MU Conflict of Interest Policy
But, should professors profit by requiring students to buy the professors' textbooks? State law and the University of Missouri's conflict of interest policy say no. But policy and practice may be at odds. For political science professor Rick Hardy, the law is clear.
"Over the last 28 years, I've used, I believe, seven books that I've written or edited. And every single penny has gone to the University of Missouri in some way, shape or form," Hardy said. "I've never made a profit off of any of those books."
MU's policy states book profits from a professor's class must go to the University or to charity. Professor Hardy even puts that in his syllabi. In a large university, it's not unusual for professors to write books on the topics they teach. KOMU found at least 20 MU professors this past semester who require their students to buy the professors' books.
History professor Jeff Pasley wasn't aware of state law and University policy on conflict of interest. But, he told KOMU he doesn't agree with the policy.
"It's far from being some kind of conflict of interest where you're profiteering off of students," Pasley said. "It just a question of assigning material that is appropriate for the way you teach the course."
An MU spokesperson showed KOMU a conflict of interest form professors must complete each year. The form from the Office of Research asks for a summary of outside activities, including hours spent on enterprises for compensation, but doesn't mention textbooks. MU bases its policy on the honor system.
"If it comes without explanation, and there's this box saying, 'Well, if you haven't done any consulting, you can just check this box and sign it.' That doesn't really lead you to think about royalties," Pasley added. "If it is supposed to be about that, they better at least put a box that at least mentions it."
Other than the form, MU says it's up to professors to make sure money they make on textbooks goes to the right places. But, only six out of the 20 professors KOMU found who wrote and required books in their courses would say where their profits go.
MU's conflict of interest policy is not unique. Almost every state-supported college or university in the U.S. has a similar one.
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