FAQ

General Questions

Q:  Who does the Office of the General Counsel ("OGC") represent?

A:  The Office of the General Counsel provides legal advice and representation to the University of Iowa. In that capacity, OGC attorneys advise the Executive Officers, Administrators, Faculty and Staff, all in their official capacities, on various legal issues impacting the University.

Q:  What type of legal services does OGC provide?

A:  The OGC is responsible for providing a full range of legal services to the University. OGC attorneys work in a variety of practice areas and locations on campus.

Q:  Can I obtain personal legal advice and services from OGC?

A:  No. OGC provides legal services related to University business only. You can consult with an OGC attorney regarding University legal matters related to carrying out your official duties as an employee or representative of the University; however, you are responsible for hiring your own attorney to handle personal legal matters. University faculty, students and staff or members of the general public needing personal legal assistance may contact the Iowa State Bar Association (1-800-532-1108).

Q:  I am a student. Can I obtain legal advice and services from OGC?

A:  Not unless the legal matter is related to carrying out your official duties as an employee or is related to a University sponsored event or activity. You can contact Student Legal Services to obtain personal legal advice and services. You may contact Student Legal Services at campus address 157 Iowa Memorial Union or by phone (335-3276).        

Q:  How can I contact the Office of General Counsel?

A:  The Office of the General Counsel is located on the Pentacrest:

The University of Iowa

5 W. Jefferson Street
120 Jessup Hall
Iowa City, Iowa  52242-1316
Ph:  (319) 335-3696
Fax:  (319) 335-2830

Q:  Which lawyer at the OGC should I contact with a legal problem?

A:  If you are not sure which lawyer you should talk to about your legal problem, you may email the General Counsel or call 335-3696.

Lawsuits

Q:  My department has been served with a subpoena. What should I do?

A:  Contact the OGC (335-3696) immediately. A subpoena is an order of the court. It may command you to appear at a specified date, time and location to testify or, command you to produce certain documents. In either case you should contact the OGC immediately. It is important to let the OGC review the subpoena to determine the University's rights and responsibilities for compliance.

Do not ignore a subpoena, even if it addresses something you are unfamiliar with or asks for documents you don't have. Failure to respond to a subpoena could result in you or the University being held in contempt of court.

Q:  My Department has been served with a lawsuit. What should I do?

A:  Contact the OGC (335-3696) immediately. Typically the University must respond to lawsuits within a specified time period after you are served. Therefore, it is imperative that you notify OGC as soon as you are served so we can review the matter with you and respond in a timely manner.

Q: My department has received notice of a class action lawsuit.  What should I do?

A: Contact the OGC (335-3696) immediately. The University may need to respond to the notice within a specified time period. Therefore, it is imperative that you notify the OGC as soon as you receive the class action notice so we can review the matter with you and respond in a timely manner.

Q:  My department has received a bankruptcy notice from a vendor or individual we do business with.  What should I do?

A:  Contact the OGC (335-3696) immediately. By law, the University and other creditors are restricted in the actions they may take after being notified of a bankruptcy. Therefore, it is imperative that you notify the OGC as soon as you receive the notice so we can review the matter with you and respond in an appropriate manner.

Q:  I have been personally named as a defendant in a lawsuit but in my capacity as a University employee. Will the OGC defend me?  If I lose, will I have to pay damages?

A:  The University, through the State of Iowa Attorney General's Office, will provide you a legal defense and will pay any judgments for claims which are caused by your negligence if the alleged actions occurred as part of your employment obligations and duties.  If you are personally named as a defendant you should contact the OGC (335-3696) immediately in order to review the facts and circumstances to determine if representation and indemnification is appropriate.

Q:  My department received a notice that it is a beneficiary under a will.  What should I do?

A:  You should send the notice immediately to the OGC at 120 Jessup Hall.  The OGC will then contact the executor of the estate to determine whether the bequest should be forwarded to the University or the Foundation for the benefit of your department.  You should not deal directly with the executor of the estate.

Q:  My department needs a customs power of attorney.  What should I do?

A:  Gather the pertinent information, including the name of the department ultimately responsible for the shipment and any agent preference, and contact the Office of the General Counsel.  We will draft a customs power of attorney for your department and return it to you so that your shipment can proceed without further delay.

Automobile Accidents

Q:  What should I do if I am involved in an automobile accident using a University vehicle?

A:  You should call (384-0564) or email The University of Iowa Fleet Services. You should also contact Tammy McGuire, Risk Management Administrator for Fleet Safety, at 353-2839 or fleet-safety-program@uiowa.edu.

Conflict of Interest

Q:  Are there University policies regarding so-called “conflicts of interest?

A:  University employees are subject to a number of policies relating to conflicts that can arise in the course of employment.  Broadly speaking these conflicts involve "conflict of interest in employment" (commitment and interest),  "conflict of interest in research," Conflicts of interest regarding purchases."  Generally, conflicts are either prohibited or subject to disclosure, management and/or approval.

Q:  Can a University employee purchase a software package on which any employee receives royalties or other income?

A:  An employee cannot make the decision to purchase a product for the University with University funds if the employee could personally benefit from that purchase. If a university employee seeks to purchase a product in which another university employee could personally benefit, a number of processes must be completed to assure compliance with the conflicts in purchasing policies. In some cases, the Board of Regents must approve the purchase. Before proceeding with any such purchase, you should contact the Director of Purchasing (335-3815).

Contracts

Q:   Do I have the authority to sign a contract to purchase goods and services on behalf of the University.

A:   A contract is an agreement by which the University agrees to provide or pay for goods or services. It can be oral but typically it is in writing. It can take many forms. Examples include purchase agreements, leases, or an agreement to provide a clinical trial for a new drug.

Almost all contracts between the University and others must be signed by the President, the Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations, the Business Manager, the Director of Purchasing, the Vice President for Research, or the Director of Sponsored Programs. Other employees of the University to whom signature authority has been expressly delegated may have the authority to sign contracts. 

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. If you do not have express signature authority with respect to a prospective contract, you should contact your immediate supervisor or the OGC (335-3696) 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 vendor and to the University.

Designating a Beneficiary of University Benefits

Q:  Can I designate a beneficiary of University benefits?

A:  The University provides employees with fringe benefits.  Generally, benefits relate to retirement, health insurance, disability insurance, and life insurance.  For retirement and life insurance, an employee may designate one or more beneficiaries to receive a benefit in the event of the employee’s death.  An employee can change a beneficiary designation at any time. For example, if an employee’s parental or marital status changes and the employee wants to change the beneficiary of retirement or life insurance benefits, the employee will need to notify the Benefits Office (335-2676) of the change.  At an employee’s death, benefits can only be paid to a beneficiary designated by the employee prior to the employee’s death.

Discrimination

Q:  What do I do if I believe I have been inappropriately discriminated against?

A:  If you believe you have been the subject of prohibited discrimination, you should email, call or write the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (335-0705; 202 Jessup Hall).  Your contacts with that office will be kept strictly confidential.

Disposing of University Property

Q:  May a University staff member or department sell/donate University property or equipment (e.g., computers, cars, file cabinets) directly to the public?

A:  When a department needs to dispose of any surplus equipment, it must go through University Surplus (384-3731). All computer and other digital storage devices must have all data reliably erased and/or destroyed before the device is transferred out of University control or transferred from one University department or individual to another. The University of Iowa is committed to compliance with federal statutes associated with the protection of confidential information as well as ensuring compliance with software licensing agreements.  For University equipment included in a department's capitalized inventory, the Surplus Removal Form must be submitted to the University Surplus Office.  

If university vehicles are involved, University Surplus may coordinate the disposal through Fleet Services. In any event, you must contact University Surplus before you dispose of any University property.

Gifts

Q:  What is a tax-deductible charitable gift?

A:  A tax-deductible charitable gift is a transfer of cash or other property from you to a charitable organization recognized as a charity by the Internal Revenue Service. To be deductible, you cannot retain any control over the gift. But, you may place restrictions on the use of the gift when you make it. For example, you might make a gift limited to scholarships only.

Lifetime gifts from you to such charities are deductible for federal income tax purposes and for federal gift tax purposes. If made in your will, they are deductible for estate tax purposes. When making significant gifts, you should consult your tax advisor to learn what limitations may apply under the Internal Revenue Code with respect to the deductibility of these gifts.

Q:  Can I make a tax-deductible gift for the University’s benefit?

A:  You can make tax-deductible gifts to The University of Iowa, as well as The University of Iowa Foundation and The University of Iowa Law School Foundation.  The University requests that gifts for its benefit be made to either The University of Iowa Foundation or The University of Iowa Law School Foundation. Gifts can be made to either Foundation in a variety of ways.

If you make a gift to charity, typically you’ll receive a gift receipt if the amount or value of the gift exceeds $100. The charity is required to state on the receipt whether you received anything of value from the charity, and, if the gift is of property, other than cash, the receipt must include a description of the property.

Because a tax deduction is not available for a gift you make where you retain any rights in the gifted property, the University does not treat monies you add to a research account you control or equipment you purchase for use in your office with your personal funds as gifts to the University.

Q:  Can I, as an employee of the University, receive a gift from a student or an outside vendor?

A:  State law prohibits University employees, under certain circumstances, from receiving gifts from any person who is or seeks to be a party to any contract with the University (a so-called “restricted donor”). Restricted donors include outside vendors as well as students of the University. If you receive a gift from a restricted donor, you should immediately contact your supervisor to discuss what should be done with the gift.

There are a number of exceptions to this rule. Some of the important ones include: (1) a gift from a restricted donor valued at $3 or less received on any one day; (2) informational material, such as complimentary copies of books, relevant to your job at the University, (3) gifts from your close relatives, (4) inheritances, (5) reimbursement of expenses for attending meetings at which you participate on a panel or make a speaking presentation but only for the date of your participation or presentation. You may also accept an honorarium so long as the amount is not disproportionate to your services. In light of these rules, for example, it would be inappropriate for faculty to receive gifts from students, including meals, valued in excess of $3. See, Prohibition on Giving and Receiving Gifts.

Political Activities

Q:  Can an employee use the University’s facilities, equipment or supplies to pursue the employee’s political activities?

A:  The University’s facilities, equipment and supplies “must never be used for personal or private business.” See Operations Manual §V.12.10.

Royalties from Course Materials

Q:  Can faculty members retain royalties on books they recommend or require students to purchase?

A:  No.  Faculty members receiving royalties or other income on books or other materials they recommend or require students to buy must either refund such income to the students or take other steps to avoid retaining such income. For example, the income could be donated to a charity, including the University, The University of Iowa Foundation, or The University of Iowa Law School Foundation. See Operations Manual §II.18.

Sexual Harassment

Q:  What do I do if I believe I have been the subject of sexual harassment?

A:  The University of Iowa prohibits sexual harassment by faculty, staff, and students. 

Sexual harassment is defined as: persistent, repetitive, or egregious conduct directed at a specific individual or group of individuals that a reasonable person would interpret, in the full context in which the conduct occurs, as harassment of a sexual nature, when:

(a) Submission to such conduct is made or threatened to be made explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment, education, on-campus living environment, or participation in a University activity;


(b) Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used or threatened to be used as a basis for a decision affecting employment, education, on-campus living environment, or participation in a University activity; or,

(c) Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with work or educational performance, or of creating an intimidating or hostile environment for employment, education, on-campus living, or participation in a University activity.If you believe you have been sexually harassed, you can contact your Dean, DEO, student advisor, Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity (335-0705), or any Vice President of the University or a designee of the Vice President. If you would first like to consult with someone about a specific situation on a confidential basis, you may contact the Ombudsperson (335-3608), the Office of Faculty and Staff Services (for faculty and staff) (335-2085), University Counseling Services (for students) (335-7294), Women’s Resource and Action Center (for faculty, staff, and students) (335-1486) or the Rape Victim Advocacy Program (for faculty, staff and students) (335-5601).

Student Records Law

Q:  Are student records confidential?

A:  Federal law and University policies have detailed rules relating to access to student education records. The relevant federal law is the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), popularly known as the Buckley Amendment.

Generally, a student’s education records are private and cannot be disclosed without the student’s permission. However, there are some exceptions. The most obvious is that a student’s education records will be disclosed to the student. They can also be disclosed to University faculty, staff and administrators with a “legitimate education interest” in the records, to any person with a subpoena for them, and persons representing agencies from whom the student seeks or is receiving financial aid. Additionally under limited circumstances they can be disclosed to certain governmental officials, certain researchers, and accrediting organizations. See Operations Manual §IV.6.

Q:  What are confidential student records?

A:  Generally all records the University has on a student are confidential education records. But, the following are not:         
Notes about a student written by a faculty member or administrator for his or her personal use;
Records relating to the student’s employment by the University;
Records about graduates relating to alumni relations and fundraising;
Records maintained by campus security which it created for purposes of law enforcement; and
Certain medical records. (These records may be protected under other law.)

The University maintains so-called “directory information” about students. Directory information includes: the student’s name, local address, telephone number, hometown, major, college enrolled in, dates of attendance, status (full-time; part-time), degrees awarded, height and weight for student athletes and information regarding a student’s participation in sports. The University may distribute this information unless the student requests it not be released without the student’s consent. See Operations Manual §IV.6.

Threats

Q:  What resources are available in the event that I observe threatening, intimidating, or hostile behavior on campus or otherwise involving UI faculty, staff or students?

A:  In an emergency situation, you should immediately dial 911 for assistance.  In other cases, we encourage you to contact the Threat Assessment Team (TAT) for guidance in responding to these behaviors.  Information about TAT can be found at http://hr.uiowa.edu/tat.

Trademark & Licensing Issues

Q:  Who do I contact for trademark and/or licensing issues?

A:  For trademark registration issues you should contact the OGC.  If you have questions about licensing UI logos or becoming a UI licensee you should contact the UI Licensing Program by phone (384-2000),  fax (384-1032) or email.