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Gifts and Honoraria Reviews

University policy UCF 2-009 Gifts and Honoraria was approved in June 2017, and since its implementation, we have received a number of questions about the applicability of the policy in various scenarios. In this article, we provide several scenarios and questions raised by employees, along with the responses provided by our office. What we noticed was that sometimes the scenarios did not fall within the scope of the Gifts and Honoraria policy but, rather, the activity required review under university regulation UCF-3.018 Conflict of Interest or Commitment; Outside Activity or Employment. Please take a minute to review the scenarios and responses to learn more.

Service on Advisory Boards

How would a payment for serving on an advisory board be treated under university policy UCF 2-009 Gifts and Honoraria? Would it be considered an honorarium? An honorarium is defined as a payment for a speech or something written, other than a book, that has been or is intended to be published. Being paid to serve on an advisory board would be an outside compensated activity, not an honorarium or gift, and is therefore outside the scope of the Gifts and Honoraria policy. University regulation UCF-3.018 Conflict of Interest or Commitment; Outside Activity or Employment requires that employees submit their intent to engage in an outside activity to the university for review prior to engaging in the outside activity. Upon disclosure, the activity would be reviewed to ensure compliance under the regulation and state ethics laws.

Is payment made to an employee for serving on an advisory board permitted under UCF policy? This activity would need to be disclosed by the employee and then reviewed for compliance with UCF-3.018. It does not fall within the scope of the Gifts and Honoraria policy. If yes, is the payment considered an honorarium or payment for a public duty or outside service related activity? Payment would be for an outside activity; it would not be considered honoraria.

What if the employee is not paid to serve on the advisory board, but receives compensation for expenses to attend the board meetings? The payment for travel expenses may be considered a gift under policy UCF 2-009 Gifts and Honoraria. Employees are encouraged to review the policy and definition of a gift, rules for accepting a gift, and what the reporting obligations are for some employees when accepting certain gifts. Employees may also contact University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk for assistance.

Textbook Reviews

Faculty sometimes receive invitations from publishers to participate in textbook reviews that include an offer of an honorarium. Below is an example of an invitation a faculty member received from a publisher.

Sample email:

Subject: Invitation to review textbook

 Dear [Professor],
We would like to invite you to participate in the pre-revision review of [book]. We believe your position, background and experience represent a key audience for our textbook, we would appreciate your help in the development of it. We are offering a $250 honorarium for this review if it is completed by Monday, November 27thAn additional $50 will be awarded if the review is completed by Monday, November 20th. Please consider this opportunity to improve the book’s quality and value to both your students and yourself. 

According to the Gifts and Honoraria policy, the definition of honorarium includes payment as consideration for something written, other than a book, that has been or is intended to be published. Would “other than a book” include textbooks?  No, a textbook is considered a book. An example of “other than a book” would be research journal articles and publications.

The faculty member who forwarded the invitation noted that the definition of honorarium in the Gifts and Honoraria policy excludes “payments for services related to outside employment or ordinary payments for services related to the employee’s public duties,” and asked if this activity would be considered a public duty or outside service – and thereby not an honorarium under UCF policy. Payment for a textbook review would not qualify as an honorarium under the policy, it would be considered a compensated outside activity.

Are faculty permitted to participate in the textbook review and accept the “honorarium” offered, provided they are were not on the clock for UCF during the time they spent on the review?  If yes, would faculty be accepting an honorarium (as the term is defined in UCF policy) or payment for an outside activity?  Payment for a textbook review would not qualify as an honorarium under the policy, it would be considered a compensated outside activity. University regulation UCF-3.018 Conflict of Interest or Commitment; Outside Activity or Employment requires that employees submit their intent to engage in an outside activity to the university for review prior to engaging in the outside activity. Upon disclosure, the activity would be reviewed to ensure compliance under the regulation and state ethics laws. Whether the faculty member could engage in the outside activity with the publisher depends on whether the entity has any business relationship with UCF. If there is a relationship, this may be prohibited under state ethics laws. The faculty member would have to disclose the activity in advance and allow the university to review it for any potential conflicts.

Surveys for Gift Cards

Employees are often solicited by various companies to engage in a survey that includes an opportunity to be entered into a drawing for a gift card. Two such examples are below.

Sample emails:

Dear [Name],
[Publisher] believes educators have been and always will be at the core of the learning experience. You have been randomly selected from our list of instructors to represent your peers and provide us your feedback that will help [Publisher] shape new products and services to better support your teaching.

The survey should take about 12 minutes to complete and as a token of our appreciation, you will be entered into our drawing for an opportunity to win one of six $500 gift cards. You can start the survey by clicking on this link:

 Dear [Name],
$200 SURVEY DRAW

You are invited to take a quick, 3 to 4 question survey. In appreciation for completing this brief survey, you will be entered into a draw for a $200 gift card. Thank you for your participation!

Is completing surveys that include an opportunity to be entered into a drawing for a gift card allowable under UCF policy on gifts and honoraria? The recommendation has been to not complete the survey because completing the survey includes a drawing for a gift card. In one instance, the gift card value was $200 and in the other, the value was $500. If the employee were to win the drawing, they would be prohibited under university policy from keeping the gift card. They would have to transfer the gift card to the university, otherwise they would be keeping a prohibited gift.

Training on gifts and honoraria and the state ethics laws contained in university regulation is available by logging in to your my.UCF.edu account\Employee Self Service\Learning and Development and selecting the 2018 courses: CER006 Gifts and Honoraria and CER007 Potential Conflicts – Florida Code of Ethics for Public Officers and Employees. More information on this training is also available at http://compliance.ucf.edu/training-3/.