Conflict of Interest Guidelines and Recusal Policy
These guidelines apply to peer reviewers, members of the Regents Advisory Council, the Commissioner of Education, the Board of Regents, accreditation staff, and members of the Institutional Accreditation Appeals Board. For purposes of this section, all are considered “reviewers” based on their involvement in the institutional accreditation process.
The Commissioner of Education, peer reviewers, accreditation staff, members of the Board of Regents, members of the Regents Advisory Council and the Institutional Accreditation Appeals Board shall be subject to New York State Public Officers Law section 74, which is the code of ethics and conflict of interest policies for officers of a State agency and maybe accessed at the link below:
This section provides that “[no officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any business or transaction or professional activity or incur any obligation of any nature, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest.” Likewise, individuals engaged by the Department as peer reviewers may only participate in such reviews if they are able to satisfy these requirements.
Individuals involved in the institutional accreditation process must follow the conflict of interest and recusal policies prescribed herein. Strict adherence to these standards will assure the continued independence, credibility, integrity and reputation of the Commissioner and the Board of Regents as an accrediting agency, and its policy making processes, by avoiding actual conflicts, potential conflicts, or even the appearance of a conflict of interest.
In addition to the prohibitions in Public Officers Law section 74, to avoid an actual, potential or the appearance of a conflict, any reviewer involved in an accreditation activity under Subpart 4-1 of the Rules of the Board of Regents should recuse him or herself from an accreditation action and/or review if he/she:
(1) is a present or former employee, student, member of the governing board, owner or shareholder of, or consultant to the institution that is seeking institutional accreditation from the Commissioner and the Board of Regents;
(2) is a spouse, parent, child, or sibling of an individual or persons listed in (1) above;
(3) has expressed an opinion for or against the proposed accreditation;
(4) is seeking or being sought for employment or other relationship with the institution under review;
(5) has a personal, professional or other relationship with the institution under review, or with its affiliates, partners or other constituents or interested parties that might compromise objectivity; and/or
(6) has a competitive relationship with the institution that might compromise objectivity (such as a material interest in a particular accreditation outcome based on a significant business or other fiduciary agreement—excluding routine articulation or similar inter-institutional agreements); and/or
(7) if, in the agency’s judgment, there is any other circumstance that could be perceived as a conflict of interest.
Prior to making assignments, the site team coordinator must take appropriate measures to assure that no site team evaluators will be assigned to review an institution with which the individual has a conflict or appearance of a conflict.
All decision-making bodies shall exercise the duties of care, loyalty and obedience and must refrain from self-dealing and usurping corporate opportunities and receiving improper personal benefits.
Each staff member of the agency involved in accreditation functions, or any member of the Regents Advisory Council, the Board of Regents or the Institutional Accreditation Appeals Board shall promptly notify the Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education if he/she has an actual, perceived or an appearance of a conflict of interest with any of the institutions accredited by the Commissioner and the Board of Regents prior to any review of such institution.
- Members of the Regents Advisory Council; the Commissioner; members of the Board of Regents; and members of the Institutional Accreditation Appeals Board shall review their employment and other interests and relationships on an ongoing basis for potential conflicts of interest with institutions accredited by the Commissioner or Board of Regents and candidates seeking accreditation. Members may seek guidance from the Department’s Ethics Officer on potential conflicts when necessary (email:NYSEDEthics@nysed.gov; or telephone (518) 474-6400).
- Members of the Regents Advisory Council; members of the Board of Regents; and members of the Institutional Accreditation Appeals Board who determine they have a conflict of interest for a given application or proposed action must notify the Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education immediately in writing and disclose the material facts as to the relationship or interest.
- Members of the proposed site visit team who determine they have a conflict of interest must notify the site visit coordinator in writing and disclose the material facts as to the relationship or interest.
- Recusal should occur when there exists any financial or personal interest, direct or indirect, that is incompatible with the Commissioner or member’s duties, or might reasonably be expected to impair objectivity and independence of judgment in the exercise of his/her official duties.
- The minutes of any Committee or board meeting where any action is taken that involves an actual or potential conflict of interest should address the conflict of interest subject and identify the potential conflict of interest, record the material facts as to the relationship and interest, known or disclosed at the meeting.
- The Commissioner and/or the members of the Regent Advisory Council; the Board of Regents or members of the Institutional Accreditation Appeals Board should absent themselves during any substantive discussion and recuse themselves from any accreditation-related decision involving an institution with which they have a conflict. Any abstention shall also be duly recorded in the minutes of the meeting.
The team’s report is confidential until it is final. Reviewers may not disclose the report or any part of the report until the Regents have acted on the institution's application. Confidential information obtained during the course of the review may not be used for personal gain. Reviewers' memoranda, notes and other work products generated during the course of the review are the property of the State Education Department and may never be disclosed.
Gifts or gratuities of more than a nominal value may not be accepted from an institution accredited by the Commissioner and the Board of Regents and/or where accreditation is being considered, where doing so might raise an inference that the gift was intended either to influence the team/reviewer or decision-making body in the performance of the accreditation review.