Office of the Provost


To: University of Pittsburgh Faculty

From: Arthur S. Levine, Senior Vice Chancellor of the Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine

James V. Maher, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor

Re: Faculty-Copyrighted Materials as Course Assignments

Date: August 15, 2007

Our existing academic integrity policies do not allow faculty to benefit financially from assigning their books or other copyrighted material to Pitt students. We are concerned about the current lack of consistent guidelines across schools of the University for such situations where for good academic reasons our students are required or strongly recommended to buy textbooks or other copyrighted material (monographs, software, simulation courseware, etc.) written by our faculty. While some units have a process in place for discounting those materials or for putting the royalty portion of the materials’ cost into some fund that could be seen as benefiting students, we need to have a more uniform system that more manifestly protects our students. Furthermore, even when such practices are followed, if a faculty member accepts the royalty income from the publisher and then turns that money in to the University to be used for some general, student-supportive purpose, the faculty member is then faced with some complicated tax issues.

We need to make sure that students are not charged for what would become royalty income when faculty assign to students materials developed by Pitt faculty (whether developed by the faculty member assigning the material or by a colleague here), and we need to make sure that faculty are not left with a potentially onerous chore involving the IRS.

In order to consistently implement our existing policies that do not allow faculty to financially benefit from assigning their work to students, and to avoid any appearance of impropriety, we are moving forward with a plan to implement a process currently in place for some of our colleagues. These colleagues have arranged a process whereby the faculty member who has written the material works with his or her publisher to have our University bookstores and/or those vendors handling University-organized purchasing arrangements sell the material to students at a ‘discount,’ waiving the royalty charge so that there is no tax consequence.

This process will be implemented University-wide as soon as possible but no later than for coursework sold for the spring term (Term 08-2). Please work with your dean, department chair, or campus president to coordinate this process through your publisher and the University bookstores and/or University purchasing arrangements if any Pitt courses are asking students to purchase materials for which you would otherwise receive royalties. Complications may arise as we put this new process into operation, in which case, you and your dean, department chair, or campus president should contact Vice Provost Robert F. Pack for advice and help to refine the process.

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