Frequently Asked Questions
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Risk, Insurance, and Compliance
I am a student; can you represent me in a legal matter?
No. The university is unable to provide legal representation to students.
Can my department get outside counsel?
The hiring of all outside counsel must be done by the OGC for each matter or for renewal of legal services by an outside firm. An OGC attorney will have responsibility for managing each legal matter affecting the university. If your department would like to obtain outside counsel, please contact the OGC at 202-994-6503.
Can you help me find a good lawyer?
The Office of General Counsel cannot assist faculty, employees or staff with obtaining legal counsel. The Human Resources Department does offer a Legal Services Program for all employees. Please refer to their website at http://financeoffice.gwu.edu/taxpayrollbenefits/benefits/hw_legalplan.html for more information. See also Public Resources on this website for other sources.
Can you represent me as a staff member? Am I indemnified?
It is the policy of the university to provide protection from liability in accordance with the terms of its bylaws and rules, to faculty and staff who become involved in claims or suits arising from sanctioned university activities that fall within the scope of their employment.
In order for appropriate action to be taken to protect the interests of the university and of persons to be indemnified for their
participation in sanctioned university activities that fall within the scope of their employment, the following should be referred immediately to the
Office of the Senior Vice President and General Counsel: all documents, subpoenas, or contacts relating to pending or potential legal proceedings or
governmental investigations; and all documents, questions, or contacts from an attorney or law enforcement or regulatory authority, whether requesting information or otherwise and whether verbal or written. Please see the Guidelines on Legal Representation for further information on indemnification.
Can I serve alcohol at a university faculty, staff, or student event?
Alcoholic beverages may be served at university-sponsored activities where a majority of the persons expected to attend the event will be at least 21 years of age. However, there are strict guidelines that must be followed in order to serve alcohol.
Please see the university's Alcoholic Beverage and Consumption Distribution Policy for guidance on this subject matter.
What is the George Washington University's policy on document retention?
Please see the university’s Records Management Policy for guidance on this subject.
To whom should I report activity that I think may be fraudulent or illegal?
The university's Compliance Office has established a regulatory help and referral line to encourage faculty, staff and students to report suspected noncompliance, fraud, waste, abuse and unethical or illegal activities. The toll-free number is 1-888-508-5275. Callers can stay anonymous without fear of retaliation. The university's Compliance and Privacy Office will ensure that allegations are thoroughly investigated and that appropriate corrective actions are taken, if needed.
Please refer to the Compliance Office's website for further information.
What do I do if someone files a Freedom of Information Act request with my office?
As a private university, GW is not subject to the reporting requirements of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The Freedom of Information Act applies only to agencies of the federal government. Should someone request information from you or your department claiming a right to this information under FOIA, you may explain that GW is not subject to such requests or refer the person directly to the Office of General Counsel.
May I use my university computer for personal use?
University computing systems and services may be used for personal purposes provided that such use does not (i) directly or indirectly interfere with the university operation of computing facilities, (ii) burden the university with noticeable incremental cost, (iii) interfere with the computer user's employment or other obligations to the university, or (iv) violate other university regulations or law.
For the entire Code of Conduct for Users of Computing Systems and Services at GW, please click here.
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I'm a student and wish to complain about property that was confiscated during a housing inspection.
Please see the Residential Community Conduct Guidelines and Administrative Policies.
What rules govern the privacy of student records?
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits the disclosure of student records to unauthorized parties. Access to student information is granted only to individuals who have the student's written permission, to parents who can demonstrate that they claim the students as a dependent for income tax purposes, and in response to a valid subpoena as provided by FERPA.
Can an employer have access to my academic records?
Access to student information is granted only to individuals who have the student's written permission, to parents who can demonstrate that they claim the students as a dependent for income tax purposes, and in response to a valid subpoena as provided by FERPA.
Questions concerning the release of students' transcripts and students' files should be directed to the Registrar's Office at 202-994-4900.
As a student, do I have a right to see any personal notes a faculty member makes about me?
Federal law entitles students to review their scholastic records at all levels. This includes a student's right to review letters of reference written by faculty unless this right is expressly waived. University policy prohibits faculty from requiring such waiver as a condition for writing a reference.
However, FERPA excludes certain records from inspection, including personal notes of institutional, supervisory and education personnel. Therefore, a student does not have the right to see an instructor's personal notes about him or her.
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Where do I send contracts for legal review?
All contracts should be sent to email@example.com. The attorney assigned to review your contract will be in touch with you within 1 to 5 business days. Please include in your e-mail: (1) a brief description/purpose of the contract; (2) the name of the other contracting party; (3) the term of the agreement; (4) the financial terms; (5) who has already reviewed the contract (ex: risk, dept’s finance director, etc); (6) any other information you think would be useful for us to know.
How do I get a contract signed?
Please see the Signing of Contracts and Agreements Policy and the Approval of Academic Agreements Policy.
A registered student organization wants to enter into a contract. What do we do?
The Student Activities Center has established policies and procedures to comply with the university's contracting requirements. They also have available standard form agreements which can be used in connection with events that student organizations may want to organize. Thus, student organizations should contact them at 994-6555 if they want to enter into a contract. Note that failure to follow the policies and procedures established by the university with respect to contracting by student organizations constitutes a violation of GW's Code of Conduct and may result in a Student Judicial action against the individual or group found to have violated such policy or procedure.
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How do I report a sexual harassment situation?
Please consult the university's Policy regarding Sexual Harassment at: http://www.gwu.edu/~/vpgc/pdf/sexual_harassment.pdf. For student to student harassment please contact the Dean of Students Office at (202) 994-6710.
Whom do I call to report discrimination or harassment?
If you experience any type of discriminatory conduct or harassment, you should bring that conduct to the immediate attention of your supervisor, the Sexual Harassment Response Coordinator at (202) 994-6503, or the Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) at (202) 994-9656.
What do I do if a person I supervise complains of discrimination or harassment?
If any employee of the university raises a concern of sexual harassment with a supervisor (regardless of whether the employee is under the supervision of the supervisor with whom the concern is raised) that supervisor should immediately discuss the issue with the Sexual Harassment Response Coordinator or the Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).
If an employee asks a supervisor not to share his or her concerns with anyone else the supervisor should encourage the employee to report the complaint or allow the supervisor to report the complaint. Often, assurance of appropriate confidentiality will ease the employee's reluctance to raise a concern. Please note that absolute confidentiality cannot be guaranteed; only confidentiality to the extent it is consistent with university policy and procedures can be assured. Regardless of the employee's request, supervisors must report allegations of unlawful harassment to the Sexual Response Coordinator or the Director of the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).
What do I do if I receive a request for reference on a former employee?
The Division of Human Resources, Records and Data Management Department, will respond to requests for employment references for current or former staff members. Supervisors receiving a reference request should refer the request, without response, to the Records and Data Management Department. The Records and Data Management Department will use the official personnel record to respond and will consult with individual departments to gather other information as needed. To ensure that all employee records are up-to-date, departments and supervisors should promptly forward to the Records and Data Management Department all employee related documents (i.e. completed performance evaluations, promotions, salary changes, etc.) in addition to making sure that all new hire and termination paperwork be submitted in a timely manner.
Responses to reference requests will generally be limited to the following information: confirmation of official job title(s), department(s), and dates of service. If an employee or requestor provides written consent, the Records and Data Management Department may release additional information, as appropriate
Employees who choose to provide an individual with a written or oral reference do so in their personal capacity and at their own risk and not in their official capacity as a university employee. Employees who choose to do so should consider obtaining a written release from the individual requesting the reference (e.g., the former or current employee or the prospective employer).
As a faculty member, am I free to enter into consulting arrangements?
The university permits a member of its faculty to spend the equivalent of up to one working day a week during the academic year on outside consulting and other professional activities, provided such commitments do not interfere with university obligations. This privilege is not extended to research faculty members paid wholly from research grants or contracts or to full-time physician faculty members in the Medical Center who are participants in the Medical Faculty Associates or to other physician faculty members whose university contracts preclude such activities.
Faculty are expected to list consulting and other external professional activities on their annual reports each spring. Faculty are required to complete the Financial Interest Disclosure form as part of the annual reporting process, as well as ad hoc reporting when appropriate. Payments for such activities are negotiated by the faculty member directly and do not involve the university.
Faculty members providing outside consulting or other professional services in accordance with this policy must inform clients that they do not represent the opinions of the university.
What do I do if an employee wants to see a copy of his or her employment file?
Current and former employees may review their employee records by making an appointment during regular business hours with the Division of Human Resources , Records and Data Management Department, by calling (202) 994-9600. The Records and Data Management Department is located at 2033 K Street, Suite 220, Washington, DC 20052. One copy per year of documents contained in the current or former employee record will be provided upon request and without cost to such current or former employee.
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Can you help me get a green card?
In general, the university does not provide sponsorship of foreign nationals for visas permitting work in the United States. Please see http://www.gwu.edu/~vpgc/pdf/h1b.pdf for a detailed explanation of the policy, including discussion of which category of employees are eligible for sponsorship. In addition, current GW students may consult the International Service Office for information about Optimal Practical Training which can occur after a student has finished his or her degree.
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With whom should I speak regarding permission to use copyrighted material?
A work is under copyright protection at the moment of its creation regardless of whether it has the © symbol attached to it. U.S. copyright law provides limited exceptions for use of copyrighted material. Please see a description of these exceptions at http://my.gwu.edu/files/policies/Use&ReproCopyrightFINAL.pdf .
If your intended use of the material does not fall into the protection exceptions, you must get permission from the author or publisher of the work to use it. This may sometimes involve a fee for use of the work. In some cases, the GW Bookstore, located in the Marvin Center can provide a copyright clearance. All requests for permission to use should be well in advance of when the material is needed.
How do I get permission to use the GWU name and logo?
Before ordering any product manufactured with the university’s name or trademark attached, you must receive approval from the Licensing and Trademark Program to use the mark/name in conjunction with the proposed product. The website provides detailed information about permitted uses of the university name and mark.
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Risk, Insurance, and Compliance
Does it matter if I use my personal car to carry students to an off-campus clinical site?
Please see the university's policies on motor vehicle safety and insurance which includes discussion of use of a privately owned, non-university automobile. The policies are located at http://www.gwu.edu/~riskmgnt/insurance/safetypolicy.pdf and http://www.gwu.edu/~riskmgnt/motorvehicle.cfm
May my Teaching Assistant drive a university car?
Please see the university's policies on motor vehicle safety and insurance located at http://www.gwu.edu/~riskmgnt/insurance/safetypolicy.pdf and http://www.gwu.edu/~riskmgnt/motorvehicle.cfm
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Who holds the privilege?
The client, not the attorney, has the ultimate authority to assert the privilege. However, as a technical matter either the attorney, as the client’s agent, or the client will claim the privilege.
Who is the client?
The client in this context is the intended beneficiary of the legal services. It is now well established that a corporation can also assert the privilege. The more difficult question is which corporate or governmental employees speak on behalf of the client organization. Generally, communications between corporate counsel and a corporate officer, employee, or agent are privileged if they were (1) for the purpose of providing legal advice to either the corporation or the employee, or (2) for the purpose of obtaining information in order to provide such legal advice.
Can the privilege be waived?
Yes. The privilege may be waived in a variety of circumstances. For example, if the communication is not made in confidence, or is subsequently disclosed to a third party, a waiver has occurred. Disclosure may be intentional, compelled by legal process, or even inadvertent. An example of the latter is if the communication occurs in a setting without reasonable expectation of privacy.
Are agents of the attorney bound by the privilege?
The practice of law requires, of necessity, the assistance of non-lawyer assistants. Information provided to any such person is subject to statutory protection.
Does the privilege obtain regardless of the medium of communication?
This is a developing area of the law. Arguably, the attorney-client privilege may be successfully asserted if the communication occurs in person, over the telephone (land-line, cordless or cellular), via the fax machine, or in e-mail over the Internet. But some jurisdictions have denied the attorney-client privilege when certain of these technologies have been utilized.
Is everything I say to my lawyer privileged?
No. The communication must be made to a lawyer acting in a legal capacity. Thus, if a lawyer is giving business advice, as opposed to legal advice in connection with a business transaction, no privilege will attach to such communication. Also, the attorney-client privilege may not be used as shield for a contemplated future crime or fraud.
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