August 5, 2015

Q1. What is an Outside Activity?

An Outside Activity1 is any outside employment, either public or private, engaged in on an ongoing basis, unrelated to responsibilities and duties performed by the employee for CUNY; e.g. selling real estate, teaching, serving on for-profit and not-for-profit boards or advisory boards.2

Q2. What are the general requirements?

All policy makers are prohibited from serving as an officer of a political party or political organization or as a member of a national committee of a political party. The ethics regulations further require that salaried policy makers obtain the prior approval of their approving authority (campus or system administration) and the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) before:

  • holding other public office or engaging in other public employment for more than nominal compensation (defined as greater than $5,000 annually);
  • engaging in any private employment, business or other activity (including not-for-profit) for more than the defined nominal compensation;
  • serving as director or officer of a not-for-profit corporation or institution for more than nominal compensation; and
  • serving as director or officer of a for-profit corporation or institution, regardless of compensation

If a policy-maker will receive compensation of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any public or private employment or for service as a director or officer of a not-for-profit entity, the policy-maker must seek approval from his or her approving authority, but does not need permission from JCOPE. See Q5 below for more details.

Q3. Who must request approval?

Any CUNY employees who are policy makers3 and wish to engage in an outside activity for which the employee will earn more than $1,000 per year. Check with your college Ethics Officer if you are unsure whether you are a policy maker.

Q4. When must I apply for approval of Outside Activities?

You must ask for approval before you begin to work/perform any outside activity.

Q5. How do I apply for approval of Outside Activities?

A) If you will earn between $1,000 and $5,0004

Prepare a cover letter/memo to your immediate supervisor explaining your request for approval of the outside activity. Your supervisor must review the request and when necessary, consult with the College Ethics Officer (a list of Ethics Officers is attached) to determine if the outside activity would result in a conflict of interest. Your supervisor must respond to you in writing with a copy to the Campus Ethics Officer. If your supervisor denies your request there is no appeal process. Do not go to the JCOPE for permission, as they will not approve an activity without the written consent of a supervisor.

College Presidents or Vice Chancellors must seek permission from CUNY’s Chancellor, with the assistance of CUNY’s General Counsel. The CUNY Executive Compensation Plan rules must be consulted for any additional limitations on outside activities.

Once you have your supervisor’s written approval you may begin to perform the outside activity.

B) If you will earn more than $5,000

You must seek approval from your supervisor and from JCOPE. Once you have your supervisor’s written permission, you must also fill out the Outside Activity Approval Form (attached as a pdf file below) and prepare an Outside Activity statement5 (see sample below) and attach all the documents with a cover memo to your college President with a copy to the college Ethics Officer. The college President should confer with the college Ethics Officer to make certain there is no conflict. If the President approves the outside activity then you must email the form and its attachments to JCOPE requesting approval, with a copy to CUNY’s General Counsel.

Once you have the written approval of both CUNY and the JCOPE you may begin to perform the outside activity.

C) Outside Activity Form; Outside Activity Statement sample:


JCOPE Outside Activity Approval Form
Outside Activity Sample Request

Q6. What if I am serving as a director or officer of a not-for-profit entity for no compensation or compensation that is under $1,000?

Then you do not need to seek approval, but must notify your supervisor or other approving authority in writing prior to commencing service.

Q7. What if I will perform the Outside Activity for more than one year?

Once the Outside Activity has been approved, the approval remains in effect unless there is a material change in your State responsibilities or in the outside activity. On an annual basis, you must inform your supervisor or other approving authority, in writing, that you are still engaged in the Outside Activity.

Q8. Are there any special considerations for faculty?

Full-time faculty must ensure that they also adhere to CUNY’s Statement of Policy on Multiple Positions. Under the Policy, a faculty member must obtain prior approval from the Personnel and Budget Committee of his or her department before engaging in outside employment, consulting, or other work. Outside work must relate to the faculty member’s professional interests, strengthen his or her professional competence, or enrich his or her professional performance, and must not interfere with the faculty member’s professional standing.

Q9. What if I still have questions?

Please contact your college Ethics Officer.6 You may find additional information on the JCOPE website – please go to the Outside Activity Regulations.7

  1. See the JCOPE ethics regulations at 19 NYCRR Part 932
  2. All policy makers who serve on advisory boards must receive permission from CUNY’s General Counsel, whether or not the service is compensated.
  3. A policy maker is a person who exercises a broad scope of responsibilities in formulating plans for the implementation of goals or policy for CUNY, or acts as an advisor to an individual in such a position. Specifically, a CUNY employee is considered a policy maker if the employee manages a unit or department; solicits, communicates with and has decision-making responsibilities regarding vendors who do business with any college or with CUNY Central; and/or has decision making responsibilities (or supervises or manages staff that has such responsibilities) regarding how CUNY funds are obtained, allocated, spent, or processed, including the payment of employee compensation, discharge of debts, financing of projects, procurement and negotiation of contracts, obtaining of grants including in conjunction with foundations, and the evaluation of vendors and contractors.
  4. Salary or compensation includes wages, salaries, benefits, professional fees, royalties, bonuses, commissions on sales, and any income received from a business venture owned or controlled by the employee.
  5. The OA Statement should include the following information: A description of your CUNY job responsibilities and a detailed description of the outside activity, including the type of work to be performed, the number of hours per week, including the times and days when the work will be performed, whether the outside activity involves a person or entity that does business or seeks to do business with CUNY, and an explanation as to why the outside activity does not present a conflict with your CUNY job responsibilities.
  6. See the CUNY list of all College Ethics Officers at:
  7. See the JCOPE ethics regulations for Outside Activities at 19 NYCRR Part 932.