Frequently Asked Questions
Visiting the Office of University Counsel
Where are you located?
The Office of University Counsel is located in Bynum Hall. For information about visiting Bynum Hall, please see the Contact Us page.
What number should I call if I need directions or get lost?
Please call (919) 962-1219.
Compliance and Reporting
I have become aware of a violation of law, regulation, or other ethical responsibility. Where do I report this?
There are multiple reporting options. Depending on the nature of the violation, you can contact the Department of Public Safety, the University’s Internal Audit Department, or the University’s Compliance Line.
I am receiving one or a combination of the following: threatening calls, threatening emails, threatening text messages. Where do I report this?
Please call UNC Police (919) 962-3951 or 911 if the threat is imminent.
Do I have authority to sign a University contract, memorandum of understanding, or other agreement?
Delegation of authority to sign contracts on behalf of the University is limited. Please see the Policy on Signing University Contracts, including the University signature delegation chart linked within the policy. If you have received a contract that needs to be negotiated and signed, or if you need a contract to be drafted, contact an Office of University Counsel attorney.
Can my department hire a law firm to serve as a consultant if the law firm will not be providing legal services?
Generally the Office of University Counsel is charged with providing legal advice and assistance to the University and its units and employees in the conduct of University business. The University is required to secure external approvals before we retain outside counsel to represent us. When contemplating retaining an attorney or law firm for any purpose, Departments should first discuss the proposed relationship with the Office of University Counsel.
Development and Fundraising
Can I hold a raffle or poker night to raise money for the University?
No. Under North Carolina law, nonprofit organizations such as the University are permitted to have a maximum of two raffles per year. Holding a raffle in violation of the statute is a misdemeanor. Because it would be impractical to track accurately the number of raffles held in an organization as large as the University, the University has adopted the rule that no raffles shall be held.
With respect to poker events and other games of chance, North Carolina law prohibits any person or organization from operating “any game of chance or any person who plays at or bets on any game of chance at which any money, property or other thing of value is bet.”
A vendor has contacted me about donating some excess product inventory to my department. How do I accept this gift?
Proposed gifts of tangible personal property should be reported to the Planned Giving Office. For more information contact any of the attorneys in the Office of University Counsel for assistance.
May I enter into consulting arrangements? If so, may I donate my consulting fees to the University?
Under limited circumstances, yes. Employees who are exempt from the State Human Resources Act (faculty and EHRA non-faculty) are subject to the Board of Governors’ Policy Statement on Conflict of Interest and Commitment. Consulting must be done in accordance with that statement and the accompanying guidance and regulations, available in the UNC Policy Manual at 300.2.2 and following. If you have additional questions please contact Neera Skurky. Employees who are subject to the State Human Resources Act (SHRA employees) must follow the state’s guidelines on secondary employment. Please contact the Employment Manager of Employment and Staffing at (919) 962-1017 for additional information.
You may donate your consulting fees to the University. However, there are personal tax consequences associated with receiving the income. Additionally, if you decide to make a gift, the funds must be deposited into a trust fund over which you have no direct or indirect control over disbursement. Please contact any of the attorneys in the Office of University Counsel if you have additional questions.
Am I liable if I’m sued for something arising out of my employment at the University? Do I need to hire an attorney?
You could be, but the State offers the following protections. The North Carolina Defense of State Employees Act provides that an employee may request legal representation by the Attorney General if he or she is sued for matters arising within the course and scope of University employment. If the Attorney General consents to representation, the University is responsible for the first $500,000 of any judgment and, unless covered by an exclusion, the Excess Liability Policy carried by the State at no charge to you would cover judgments up to $5,000,000 per employee, $5,000,000 per occurrence, and $10,000,000 per annual aggregate. If you receive a notice that you are an individual defendant, please contact any Office of University Counsel attorney for assistance.
You probably do not have to hire your own attorney, nor should you. The North Carolina Defense of State Employees Act provides that an employee may request legal representation by the Attorney General if he or she is sued for matters arising within the course and scope of University employment. However, the Attorney General could decline to represent you if he or she determines that:
- The act or omission was not within the scope and course of your employment; or
- You acted or failed to act because of actual fraud, corruption, or actual malice; or
- The defense of the action or proceeding by the State would create a conflict of interest between the State and you; or
- The defense of the action or proceeding would not be in the best interests of the State.
Under certain circumstances, the University may reimburse you for the costs of outside counsel if the Attorney General declines representation. If you receive a notice that you are an individual defendant, please contact any of the attorneys in the Office of University Counsel for assistance.
I want a copy of my own personnel file. How do I get it?
The Office of Human Resources (OHR) fulfills requests made by SHRA and EHRA non-faculty to review their personnel files, and Office of University Counsel (OUC) fulfills such requests made by EHRA faculty. Upon receiving a request, personnel files are gathered from the appropriate offices and arrangements are made for the employee to review the file at OHR or OUC.
An employee may examine the entire personnel file with the exception of letters of reference solicited prior to initial University employment or information concerning medical disabilities (mental or physical) that a physician might not have disclosed to the employee. Such medical information may be disclosed to a licensed physician designated in writing by the employee.
Contact Numbers: Office of Human Resources (919) 843-2300; Office of University Counsel (919) 962-1219.
Injuries and Tort Claims
Can someone who is hurt on University property be reimbursed for medical expenses?
The University may be sued for negligence for an amount not to exceed $1,000,000. The procedure for filing such a suit is called the Tort Claims process. Please contact Zach Orth to obtain a claim form or visit http://www.ic.nc.gov/forms.html.
Employees who are injured as a result of an accident or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of their employment may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. For more information about the process for requesting these benefits, please visit http://ehs.unc.edu/workplace-safety/worker-comp/.
Public Records and Open Meetings
Where can I find information on Public Records?
The University maintains a Public Records website at http://publicrecords.unc.edu/.
I am the Chair of a Committee/Task Force here. How do I know if my meeting is subject to the Open Meetings requirements?
Because the University is a public institution, a number of its bodies may be subject to the State’s Open Meetings law. This law generally requires that public business be conducted in public, with notification requirements prior to the meeting so that people may attend. For more detailed information, see The Guidelines on Defining “Public Body” within the Meaning of the Open Meetings Act in the UNC Policy Manual. If you still have questions, please contact any Office of University Counsel attorney.
How do I obtain copies of my education records?
The Registrar is the custodian of education records. For information on requesting education records, please see the University’s FERPA Policy.
I am a University instructor. Can a student request any personal notes I may have taken about that student?
A student does not have the right to see your personal notes about him/her if the notes meet all the following conditions:
- The notes are kept in your sole possession –You use the notes only as a personal memory aid;
- The notes are not accessible to anyone but you (except a person who is acting as your temporary substitute); and
- You do not show the notes to anyone else (except your temporary substitute)
However, if the notes do not meet these requirements, they will be considered part of the student’s “education records” as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and the student can inspect them. For more information about FERPA, please contact Kara Simmons.
I am the president of a recognized student group and we wish to reserve Polk Place for an information rally. How do I reserve Polk Place for my event?
Under the Policy on Use of University Facilities for Non-commercial and Commercial Purposes, the exterior area of campus may be scheduled by making a written request to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services, provided your proposed use is otherwise consistent with the policy. Please contact Kara Simmons for more information.
Subpoenas and Litigation
What do I do if I receive a subpoena for University records or my testimony as an employee?
Sometimes offices or employees on campus will receive a subpoena requiring that the University produce certain information or witnesses for a court case either in North Carolina or in another state. If you receive such a request, you should note the date on which the information is required to be produced and then fax the subpoena immediately to the Office of University Counsel at fax number (919) 843-1617. Please fax both the front and back pages of any documents, including the subpoena itself, and save a copy of the envelope the subpoena came in.
What do I do if I receive a litigation hold?
You may receive a litigation hold from Office of University Counsel. If you have any questions about the litigation hold and whether you have received a legitimate litigation hold, please contact the attorney(s) listed on the litigation hold or Lori Mahaney.
University Alcohol Policies
Can I arrange for alcohol to be served at my University sponsored event?
Under limited circumstances, yes. The Alcohol Policy of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill describes the applicable laws and University rules governing alcohol service at University-sponsored events. Alcohol may only be served at a University sponsored event if the rules and procedures set forth in this policy are complied with.
Use of University Equipment and Email
May I use my University computer for personal use?
Yes, provided the use complies with the University’s Personal Use Policy. The use must be for non-commercial personal matters, the extent of the use must be incidental, and the use must not interfere with the employee’s work responsibilities.
Who may drive State owned vehicles and is liability insurance available if I use my personal vehicle for University business?
Please refer to Finance Policy 1401.