Wayne State University

Aim Higher

Conflict of Interest

Q: What is the legal meaning of “conflict of interest” and “conflict of commitment”?

A: The concepts of conflict of interest and conflict of commitment arise out of the fiduciary duty that an employee owes to his or her employer. All WSU employees, whether faculty or staff, owe a fiduciary duty to their employer, Wayne State University. This means that when we make decisions as WSU employees, we must make that decision with the organizational interest of the University as our guide. In a similar fashion, when we accept employment at WSU, whether as faculty or staff, we commit ourselves to doing fully the job we accept. When an outside interest or commitment prevents us from fully doing the job we have accepted or prevents us from using only WSU’s organizational interest in guiding our decisions as employees, there is a conflict of interest or conflict of commitment.

Q: The technical legal meanings of conflict of interest and commitment seem hard to apply. Does WSU have any guidelines on how they are applied at WSU?

A: Yes. The Board of Governors has adopted a Wayne State University Statute, 2.41.03 “Conflict of Interest; Contracts”. This statute provides guidelines in the following areas:

  • On Preventing Conflicts of Interest in Government-Sponsored Research at Universities;
  • University Responsibility;
  • Contracts between Wayne State University and External Organizations in which University Employees Participate.

These guidelines can be accessed at http://www.bog.wayne.edu/code/.

The University also has a University Policy 08-01 “Conflict Of Interest Disclosure” which deals with conflicts of interest that may exist because of relationships of management personnel and members of their immediate family with external parties with which Wayne State University conducts business. This policy can be accessed at http://policies.wayne.edu/administrative/08-01-conflict-of-interest.php.

Wayne State University's Division of Research encourages external activities that enhance an employee's value to WSUWSU's presence in local, national, or international communities, provides public service, or brings cutting edge research to the public via industry partnerships.  In order to protect the public trust and promote objectivity in these activities, the University has also adopted a "Research Policy on Individual and Institutional Financial Conflict of Interest". This policy establishes standards to ensure that there is no reasonable expectation that WSU employees will be biased in these endeavors by competing financial interests.

The Research Policy On Individual and Institutional Financial Conflict Of Interest can be found at:
http://research.wayne.edu/integrity/pdf/fcoi-research-policy-revised-7-11-13.pdf.

Q: What role does the OGC have in reviewing potential conflicts of interest?

A: The attorneys in the OGC provide legal advice and counsel in understanding the requirements. For example, if a dean or administrator within an academic unit has questions related to a potential conflict situation, he or she can obtain legal advice and counsel from the OGC. The OGC can and does assist individual faculty or staff members in reporting conflicts to appropriate supervisors or in understanding University policies. However, the OGC is prohibited from acting as the personal legal advisor to an individual faculty or staff member regarding his or her individual rights.

 

-- updated April, 2011