the Sunday Times

  • December 21, 1997

    An academic interest in conflict

    IS THE University of WA, which had its knuckles rapped by the parliamentary committee inquiring into the denial of tenure to former WA academic the late David Rindos, determined to head off a similar ruckus?

    Acting vice-chancellor Alan Robson has sent a memo to uni executive deans, heads of departments and other important types in regards to professional relationships. It covers conflicts of interest.

    He said such conflicts in the workplace could create situations which appeared to be in someone else's, rather than the employer's, best interests.

    "A conflict of interest may exist where there is a wish to favour or advantage someone because of a friendship, family or personal relationship or a desire to overlook or disadvantage someone because of a personal antipathy, dispute or grievance. It may exist where financial or other advantage will accrue to the university staff member or a relative or external associate of that staff. Conflicts of interest should at the very least be disclosed and may prevent the person who has the conflict of interest from making a decision or taking a proposed action.

    "Where a person is responsible for making an important decision, for example, in appointing, promoting or disciplining staff, then it is not whether the conflict of interest actually produces a result which is not in the employer's interest or prejudices another staff member but whether an appearance is created which may lead to a perception that detriment or preferences may arise from the conflict.

    "It is important to ensure that university decisions are not affected or seen to be affected by conflicts of interests and therefore in such circumstances the person with the conflict should withdraw from the decision-making process."

    The memo was issued before the parliamentary committee report was released.

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