Rutgers University Senate Committee on Instruction, Curricula, and Advising
Possible Conflict of Interest in the Assignment of Textbooks
Charge S-0325: Consider the issue of assignment of textbooks in courses taught by paid authors or reviewers of those textbooks. Make recommendations on whether policies should be established in this area, including return of royalties to textbook purchasers, price discounting, and the general appropriateness of the practice. Consult with University Counsel regarding legal aspects of the issue.
This issue was originally brought to the Senate by Dean Holly Smith and stems from issues detailed in a Chronicle of Higher Education article:
Bartlett, Thomas, "Selling Out: A Textbook Example," Chronicle of Higher Education 49(42), June 27, 2003, pA8-A10. (http://search.epnet.com/direct.asp?an=10174350&db=aph).
The primary issue addressed in this article is the practice apparently adopted by some publishers of offering either individual faculty members, or in some cases deans or departments, financial incentives to adopt specific textbooks. In some cases these incentives are offered as "reviewing fees" that may total thousands of dollars but are clearly contingent upon adoption of that textbook.
After discussion it was the consensus of the Committee that the acceptance of reviewing fees on the part of faculty is a non-issue as long as the fee is not contingent upon the adoption of any specific textbook. Where such a contingency does exist the acceptance of that fee by an individual or department would seem to be a clear violation of professional ethics. It is the opinion of University Counsel that in such cases there could also be legal issues under New Jersey law with respect to accepting a bribe and the state conflict of interest statute. In point of fact the State of New Jersey has previously instituted criminal proceedings when a state employee accepted payment in exchange for directing that others purchase specific course materials.
Use of Textbooks in Courses Taught by Authors of Those Textbooks:
The Committee was also asked to consider the issue of textbooks being assigned by the authors of those textbooks.
In conjunction with our discussion, the Committee looked at policies on the use of faculty-authored textbooks currently in place at a number of different institutions, including the AAU public institutions. [See Appendix A]. Most either in some way restrict the amount of financial gain that can be realized from the adoption of a particular text, or have policies in place that in essence safeguard the individual from accusations of adopting a particular text based on financial, rather than pedagogical considerations.
In some cases policy requires prior approval from the department chair (e.g., University of Maryland; Boise State); the college dean (e.g., University of Arizona; University of Minnesota; Louisiana Tech) or, in the case of the University of Texas, the university president and the Board of Regents. The largest number either require that the faculty member return monies resulting from sales of their textbooks to their students to the University or other non-profit institution (e.g., Iowa State, University of Iowa, University of Kansas, University of Missouri, Penn State) or waived a required prior approval process provided that such monies were returned (e.g., Central Connecticut State, Western Washington State.)
It is the consensus of the Committee that there is nothing inherently wrong with someone using their own textbook for a course that they are teaching, especially in an upper level class where enrollment is limited and where that particular book may indeed be the one that best corresponds to the content of the course. Author royalties are normally not more than six percent, even a very expensive textbook is unlikely to generate more than $250-$275 per course.
While only a small percentage of Rutgers courses would present an opportunity to realize any significant profit through the adoption of a specific text, it should be a given that textbooks are chosen on the basis of pedagogical merit and that neither an individual nor a department should profit financially from the adoption of a textbook where such profits are likely to be reflected in the prices being paid by students for those textbooks.
There are already Rutgers faculty that regularly give royalties received as a result of their textbooks being used in sections/courses that they teach back to the university. As this approach to the issue safeguards the faculty member from any appearance of conflict of interest in the assignment of textbooks without encroaching on areas of academic freedom, it is the recommendation of this Committee that this practice be generally adopted.
1. Faculty-Reviewed Textbooks
a. New Jersey conflict of interest statutes (NJSA 52:13D-14; NJSA23(e)(6); NJSA 52:13D-23(3)(4)) prohibit a public employee from accepting any item of value (including monies) intended to influence that employee in the performance of their job.
b. The acceptance of a reviewing fee that is contingent upon the adoption of any specific textbook is both ethically and legally prohibited.
2. Faculty-Authored Textbooks
a. When Rutgers University faculty receive royalties on educational materials that they require in courses that they teach as part of the University curriculum such monies should be returned to the University or other not-for-profit institution. For example, proceeds may be donated to the department, the Library, a scholarship fund, or the University Foundation.
b. It is understood that the faculty member must estimate such receipts arising from sales to his/her classes due to the variety of sources from which a student may purchase texts, and that contribution of royalties does not apply to royalties generated through sales of educational materials unrelated to the course in which the author required them.
Policies on Use of Faculty-Authored Textbooks
AAU Public Institutions
Use of Faculty-Authored Books and Materials
University of Arizona
Must be approved by the Dean of the college
"Neither appointed personnel nor staff members may sell materials, books, or publications of any kind directly to students."
Iowa State University
Royalties must be assigned to the University or "to a body mutually agreed upon by the university and the faculty member.”
"Each department is expected to have a procedure for reviewing the selection of required textbooks and other resource materials for the following: multi-section courses; courses in which an unusually large number of textbooks is required; instances in which the instructor of the course is author of a book required for that course..."
University of Iowa
Royalties/other financial remuneration must be either refunded to the students or other arrangements (such as transferring funds to the University or the University Foundation) must be made
University of Kansas
"Proceeds must be donated to their departments, schools, scholarship funds or other non-profit entities."
"Contribution of royalties…[does not apply] to educational materials required in short courses, seminars or other educational presentations not part of the regular University curriculum."
University of Maryland
Must be approved by the chair of the department offering the course
Texts "not in general use" [Not commercially published]: "Choice of self-authored materials may be confirmed, or made, by a committee. Alternative texts may be authorized. Royalties may be assigned to third-party educational organizations, including the University of Maryland."
University of Michigan
"Each academic unit should establish guidelines appropriate to its circumstances for the selection of instructional materials whose purchase by students results in a financial benefit to the faculty member who assigns those materials."
University of Minnesota
"According to Minnesota Law, faculty members who have published books may not designate such books as required texts, without the written permission of the appropriate faculty dean."
University of Missouri
Royalties must be returned to "the University of Missouri, another educational institution, a charitable organization, or a not-for-profit foundation."
Ohio State University
"Every academic unit should establish a policy appropriate to its circumstances that ensures that there is no significant conflict of interest or appearance of conflict of interest in the selection of such materials."
Royalties [for textbooks assigned for courses “within their department or other Penn State courses where they have influence over book selections”] are to be assigned to "the College, department, or program, and be used for normal academic purposes…."
University of Pittsburgh
"The following…illustrate[s] potential or actual conflicts of interest…6. Assigning as required texts in their course, books for which the instructor derives significant financial benefits."
University of Texas
Must be approved by the University President, and reviewed by the Board of Regents.
Authorization To Use Textbooks, Notebooks, Manuals, etc. Written or Prepared by a Member of the Staff, U.T. Austin [form to be submitted to the Board of Regents] http://www.utexas.edu/provost/policies/faculty_textbook/faculty_textbook.doc
May use, subject to the approval of the department chair, provided that "(a) the book was published by an established publishing house in which the instructor has no financial interest, (b) the book was peer-reviewed…prior to publication, and (c) the book is intended for adoption and use by institutions of higher education.
"Faculty members and departments may not charge royalties or commissions for any course materials (e.g., "coursepacks" or related course notes) that he/she has prepared that do not meet the above guidelines. Costs for these course materials to students are limited to the actual reproduction costs of the materials."
Central Connecticut State
Must be approved by a Review Panel appointed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs. Approval process not necessary if the faculty member "directs any financial gain to a University fund or to a recognized 501c(3) entity…."
Must be approved by the college dean.
University of Memphis
Must be approved by the "unanimous decision of a committee of the department in which it is to be used…must also be approved by the department chair, or…the appropriate administrative officer; and, in the case of materials designed solely for a University of Memphis audience, the responsible dean."
University of South Florida
Must inform the Provost "if more than $500 is received in one year from the required use of the textbook in his or her class. The faculty member must certify that the required text is the only text that is uniquely suited for use in the author's class."
Western Washington University
May use provided that "(1) A Dean, Chair or committee that does not include the faculty author decides which book will be used in the faculty author's class(es); OR (2) The faculty agrees to waive any royalties (or other compensation) that would be received due to the sale of the textbooks to the students taking the class; OR (3) The faculty member assigns their rights to the University for any proceeds that result from the sale to their students. Also, the faculty member cannot have a role in determining how the royalties would be distributed or spent by the University.
 New Jersey conflicts of interest statute prohibit a public employee from accepting any item of value (which would include money) intended “to influence him in the performance” of their job, NJSA 52:13D-14, and 23(e)(6) is essentially the same. A public employee shall not have a “financial interest that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgement, NJSA 52:13D-23(3)(4).