Faculty Authored Course Materials

Published: May 31st, 2007

Category: Memos

Janie Fouke, Senior Vice President and Provost

Universities across the country are reviewing practices in a number of areas to ensure that they have sound conflict of interest policies. Before the end of the spring 2007 semester, after a dialog among the University of Florida’s Academic Policy Council, the Provost and Student Government, the Academic Policy Council identified a review of the University’s longstanding conflict of interest policy on faculty authored course materials as one of the Council’s priorities for the coming year.

The Chair of the Faculty Senate, Rick Yost, recently charged the Council to review this policy over the next few months, with a goal of being able to update the policy this fall. A copy of Rick Yost’s charge to the Council can be found at http://www.senate.ufl.edu/archives/councils/policy/2007/APCchargecoursem aterials.pdf. I am writing to ask you to support this important effort by providing your wisdom on how the existing policy should be updated, as well as by ensuring that best practices are used in implementing the existing policy in the interim.

Great university faculties create and disseminate knowledge around the world through teaching, research, publications and other activities. Potential conflicts of interest may arise at any university when faculty members author course materials and benefit financially from their students’ required use of the materials. At the same time, these materials can be of great benefit to students.

The University of Florida has had a conflict of interest policy covering faculty authored course materials for many years. Most recently revised 10 years ago, the policy allows faculty to require their students to use faculty-authored materials, as long as the faculty member does not benefit financially. There is an exception, however, when the faculty-authored course materials are used beyond the University of Florida and the faculty member provides students with free access by making them available at the library. Under this exception, our policy requires any faculty member who would benefit financially from UF students’ use of course materials to disclose his or her financial interest and to request and receive approval from his or her Department Chair and Dean.

Since the current policy’s inception, however, the availability of electronic publishing and the use of electronic course materials have increased, complicating evaluation and management of potential conflicts. The Academic Policy Council’s recommendations on how the policy could be updated to address electronic course materials, electronic publishing, and national trends in avoiding or managing conflicts will be very important for the student body and the faculty.

In his charge to the Academic Policy Council, Rick Yost makes the important point that we should support the Council’s efforts on this priority by ensuring that the University’s existing policy is implemented as carefully as possible while the Council is undertaking its review. I am asking the Deans and Department Chairs to share best practices under the existing policy and to ensure that good controls on financial conflicts are implemented. Please forward a description of any best practices to Angel Kwolek-Folland in the Provost’s Office within the next week and Angel will assemble and share these practices with all Deans and Department Chairs, as well as with the Council. I am also asking each Dean to inform Angel Kwolek-Folland at least one week before implementing the Dean’s approval of the use of faculty-authored course materials from which a faculty member will financially benefit. The purpose of this notice is to confirm that the Dean and Department Chair have required, and have a means of verifying, that the materials will be available in adequate quantities for free to students in the library or through other convenient means, that students who choose to use the free materials will be able to fully participate in all course opportunities (including extra credit), that disclosure of outside activities and financial interests forms have been completed, and that any other appropriate controls will be implemented to minimize financial conflicts.

Thank you for your support and wisdom on this important initiative.

Richard Yost, Chair, Faculty Senate
Carol Murphy, Chair, Academic Policy Council
Ryan Moseley, President, Student Government

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