Compliance 101 for Faculty
The University is subject to many federal and state laws and regulatory regimes that govern the way it treats its employees, handles students’ affairs, maintains its facilities and generally does its business. University employees, including faculty, are the “front line” for compliance with these laws and are responsible for understanding when and how such laws apply to their work. This page provides a top ten list of compliance areas that all faculty to should understand and implement. Any questions about these topics may be directed to the Office of General Counsel.
1. FERPA. With limited exceptions, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) provides that student records may not be released without a student’s written consent. Public display of grades or exam results, discussions with a student’s parents, or release of class lists to vendors or outside groups are all prohibited under FERPA.
2. Anti-discrimination Laws – General. Federal law and University policy prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex (including pregnancy), religion, color, age, national origin, veteran and/or military status, genetic information, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, marital status or parental status. The prohibition against sex discrimination encompasses the University’s obligation to prevent sexual violence, including the requirement that the University train faculty and students in what constitutes sexual violence and how to prevent it.
3. Mandatory Reporting – Discrimination and Certain Crimes. Federal law and University policy require all faculty members to report to the Office for Institutional Equity instances of discrimination that occur on campus, during a University activity, or impact University students or employees. The faculty member does not need to evaluate the truth of the report and shouldn’t investigate it – making the report to OIE meets the faculty member’s obligation.
Some faculty members are also considered “Campus Security Authorities” (CSAs) for the purpose of the Clery Act, which requires that CSAs report certain serious crimes that occur on campus to law enforcement. CSAs include advisors to student groups and faculty primarily responsible for student activities outside of teaching and research. The Police Department identifies CSAs, maintains a list of “Clery crimes” that must be reported and provides forms for that purpose.
4. Anti-discrimination laws – ADA. The Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal laws require the University to provide reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities so that they can access the University’s educational services in the same way other students do. The Office of Disability Services (ODS) works with students to determine the accommodations they need and provides this information to faculty for implementation. Implementing approved accommodations is not optional, but ODS is always willing to address faculty concerns regarding how an accommodation may impact their class.
An important component of ADA compliance, is “tech accessibility” – providing teaching materials and other information technology in alternative formats so that it can be accessed by students with disabilities. If a faculty member has a student with a disability in class who needs such accommodations, he or she will work with ODS to prepare alternative texts and accessible media. Even if a faculty member does not currently have a student enrolled who needs such accommodations, he or she should nevertheless ensure tech accessibility for any class that is introductory or required for a particular program. All websites and other public facing media must be accessible. Vendors are getting better about accessibility, but even some commonly-used programs are not fully accessible, so faculty should not assume that a product is accessible just because it is widely used.
5. Religious Accommodations. The University is required to provide reasonable accommodations for religious observance, including reasonable alterations in attendance policies. The Faculty Senate has approved guidance on providing excused absences for religious observance.
6. Ethics Laws. Most of the Ohio ethics laws apply to all faculty members, including some that carry criminal penalties. The University has adopted a Conflict of Interest Statement that encapsulates these laws. Of particular note is the prohibition on “using one’s influence” to obtain a contract for the faculty member, a family member or a business associate. This prohibition applies regardless of whether the contract is funded from University or grant funds.
7. Purchasing / Contracts. State law and many research grants require that faculty follow the University’s purchasing policies whenever they buy goods or services. In many cases, vendors request that a faculty member approve a contract, license agreement or terms and conditions. All of these documents are a form of contract that must be approved by the Office of General Counsel before it can be signed. Faculty members are responsible for understanding the business terms in a contract and submitting it for approval in a timely fashion.
8. Export controls. Export control laws govern the shipment, transmission, or transfer of regulated items, information and software to foreign countries, persons or entities. The application of these laws is broader than many faculty members realize. For example, a “deemed export” of technology or services occurs when the technology or service is provided to a foreign national on campus. Information sharing with colleagues in certain countries may also constitute the export of services or technology. Traveling with sophisticated programs or apps on a laptop, tablet or cell phone may also be restricted in some circumstances. The University has put together a website covering export controls that provides information about the laws and the exceptions.
9. Records. State law requires the University to maintain its “records” in a manner that they can be identified and provided when requested by members of the public. The University has adopted a Records Management and Retention policy to meet these requirements. Faculty research is not a “record” for the purposes of this requirement, but documents related to department business, faculty committees and employees generally are. Each department chair is responsible for identifying the types of records they have and maintaining them in such a way that they can be retrieved. Records may only be destroyed pursuant to the University’s records retention schedule. The Office of General Counsel is responsible for processing public records requests and faculty may refer any such requests to that office.
10. Political Activity. Federal and state law prohibit the University from participating in political activity. Faculty members must take care to ensure that their personal political activity is not interpreted as University action and no University resources may be used for a political purpose. The Office of General Counsel has developed guidance that addresses many of the common questions about political involvement.
11. Threats / Students in need of assistance. This is not an area of compliance, but it is important that all faculty members know that there are resources on campus if they develop a concern about a student who may be in need of assistance, or who has made threats against classmates or the faculty member. The University Care Team meets weekly and as needed to discuss specific students and the University’s Care Manager is available to faculty members to discuss students of concern. The Care Team has an email address that may be used for reporting students of concern.