FAQs on the Conflict of Interest that Arises When Faculty Profit from Requiring their Class to buy Their Books
These questions are intended to clarify the Faculty-Senate approved policy on Instructor-Authored Books and Materials Assigned in Classes in the University Handbook for Appointed Professionals 2.1 (UHAP). That policy supersedes the explanations provided here. Faculty were given a chance to contribute to deliberations on this policy in Spring 2018, and Provost Goldberg notified faculty of their obligations under this policy on September 11, 2018.
All instructors are required to report to their college dean’s office when they require students to buy a book or other instructional materials from which they will receive over $500 in profits. Used books and copyright permissions can make it hard to predict what royalties a faculty member will receive, so faculty should report situations when they expect to receive close to $500 from all materials assigned in a single class that they teach or oversee. Cross-listed courses and multiple sections are considered one course. If a book has multiple authors, faculty members should report on only the profits that they individually receive.
Even if faculty members do not expect to make $500 in profits from a book or instructional materials, students should be informed on course syllabi that a book or instructional materials provides royalties to the faculty member, and faculty members should discuss why they are requiring the book or instructional materials and how much they expect to receive.
Departments that require course materials that they created should disclose and minimize this conflict of interest by informing students about how any profits are used to benefit the students in the class and/or department.
You should email your dean the following information at least two weeks before submitting your textbook orders on UA BookStores’ established deadlines:
- The course number and enrollment cap for your class;
- Specifications on the book or instructional materials, including the number of pages, the number of pages that you wrote, and the number of pages of previously published materials;
- Contract from publisher specifying your royalties per copy;
- Expenses incurred by the faculty member for fees paid to third parties for copyright, editing, and indexing;
- Justification for not making the instructional materials available through D2L if the materials are largely comprised of previously published materials; and
- Proposal to minimize the conflict of interest.
The University’s policy on suggests these ways to minimize the conflict of interest involved:
- The author may waive royalties.
- The author may donate profits that exceed $500 per course to a unit or program on campus that benefits students.
- The author may propose to use profits that exceed $500 per course to pay for activities that benefit the students enrolled in that course (e.g., field trips, guest speakers, social events).
- Authors may negotiate with the dean of their college for other ways to minimize the COI that are not listed here. Deans may wish to work with department heads to find acceptable solutions.
To help control the high costs of books for students, deans may request that faculty make their materials available through D2L. As discussed in the policy on on Instructor-Authored Books and Materials Assigned in Classes, custom-published textbooks comprised of previously published materials with limited original materials create undue costs for students because the books will not be bought back unless they are required in the next semester.
Deans offices may also work with faculty on alternative ways to minimize the conflict of interest that arises when faculty members profit from requiring their class to buy their instructional materials or book.
- Conflicts of interest that have not been disclosed will be referred to the Provost’s Office. The Provost Office may consult with the University Committee on Ethics and Commitment to conduct an inquiry into the allegations. Disciplinary actions may be taken against faculty members who violate university policies.
Faculty should also be aware that the UHAP Policy on Instructor-Authored Books and Materials Assigned in Classes prohibits instructors from selling instructional or other materials directly to students:
Educational material to be copied, in any way, and sold to students for use in class or laboratory work at the University of Arizona must be cleared for copyright, printed (or produced digitally) through the Student Union Fast Copy Center, and made available for sale at the UA BookStores. Neither appointed personnel nor staff members may have any financial interest in, or receive compensation from, the sale of such materials.