Office of Compliance

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Outside Activities Reporting

I am having problems inside the Portal. What should I do?

The UT System has created a comprehensive FAQ page. Almost every question you can have is on this page, including several solutions to problems. Please go to https://outsideactivity2.utsystem.edu/support/ and look for your issue. If you cannot find the answer here, please contact the Office of Compliance. 

What is a Conflict of Commitment?

A conflict of commitment is generally an issue of time. Only outside activities of employees – not their covered family members – can cause a conflict of commitment. Part-time employees generally do not have conflicts of commitment provided other employment and activities are not conducted during UT Tyler scheduled work time.

A conflict of commitment exists when:

  • the time or effort that a UT Tyler employee devotes to an outside activity directly or significantly interferes with the employee's fulfillment of his/her institutional responsibilities, or
  • the employee uses State property without authority in connection with the employee's outside employment, board service, or other activity.

Example 1
This is the most obvious and easily recognizable example of a conflict of commitment. A full-time UT Tyler employee has a second job in the evenings. The employee is often late to the office, frequently lethargic and unproductive, and sometimes leaves early to get to his other job. The quality of the employee's work and dependability have declined. This employee has a conflict of commitment. Outside employment is interfering with his ability to fulfill his responsibilities to UT Tyler.
 
Example 2
It is not always one single activity but the sum total of all activities that may result in a conflict of commitment. For instance, in addition to her teaching and research duties, a faculty member served as a reviewer for two journals, gave the keynote address at four conferences, and also gave lectures at three medical campuses. There is value in these outside activities, and the university encourages faculty to engage in them. However, in this instance, the chair of the department is concerned that the combination of all of these activities for one faculty member may be creating a conflict of commitment.

What is a Conflict of Interest?

A conflict of interest exists when an outside interest of a UT Tyler employee, or one of the employee's covered family members, could directly or significantly affect the employee's performance of his/her institutional responsibilities. The employee’s institutional responsibilities could be directly or significantly affected if the outside interest:

  • influences the way the employee performs his/her institutional responsibilities,
  • is or has been offered with the intent to influence the employee's conduct or decisions, 
  • could reasonably be expected to impair the employee's judgment in performing his or her institutional responsibilities; or
  • might require or induce the employee to disclose confidential or proprietary information acquired through the performance of institutional responsibilities.
    Conflicts of interest can arise because of the employee's own activities or financial interests or those of the employee's covered family members.

Conflicts of interest are usually issues of financial or other personal gain. In most cases, the activity or interest must be related to your UT Tyler responsibilities in order to create a conflict of interest.

Conflicts of interest can affect research when an outside interest of a researcher has the potential to be affected by the outcome of research.  If not properly managed, such conflicts can appear to undermine the unbiased judgment expected by the scientific community and by funding agencies regarding the design, conduct, and reporting of research. 

Example 3
A UT Tyler faculty member's research focuses on determining the rate of global warming and its causes. He is approached by a major coal company about serving as a scientific advisor to the company regarding their coal extraction operations. The company proposes to pay an annual retainer of $ 80,000 for this service.

The proposed outside service is with an entity which could be affected by the faculty member's research. This is a relationship with the potential to influence the judgment of the researcher, and should be reported.
 
Example 4
As part of her responsibilities, a UT Tyler employee participates in decisions regarding large contracts for facilities maintenance. Her son works for a company that performs this type of service.  

If her son's company submits a bid to provide services to UT Tyler, a potential conflict of interest arises.  The extent of the conflict depends on how much her son stands to gain from the company's work for UT Tyler, and his role with respect to this work.   If he is owner of the company, he stands to gain directly.  His role as owner would also make him directly responsible for the company's performance under its contract with UT Tyler, performance that his mother would participate in evaluating.  This would be a direct conflict of interest.

On the other hand, if he is not owner, and if he works in a different part of the company with no relationship to the service being provided, the potential conflict of interest is less.

The employee should report her son's employment with this company since it reasonably appears to be related to her responsibilities at UT Tyler.

How Do I Report Outside Interests and Activities?

Outside interests and activities are reported electronically via the UT System Portal. The Portal can be accessed  at: https://outsideactivity2.utsystem.edu/ (Links to an external site.). Use your UT Tyler log in information to access the Portal.

The Portal provides functionality for three kinds of reports:

  • Use “Requests for Approval” to obtain prior approval where required for outside employment and service on outside boards, as well as other uncompensated activities that may reasonably appear to create a conflict of interest.
  • Use “Disclosures” for activities and interests that do not require prior approval, but do require after-the-fact reporting in the Portal.
  • Use “Reports of No Activity” to indicate that you have no outside activities that require reporting in the Portal.
    What is Important About Appearances in Managing Conflicts of Interest?

One option for managing conflicts of interest or commitment would be to focus only on outside activities and interests that employees perceive as causing them conflict. UT System and UT Tyler policies focus instead on circumstances that an objective third party would reasonably perceive as causing a conflict. This approach is taken because:

  • Subjective employee perception varies from person to person and cannot support consistent policy application.
  • Only by applying an objective third party perspective can we meet the expectations of the public and other stakeholders whose trust we seek to maintain.
    The first step for managing the appearance of a conflict of interest or commitment is to report all interests or activities that are related to our UT Tyler responsibilities.

Many outside interests are positive, consistent with UT Tyler’s mission, and enhance professional development. Reporting them in the Portal demonstrates our commitment to transparency and trustworthiness. The fact that an employee has an outside interest or activity to report is not inherently bad, nor does it indicate the employee’s actions will be biased or inappropriate.

When in doubt in determining whether an activity or interest should be reported, resolve the doubt in favor of reporting.

When should I obtain prior approval for an outside activity?

Requests for prior approval should be submitted through the Portal in time for the designated approval authorities to approve them in advance of your first engaging in the activity.

Annual review and re-approval is required for ongoing activities during the Annual Disclosure Period, which is January, February, and March each year.

What if I didn’t get pre-approved for an activity that is already on-going?

You should log onto the Portal now and request retrospective approval for activities requiring prior approval.

There may be activities that by their nature cannot be specifically approved before the work must begin, such as consulting on an emergency or other urgent need. You can request approval retrospectively by completing the Request Approval tab in the Outside Activity Online Portal from the Institutional Compliance website.

These urgent situations should be rare and retrospective approval should be requested promptly.

Who are the Approval Authorities for outside activities?

The following individuals have been appointed as the approval authorities for outside activities:

  • For members of the faculty: Department Chair, Dean and Provost
  • For Department Chairs and Program Directors: The Dean
  • For Deans: The Provost
  • For Executive Officers: The President, and for the President, the Executive Vice Chancellor
  • For administrative and professional staff and other employees:  Their supervisor and vice president.

More senior institutional and UT System officials may be consulted in the process of making approval decisions.

Approvals may be rescinded if information is received that indicates the activity is not consistent with the policy or any applicable law.

  • You should be given notice in writing and have an opportunity to respond.

Do faculty with Nine-Month Appointments require approval for outside employment?

  • Faculty members are not required to request approval for outside activities carried out wholly outside of their period of appointment.  This typically applies during the summer for faculty who do not have appointments for the full 12 months of the year.  
  • These activities still require after-the-fact disclosure under Categories 4 and 5 for faculty members engaged in research or sponsored projects, or involved in procurement activities, as defined above.

When Are Disclosures Due?

Individuals engaged in research or sponsored projects, or involved in procurement activities, are required to update their disclosures for each calendar year during the Annual Disclosure Period.  The Annual Disclosure Period is January, February, and March of the each year.

In addition:

  • Initial disclosures should be made within 30 days of acquiring any new interest or outside activity, unless already addressed by an approved request for approval.
  • The same time limits apply to interests of covered family members required to be disclosed.
  • Employees may be asked throughout the year to confirm that their outside activity reporting on the Portal is up-to-date in accordance with the requirements shown on the Decision Matrix.

Also, remember:

  • Research and other sponsored funds may not be expended until the institution has determined that no conflict of interest exists or that any conflict of interest can be managed.
  • For Public Health Service (PHS) - funded research, disclosures are due prior to the date of application for funding.

What is a Conflict of Interest Management Plan?

Management plans must be in place for all faculty and exempt staff for outside activities that may create a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment before the activity begins. Management plans will be customized by the appropriate Approving Authority in consultation with the employee. Management plans will be presented to the Approving Authority’s supervisor for review and final approval.

Conflict management plans are put in place to provide checkpoints to ensure that your outside activity does not interfere with the discharge of your UT Tyler responsibilities.

This is not a negative or punitive action, nor is it a part of your personnel record.

The following individuals have been appointed as the approval authorities for conflict of interest management plans:

  • For members of the faculty: The Department Chair and Dean
  • For Department Chairs and Program Directors: The Dean
  • For Deans: The Provost
  • For Executive Officers: The President, and for the President, the Executive Vice Chancellor
  • For all other employees: Management plans for other employees are developed by their direct supervisor in consultation with the employee, and will be approved by the next immediate supervisor in their chain of command.

Will My Disclosures be Publicly Available Online?

UT System policies require public posting of managed conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment except in unusual cases deemed confidential by the institution. UT System will host the site with this information.