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Office of General Counsel

The Dorothy L. Thompson Civil Rights Lecture Series was established in honor of the late Dorothy L. Thompson, Associate University Attorney.

Office of General Counsel
Kansas State University
111 Anderson Hall
919 Mid-Campus Drive North
Manhattan, KS  66506

785-532-5603 fax


1. Who can use the services of the Office of General Counsel?

The University is our client, and it is to the University that we owe the duties of loyalty, confidentiality and advocacy. Any University administrator or employee who is acting on behalf of the University is, in that capacity, an agent of the University and therefore a personification of our client. Thus, we serve literally thousands of individuals as "clients" and we advise and represent them as they work to administer the affairs of the University in pursuit of its mission. We must always be cognizant of possible conflicts of interest within the organization to ensure that we are always serving and protecting the interests of our client, the University.

We cannot give legal advice for personal matters. The Kansas Bar Association provides referrals for personal legal services.

Legal services for students are available in the Office of Student Life located at 201 Holton Hall.

2. How do I obtain services from the Office of General Counsel?

University administrators, deans, and department or unit heads are generally the appropriate persons to bring requests for legal opinions forward to our office. When a faculty or staff member has a legal question, often a dean or unit administrator may have the answer if advice from our office has already been sought on the particular matter in question. In addition, generally speaking, deans or unit administrators are in the best position to know when the unit should seek legal counsel.

If you would like to contact our office with a question or to schedule a meeting, please direct inquiries to our office staff at attys@k-state.edu or 785-532-5730. Please provide necessary background information such as the contract, policy, communication, or type of situation about which you are inquiring. This helps us to determine the best and most efficient way to handle your question, including which attorney should be involved, so that we can provide a timely and efficient response and appropriate follow-up. Our support staff are trained in and bound by the same rules of confidentiality as the attorneys. In addition, often they can help you locate the policy, office, document or other resource that can answer your question (although they cannot give legal advice). If you have already discussed the matter with a particular attorney, or if you have a reason for addressing your question to a particular attorney, you may contact that specific attorney through our office staff as described above, or you may contact the attorney directly if you prefer.

3. Are my communications with the Office of General Counsel confidential?

The attorney/client privilege exists between our office and the University. The client holds the privilege, and can waive the privilege by sharing the communication with anyone outside the attorney/client relationship. Since administrators acting as agents of the University communicate with our office regarding legal matters of the University, those communications generally are confidential and privileged attorney-client communications as to entities outside the University. Privileged advice from the Office of General Counsel should be maintained in confidence and not shared with anyone who is not another officer of the University with a need to know. In order not to waive the privilege, you must not forward emails with advice from the Office of General Counsel or share other legal communications with third parties outside of the University, or to individuals within the University who are not relevant administrators. Such actions may waive any privilege that would have been attached to the advice.

4. Who can sign contracts (including employment contracts, purchasing agreements, MOU’s, and other agreements) on behalf of the University?

Only the President of the University and those University officers designated by the President, as certified to the General Counsel for the Board of Regents, are authorized to execute contracts on behalf of the University. To see the list of designated University signatories, view PPM Chapter 3070 .030 Authorized Signatories.

For purchases of goods and services, the Vice President for Administration and Finance and the Director of Purchasing are the designated signatories. In addition, for contracts under $5,000, the departments have limited signature authority. Only officially designated departmental signatories whose names are on file with the University's Purchasing Office and who have certified that they will abide by Purchasing Office requirements may sign such contracts.

For further guidance and a convenient central reference to University policies pertaining to contracts, please see PPM Chapter 3070.

5. Does the University have general liability insurance?

No. Under the Kansas Tort Claims Act, K.S.A. 75-6101, et seq., the State of Kansas has assumed liability for the negligent or wrongful acts and omissions of its employees and agents, including students who are acting as employees or agents, acting within the scope of their responsibilities on behalf of the State of Kansas. This includes Kansas State University. The liability for claims within the scope of the Act may not exceed Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000) per occurrence. As a state agency, the University is self-insured for worker's compensation liability. It is also covered by the State’s fleet auto liability policy, which has coverages of $500,000 per person, $500,000 per accident, and $100,000 per accident for property damage liability.

If you are asked as a University official to supply a certificate of liability insurance for a University event or contract, please contact attys@k-state.edu and we will provide you with a letter certifying the above provisions.

6. What legal liability concerns should be addressed when organizing or facilitating student trips?

Please see the Student Trip Guidelines for more information. 

7. What should I do if I receive a subpoena, court order or search warrant pertaining to the University?

Contact the Office of General Counsel at 785-532-5730 immediately and provide us with a copy of the document. Do not contact or discuss the document with the issuing party until you have received guidance from our office. In most cases we will be the appropriate office to handle communications with the issuing party. Note: Our office cannot provide advice and assistance regarding such documents if they are unrelated to University business.

8. What should I do if I receive a records request that is not a subpoena?

Immediately contact and forward the request to the appropriate Designated Records Custodian. Under the Kansas Open Records Act, the University has three (3) business days to respond. See Policies and Procedures Manual, chapter 3060 Kansas Open Records Act.

9. What should I do if I receive an inquiry from an attorney outside the University about a University matter?

Refer the attorney to the Office of General Counsel and contact us immediately at 785-532-5730. Do not discuss the matter with the attorney.

10. How do I get permission to use the University’s logo or other trademarks?

Kansas State University is the owner of all rights, title and interest in its name and marks/logos, and any use of these marks is controlled under a licensing program administered by K-State's Director of Licensing. For questions about logo licensing, contact the Director of Licensing at 785-532-6269 or see K-State Trademark Licensing.

The Kansas State University Wordmark must appear on all University print and electronic communications, regardless of source of funding. This includes letterhead, envelopes and business cards in a standard format. Copies of the University's brand guide and current marks are available from the Division of Communications and Marketing. For more information, please call 785-532-2535 or email vpcm@k-state.edu.

11. May I accept a speaking fee (or "honorarium") from a source outside K-State?

Yes. Faculty and other employees may accept speaking fees, but only if:

  1. the talk is given as an outside activity (i.e., not as part of duties that he or she is obligated to perform as part of his or her official duties as a state employee, and appropriately approved and reported as necessary under the K-State conflict of interest and commitment of time policy); AND
  2. the primary reason the employee is invited to give the speech is not because of the employee's position in state government.

This question is governed by State of Kansas law, including the rules concerning gifts, meals, entertainment and travel (K.S.A. 46-237a), the rule governing honoraria (K.S.A. 46-237(f)), and the rule restricting compensation (K.S.A. 46-235), and by K-State's conflict of interest and time commitment policy. For further information, please see our informational memorandum on Speaking Fees and Related Travel Expenses (PDF).

12. May I attend a meeting or conference and accept a complimentary registration fee and travel expenses from the hosting organization or from any other outside entity?

Yes, but only in limited circumstances. There are different rules for gifts, travel, meals and entertainment. For further information, please see the answer to Question 2 in our informational memorandum on Speaking Fees and Related Travel Expenses (PDF).

13. May I accept a gift or special discount offered to "all K-State employees" on meals, travel, entertainment, or other goods or services?

Generally, no.

Under the State Governmental Ethics Act, accepting such gifts or discounts in your personal capacity is strictly prohibited, unless the discount is part of your compensation package (such as discounts on K-State event tickets, tuition assistance, and other employment benefits).

In addition, if any gifts or discounts are offered to all State employees, they may be accepted. Furthermore, you may accept a gift or discount on behalf of your department that becomes the property of the State and benefits the State (such as work-related travel expenses where your department would pay the expenses), so long as it is not from any person known to have a special interest in you or K-State, when you know or should know that a major purpose of the donor in granting the gift could be to influence the performance of your official duties.

Learn more about the rules for State Employees Concerning Meals, Gifts, Entertainment & Travel.

14. What are the University's rules concerning the hiring of relatives and household members?
15. Who is required to make a report to the Office of Institutional Equity if s/he becomes aware of possible discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence in violation of the University’s anti-discrimination policy?

Generally, all persons on campus should make a report to the Office of Institutional Equity if they know or have reason to believe that discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence has occurred in violation of the University’s anti-discrimination policy (PPM Chapter 3010). Under the policy, "supervisors and administrators" are required to contact the Office of Institutional Equity if they have such knowledge. Factual circumstances will determine whether a particular employee is an administrator or supervisor.

For the purposes of this reporting requirement, "administrators" are management level personnel. At Kansas State University, that typically includes department and unit heads, directors, and equal or higher ranking administrators. Administrators must report whenever they have knowledge of any potential discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence in violation of the University's policy.

"Supervisors" are personnel with authority over other employees (such as day-to-day management of employee tasks, or hiring and firing responsibility) or with authority over a particular University environment (such as responsibility for the floor of a residence hall). Supervisors must report whenever they have knowledge of possible discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence within their area of supervisory responsibility. Supervisors who are also administrators must report whenever they have knowledge of any potential discrimination, harassment, or sexual violence in violation of the University's policy, whether or not it relates to their area of supervisory responsibility.

Any employee who is unclear about whether s/he is an "administrator" or "supervisor," or who has other questions about the reporting requirements, is welcome to contact this office and/or the Office of Institutional Equity for further clarification.

16. May a department or other unit allow an unpaid volunteer to perform work?

Yes, in some situations.

Whenever volunteer status for anyone is being considered, the following questions should be asked first:

Preliminary Questions

  1. Is the volunteer work of the same nature as the paid work the person is going to start doing or has been doing?
  2. Is the person currently unable to work legally in the U.S.?

If the answer to either question is yes, the person MAY NOT work as a volunteer. The Fair Labor Standards Act, the Kansas Wage and Hour Act, and immigration regulations forbid such a practice. In addition, the volunteer status should not be used to get someone's foot in the door as a volunteer performing duties in a position that will later become a paid position, such that equal opportunity recruitment policies are circumvented or there is an appearance of such circumvention.

In all cases, there should be a formal document setting forth the relationship between the volunteer and the University, including the terms and conditions of the volunteer appointment. Department heads/deans/directors (“unit heads”) should use a volunteer appointment document or memorandum of understanding reviewed by the Office of General Counsel. It should be signed by the volunteer, the University employee who will be supervising the volunteer, and the unit head.

Volunteers are covered for liability by the Kansas Tort Claims Act and for workplace injuries by the Workers Compensation Act, just like regular employees of the University. The volunteer agreement provides evidence of the relationship, which is helpful in ensuring those coverages.

Similarly, volunteers are subject to University policies, including conduct codes.

Questions and requests for written volunteer agreements should be directed to the Office of General Counsel.


DISCLAIMER: The materials presented here are for general informational purposes only. Nothing contained within this site and related links may be construed as legal advice from the K-State Office of General Counsel. Laws, regulations and policies change frequently. Legal advice can be provided only in the course of an attorney-client relationship with reference to all of the facts of a specific situation. This information, therefore, must not be relied on as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed attorney. If you have legal questions or need legal advice pertaining to University matters, please contact the Office of General Counsel directly.