Policy on Outside Creative Work in the Performing & Visual Arts


It is essential to the success of the College of Fine and Applied Arts, as a comprehensive arts college on a research-intensive university campus, that its performing and visual arts faculty have the latitude to engage in outside (non-university) income-producing activity, including performances with major ensembles and at foremost performing arts centers and the development of exhibitions and installations at leading museums and arts venues. Non-university activity is often the means by which a faculty member in the performing and visual arts engages in original creative work; it can generate significant benefits to the reputation and visibility of the school/department, college, and campus; and it is often an important vehicle for recruiting new students, identifying and attracting top faculty, and meeting and cultivating artists who later make guest visits to engage with students and faculty on the campus.

At the same time, non-university income-producing activity raises the potential for conflicts of commitment and interest. Moreover, depending on the way non-university income-producing activity is pursued and managed by the faculty or staff member, it may yield few significant benefits to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This document offers guidance to FAA faculty and unit executive officers (UEOs) in the management of outside activities. It supplements existing university guidelines, specifically those associated with the University of Illinois System Policies on Conflict of Interest (COCI Policy) and the required annual Report of Non-University Activities (RNUA). The document applies prospectively and does not negate decisions, actions, or plans implemented following prior practices in the college.

COCI Policy Requirements for Presenting Creative Work

Under the COCI Policy, academic staff members are required to obtain written approval before engaging in non-university income-producing activities, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions include “preparing, publishing, or presenting scholarly or creative works, including books, articles, and software, even if honoraria, stipends, or royalties may be provided” unless “such activities are so extensive in time and effort that they constitute a potential conflict of commitment.” Many outside activities of FAA faculty—particularly those in the performing arts—fall into the category of “presenting . . . creative works” and therefore could be exempted from the campus’s disclosure approval requirements. At the same time, many such activities also require significant time and effort and thus may cross a threshold into constituting a potential conflict of commitment.1 Where that threshold lies is ambiguous.

Guiding Principle

In FAA, the guiding principle is the ethical and legal obligation of all academic staff members to conduct themselves in accordance with the highest standards of integrity in meeting their obligations as employees of the department/school, college, and university. When there is uncertainty about whether the level of non-university income-producing creative activity constitutes a conflict of commitment, the expectation is that the activity will be disclosed by the faculty or staff member, and a conflict of commitment management plan will be created and approved by the UEO.

Level of Activity Threshold

The following is the threshold in FAA that triggers an obligation to disclose the type and level of creative activity undertaken for non-university income, even if such activity technically would be exempted from inclusion in an annual RNUA. The threshold establishes a fixed standard, but faculty and staff should be guided at all times by the principle outlined above. In some cases, a lower level of activity may warrant disclosure, particularly if a perception of a conflict of commitment may be created by the activity. With regard to presenting one or more creative works that generate non-university income, when the aggregate time commitments involved exceed 10 days of activity in a given nine-month academic year,2 each faculty member will:

  1. Disclose the type and time commitment of their outside activities in detail to their department head or UEO;
  2. Work with their UEO to draft a conflict of commitment management plan;
  3. Review and revise—as appropriate—the conflict of commitment management plan when major changes in the type and/or level of activities occur, and not less than once per academic year.

In general, conflict of commitment management plans should be created (or updated) and approved by the UEO prior to the start of each academic year. Approved plans will be placed in the faculty member’s personnel file. Plans should then be revised during the course of the year, as necessary, when the type or level of activities changes.

Confidentiality & UEO Consultation with Unit Committees or Others

UEOs may wish to review approved conflict of commitment management plans with executive or advisory committees or, in some cases, a faculty member’s immediate line manager (e.g., division chair). Such review may be important for avoiding perceptions of conflicts of commitment and maintaining faculty and staff morale. In such cases, diligent efforts must be made to maintain the confidentiality of personal or proprietary information outlined in the plans, to the extent allowed by law. Conflict of commitment management plans should be marked as confidential and treated as such by UEOs, line managers, and members of executive/advisory committees.


1. “A ‘conflict of commitment’ exists when the external activities of an academic staff member are so substantial or demanding of the staff member’s time and attention as to interfere with the individual’s responsibilities to the unit to which the individual is assigned, to students, or to the university” (COCI Policy, p. 5).

2. The academic year encompasses the entire period, including noninstructional periods, August 16–May 15.

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