Q. How can I resolve ethical questions before agreeing to undertake an outside activity?
A. If you are a member of the faculty or academic staff, your dean, director or campus ethics committee can review outside activities for any ethics concern. Classified staff members may ask for advice from their appointing authority or the Department of Employee Relations. In all cases, it is prudent to keep your immediate supervisor aware of outside activities in which you are involved that relate to your university work.

Q. What outside activities can raise ethical concerns?
A. Only activities that relate to or could affect your university assignment are governed by the ethics code. For example, if you are a Campus Business Officer, outside employment as a physical therapist would not raise ethical concerns although your outside employment would not be appropriate if it diminished your commitment to your university employment. However, if you were an instructor of sports medicine, working as a physical therapist could raise ethical concerns if your outside work conflicted with your university position or was structured to allow you to benefit personally from your university affiliation.

Q. May I use my university telephone or email to communicate personal matters?
A. University communications facilities are available for limited personal use as long as there is no interference with normal responsibilities or cost to the University.

Q. Must I disclose outside activities relevant to my university position when no conflict of interest is present?
A. Yes. All outside activities relevant to an employee's university assignment must be disclosed, whether they result in income or not. Unrelated activities, whether or not reimbursed, need not be disclosed (for example, house painting by a professor of chemistry).

Q. May I attend a national conference on a reimbursed basis without ethical concerns when the invitation is a result of my professional expertise?
A. Yes, if your supervisor, dean or faculty chair agrees that the conference will benefit the university and your position. If the university will neither benefit from your attendance nor be harmed by it, you may attend, but you should report the activity and take vacation time to cover your days away from your position.

All University of Wisconsin System employees are required to comply with the code of ethics applicable to their employment status. These codes are designed to prevent conflicts between an employee’s private interests and public responsibilities.

Code of Ethics for State Public Officials

UW System employees who are state public officials must comply with the ethical standards in the code of ethics for public officials and employees (Wis. Stats. § 19.41 et. seq.). This group includes, generally, the President, vice presidents, and associate and assistant vice presidents of the University of Wisconsin System. Chancellors and vice chancellors of each System university are state public officials. Members of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System are also state public officials.

The State Ethics Board interprets this code. State public officials who have questions relating to themselves or their organizations may request, in writing, advisory opinions from the Board. The Board reviews these requests in closed session, and opinions are confidential to the extent permitted by law.

Code of Ethics for Unclassified Employees

The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents has established a code of ethics for unclassified employees. This code is located in Ch. UWS 8, Wisconsin Administrative Code, and essentially tracks the code of ethics for public officials and employees.

Conflicts of Interest

UWS 8 addresses conflicts of interest, but also states that the Board of Regents does not intend to prohibit an unclassified staff member from freely pursuing teaching, research, and professional and public service activities which will not result in conflicts. Conflicts of interest may nonetheless occur in the following situations:

  • Use of Public Position or State Property-Unclassified staff members may not use or attempt to use their public positions or state property to gain anything of substantial value for the private benefit of themselves, their families, or organizations in which they have a significant financial interest. Organizations in which a staff member has a significant financial interest are organizations in which the employee, or a member of the employee’s immediate family, is a director, officer or trustee, or owns or controls (directly or indirectly, severally or in the aggregate) at least 10% of the outstanding equity. Examples include corporations, partnerships, proprietorships, firms, enterprises, franchises, associations, or trusts.
  • Acceptance of Money or Gifts-Unclassified staff members may not accept anything of value with the understanding that the reward will influence their conduct of university business.
  • Confidentiality-Unclassified staff members may not use or disclose confidential university information in a way that could result in the receipt of something valuable for themselves, their families, or organizations in which they have a significant financial interest.
  • Awarding Contracts-Unclassified employees, their families, or organizations in which they have a financial interest may not enter into contracts or leases derived from state funding if the employee is in a position to influence the awarding of the contract. This rule applies only to a contract or lease involving payments of more than $3,000 within a 12-month period. An exception to this rule occurs when the employee discloses the potential conflict, when the employee is not in a position to influence the award of the contract, and when the employee’s dean, director, or appropriate administrator approves the contract. Deans and directors may approve such contracts if they determine that the contract will not substantially conflict with the employee’s official duties.
  • Nepotism-An unclassified employee may not participate in the decision to hire or promote a member of his or her immediate family. Giving preferential treatment in the supervision of an immediate family member is also prohibited. Immediate family member is defined as the unclassified staff member’s spouse, and any person who receives, directly or indirectly, more than one half of his or her support from the unclassified staff member or from whom the unclassified staff member receives, directly or indirectly, more than one half of his or her support.
  • Use of University Facilities, Absence from Regular Duties for the Purpose of Engaging in Outside Activity, and Types of Activities that May Result in Conflict of Interest-Check with your institution for policies on these matters. Your institution should have policies regulating the use of university facilities and university personnel in connection with outside activities. Your institution should also have standards on absence from university duties in relation to outside activities, and guidelines listing examples of activities that might present a material conflict of interest. While consulting and other outside activities are permitted, such activities must not be allowed to interfere with the performance of an unclassified employee’s job duties.

Outside Activities

An unclassified employee may engage in outside activities related to the employee’s field of interest unless the activities conflict with the employee’s public responsibilities to the University of Wisconsin System, or to the employee’s individual institution. Unclassified employees must report, in writing, their involvement in outside activities every April 30th. Outside activity reports are public records. The reporting period is the previous calendar year. All unclassified employees must submit these reports, whether or not they have engaged in outside activities. Employees must submit these reports to their dean, director, or to an appropriate administrator. Some reportable activities are listed below:

  • Associations with organizations in which the employee, or a member of the employee’s immediate family, has a significant financial interest, and which are related to the staff member’s field of academic specialization.
  • Private Remunerative Relationships between an unclassified employee and a non-governmental sponsor of university research for which the employee is a principal investigator.
  • Remunerative Outside Activities in an unclassified employee’s field of academic interest or specialization, and whether the employee earns for such activities $5000 or more per year from a single source. This provision includes, but is not limited to, consulting.

Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

Unclassified employees must report potential conflicts of interest as they arise to their dean, director, or other appropriate administrator by means of a written statement describing the nature of the potential conflict. The dean or director shall advise the employee, in writing and within 15 days after receipt of the report, of one of the three following conclusions:

  • That there is no conflict;
  • That the situation requires further investigation; or
  • That there is a conflict which must be resolved either by the staff member not proceeding with his university duties so long as the conflict remains, or by not proceeding with his personal duties so long as the conflict remains.

Employees may also consult their institution’s ethics committee. These committees provide unclassified employees with advice on the application of UWS 8. All committee deliberations are confidential to the extent permitted by law and take place in closed meetings.

Code of Ethics for University Staff

Introduction

This code of ethics is created for the guidance of employees designated as University Staff to avoid activities which cause, or tend to cause, conflicts between their personal interests and their public responsibilities as UW System employees.

The observance of high moral and ethical standards by University Staff employees is essential. Each employee holds his or her position as a public trust, and any effort to realize personal gain through official conduct is a violation of that trust.

The Board of Regents policy recognizes that:

  • University Staff have personal and economic interests in the decisions and policies of national, state and local government.
  • University Staff retain their rights as citizens to interests of a personal or economic nature.
  • The standards of ethical conduct for University Staff must distinguish between those minor and inconsequential conflicts which are unavoidable in a free society and those conflicts which are substantial and material.
  • University Staff may need to engage in employment other than official duties, or may need to maintain investments, but no employee shall engage in any employment or maintain any investment if the employment or investment conflicts with the specific provisions of this code of ethics.

In adopting the standards of conduct set forth in the University Staff code of ethics, it is the Board’s purpose to prohibit only those activities which will result in a conflict between the personal interests of a University Staff member and that employee’s public responsibilities to the UW System. It is not the Board’s purpose to prohibit University Staff from freely pursuing activities that will not result in such a conflict.

Standards of Conduct

This code of ethics shall not prevent a University Staff member from accepting outside employment or following a pursuit which in no way interferes with the full and faithful discharge of his or her duties to the UW System, subject to the following:

  • No University Staff member may intentionally use or disclose information gained in the course of or by reason of the University Staff member’s official position or activities in any way that could result in the receipt of anything of value for himself or herself, for his or her immediate family, or for any other person or organization, if the information has not been communicated to the public or is not public information. However, no reprisal may be taken against a University Staff member for the lawful disclosure of information which the University Staff member reasonably believes evidences:
  • A conflict of interest on the part of the University Staff member exists whenever the University Staff member’s action or failure to act propitiously could reasonably be expected to directly or indirectly produce or assist in producing a private benefit for the University Staff member or the University Staff member’s immediate family or an organization with which the University Staff member is associated.
    • No University Staff member who is assigned or acts as an official representative of a UW System institution in the presentation of papers, talks, demonstrations or making appearances shall solicit or accept fees, honoraria or reimbursement of expenses for personal gain. Any fees, honoraria, or reimbursement of expenses which may be offered in connection therewith shall be paid to the University Staff member’s institution.
    • Acceptance of fees and honoraria paid for papers, talks, demonstrations or appearances made by a University Staff member on the University Staff member’s own time, and not directly part of official duties, shall not be a violation of this rule. University Staff members shall notify their supervisor or other appropriate administrator prior to accepting fees and honoraria for papers, talks, demonstrations, or appearances to ensure that no conflict of interest exists.
    • When a University Staff member is offered an unsolicited award or reward for an exceptional accomplishment or outstanding performance, the appropriate administrator shall determine whether or not it may be accepted by the University Staff member after considering whether acceptance of the award or reward would conflict with the purposes of this policy. University Staff members shall notify their supervisor or other appropriate administrator prior to accepting unsolicited awards or rewards, who in turn shall seek a determination regarding whether acceptance or refusal of the award or reward is appropriate.
  • It is the policy of the Board of Regents to prohibit those activities that will cause a conflict of interest. Therefore:
    • No University Staff member may use or attempt to use his or her position or University property, or use the prestige or influence of his or her position for financial gain or other benefits, advantages or privileges for the private benefit of the University Staff member, the University Staff member’s immediate family or an organization with which the University Staff member is associated.
      • Any UW System salary or other compensation received by the University Staff member from the state for his or her services does not constitute “financial gain” as the term is used in this rule.
      • Incidental personal use of University property within the limits prescribed by UW System and institutional policies and use of University issued or purchased parking permits for non-work events or activities does not constitute a “private benefit” as the term is used in this policy.
  • No University Staff member may solicit or accept from any person or organization, directly or indirectly, anything of value if it could reasonably be expected to influence such University Staff member’s official actions or judgment, or could reasonably be considered as a reward for any official action or inaction on the part of such University Staff member.
    • A violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or
    •  Mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, enforcement of unreasonable university work rules, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
  • No University Staff member, member of the University Staff’s immediate family, nor any organization with which the University Staff member or a member of his or her immediate family is associated may enter into any contract or lease involving payment or payments of more than $3,000 within a 12-month period, in whole or in part derived from University or state funds unless the University Staff member has first made written disclosure of the nature and extent of such relationship or interest to his or her supervisor or other appropriate administrator and obtained the supervisor’s or other administrator’s written approval. The University Staff member’s supervisor or other appropriate administrator shall approve a University Staff member’s interest in a lease or contract unless he or she determines that the University Staff member’s personal interest in the agreement will conflict substantially and materially with the University Staff member’s discharge of his or her public responsibilities. This paragraph does not affect the application of Wis. Stat. § 946.13, which prohibits private interests in public contracts.
  • No University Staff member may participate, formally or informally, in the decision to hire, retain, promote or determine the salary of a member of his or her immediate family. No University Staff member may, in the supervision or management of another employee who is a member of his or her immediate family, give preferential or favored treatment.
  • The President or a Chancellor may, upon written request and by action within a reasonable time of receipt thereof, waive any provision of this section whenever its literal application would be adverse to the best interests of the institution or would work an unreasonable hardship on an employee.
  • Nothing in this section prohibits a University Staff member from making decisions concerning salaries, salary-related benefits or reimbursement of actual and necessary expenses when the action does not result in preferential or favored treatment of a member of the University Staff member’s immediate family.

Action to Avoid Possible Conflict

When it appears that a material conflict may arise between the personal interests of a University Staff member and his or her public responsibilities, the University Staff member shall notify his or her supervisor or other appropriate administrator by submitting a written statement describing the nature of the possible conflict. Within 15 days after receipt of the statement, the supervisor or other appropriate administrator shall advise the University Staff member in writing that:

  • There is no conflict prohibited by this code of ethics, and the University Staff member may proceed; or
  • There may be a conflict, and further consultation is necessary prior to reaching a determination; or
  • There is a conflict which must be resolved.

If the University Staff member is advised that he or she cannot proceed with institutional duties or with personal interests, the employee, within 15 days after notice of the decision of the supervisor or other appropriate administrator, may appeal the decision under the applicable grievance procedures.