The Catholic University of America

Responsibilities of Faculty Members

A number of overlapping legal issues affect faculty as they work through their day to day job responsibilities. This page offers a short summary of some of those topics, with links to where to find more information on the topics. In some instances, we will be relying (with permission) upon materials created by our colleagues at other universities.

As an employee of the institution, a faculty member is an agent of CUA. In many instances, the law makes no distinction between you and the institution. Your actions or failure to act may be attributed to the university.

At the same time, students are granted certain rights, including rights to legal process. These rights are spelled out in the Student Handbook, on the CUA Policies Page, in the Announcements, and in other miscellaneous documents. In order to protect your academic decisions from challenge, keep in mind these two rules:

****A student (or his or her attorney) is more likely to attack the process by which a decision was made than the substantive decision itself.

****You should be just as diligent in following the process by which a decision is made as you are in making the substantive decision itself.

There are a number of resources here are CUA to help you make the right decisions about issues that arise during your time here at CUA.

Research Compliance
The Associate Provost for Research, Ralph Albano, is the starting point for any questions related to research at the university. The Office of Sponsored Programs web page contains is a good starting point for submission of proposals for research support, acceptance of awards, administration of internal funding of research, and coordination of university research and technology development. Other Research resources include a summary of the laws that impose compliance responsibilities on a research university.

Student Record Privacy
The single most important step you can take to ensuring student record privacy is to read the CUA Student Records Policy. The law that governs this area is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as FERPA. A lengthy Question and Answer page will give you ideas on some of the questions you might be facing on FERPA. If you have not had FERPA training, please sign up with the Registrar's Office. Contact to find out the next scheduled session. FERPA Resources, Forms and Checklists as well as a chart on release of student records is also helpful. If you use Turnitin as a plagiarism detection tool, be sure to review the rules on what must be done before submitting a paper and review the FERPA limitations on asking a student to submit papers directly.

An overview of copyright law is a good place to start if you have questions about the basic lay out and design of copyright law. The media has been good about keeping up with all of the battles over Mp3 downloading and other issues, but reading the quick recap above can provide helpful context. The Office of General Counsel web page on Copyright has much of the current information. Know your Copyrights, a brochure published by the ARL is helpful as you seek to create handouts for students. The What you can Do Chart is especially helpful.

The Copyright Slider is an interactive version of the public domain/copyright status chart. If you move the arrow on the page to the date and conditions on publication, the boxes on the left will give you information on whether or not permission is needed for use of the work.

The OGC publication Making Copies provides a step by step checklist on creating copies for educational use. The Copyright Policy and Guidelines are also critical documents for compliance purposes. The CUA Bookstore (through XanEdu) can create coursepacks, including electronic coursepacks, with all the copyrights cleared, as long as enough lead time is given to the Bookstore. See also Intellectual Property Information for Faculty.

Reasonable Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

A reasonable accommodation in the student setting is a modification or adjustment to a class or program that will enable a qualified person with a disability to participate in the program or class or to enjoy the rights and privileges offered by the university.

The university is required to make modifications only to known and validated disabilities. The university requires the student to give reasonable notice of the request for modifications. The school or department must take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that qualified individuals with disabilities are not excluded, treated differently or segregated because of the absence of auxiliary aids or services. The school or department must coordinate the provision of modifications with the Office of Disability Support Services. Medical records supporting the need for an accommodation are submitted to the Office of Disability Support Services and not to the school in question. This arrangement is consistent with the confidentiality requirements of the law and with the CUA policy on Disability Accommodations.

There are three kinds of accommodations that are not considered reasonable:

  • It is not a reasonable accommodation if making the accommodation or allowing participation poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others;
  • It is not a reasonable accommodation if making the accommodation means a substantial change in an essential element of the curriculum (i.e. educational viewpoint) or a substantial alteration in the manner in which you provide your services; and
  • It is not a reasonable accommodation if it poses an undue financial or administrative burden.

See this article *When Faculty are Too Accommodating* re the dangers of not following university policy.

Student Life and Safety Issues

If you have a question about a safety issue, you can contact the Dean of Students or the Office of General Counsel. If you are simply seeking a waiver or release form for an off campus field trip, see the Waivers and Releases page.

Contract Review

See the OGC Contract Review page for information on the contract process at CUA. See especially the 2008 Contract Review memo from the Provost, Treasurer and OGC. All business contracts must go through the Dept. of Procurement Services prior to being sent to the Office of General Counsel. Please use the Business Contract Routing Form. Business contracts are generally contracts that involve committing university funds, with certain exceptions, as set forth in more detail in the memo. Independent Contractor forms are available on this page. Please note all of these contracts must be reviewed by the OGC. See also Tax Issues related to Employment.


Some Relevant Policies

Student Records Policy
Information Assurance
Protection of Human Subjects in Research
Compensation from External Consulting
Sponsored Grants and Contracts
Conflicts of Commitment
Conflicts of Interest
Patent Policy
Research Misconduct
Copyright Policy
Statement on Academic Freedom
Grants and Contracts
Code of Conduct



Resource for this web page: Legal Issues for College Faculty, Lawrence J. Miltner, General Counsel, Cuyahoga Community College

Page updated July 12th, 2010, FJL.