Rutgers University Senate Committee on Instruction, Curricula, and Advising

Possible Conflict of Interest in the Assignment of Textbooks

Charge S-0325: Consider the issue of assignment of textbooks in courses taught by paid authors or reviewers of those textbooks.Make recommendations on whether policies should be established in this area, including return of royalties to textbook purchasers, price discounting, and the general appropriateness of the practice.Consult with University Counsel regarding legal aspects of the issue.


This issue was originally brought to the Senate by Dean Holly Smith and stems from issues detailed in a Chronicle of Higher Education article:

The primary issue addressed in this article is the practice apparently adopted by some publishers of offering either individual faculty members, or in some cases deans or departments, financial incentives to adopt specific textbooks.In some cases these incentives are offered as "reviewing fees" that may total thousands of dollars but are clearly contingent upon adoption of that textbook.

Reviewing Fees:

After discussion it was the consensus of the Committee that the acceptance of reviewing fees on the part of faculty is a non-issue as long as the fee is not contingent upon the adoption of any specific textbook.Where such a contingency does exist the acceptance of that fee by an individual or department would seem to be a clear violation of professional ethics.It is the opinion of University Counsel that in such cases there could also be legal issues under New Jersey law with respect to accepting a bribe and the state conflict of interest statute.[1]In point of fact the State of New Jersey has previously instituted criminal proceedings when a state employee accepted payment in exchange for directing that others purchase specific course materials.

Use of Textbooks in Courses Taught by Authors of Those Textbooks:

The Committee was also asked to consider the issue of textbooks being assigned by the authors of those textbooks.

In conjunction with our discussion, the Committee looked at policies on the use of faculty-authored textbooks currently in place at a number of different institutions [See Appendix A].

Such policies range from one or two brief sentences (see, for example, Louisiana Tech) to detailed policies and procedures designed to cover a variety of situations (see, for example Penn State). Most either in some way restrict the amount of financial gain that can be realized from the adoption of a particular text, or have policies in place that in essence safeguard the individual from accusations of adopting a particular text based on financial, rather than pedagogical considerations.

The Committee found the proliferation of policies relating to this issue somewhat surprising; clearly this is an issue that has received wide-spread attention.Rutgers, which does not offer any guidelines in this matter, would seem to be in the minority among academic institutions in this regard.

It is the consensus of the Committee that there is nothing inherently wrong with someone using their own textbook for a course that they are teaching, especially in an upper level class where enrollment is limited and where that particular book may indeed be the one that best corresponds to the content of the course.Author royalties are normally not more than six percent, even a very expensive textbook is unlikely to generate more than $250-$275 per course.

There are Rutgers faculty that regularly give royalties received as a result of their textbooks being used in sections/courses that they teach back to the university.While the Committee found this practice commendable, we did not feel that this is something that should be required.

The situation is more problematic in large lecture courses where a text might be required for hundreds of students.How the textbook is decided on varies from department to department and course to course.In some cases it is a group decision; in some cases an individual decides.

While only a small percentage of Rutgers courses would present an opportunity to realize any significant profit through the adoption of a specific text, it should be a given that textbooks are chosen on the basis of pedagogical merit and that neither an individual nor a department should profit financially from the adoption of a textbook where such profits are likely to be reflected in the prices being paid by students for those textbooks.


We recommend that the following policy be submitted to the Board of Governors for inclusion in Rutgers University Regulations and Procedures Manual:

Policy on the Selection of Textbooks and Related Educational Materials

1. Policy Guidelines

a.Textbooks and other teaching materials should be chosen entirely for their academic and pedagogical value.It is the responsibility of every course instructor to use the most suitable textbook for that course, regardless of whether or not that instructor authored the textbook.

b.It is recognized that sometimes there is no single, obvious, outstanding textbook choice.In those instances factors such as availability and price can influence textbook selection as long as pedagogical value receives primary consideration.

c.The selection of a textbook should be able to stand the test of peer review.

2.Faculty-Authored Textbooks

a.If a faculty member is teaching a course or a section of a course with an enrollment of more than 100 students and wishes to use a textbook that they have authored, they must first secure the approval of a departmental review panel.

b.The review panel should consist of at least three tenured members of the department in which the course is being offered, excluding the faculty member seeking approval.If three tenured members from that department are not available, the department may invite a faculty member from another department to serve on the review panel.If the department chair deems it appropriate, a faculty member from another department may be invited to serve on the review panel even when an adequate number of tenured department members are available.

c.The review panel’s decision to approve or disapprove the request should be based solely on the Policy Guidelines listed above.

3.Courses with Multiple Sections

a.To avoid even the appearance of any possible conflict of interest, in courses with multiple sections in which a single textbook is to be used the selection of a textbook should not be left to any one individual.

b.In these instances selection should be made by all, or a subset of, the course instructors, or by some other equitable and academically sound selection method as determined by the department.

4.Revenue-Sharing and other Agreements with Publishers[2]

a.Any discussions about possible revenue-sharing agreements with commercial publishers, printers, or other textbook providers should take place only after the selection of the textbook or other teaching material has been completed based solely on the Policy Guidelines listed above

b.In no instance should either an individual faculty member, or an academic unit, accept a financial incentive to adopt a specific textbook.

c.In any agreements with publishers or other providers, the department has a responsibility to be conscious of the needs and concerns of the students that will have to buy those materials.Any agreement with a textbook publisher should include the proviso that the price that Rutgers students will pay for that textbook and any accompanying material is as low as (or lower than) the price paid by students at other universities.


Appendix A

Policies on Use of Faculty-Authored Textbooks
Boise State


To clarify policy concerning textbooks authored by course instructors.

I. Policy Statement

Every course instructor has the responsibility to use the best possible textbook in that course, regardless if the course instructor authored the textbook. The selection of a textbook should be able to stand the test of peer review.

II. Guidelines

A faculty member may use in a course a textbook he/she authored provided that (a) the book was published by an established publishing house in which the instructor has no financial interest, (b) the book was peer-reviewed by that publisher prior to publication, and (c) the book is intended for adoption and use by institutions of higher education.

III. Procedure

A. Any faculty member may use in a course any textbook he/she authored that meets the above guidelines, subject to the usual approval of the department chair.

B. A course instructor using a textbook he/she authored that meets the above guidelines should make a copy of that textbook available through the department for student review.

C. Any textbook or other course materials that a faculty member has developed that does not meet the above guidelines is subject to the usual approval process by the department chair. In addition, because of potential conflict of interest, faculty members and departments may not charge royalties or commissions for any course materials (e.g., “coursepacks” or related course notes) that he/she has prepared that do not meet the above guidelines. Costs for these course materials to students are limited to the actual reproduction costs of the materials.

Central Connecticut State


Policy Concerning the Assigning of Faculty Authored Textbooks
To Students Taught by Same Faculty

Assignment of Textbooks:

Section 1-84 of the Connecticut General Statutes prohibits public officials and other state employees from using their public office or position to obtain a financial gain for themselves or their family members or any business with which they are associated.  A faculty member’s assignment of a textbook authored or developed by the faculty member could be considered as “obtaining financial gain” for the faculty member in violation of the Connecticut State Ethics Code.  Before requiring students to purchase a textbook or intellectual property for a course that the faculty member authored or developed, the faculty member must obtain prior approval for such use.  The prior approval process is not necessary if the faculty member directs any financial gain to a University fund or to a recognized 501(c)(3) entity from which that faculty member derives no personal financial benefit. 

Pursuant to the State of Connecticut Ethics Commission’s requirement in Advisory Opinion 2001-7, Central Connecticut State University requires that there be established a review panel that will rule on requests to utilize a professor’s text for his or her class.

Review Panel Composition 

The review panel is appointed by the Vice President for Academic Affairs and shall include no fewer than five (5) members including tenured faculty members recommended by the Deans of their respective Schools.  Faculty shall represent different departments. 

Terms of Appointment

Members on this panel serve for two-year staggered terms.  Initially, half of the members will be appointed for a period of one year.  New Members are selected in late spring.  The term of office concludes at the end of the academic year in late August.

Operating Procedures

The review panel selects a chair for a two-year period who is responsible for all communications with the faculty and administration.  The review panel considers requests, justification and evidence submitted by full-time or part-time faculty members who have authored a textbook and wish to assign that textbook to students in courses they teach at the university.  After considering all appropriate materials, the review panel rules and can approve requests if the requests meet one or both of the following requirements: 

  1. the text is recognized as the standard in the field, or 
  2. offers a unique perspective on the topic of study 
The panel informs the faculty member in writing of its decision indicating the reason for approval or disapproval, no later than 30 days from the day the request is received by the panel.  A copy of the decision is transmitted to the Vice President for Academic Affairs.  All decisions require a majority vote.  A panel member who represents the department of the faculty member whose request is under consideration may not vote on that request. 

Louisiana Tech

Textbooks and coursework materials authored by Louisiana Tech faculty may be adopted provided the selection is approved by the college dean. In a case where a dean is the author of selected materials, approval must be obtained from the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Mississippi State University

II. Adoption and Sale of Textbooks and Related Educational Materials (AOP 10.13)

Educational material is defined as any instruments, devices, software, or published, dittoed, mimeographed or other materials used in the classroom or laboratory…

1.There are no restrictions on the use of textbooks published by faculty members. In fact, Mississippi State University encourages faculty members to write and publish.

2Students are not allowed to pay for educational material directly to teachers for any course materials unless prior approval from the appropriate administration has been received by the teacher.

3.If the educational materials are sold to students through means other than Mississippi State University Bookstore, a written request for exceptions must be obtained from the usual administrative channels.

4.If any conflict of interest arises as a result of sales of textbooks or other educational materials, the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, in consultation with the Deans Council and Faculty Senate and Student Government, will appoint a committee to hear the case and advise the Provost on a course of action.

5.Copyright clearance must be obtained by the authoring department or faculty, where necessary, for compilations to be resold through the MSU Bookstore. University Legal Counsel or Bookstore may assist in this process, if so desired.

6.Royalties may not be paid to individual faculty for compilations produced while in the University employ and copied for resale through the MSU Bookstore. 

Penn State

Guidelines for Generating Revenue from Textbook Sales
College of the Liberal Arts
January 2003


In recent years, textbooks assigned for courses have become a significant source of revenue-sharing for academic units both here and at other institutions. To some extent, this is not a new situation. Some Penn State departments have long derived income not only from instruction itself (as with Summer Sessions or Distance Education courses), but also from course materials. However, recent technological, economic, and institutional changes have brought increased attention to the opportunities for textbook revenue.

There are various models or arrangements through which textbook revenue can be generated, including, but not limited to, (1) revenue-sharing agreements with external publishers of textbooks—with or without the customization of textbooks for specific Penn State courses; (2) collaborative agreements with our own University Press as a publisher; and (3) arrangements with copy centers, commercial printers, etc., to produce instructional materials that may range from traditional photocopied packets to booklets or books with a more polished appearance. Further, electronic media as well as print media may be involved, as it has become increasingly common for courseware packages that students purchase to include a CD, a password for Web site access, etc. 

Because this can be a complicated situation, involving questions of academic quality, intellectual property, professional ethics, etc., the College of the Liberal Arts has established the following policy for textbook revenue. This policy first offers general principles and then provides guidelines for implementation. Questions or suggestions should be directed to the Associate Dean for Administration. 


1. Textbooks and other teaching materials should be chosen entirely for their academic and pedagogical value. It is recognized that sometimes there is no single, obvious, outstanding textbook choice, and that factors such as availability and price, as well as academic content, can influence textbook selection, but the selection process should be based on academic and related pedagogical concerns.

2. Any policy to adopt revenue-sharing agreements with publishers, printers, or other providers must be approved by the department head and be in accordance with normal departmental governance policies and procedures where applicable. College-level approval is also required.

3. In any agreements with publishers, printers, or other providers, the department must act at all times as the “good agent” of the students. Where a commercial textbook is used, any agreement with its publisher must include the proviso that the price that Penn State students pay for the textbook and any accompanying materials is as low as (or lower than) the price paid by students for that textbook at any university in the country.

4. To avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest, Liberal Arts instructors should not profit personally from their power to select (or to influence the selection of) course materials used in the College. Revenue may come to the College, department, or program, and be used for normal academic purposes, but instructors should not profit personally through royalties from copies of their books that are assigned for courses within their department or other Penn State courses where they have influence over book selection. Similarly, instructors, course coordinators, etc., should not receive payments from publishers for adopting a book, or from copy shops for directing business their way. (Note: This College principle is intended to be clear for our purposes. University policy may be confusing, since AD46, Policy Governing Copyright Clearance, prohibits such payments, while AD17, Royalty Payments for Course Materials, permits them under certain circumstances.)


1. Textbook selection and development should be made through normal departmental procedures and should be based on academic and pedagogical considerations only. When commercial publishers are involved, discussions concerning revenue sharing should take place only after the selection of the textbook or other teaching materials has been completed.

2. Arrangements for revenue sharing may occur in any type of course, but there is no expectation that all courses or all academic units will participate. Efforts should be focused on situations where significant benefits seem likely to occur. The maximum leverage and potential for revenue sharing exists in large enrollment courses at the introductory level, for several reasons: (1) Such courses are likely to have large numbers of students using the same textbooks; (2) Often there are multiple commercial textbooks available, which are near perfect substitutes for one another, thus encouraging competition among them; (3) Introductory courses are often taught by TA’s and fixed-term lecturers, with book selection undertaken by a course coordinator rather than by each individual instructor.

3. The availability of revenue-sharing is often influenced by the question of whether a used-book market does, or does not, exist in a given situation. Arrangements with publishers that eliminate the used-book market through frequent updates, customized publishing, or technological enhancements are likely to generate the most revenue. However, such tailoring of instructional materials must always be academically defensible and viable.

4. Any contractual arrangements with publishers or other vendors, once recommended by the academic unit as indicated above, should be approved and signed by the Associate Dean. Upon request, if a project to use an existing commercial textbook (see Model #1 below) seems likely to generate significant revenue, the Associate Dean will handle all negotiations with the publisher or other vendor.

5. Any materials that students buy as part of an agreement with a publisher (for example, collections of readings, a CD, an online workbook) must be integral parts of the course.

6. The establishment, monitoring, and maintenance of revenue-sharing through textbook arrangements with publishers or other vendors is likely to be time consuming and can be stressful. Departments that undertake such arrangements should clearly delineate how and by whom they will be managed. Early consultation with the Associate Dean is encouraged.


1. Using an existing book on the commercial textbook market. The publisher pays the department/college a percentage or fixed amount on each book sold. The price to Penn State students can be no higher than the price at which the book is sold at other universities. In this model, no attempt is made to eliminate the used book market, so revenues will decline after the first semester of the adoption of a new text. This pattern of variable revenue-generation will recur each time there is a new edition of the text.

2. Customizing a publisher’s book. The publisher pays the department/college a percentage or fixed amount on each book sold, but through custom publishing the book is changed significantly each semester or each year to bring it up to date pedagogically. Students are required to buy the updated version, which may be tailored specifically to the way a course is taught at Penn State in a given semester. This eliminates the used-book market. Revenue-generation is steady, based on enrollments.

3. Developing a package that includes supplemental course materials. Course materials, sold as one package, include components that are regularly updated or used up, such as a workbook, or essential Web-based technology that requires the student to purchase a pass code for a specific semester. As with a customized book, revenue-generation is steady, based on enrollments.

4. Developing our own course materials. The department or program develops its own textbook or workbook or other course materials. These may be produced just for Penn State students via a copy center, printer, or similar vendor (but not sold by the academic unit or instructor directly to students, which is against University policy). Or, course materials developed by the department or program may be contracted to a publisher, including our University Press, which publishes and markets them both here and elsewhere. Customization and technology enhancement, noted above, will have the same effects in the case of departmentally created materials as when textbooks or other materials not created here are used. Faculty, graduate students, or other Penn State personnel who develop these materials can be paid supplemental compensation or given released time from teaching. Course materials developed as part of a developer’s regular University assignment are considered work for hire and do not bring royalties or copyright to the creators.

University of Memphis

SUBJECT:Faculty Authored Textbooks

POLICY NO.:1:2A:14:01DATE:January 15, 1985


Copyrighted material prepared by The University of Memphis faculty and staff may be required for student purchase only by the unanimous decision of a committee of the department in which it is to be used.Such required purchase of instructional material must also be approved by the department chairman, or in cases where no department chairman exists, the appropriate administrative officer; and, in the case of materials designed solely for a University of Memphis audience, the responsible dean.

The appropriate dean will, in each case where faculty-authored material is required to be purchased by students, approve the selection process to assure its objectivity.

In addition, anyone preparing material to be copyrighted and designed solely for a University of Memphis audience must obtain advance approval to avoid possible loss and must comply with Policy No. 1:2B:01:11 and Procedure No. 2B:01:11A, Patents and Copyrights.

Faculty authored material which is required to be purchased by students may not be sold directly to students by a faculty member, department, or college, but must be available for purchase at established outlets, including the University store.

University of Missouri

Proceeds from Faculty Authored Textbooks and Materials

Textbooks, tapes, software and other materials authored by the course instructor may be assigned to be purchased by students for a course taught by the author if the royalties arising from the purchase of the assigned materials are returned to the University of Missouri, another educational institution, a charitable organization, or a not-for-profit foundation. Any proceeds from other University uses of such materials, such as purchase by the library, shall be the property of the faculty member.

University of South Florida

Sec. 112.313 , F.S. 

A faculty member who is the author of a textbook, book, software, or collateral materials and who requires the use of that material in his or her course or courses, must inform the Provost if more than $500 is received in one year from the required use of the textbook in his or her class. The faculty member must certify that the required text is the only text that is uniquely suited for use in the author's class. The number of students expected to enroll in the class for the year should be included. The above reporting requirements also apply when the faculty member assigning the materials is a relative of the author, a member of a teaching team of which the author is a member, or if the author is in a position to require the materials in any University course or program

Virginia Tech

Revision of Policy Memorandum #5, Faculty Authored Textbooks

Policy Memorandum No. 101

Recommended by the Commission on Undergraduate Studies
Approved by University Council: March 6, 1989
Approved by the President: March 6, 1989
Effective: Immediately 

With approval of the Commissions on Faculty Affairs, Graduate Studies and Research, and Undergraduate Studies, the University Council took action in May 1978 to establish policy on adoption of textbooks authored by Virginia Tech faculty and intended for purchase by students for use in our classes. The policy, as written, states: 

It is the policy of the University that textbooks, manuals, workbooks or other class material authored by Virginia Tech faculty and intended for purchase by students for use in Virginia Tech classes may not be used unless first approved by the appropriate departmental, collegiate and university-level committees. 

On March 6, 1989, at the recommendation of the Commission on Undergraduate Studies, University Council took action to revise the policy with regard to approval requirements and review for faculty accused of abusing the policy. The revision eliminates the required approval by the Commission on Undergraduate Studies and places the responsibility for approval for use of faculty-authored textbooks with the department chair.

Following is the text of the resolution as adopted by the University Council. 

WHEREAS, new technologies increase the types of materials available for classroom use, and 

WHEREAS, the University wishes to encourage faculty to develop and use all resources available to increase the quality of teaching, and 

WHEREAS, potential abuse of the new technologies of printing, computing and video capabilities are of concern to the University community, and 

WHEREAS, the University wishes to preserve academic freedom and integrity, 

BE IT RESOLVED, that a faculty member teaching a course may not receive a royalty and/or other fees beyond direct cost of production and sales for any material used as part of class activity, except for material that has received an independent external review, that has been copyrighted and a portion of the copyright is owned by a publisher other than the author. This resolution replaces Policy No. 5 (1)--dated June 29, 1978--pertaining to faculty authored textbooks, which is described in Section 3.4.1 of the FACULTY HANDBOOK and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that faculty accused of abusing the distribution of classroom material for personal financial gain will be subject to review by the Committee on Faculty Ethics. 

Western Washington University


Washington State law states that a faculty member may not have a beneficial interest in a textbook assigned to their own students. (RCW 42.52.030) 

a.This does not mean that faculty are precluded from using their own textbooks in their classes but does mean that the faculty can not receive any compensation (other than their state salary) if their textbook is used in their class(es). This also applies if the faculty author is a decision maker in the choice of textbooks for other classes if his or her textbook is used in classes taught by other faculty. (RCW 42.52.020 & 42.52.110) 

b.The textbooks can be used if:

1.A Dean, Chair or committee that does not include the faculty author decides which book will be used in the faculty author’s class(es); OR

2.The faculty agrees to waive any royalties (or other compensation) that would be received due to the sale of the textbooks to the students taking the class; OR

3.The faculty member assigns their rights to the University for any proceeds that result from the sale to their students. Also, the faculty member can not have a role in determining how the royalties would be distributed or spent by the University. 

[1] New Jersey conflicts of interest statute prohibit a public employee from accepting any item of value (which would include money) intended “to influencehim in the performance” of their job, NJSA 52:13D-14, and 23(e)(6) is essentially the same.A public employee shall not have a “financial interest that might reasonably be expected to impair his objectivity or independence of judgement, NJSA 52:13D-23(3)(4).
[2] The provisions of this section are not meant to apply to the receipt of author royalties.