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Legal FAQs

Updated: 05/31/2012

Consulting FAQs
FAQs on Emerging Technologies and the ADA (pdf)
ICT Accessibility Regulation FAQs

Are the personal e-mails that I send and receive on my university computer private?
How long do I have to keep university records in my office?
What information about me as an employee is confidential and what constitutes public information?
What information about me as a student is public information?
Do I have authority to sign a university contract, memorandum of understanding, lease, license or other agreement?
What happens if I sign a contract for which I did not have authority to sign?
Where do I get permission to use the university’s trademarks?
Is my meeting subject to the Open Meetings Act?
Will the university defend me if I am sued for something that I allegedly did or did not do while at work?
What should I do if I am served with a subpoena relating to university business?
Can I hire a private attorney to handle a university matter?
Can a university attorney handle a private legal matter for me?
What should I do if a parent asks me for a copy of his or her child’s grade?
To whom should I report illegal or fraudulent activity?
Can we serve alcohol at a university function on campus?
Can my office, department or division conduct a raffle to raise money?



Are the personal e-mails that I send and receive on my university computer private?

No. While a personal e-mail is not a public record, the university may be legally obligated in the course of litigation or threatened litigation to preserve, maintain and review all e-mails for a particular employee’s e-mail address, university computer or university server. In addition, the university may examine personal electronic information stored on or passing over IT resources to ensure compliance with the law and other purposes as stated in the Computer Use Regulation. Therefore, if you desire privacy, you should use a private e-mail account for personal matters. Please see the OGC legal topics webpage for further information.


How long do I have to keep university records in my office?

It depends on the type of record. Under North Carolina law, public records may only be destroyed in accordance with the approved UNC General Records Retention and Disposition Schedule or approved amendments to the general schedule. The schedule applies to records created or received in the course of university business regardless of format, including paper, digital, electronic, and video. For more information on records retention and approved methods for destruction, please see the OGC legal topics webpage.


What information about me as an employee is confidential and what constitutes public information?

The NC Personnel Records Act regulates what information about State employees is private versus public information.  Personally identifiable information such as home address, social security number, medical information, financial data, marital status, dependents and beneficiaries is confidential , as well as information regarding performance evaluations and other documents contained in a personnel file.  Public information consists of 12 types of data: name, age, date of original employment or appointment to State service, current position, title, terms of any employment contract, salary history (and other forms of compensation), date of each promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, or other change in position classification and description of reason for each, the date and type of each dismissal, suspension, or demotion for disciplinary reasons and a copy of the final written notice of any dismissal, and the office or station where the employee is assigned. For more information about personnel files, please see the OGC legal topics webpage.


What information about me as a student is public information?

Most information regarding a student is private. Information that the university identifies as “directory information” is public information, unless a student has placed a privacy block on his or her directory information. To learn what constitutes directory information and under what circumstances the university may release private information about a student, please see the FERPA regulation and the OGC legal topics webpage.


Do I have authority to sign a university contract, memorandum of understanding, lease, license or other agreement?

It depends on whether you have been delegated authority by the chancellor or a vice chancellor. Delegations of signature authority for various types of contracts is restricted and limited. To determine whether you are an authorized representative of the university for certain contracts, please see the OGC legal topics webpage and the regulation on contract signature delegation.


What happens if I sign a contract for which I did not have authority to sign?

You may be personally liable for the breach or value of the contract, and the university may discipline you for unauthorized conduct. For more information on contracts, please see the OGC legal topics webpage.


Where do I get permission to use the university’s trademarks?

Commercial use of the university’s name, logos, nicknames, or other trademarks requires advance permission from the university’s trademark licensing director.  University departments are permitted to use the trademarks and service marks for official university business purposes without prior approval. For more information, please see the university’s trademark licensing webpage.


Is my meeting subject to the Open Meetings Act?

It depends on whether the meeting constitutes an “official meeting” of a “public body.” A public body at the university is one that  is 1)established by the board of trustees, the chancellor or a vice chancellor; 2) composed of two or more people who are not exclusively university administrators; and 3) authorized to exercise administrative or advisory functions on a university-wide basis.  An “official meeting” occurs when a majority of the public body attends. Most university standing committees and some search committees are subject to the Open Meetings Act. For more information on what constitutes an open meeting and the requirements, please see the OGC legal topics webpage.


Will the university defend me if I am sued for something that I allegedly did or did not do while at work?

Generally, yes. The State of North Carolina may defend employees against lawsuits brought against them personally or in their official capacities for acts or omissions in the course of their authorized employment. The Attorney General has the sole discretion in deciding whether to represent and defend a State employee. Grounds for refusing a defense include the existence of fraud, corruption, actual malice; or the person was acting outside the course of employment (e.g. sexual harassment); or if the Attorney General determines that it would not be in the best interests of the State. For more information about the defense of State employees, please see the OGC legal topics webpage.


What should I do if I am served with a subpoena relating to university business?

You should notify the Office of General Counsel immediately and provide a copy of the subpoena. For more information about subpoenas, please see the OGC legal topics webpage.


Can I hire a private attorney to handle a university matter?

No. The university can only be represented by the attorneys in the Office of General Counsel or for litigation purposes those in the Attorney General’s Office, unless express permission has been granted by the Governor and the Attorney General. For a list of OGC attorneys and subject matter areas, please see the OGC staff webpage.


Can a university attorney handle a private legal matter for me?

No. For more information, please see the OGC homepage.


What should I do if a parent asks me for a copy of his or her child’s grade?

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents do not have an automatic right to see the educational records of their children. You should refer the parent back to the student to get grades directly from him or her or refer the parent to the Registrar’s Office. The Registrar’s Office will have the student complete a FERPA release form before releasing grades or other records to the parent.  For more information, see the OGC legal topics webpage on student records.


To whom should I report illegal or fraudulent activity?

You should report to University Police, Internal Audit or the State Auditor’s Office. Each of these offices allow for anonymous tips or the filing of more formal complaints. Reports can be taken by telephone or online. Please see http://www.ncsu.edu/police/ or http://www.ncsu.edu/internal_audit/hotline/ or http://www.ncauditor.net/pub3/HotLine.aspx


Can we serve alcohol at a university function on campus?

Yes, only if you follow the university’s Alcohol Policy and Regulation which requires prior approval by the administrator of the host facility and permission from your Dean or Vice Chancellor. The permission form can be found at this link.


Can my office, department or division conduct a raffle to raise money?

No. State law limits the number of raffles that State agencies, including the university, may conduct. That limit is two raffles per calendar for the entire university. Raffles must be authorized by the chancellor or his designee.