An ethical environment is one that encourages honesty, integrity and responsibility in decision-making and actions, respect for others, and stewardship of the resources entrusted to fulfill OSU’s mission of teaching, research, outreach and engagement. Ethical values and expectations are found in the University Code of Ethics, as well as in federal and state laws and regulations that detail specific expectations regarding individual behavior.

Conflicts of Interest

A Conflict of Interest occurs when an employee’s outside financial, professional, commercial, or personal interests and/or activities affect, could affect, or appear to affect the recommendations and decisions they make and actions they take in their OSU work and responsibilities. Conflicts of interest arise when an employee’s loyalty and commitment to OSU compete with loyalty and commitment to another organization, person or interest. Conflicts of interest are common and are not inherently bad. In fact, many conflicts can be managed when certain conditions or safeguards are put in place. Some conflicts of interest, however, must be completely avoided, and the employee must separate themselves from the other interest before proceeding with their OSU responsibilities, decisions and actions.

Institutional Responsibilities

Institutional Responsibilities are the regular work duties and obligations of employees. Examples of such activities may include but are not limited to:

  • Anything in a position description or scope of duties or responsibilities 
  • Service, volunteer or outreach responsibilities; professional development and other activities with/for non-profit, academic, or professional societies; or providing consultation to U.S.-based government agencies.

For academic faculty, specifically, this can include:

  • Teaching at OSU, including preparation and delivery of lectures; scheduling and maintaining office hours; holding examinations as scheduled; being accessible to students, staff, and other faculty members;
  • Research and application of research findings; preparation, publication, and review of articles and books (whether for royalty or not); participation in artistic performances or activities; and
  • Collaborative projects with employees at K-12 schools, U.S.-based government agencies and public or non-profit universities and their affiliated institutes, public or non-profit international universities and their affiliated institutes, and non-profit or NGO organizations.

Outside Activities

Outside Activities are activities conducted by a University employee or affiliate that are within the individual’s areas of professional expertise and utilize their education, skill sets, and/or experience, similar to that used for University work. These activities are performed for an individual or entity other than Oregon State University which may be located within or outside the United States, and may be a government, for-profit or non-profit entity.  These activities may be compensated or uncompensated.

Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Providing professional, consultative, expert witness, or other skilled services
  • Serving as an employee or in an appointed position that may influence decision-making at an outside entity, such as a board member, scientific or technical advisory position, or employee in an executive position or with fiscal responsibilities.
  • Holding an additional professional, academic, or administrative appointment(s) at an institution other than Oregon State

Note that the following are not considered to be Outside Activities when they are not related to the employee’s position at the University: involvement in community, cultural, or religious events or organizations; or working part-time in a field that is unrelated to the individual’s position at the University.

Conflict of Commitment

A Conflict of Commitment is a type of Conflict of Interest that occurs when an employee engages in an Outside Professional Activity, either paid or unpaid, that could interfere with their professional obligations to the University.


Nepotism is when someone in a position of power or influence hires, takes other employment actions, or gives preferential treatment without regard to merit towards family members or others for whom the employee is legally responsible. 

Use of position or office for personal gain

Employees may not use their OSU position to obtain personal financial benefit, or to avoid financial detriment. This applies to something that an employee would not normally have access to or receive – for example, access to information in university systems or discounts from a vendor – were they not employed at OSU. This applies to the employee and their relatives and household members.

Private employment by public officials

In general, employees may obtain other employment with a private employer or engage in private income-producing activity of their own. They must not use their position at the university to create the opportunity for additional personal income, and there must be a clear distinction between their university position and the outside activities. Guidelines and requirements include: 

  • Employees are not to engage in private business interests or other employment activities on the university's time.
  • University supplies, facilities, equipment, employees, records or any other public resources are not to be used to engage in private business interests.
  • The position as a university employee is not to be used to take official action that could have a financial impact on a private business with which the employee or a relative or household member are associated.
  • Confidential information gained as a university employee is not to be used to obtain financial benefit for the employee, relative, household member, or a business with which any are associated.
  • Certain conflicts of interest must be disclosed to the university.


As a public official of the state of Oregon, an OSU employee may not accept a gift or gifts with a total value of $50 or more each year, if the source of the gift has an administrative interest in decisions the employee makes in their official capacity as an OSU employee. For the purposes of state ethics law, a ‘gift’ is considered to be anything of economic value, given for free or less than equal value, which is not given to others who are not public employees. This can include meals, coupons or discounts for services, gift baskets, raffles prizes and gift cards. This prohibition on the acceptance of gifts also extends to an employee’s relatives and household members.

There are situations in which gifts can be accepted or in which the item isn’t considered a gift. Some examples of what can be accepted include:

  • Unsolicited items like a plaque, trophy and desk or wall mementos with little to no resale value.
  • Gifts with aggregate value of less than $50 per year from each source.
  • Cost of admission, food or beverage when representing OSU at a reception, meal, or meeting.
  • Payment of reasonable expenses to speak, make a presentation, participate on a panel or represent OSU at a convention, conference, fact-finding trip or other meeting by another government agency, Native American Tribe, an organization to which OSU pays membership dues, or not-for-profit organizations that are tax exempt under 501(c)(3).

International activities

There are federal requirements related to certain international collaborations, research and scholarly activities. The Office of Research global engagement compliance website provides detailed information and resources.

Research Conflict of Interest

There are federal training and disclosure requirements related to conflicts of interest in research activities. The Office of Research conflict of interest program provides detailed information and resources. 


University fiscal policies contain information about procurement and contract ethics, including interactions with vendors, ethics in purchasing and contracts, and conflicts of interest.

Resources and reporting

The University ethics advisor is available for consultation: Susan Freccia, [email protected]