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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



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. 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 one 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 (but 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 on behalf of the University  to seek and receive legal advice, 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, MOA’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 Chief Financial Officer and the Director of Purchasing are the designated signatories. In addition, for contracts under $10,000, 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.

ALL University contracts, regardless of the amount, should follow the steps in the contract checklist in PPM Chapter 3070. For further guidance and a convenient central reference to University policies pertaining to contracts, please see PPM Chapter 3070. See also related OGC newsletter articles: "It's a Deal" - How to Process University Contracts, Contracting with Private, Public, or “Zero” Dollars, A “Contract” By Any Other Name..., and Contracting with a Global Reach.

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 explaining the above provisions.

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

Please see the Student Trip Guidelines

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 person who issued it until you have received guidance from our office. In most cases we will be the appropriate office to handle communications with the issuing person. 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. Please also contact the Director of Licensing if anyone outside the University wants to use the University’s logo or other trademarks.

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.

Additionally, employees may have multiple reporting obligations for the same set of circumstances. For example, any Campus Security Authority (CSA) must report “Clery Reportable Crimes” about which they have knowledge, as set forth in PPM Chapter 3110, Clery Act Designation and Reporting Policy. Employees also have reporting obligations related to threatening and/or violent behavior under PPM Chapter 3015, Threat Management Policy and fraud under PPM Chapter 3230, Reporting Fraud.

Any employee who is unclear about whether s/he is an "administrator" or "supervisor" under PPM 3010, or who has other questions about the reporting requirements, is welcome to contact this office, the Office of Institutional Equity, or other applicable office, 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 contact the Office of General Counsel with relevant information about the proposed volunteer arrangement. The Office of General Counsel will provide the applicable Volunteer Agreement, tailored for that specific arrangement. The Agreement should be signed by the volunteer, the University employee who will be supervising the volunteer, and the unit head.

Volunteers are subject to University policies, including conduct codes. 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. Please note that interns—even if not paid wages—generally are not covered by these Acts and separate considerations are necessary. Please see FAQ 17 below for more information about internships and other student applied learning arrangements.

17.If my unit wants to engage an intern (a student in an applied learning opportunity) at the University or help facilitate the placement of an intern at a third party site, what steps do I need to take?

For an overview of legal considerations related to internships, please review the article found here. There are guidelines to engage interns that can help prevent confusion and legal issues in the future, such as documenting the arrangement in writing, and distinguishing between an independent internship facilitated by a student versus an internship facilitated by the University. The Office of General Counsel can provide templates and related advice, which vary depending on the circumstances of the particular arrangement.

18.What privacy considerations do I need to take into account if my unit sends, provides, or discloses personal information (students, employees, research subjects, etc.) to a third party vendor or other collaborator?

FERPA is a longstanding law that generally prevents the disclosure of student information except under certain circumstances. FERPA does not require disclosure in most circumstances but may permit it. The Registrar’s Office has available FERPA training, a compliant FERPA release, and other information about what is and is not permissible. See FERPA Annual Notification and FERPA Guidelines for Faculty and Staff.

Additionally, the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) controls disclosure and processing of personal information for persons in the European Union. If your unit collects or processes personal information, either directly or through a third party (such as through software), from persons potentially in the European Union, your unit should ensure that several requirements are met. These include providing notice of the information processing and the purposes of collection, getting consent when collecting sensitive information, and including specified contract terms when sharing personal information with a third party or collaborator. Please contact, as applicable, the Associate Provost, Institutional Effectiveness, the Chief Information Security Officer, or the Associate Vice President for Research Compliance with questions about the application of GDPR. The Office of General Counsel also has template contract addenda available.

There also are protections for Controlled Unclassified Information, which are governed by the applicable grant terms and conditions. The University Research Compliance Office’s page on CUI provides additional information.

You also may contact Information Technology at its@k-state.edu to discuss best practices for securing personal and sensitive electronic information during collection, transfer, and storage. 

19.Are there requirements and guidelines for my unit as we operate or collaborate with a third party to run a program for minor children?

Best practices for minor children supervision in University programs, such as ratios, conduct guidelines for participants, and trainings are available from the Clery Compliance Coordinator, who can be reached at ksuclery@k-state.edu. Additional resources are available here.

Templates for waivers, releases, and program applications are available in the Office of General Counsel. To receive these for your program, please provide details of your program to attys@ksu.edu and request the template. It is best to combine the waiver with either the program application or in response to selection confirmation to the participant. Completion of the waiver and release should be a requirement prior to participation in the University program.

20.If an employee in our unit will be traveling to and working in a foreign country on behalf of the University, what do I need to consider?

Employment relationships often are governed by the law where the employee is located. Foreign employment laws, and whether someone is even an employee (versus an independent contractor, for example), are not always intuitive based on U.S. or Kansas law. Tax, immigration, leave, benefits, termination rights, and other legal effects can vary depending on the employee’s location and can have significant consequences if the arrangement is not in compliance with local laws. Safety risks particular to a foreign location also warrant consideration.

Please allow up to six weeks for counsel licensed in the country involved to review the arrangement and provide advice, which the Office of General Counsel facilitates. The unit is responsible for the cost of outside counsel. There also may be additional administrative costs related to foreign tax withholdings, registrations, and other necessary processing. The unit should also contact HCS/Payroll and the Division of Financial Services to discuss tax and other payment considerations.

21.  Are electronic signatures binding?

The University accepts electronic signatures as legally binding as long as it is one of the approved electronic signature methods. See PPM 3075. Agreement through this process has the same force and effect as a regular physical signature. The person providing an electronic signature agrees to conduct that contract or other transaction by electronic means.   Please retain all corresponding documentation in accordance with the Retention of Records policy.


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.