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  Cornell University

The University Faculty

Office of the Dean

Q10. Are there Effective Strategies for Managing Conflict of Interest?

Read What Other Schools Have to Say
Review of Terminology

It is interesting to see what Policy 4.14 (Conflict of Interest and Commitment) says about nepotism and how it should be managed. See pages 16-17.

Talking Points

  1. What strategies are there for mitigating conflict of interest concerns that arise out of relationships?
  2. How can situations be managed so as to avoid actual bias or unfair treatment of the subordinate in a relationship? How these situations be managed so as to avoid the impression of bias to everybody else?
  3. How might the rigors of a management strategy match the intensity of the underlying power differential?
  4. Michigan State Example: “In unusual circumstances, the achievement of the affected student’s academic requirements may necessitate continued oversight of the affected student by the faculty member, graduate teaching assistant or other University employee who has engaged in amorous or sexual relations with that student. In such circumstances the unit administrator shall, therefore, have authority, after consulting the affected student, to permit the continued oversight of the affected student by the faculty member, graduate teaching assistant or other University employee, provided that the faculty member, graduate teaching assistant or other University employee shall not grade or otherwise evaluate, or participate in the grading or other evaluation of, the work of the affected student, and that the alternative arrangements for grading or evaluating the affected student’s work treat the student comparably to other students.”

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Last Updated: January 25, 2018 at 2:07 pm


  1. Michigan state example is very good.
    If there is a direct conflict of interest, it should be reported and the evaluation should be supervised. This also applies to hiring and promotion decisions where two romantically involved faculty members are involved, not just students. Faculty conflicts of interest are much more important as they are consequential. Undergrads are the least problematic, since the faculty don’t even grade the papers themselves in large classes, and the TA’s are supervised by the faculty members.

  2. No there are not currently good mechanisms for conflicts of interest when it comes to faculty relationships (of any kind). It has been very awkward to work in a dept where a faculty partner is also a student, staff, or otherwise affiliated. Pressure for special treatment, heck, how the partner became affiliated in the place is frequently sketchy.

    1. I agree.

  3. Should there be a procedure for getting exceptions for some relationships? For instance, a Prof’s Significant Other wants to enroll as an undergraduate. In the policy as writ, no amount of disclosing would permit this without one or the other leaving Cornell.

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