can be accessed in full at the CUNY website at http://urdox1.cuny.edu/academics/info-central/addresources/faculty-staff/conflict-of-interest.html. The provisions of the Policy are to be interpreted in light of the paramount importance of academic freedom in the activities of the University.

2. General Standards of Conduct

Although not all possible situations within the scope of the Policy are included in this section, the following standards, based on provisions in the New York State Public Officers Law, serve as general guidance for Covered Individuals. All Covered Individuals are encouraged to consult the advisory opinions of the New York State Commission on Public Integrity interpreting these provisions at http://www.nyintegrity.org/advisory, and to bring questions about the applicability or interpretation of any of these standards to the University's Office of the General Counsel.

a) No Covered Individual shall accept other employment that will impair his or her independence of judgment in the exercise of his or her duties or responsibilities at the University.

b) No Covered Individual shall accept other employment or engage in any business or professional activity that will require him or her to disclose confidential information gained by reason of his or her position or authority at the University.

c) No Covered Individual shall disclose confidential information acquired in the course of his or her duties or responsibilities at the University, except as required by such duties or responsibilities or by law, nor use such information to further his or her personal interests.

d) No Covered Individual shall use or attempt to use his or her position at the University to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself or herself or others.

e)No Covered Individual shall engage in any transaction as a representative or agent of the University with any business entity in which he or she has a direct or indirect financial interest that might reasonably tend to conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties or responsibilities at the University.

f) A Covered Individual shall not by his or her conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him or her or unduly enjoy his or her favor in the performance of his or her duties or responsibilities at the University, or that he or she is affected by the kinship, rank, position, or influence of any party or person in the performance of those duties or responsibilities.

g) A Covered Individual shall abstain from making personal investments in enterprises that he or she has reason to believe may be directly involved in decisions to be made by him or her at the University or that will otherwise create substantial conflict between his or her duty or responsibility at the University and his or her private interest.

h) No Covered Individual, nor any firm or association of which he or she is a member, nor any corporation ten percent (10%) or more of the stock of which is owned or controlled directly or indirectly by such Covered Individual, shall sell any goods or services having a value in excess of $25 to the University, or contract for or provide such goods or services with or to any private entity where the power to contract, appoint, or retain on behalf of the private entity is exercised, directly or indirectly, by the University, unless such goods or services are provided pursuant to an award or contract let after public notice and competitive bidding.

i) No Covered Individual shall accept gifts of more than nominal value where the circumstances would permit the inference that (a) the gift was intended to influence the Covered Individual in the performance of his or her duties or responsibilities at the University, or (b) the gift constituted a tip, reward, or sign of appreciation for any act by the Covered Individual in connection with those duties or responsibilities.

3. Policy regarding Nepotism in Hiring, Employment, Supervisory Responsibility, and Contracting

The University seeks to foster a work environment conducive to a satisfying family life for all members of the University community and to accommodate, wherever appropriate, individual needs relating to family life. At the same time, there are a number of situations where the personal interests of a member of the University community may conflict with the proper discharge of his or her duties and responsibilities at the University. In keeping with the New York State Public Officers Law, the Policy recognizes that conflicts may be inherent in the hiring, employment, and supervision of a Covered Individual's Family Members as well as in entering into contracts that relate to Family Members or with entities in which Family Members have a personal or financial interest.

Under the Policy, a "Family Member" includes any person living in the same household as the Covered Individual, and any person related to the Covered Individual within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity. Such related persons include the Covered Individual's spouse and the parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, great grandparents, and great grandchildren of the Covered Individual and his or her spouse, and the spouses of these relatives as well. (For purposes of the Policy, a "spouse" includes a domestic partner under applicable laws governing domestic partnerships and civil unions.) A Covered Individual should consult the University's Office of the General Counsel if he or she has any questions about whether the provisions of this section apply to his or her situation.

The following are the specific prohibitions against a Covered Individual's participation in the conduct of University business involving his or her Family Members.

Hiring and Employment Decisions. No Covered Individual shall take part in any decision to hire, promote, discipline, or discharge any of his or her Family Members with respect to any position at the University. If such a hiring or employment matter arises relating to a Family Member, then the Covered Individual must advise his or her supervisor of the relationship and must be recused from any and all discussions or decisions relating to the matter.

Supervisory Responsibility. No Covered Individual shall have Supervisory Responsibility for any of his or her Family Members at the University, except as provided by waiver as set forth below. (A Covered Individual shall be deemed to have "Supervisory Responsibility" for a Family Member if the Family Member (a) directly reports to the Covered Individual, or (b) directly reports to a supervisor who reports ultimately to the Covered Individual, regardless of the number of reporting levels that separate the Family Member from the Covered Individual.) Although Department Chairs are Covered Individuals, for the purpose of this section, they shall not be deemed to have any Supervisory Responsibility for full-time faculty members in their department under this section, but they shall be deemed to have Supervisory Responsibility for their department's adjunct faculty members.

If at the time of the initial implementation of the Policy, a Covered Individual has Supervisory Responsibility for a Family Member at the University, or subsequent to the initial implementation a Covered Individual may come to have such Supervisory Responsibility, the Covered Individual shall make reasonable efforts to effect a change in the organization or have the Family Member reassigned in order to avoid a violation of this section. If, however, such a change or reassignment is not feasible (e.g., as a result of civil service rules or provisions of the applicable collective bargaining agreement) or would result in significant harm to the operations or activities of the University, the Covered Individual may request a waiver from the Vice President for Administration (or individual with similar responsibilities) at the College where the Covered Individual is employed or such other College official as may be designated by the College President. If, after a review of all the relevant circumstances, the waiver is granted, the Covered Individual may continue or assume, as the case may be, Supervisory Responsibility for his or her Family Member.

Notwithstanding any waiver regarding Supervisory Responsibility for a Family Member pursuant to the preceding paragraph, no Covered Individual shall participate under any circumstances in any action that directly affects his or her Family Member as an employee of the University individually, and not as a member of a group, including, but not limited to, performance evaluations, position reclassifications, and determination of promotional opportunities or eligibility for additional compensation of any kind from the University.

Contracting Decisions. No Covered Individual shall take part in any contracting decision at the University (a) relating to a Family Member, or (b) relating to any entity in which a Family Member is an officer, director, or partner, or in which a Family Member owns or controls ten percent (10%) or more of the stock of such entity. If a contracting matter arises involving either clause (a) or (b), then the Covered Individual must advise his or her supervisor of the relationship and must be recused from any and all discussions or decisions relating to the matter.

Sponsored Programs. The foregoing provisions of this section do not apply to positions funded through the Research Foundation. Hiring, employment, and contracting decisions and supervisory responsibility involving a Covered Individual's Family Members in such positions are governed by the Conflict of Interest Policy of the Research Foundation.

4. Policy on Conflicts of Interest in Research.

A particular purpose of the CUNY Conflict of Interest Policy is to promote integrity in research by establishing standards to ensure that there is no reasonable possibility that the design, conduct, reporting, or review of research projects at the University, regardless of the source of funding or the commercial exploitation of the results of such projects, will be biased by any conflicting financial interests of a Covered Individual.

The University has determined that a strict prohibition of any Conflict of Interest -- which is defined as an actual or potential conflict between the personal interests of a Covered Individual and the interests of the University, or the reasonable appearance of such a conflict -- does not serve the public interest because potentially beneficial interactions with industry would be lost. Moreover, the University recognizes that the mere existence of such Conflicts, in the absence of wrongful behavior, is not improper. As a result, consistent with Federal regulations dealing with objectivity in research and investigatory financial disclosure policy, the Policy seeks to manage Conflicts of Interest in order to minimize the potential harm that could result either from Conflicts that actually impair the judgment of Covered Individuals or from the appearance that the judgment of Covered Individuals has been or will be impaired.

In addition to any obligation under the University's Intellectual Property Policy, each Covered Individual must disclose any Significant Financial Interest to the College Conflicts Officer at his or her College in certain situations involving proposals and applications for research funding, the conduct or review of funded research, the licensing of University-owned intellectual property, the involvement of students and post-doctoral associates, and changes in a previously reported Significant Financial Interest. The definition of "Significant Financial Interest" (which is the same as the definition in the Federal regulations) as well as the specific procedures involved in the review of Conflicts involving a Significant Financial Interest can be found at http://urdox1.cuny.edu/academics/info-central/addresources/faculty-staff/conflict-of-interest.html.

In brief, the Policy provides for a College Conflicts Officer designated at each College to review disclosures of Conflicts involving a Significant Financial Interest and to manage those Conflicts in a fair, objective, and confidential manner. The College Conflicts Officer will make his or her decisions regarding such Conflicts by allowing the Conflict because the circumstances require no action, allowing the Conflict with conditions, or prohibiting the Conflict and providing steps to remove it. The Policy also provides for a University-wide Conflicts Committee to consider appeals of decisions made at the College level.

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