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Legal Brief: Entering Into a Contract on Behalf of Kent State University

Posted March 21, 2011

“Legal Briefs” is a monthly article from the Office of the General Counsel designed to keep faculty and staff informed of legal issues and their implications. An archive of past Legal Briefs is available online. If you have an idea for a Legal Brief topic, send an e-mail to legal@kent.edu.

If you or your department enters into formal agreements with consultants, vendors, suppliers, health care or educational facilities, the contracts should always be reviewed by the Office of the General Counsel. The review should be done before any contract is signed on behalf of the university.

Regardless of what division you work in, there is only one legal entity that outside groups can contract with and that is Kent State University. In compliance with University Policy 5-04, the authority to enter into a contract rests with the Board of Trustees and that authority is delegated to the president and certain other administrative officials. If you or someone in your department is regularly signing contracts on behalf of the university, you should have a letter from the president or the vice president of your division that delegates the signing authority for those contracts. Any employee who signs a university contract without the proper authorization may be held personally liable to the terms of the agreement.

There are certain clauses that are never acceptable in university contracts—language that calls for the university to indemnify a third party, language that calls for arbitration as the only legal remedy, or language that subjects the university to the jurisdiction of another state or country. The General Counsel office is knowledgeable about these clauses and will review and negotiate contracts at no charge to university departments.

Memorandums of understanding (MOU) or memorandums of agreement (MOA) with foreign universities or other United States entities require formal approval from the President or the Provost, or in rare instances, a vice president. Occasionally a faculty or academic administrator desires to engage in a formal relationship with another university. In those cases, an MOU or MOA should be developed, reviewed and properly documented before being signed.

As a state institution, Kent State is required to retain copies of contracts for a period of five years after the contract expires. It is important to determine if your department is the custodian of the contract; if so, the record should be stored in paper or electronic form.

For questions about contracts or to schedule a contract review, contact the Office of General Counsel at 330-672-2982 or legal@kent.edu.