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FAQs

FAQs

Our office fields a wide array of legal questions. Below are some common questions on legal matters affecting the university and some basic information on those issues.

Keep in mind that all legal advice depends on the facts and circumstances of a particular situation. As a result, these FAQs are for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as specific legal advice.

University faculty or staff should contact us directly to discuss any specific questions.

Contents

About the University

What is the university's legal name and legal status?
How is the University governed? What is its constitutional status?
What are the Collected Rules and Regulations? Where can I find them?

About the Office of the General Counsel

What is the role of the Office of the General Counsel? Who does it represent?
How do I contact the Office of the General Counsel? Which attorney should I contact?

Contracts, Leases, Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs)

Do I have the authority to sign a contract, lease, agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on behalf of the University in order to purchase property, goods and services, to lease space, or to make promises obligating the University to do something?

Employment

What is the University's policy on employment discrimination?
What is the University's policy on sexual harassment?
What is the University's policy on consensual amorous relationships?

Faculty

What are the University's policies concerning academic freedom and tenure?
Do the University's Academic Tenure Regulations apply only to tenured and tenure-track faculty? Where do I find rules and policies concerning other academic personnel?
What are the University's policies concerning research misconduct?

Intellectual Property

Where can I get information about the University's policies on intellectual property?

Litigation

What should I do if I receive a subpoena?
What should I do if I learn about a lawsuit against me or the University? What should I do if I receive a summons?
What should I do if I'm contacted by an attorney about a University matter?
What happens if I'm sued in connection with my work for the University?

Records / Sunshine Law

What is the Sunshine Law? What's FOIA?
Who is the University's custodian of records for purposes of the Sunshine Law? How do I make a request for records under the Sunshine Law?
Where can I find information about the University's records management policies?
Where can I get guidance about electronic records management?

Student Matters

Is student information protected?
What rights do federal law and University policy confer on students?
What about directory information?
What about parents?
Should students' grades be posted?
What university policies govern student conduct and discipline?

Trademarks

Where can I find information about use of the University's name, marks, and logos?

 

Answers

About the University

What is the University's legal name and legal status?

  • The legal name of the University of Missouri is "The Curators of the University of Missouri". Section 172.020 of the Missouri Revised Statutes gave the University this name, and designated the University as a public corporation under this name.
  • Even though the University is a multi-campus system, it is one legal entity, and "The Curators of the University of Missouri" is the name that the University uses when it enters into contracts, conveys and receives real property by deed, or is named as a party in other legal documents and actions.
  • For more information, contact one of our attorneys.

How is the University governed? What is its constitutional status?

  • The Missouri Constitution provides the university with independence of governance and assurance of support.
  • Article IX, Section 9(a) of the Missouri Constitution vests governance of the university in the Board of Curators. The board of curators is a nine member board appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate.
  • During the constitutional convention of 1875, the framers of the Missouri Constitution specifically rejected attempts to include the Commissioner of Education in the governance of the university and broaden political participation in curator approval beyond the senate. 
  • State statutes further provide that no more than five curators may be of one political party and that no more than one curator may be from any one congressional district.
  • Missouri is one of approximately 13 states that protect the governance of their universities through their state constitutions.
  • Article IX, Section 9(b) of the Missouri Constitution requires that the general assembly adequately maintain the university.
  • For more information, contact one of our attorneys.

What are the Collected Rules and Regulations? Where can I find them?

  • The Collected Rules and Regulations are comprised of the rules pertaining to the operation of the University that are approved by the board of curators. The Collected Rules also include executive orders of the university presidents.
  • These rules govern all campuses.
  • To find the collected rules click here.
  • For more information, contact one of our attorneys.

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About the Office of the General Counsel

What is the role of the Office of the General Counsel? Who does it represent?

  • The Office of the General Counsel provides legal representation to the university, including all four campuses and their employees. It provides in-house advising on a wide range of legal matters and represents the University and its employees in litigation.
  • The Office of the General Counsel does not represent employees in personal matters.
  • The general counsel is appointed by, and directly reports to, the board of curators.
  • For more information, contact one of our attorneys.

How do I contact the Office of the General Counsel? Which attorney should I contact?

  • You can reach the Office of the General Counsel at:
    227 University Hall
    Columbia, MO 65211
    Tel: (573) 882-3211
    Fax: (573 882-0050
  • All of our attorneys can be reached at that location and phone number. For a list of the individual attorneys in our office and their e-mail addresses, click here.
  • We have an open door policy and we encourage university personnel to contact us promptly with legal questions that arise in the course of their work. We cannot, however, give legal advice on personal matters.
  • To identify which attorney you should contact with a particular question, we recommend that you consult our Attorney Practice Areas page.
  • If you are unsure which attorney you should contact, please call the general phone number listed above and Michelle Blevins or Lori Robinett of our staff will help you.

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Contracts, Leases, Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs)

Do I have the authority to sign a contract, lease, agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on behalf of the university in order to purchase property, goods and services, to lease space, or to make promises obligating the university to do something?

  • A contract, agreement, lease or MOU is most often a document by which the university agrees to provide or pay for goods, property, or services or to take on responsibilities to do things. It can take many forms. Examples include purchase and sale agreements, leases, research contracts, agreements to provide services to others, affiliation agreements or an MOU to collaborate on forming programs.
  • Almost all contracts between the university and others must be signed either:
    • at the system level by the president, the vice president for finance and administration, the associate vice president of management services, the vice president for research and economic development, or the director of procurement; or
    • at the campus level by the chancellor, the provost, the vice chancellor for administration, the vice chancellor or vice provost for research, the manager or associate director of business services, CEO of UM HealthCare, the manager of campus procurement, the director of sponsored programs or the director of technology transfer.
  • While there may be other employees of the university to whom signature authority has been expressly delegated to sign contracts, more than likely the authority to sign a contract, lease, agreement or MOU for the university will rest with those identified above.
  • The fact that you are authorized to use the university's procurement card or sign internal documents, such as HR documents, does not mean that you have the authority to sign contracts on behalf of the university.
  • If you do not have express signature authority with respect to a prospective contract, you should contact your immediate superior or the general counsel's office (573-882-3211) to determine who should sign the contract on behalf of the university.
  • If you sign a contract on behalf of the university for which you do not have signature authority you may be personally liable to the entity on the other side of the agreement and to the university. In addition, the agreement will not be binding on the university.
  • For more information, contact Kelly Mescher, or Kate Markie.

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Employment

What is the university's policy on employment discrimination?

  • University policy complies with federal and state laws and prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or status as a Vietnam era veteran.
  • To find a copy of the university's Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, click here.
  • For more information, contact Phil Hoskins or Nancie Hawke.

What is the university's policy on sexual harassment?

  • Similar to federal and state law, university policy prohibits sexual harassment and prohibits retaliation against any person who makes an accusation of discrimination or sexual harassment or who assists with the investigation or resolution of such accusations. To find a copy of the university's Sexual Harassment Policy, click here.
  • For more information, contact Kathy Bunn or Phil Hoskins.

What is the university's policy on consensual amorous relationships?

  • Consensual amorous relationships between members of the university community are prohibited when one participant has direct evaluative or supervisory authority over the other because such relationships create an inherent conflict of interest.
  • To access a copy of the university's policy on Consensual Amorous Relationships, click here.
  • For more information, contact Kathy Bunn or Phil Hoskins.

Faculty

What are the university's policies concerning academic freedom and tenure?

Do the University's Academic Tenure Regulations apply only to tenured and tenure-track faculty? Where do I find rules and policies concerning other academic personnel?

What are the university's policies concerning research misconduct?

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Intellectual Property

Where can I get information about the university's policies on intellectual property?

  • The university's policy on ownership, assignment, licensing and distribution of royalties related to inventions and plant varieties made by employees of the university during their employment by the university is contained in the Patent and Plant Variety Regulations at Section 100.020 of the Collected Rules and Regulations of the University of Missouri.
  • The university's policy on the ownership, use, and rights to income of copyrightable materials created by employees of the university during their employment by the university is contained in the Copyright Regulations at Section 100.030 of the Collected Rules and Regulations of the University of Missouri.
  • For more information, contact Phil Hoskins or Kelly Mescher.
Litigation

What should I do if I receive a subpoena?

  • A subpoena is a command to appear at a certain time and place to give testimony upon a certain matter. A subpoena duces tecum requires production of documents and other things.
  • If you are served with a subpoena (in which a person hands the subpoena to you) or if you receive a subpoena by mail, you should note the date you received it and immediately contact one of the attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel. You should never ignore a subpoena, as a failure to appropriately respond to a subpoena could result in an order for your arrest for contempt of court. Click here for contact information.

What should I do if I learn about a lawsuit against me or the university? What should I do if I receive a summons?

  • A summons is an instrument used to commence a civil lawsuit.
  • If you are served with a summons (in which a person hands the summons to you) or if you receive a summons by mail, you may have been named as a defendant in a lawsuit. If you receive a summons by service or mail, you need to note the date you received it and immediately notify one of the attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel.
  • A defendant in a lawsuit has a specific period of time, usually 20 or 30 days but possibly shorter, in which to appropriately respond to the lawsuit. A failure to respond could result in a default judgment being taken against you.
  • A failure to notify the university that you have been sued could result in the university refusing to provide you with a defense in the matter.
  • If you learn that the university has been sued in a matter in which you are involved, you need to contact the Office of the General Counsel immediately.
  • No employee, campus, department, college or other unit should undertake the investigation, defense or settlement of a lawsuit or claim against the university. Lawsuits should be referred to the Office of General Counsel immediately. Claims that are not yet the subject of lawsuits should be referred immediately to the Office of the General Counsel or the university's Office of Risk and Insurance Management.
  • Under no circumstance should an employee, campus, department, college or other unit pay money to settle a claim without the express approval of the Office of the General Counsel or the university's Office of Risk and Insurance Management.

What should I do if I'm contacted by an attorney about a university matter?

  • If you are contacted by an attorney about a university matter, you are not required to talk with that attorney until you have consulted with one of the attorneys in the Office of the General Counsel.
  • In many instances, you should not be discussing university matters with outside attorneys. If you are contacted by an attorney about a university matter, obtain the attorney's name and contact information and tell him or her that you will be contacting the Office of the General Counsel regarding the request for information. You should then contact an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel, who can advise you and work with you in responding to the outside attorney's request.

What happens if I'm sued in connection with my work for the university?

  • Section 490.010 of the University's Collected Rules and Regulations provides that defense and protection against loss, damage or expense will be provided for employees of the University of Missouri in connection with any claim or suit allegedly arising out of the performance of duties for, or employment with, or by the University of Missouri. To find a copy of that provision of the Collected Rules click here.
  • If you are sued in connection with your work for the university, you are required to submit a request for defense and protection to the president of the university. This request is to include a brief description of the circumstances surrounding the incident giving rise to the legal action, documentation to verify that you were acting within the scope of your official duties at the time of the incident and a copy of the papers served on you.
  • If, based on your request, the president determines that you were acting in good faith and within the scope of your employment or authority, and such a defense is legally permissible, the university will provide a defense and protection either through the Office of the General Counsel or by outside counsel appointed by the general counsel.
  • However, no protection will be provided to employees if a court determines that action arose out of malfeasance in office or willful or wanton action or neglect of duty.
  • For more information, contact Paul Maguffee or Phil Hoskins.

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Records/Sunshine Law

What is the Sunshine Law? What's FOIA?

  • The Sunshine Law is the name commonly used to refer to Missouri's open meetings and records statutes, which are found in Chapter 610 of the Missouri Revised Statutes. In general terms, the Sunshine Law identifies which records and meetings of public governmental bodies in Missouri are open to the public, and under what circumstances they may be closed.
  • You can find the university's policies for compliance with the Sunshine Law in the university's Collected Rules and Regulations at Section 10.060 and Section 10.061.
  • University personnel who have questions concerning the Sunshine Law are encouraged to contact one of the lawyers listed under that heading on our Attorney Practice Areas page.
  • FOIA stands for the "Freedom of Information Act," a federal law that governs access to records of federal agencies. Because it addresses federal, not state agencies, FOIA generally does not apply to the university. Instead, access to the university's records is governed by the Missouri Sunshine Law.
  • For more information, contact Paul Maguffee or Phil Hoskins.

Who is the university's custodian of records for purposes of the Sunshine Law? How do I make a request for records under the Sunshine Law?

  • The university's interim custodian of records for purposes of the Sunshine Law is Paula Barrett.
  • To make a request for records under the Sunshine Law, you should write to:
    Paula Barrett
    Interim Custodian of Records
    University of Missouri
    321 University Hall
    Columbia, MO 65211
    Email: custodianofrecords@umsystem.edu 
  • To expedite the handling of your request, please identify the records you are seeking as specifically as possible. If you are interested in records only from a specific time period, please identify that time period in your request.
  • As permitted by the Sunshine Law, the university charges fees for research and copying associated with responding to requests for records. The university may request that fees be paid in advance. If you wish to obtain an estimate of the fees that would apply to your request, please include a request for an estimate along with your request for records.
  • For more information, contact Paul Maguffee or Phil Hoskins.

Where can I find information about the University's records management policies?

  • The Sunshine Law identifies what records of a public governmental body must be open to the public, but it generally does not address what records must be retained or for how long. Those matters are addressed elsewhere in law and policy.
  • At the university, standards for records retention are addressed in the University's Records Management Policy.
    • For a copy of that policy, click here.
    • In addition, quick reference help can be found in the University's Records Retention guide, which can be found here.
  • For more information, contact Paul Maguffee or Kelly Mescher.

Where can I get guidance about electronic records management?

  • Like paper records, electronic records (including e-mails) may be subject to records retention requirements and to disclosure under the Sunshine Law.
  • You can find information and guidance about the university's policy on administration of electronic records here.
  • For more information, contact Paul Maguffee or Kelly Mescher.

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Student Matters

Is student information protected?

  • Both federal law and university policy protect a student's right to review his or her records and to protect those records and the information obtained from them from unauthorized disclosure.
  • The applicable federal law is the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, referred to as FERPA or the Buckley Amendment, and its requirements have been incorporated into the University's policies in Section 180.020 of the Collected Rules and Regulations of the University of Missouri.
  • More detailed information on campus practices and guidance can be found on the websites for the registrars on the various campuses:

What rights do federal law and university policy confer on students?

  • FERPA (and the corresponding university policy) give a student the right to review his or her own educational records and to seek to have them corrected if the student believes they are inaccurate.
  • FERPA (and the corresponding university policy) generally prohibit the university from releasing educational records unless the student agrees in writing or unless the release falls within a statutory or regulatory exception.
  • For more information contact Kate Markie.

What about directory information?

  • FERPA permits educational institutions to declare some information, thought by many not to be private, to be "directory information" not subject to privacy restrictions.
  • The university has declared the following information about a student to be directory information:  [A] student’s name, address, e-mail address, telephone listing, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student, student level, and full- or part-time status.  http://www.umsystem.edu/ums/rules/collected_rules/information/ch180/180.020_student_records.
  • However, FERPA requires, and University policy permits, students to be able to request that the university not release such information regarding them.
  • For more information contact Kate Markie.

What about parents?

  • FERPA gives students attending postsecondary institutions the right to privacy over most individuals, including parents.
  • However, FERPA permits postsecondary institutions to release information to parents if they can demonstrate that their son or daughter is a dependent under the Internal Revenue Code. Generally, this is established by the parent supplying a copy of their most recent 1040 form (with information unrelated to the dependency issue masked). Students may also provide a signed, dated form permitting the University to release information to a parent.
  • Other exceptions to the privacy restriction may apply in certain situations, such as health or safety emergencies.
  • For more information contact Kate Markie.

Should students' grades be posted?

  • Grades or other student records should not be publicly displayed if the identity of the students can be determined. Because student numbers and social security numbers are widely used for many purposes, the U.S. Department of Education does not believe this method of posting grades adequately protects the private information of the students.
  • It is possible that postings of grades by randomly assigned numbers could protect student privacy if the key connecting the random number to the student were safeguarded.
  • For similar reasons, graded papers or examinations should not be placed in public areas for students to pick up as others may access this private information.
  • For more information contact Kate Markie.

What university policies govern student conduct and discipline?

  • Section 200.010 of the Collected Rules and Regulations of the university provides the general code of conduct for students throughout the University of Missouri.
  • Section 200.020 of the Collected Rules and Regulations of the university provides the general procedures to be used when students are accused of violating the code.
  • Some schools and colleges within the university, particularly professional schools, have had honor codes and procedures approved by the board of curators to be used in place of the general conduct code and procedures. To determine whether an honor code is applicable, contact the administration of the particular academic unit.
  • For more information contact Kate Markie.

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Trademarks

Where can I find information about use of the university's name, marks and logos?

  • The university and its campuses' names, marks and logos are protected by trademark law.
  • Information on the licensing of these marks may be obtained by contacting the Business Services Office of the University of Missouri System or the individual campuses. Links to those offices or individuals are as follows:
  • For more information contact Nancie Hawke.

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Reviewed 2014-09-15.