Prof. Brian L. Evans
Engineering Foundation Professor
Chair, 2012-2013 Committee of Counsel on Academic Freedom and Responsibility
The University of Texas at Austin
May 9, 2014
Comments herein are my own opinion. I am speaking for myself.
Faculty and staff working at a public university have full constitutional rights in the workplace and have full constitutional rights in their roles as residents of the United States.
Under UTS 180, The University of Texas System will put all disclosures and permission requests into a publicly accessible and searchable database. Moreover, an employee must first receive permission from The University of Texas to engage in compensated and many uncompensated activities. Failure to comply with the new policy is grounds for termination. Student academic employee positions are not subject to UTS 180.
Prior to UTS 180, the University of Texas System has had policies on outside employment and conflict of interest going back long before 1996. Since at least 1996, each faculty member has to declare to UT Austin the employer, employment dates and number of hours worked per week for all professional consulting work during each academic year.
"UTS 180: This system wide policy was approved on January 15, 2013 and considered in effect as of February 1, 2013. A question was raised at the UT SysFac regarding the range of compensation (page 7). It is broader than the research reporting and may have a negative impact. The persons involved at the UT System level were asked to revisit the compensation ranges. In addition, there was an issue with the disclosure forms as well and they have been asked to go back and revisit the way the forms are treated."
Minutes, UT Medical Branch, Feb. 11, 2013.
Case #1. A faculty member requests approval from UT Austin to volunteer as a troop leader for a large local girl scout troop. UT Austin declines the request. The faculty member volunteers as the girl scout troop leader anyway, and is subsequently fired according to UTS 180.
Case #2. A staff member requests approval to volunteer as a campus organizer for the Texas State Employees Union. Even though none of the volunteer effort will occur during the staff member's official work hours (Monday-Friday 8am-5pm) or use any of the university's resources, UT Austin declines the request. Feeling strongly about protecting worker rights and improving working conditions, the staff member volunteers as a campus organizer anyway. The staff member is subsequently fired according to UTS 180. In addition, because the request for approval is in publicly accessible and searchable database, the former staff member faces constant harassment by anti-union groups.
Case #3. A faculty member requests approval to volunteer for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action. Even though none of the volunteer effort will use university resources, UT Austin declines the request. Feeling strongly about advocating for Second Amendment Rights, the faculty member volunteers for the NRA-ILA, and is subsequently fired according to UTS 180. In addition, because the request for approval is in publicly accessible and searchable database, the former faculty member has been continually harassed by anti-gun groups.
If the March 5th draft of UTS 180 is adopted, UTS 180 will intrude on civil liberties and academic freedom and have extremely negative consequences for recruiting and retaining faculty, staff and other salaried employees. Adoption of UTS 180 would make a wide range of non-work activities public, which will subject salaried employees to unwarranted harassment for their beliefs. UTS policies currently in force already require salaried employees to declare possible conflicts of interest.
Here is an excellent criticism of conflict of commitment policies by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) dated March 5, 2004:
AAUP Faculty Employment Outside of the University: Conflicts of Commitment
"Agenda Academic Council Meeting", April 3, 2013.
Faculty took turns for an hour criticizing UTS 180 as an overreach. The exchange of opinions on UTS 180 begins on line 13 of page 21 and ends on line 5 of page 79 of the
Minutes from the April 15, 2013, UT Austin Faculty Council meeting
Here is one such comment:
"UTS 180 does not cleanly separate professional activities from personal activities. Our professional norms as faculty include academic freedom in teaching, research and expression. UTS 180 violates the academic freedom safeguards of tenure, due process and faculty governance. First, it allows termination of tenured faculty for noncompliance. Second, the only due processes are one level of higher review, which is vague, and standard faculty grievance procedures, which are primarily if not exclusively for allegations of violations of state and/or federal law. Other options for due process, e.g. review by the academic freedom committee, are not included. Further, the president has to approve the merits of a grievance for it to proceed to a hearing. Third, faculty governing bodies are not part of the oversight of this policy. Beyond academic freedom, an employee at a public institution has the full rights of expression and privacy guaranteed by the US Constitution in the way she carries out her work. These rights also apply to her as a private citizen. Yet, UTS 180 intrudes on rights of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and privacy, in both professional and private activities. Please scrap UTS 180."
Chancellor's Update Related to UT System Policy: UTS 180 regarding Conflict of Interest, Conflict of Commitment and Outside Activity.
The above memorandum states the basis for UTS 180 lies in changes to Regents Rule 30104 adopted July 11, 2012:
The University of Texas Board of Regents Rule 30104
That said, many concerns remain with the July 31st draft, and these include the following:
Good news #1: UTS 180 no longer intrudes on most civil liberties. After much pushback, we regained the ability to exercise our constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom on assembly, freedom of religion, etc.
Good news #2: Many of the most common external activities for a faculty member, e.g. reviewing papers/manuscripts, attending/presenting talks, and volunteering for a professional/scholarly society, are automatically pre-approved.
Good news #3: UTS 180 will not apply to student academic employee positions, e.g. graduate TAs, graduate RAs, assistant instructors, undergraduate TAs and undergraduate RAs. This is system wide. Please see Bad news #1 next.
Bad news #1: All students conducting research are subject to UTS 175 Disclosure of Significant Financial Interests and Management and Reporting of Financial Conflicts of Interest in Research.
Good news #4: The amount of external compensation only has to be declared when it exceeds $5,000 in a calendar year from the same source and the funding creates a conflict of interest, unless the amount of compensation is protected by a legally binding non-disclosure agreement. The original UTS 180 wording was that the range of each source of external compensation would have to have been declared whether or not it would have created a conflict or interest.
Bad news #2: Despite the previous "good news", there are still some conditions under which a faculty member would have to report the range of external compensation. This is an overreach. Moreover, this information will be put into a publicly accessible and searchable Web site.
Warning #1: On a faculty annual report, faculty declare (perhaps unintentionally) a lot of activity, including those involving external compensation. Everything on one's faculty annual report is subject to public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act (a.k.a. Texas open records laws).
Warning #2: Any approval request or disclosure filed under UTS 180 is subject to public disclosure under the Texas Public Information Act (a.k.a. Texas open records laws).
"The [Columbia] business school considered and rejected requiring faculty
to inform the dean about how much they received from outside sources,
'It's pretty intrusive,' Johar said. 'There's a limit to what you can
require without getting into privacy issues'."
Source: "Columbia Toughens Faculty Conflict Rules", Bloomberg, Sep. 21, 2011.
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