University of Pittsburgh

Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What documents do I need to send to the General Counsel’s Office for review/drafting?

A. All proposed contracts, agreements and other legal instruments (including letters of intent; memoranda of understanding; offer letters; affiliation, partnership, association, and/or membership documents; resolutions; confidentiality agreements; leases; loans; licenses; grant or gift agreements; and agreements for the purchase of goods and/or services) to which the University is to be a party should be referred in writing to General Counsel for drafting or review as far as possible in advance of negotiations with the other party. Exceptions to this rule are standard University agreements that have already been approved by General Counsel for routine use by other University units such as the Office of Institutional Advancement, the Office of Research, and Purchasing. See University of Pittsburgh Policy on Legal Services:

Q. What standard University contract forms are available?

A. The Office of General Counsel has pre-approved certain standard contract forms which may be used, without alteration, for certain standard transactions. These forms include:

  1. Standard agreements for purchasing goods and services, or hiring consultants, which can be accessed at the Purchasing website:;
  2. Standard agreements for industry support of University research, and material transfer agreements, which can be accessed at this Office of Research website:; and
  3. Confidentiality agreement forms and commercial material transfer agreements, which can be accessed through the Office of Technology website:
  4. International academic agreement forms, which can be accessed through the University Center for International Studies (UCIS) website:

Please note that these contracts must be signed by an authorized representative of the University. Contact the OGC for assistance in determining who is an authorized representative in specific cases.

Q. I have a document that needs to be executed on behalf of the University; who is authorized to sign it?

A. Article IV of the University’s Bylaws and resolutions adopted by the University’s Board of Trustees authorize certain officers and other individuals who are not officers to execute and sign contracts and other instruments on behalf of the University of Pittsburgh. Unless specifically authorized by the Board, no other individuals (including faculty, staff, independent contractors, students or alumni) may execute and sign any contracts or other instrument in the name of the University. Contact the OGC for assistance in determining who is an authorized representative in specific cases.  


Q. I was contacted by a law enforcement officer about University matters. What should I do?

A. When contacted by a law enforcement officer seeking access to records or files, or requesting to interview University faculty, students or staff, you should be polite, and state that the University will generally cooperate, but only in consultation with its legal counsel. You should request a copy of any subpoena or search warrant under which the officer is operating, and immediately contact the Office of General Counsel at 412-624-5674. Further information on responding to government investigations may be found in the University Policy on Legal Services:


Q. I have received a notice from an estate regarding a gift that has been left to the University; what should I do with this information?

A. All of the original estate documents, including any checks and receipts for funds, should be sent to the University’s Office of Planned Giving, Institutional Advancement, Craig Hall. The Planned Giving office will coordinate the review and execution of all necessary paperwork relating to the gift with the University’s Office of Finance, the Office of General Counsel and the Medical and Health Sciences Foundation (for gifts benefiting the Schools in the Health Sciences).

Q. May the terms of a gift fund (restricted, quasi-endowment or endowment fund) be changed by the University or the donor?

A. The University’s ability to modify the name, use or any other condition of a fund established with gift proceeds is dependent upon a number of factors. As a general rule, if the original purpose of the gift is possible to carry out, the terms of the fund may not modified by either the University or a donor. In particular instances, the University may be able to amend the terms of a fund, with the consent of various interested parties. Requests to modify a gift fund should be directed to the Office of General Counsel. The Office of General Counsel, in association with other University offices, reviews each request on an individual basis.

Q. An individual, foundation or company would like to make a non-cash gift; can I accept this gift?

A. University schools and departments, prior to accepting the offer of any non-cash donation, are responsible for notifying the Office of Institutional Advancement for approval. Non-cash gifts may include publicly and non‑publicly traded securities, oil, gas and mineral interests, other financial or investment assets, land, equipment and other personal property (including artwork, statues, intellectual property and books). The Office of Institutional Advancement, in consultation with the Office of General Counsel and other University offices and departments, as appropriate, will determine whether the non‑cash gift may be accepted by the University. See University of Pittsburgh Policy and Procedure for Noncash Donated Gifts: and


Q. I have a complaint to make about my employment. What do I do?

A. The answer depends on the nature of your complaint and the nature of your employment.

Staff employees have different options available for the handling of internal complaints: (explaining how informal complaints may be presented and providing a link to the formal complaint process).

For faculty, see (for appeals of appointment decisions pertaining to renewal and tenure), (for grievances of some employment decisions), (alternate grievance procedure).

If the complaint involves an allegation of sexual harassment, please follow the complaint procedure at

If the complaint involves an allegation of discrimination or a violation of the anti-harassment policy, please see and

Some complaints may be appropriate for the University’s AlertLine. Please see for a description of AlertLine.


Q. Who owns the rights in intellectual property that I create while I am employed by the University?

A. The University has adopted two policies related to ownership of intellectual property: one for patent rights ( and one for copyrights ( In general, the University claims ownership of all inventions, patents, patentable developments or related know-how developed by its faculty, staff and students. With respect to copyrights, faculty, staff and students are entitled to claim copyright ownership in books, scholarly articles, other similar works intended to disseminate the results of academic research or scholarly study; fiction or non-fiction works, poems, musical compositions and other similar works of artistic imagination. In some cases, for example, software developed through use of the University’s computer system, or work produced at the direction of the University, the University will assert ownership over copyrightable material developed by University faculty, staff and students. If you believe that you have made a patentable invention, or if you have questions about intellectual property rights, you should contact the Office of Technology Management at

Q. I want to copy some articles to hand out to my class, do I need permission from the holder of the copyright before I do that?

A. Consistent with the requirements of the United States Copyright laws, the University has adopted a policy that sets forth the basic limitations on what will be considered permissible copying of copyrighted material. You can access the policy here: If you wish to make copies for broader distribution, you will generally need to secure permission from the copyright holder. More detailed information on copyright limitations and permissible educational use of copyrighted material may be found at the University Library Systems Copyright page:


Q. I received a Summons to appear for Jury Duty. Can I get out of it?

A. You should comply with the rules of the court and county where you have been called for jury duty. Generally, this means that you need to appear at the time and date specified when summoned for jury duty. When you receive a notice or summons to appear for jury duty, notify your departmental administrator immediately and provide him/her with a copy of the notice/summons.


Q. I received a visit from the sheriff [or I received paperwork in the mail] asking me to accept service of a complaint in connection with a lawsuit. What should I do?

A. Unless you are named individually in a lawsuit, and in which case you may accept service for yourself, you should not accept service of the complaint for either the University or any other individually named defendants or respondents. The Office of General Counsel is the only authorized agent for service of legal papers against the University. If the lawsuit is against the University, you should direct whoever is asking you to accept service of the legal papers to the Office of General Counsel at 1710 Cathedral of Learning. If you unsure if you are being named individually when presented with a request to accept service, contact the Office of General Counsel.

Should you receive a copy of a complaint and summons, a notice of class action settlement or a charge of discrimination in the mail, or if a complaint is served upon you individually which involves University business, please fax copies of the same to the Office of General Counsel (fax: 624-1606) immediately upon receipt and await further instruction.


Q. Will the University represent me if I am sued individually?

A. In most instances, if you are being sued as a result of activities or omissions within the scope of your University employment and authority, and the acts or omissions were in good faith and were lawful, you likely will be provided a defense and represented by the University. For more specifics on the University’s Policy on Defense and Indemnification for Faculty and Staff, please see: and Employee Application for Legal Defense And/Or Indemnification (PDF format). If you are a volunteer, please see: However, the ultimate question of whether you as an individual will be entitled to defense and indemnification will need to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The major responsibility of University counsel is to represent the University. As such, if, during the course of any representation of both the University and an individual employee, a conflict of interest arises, University counsel will cease representation of the individual and remain counsel to the University. See Role of University Vis-à-Vis Individual Employees in Fact-Finding Investigations. (PDF format)

If you are being sued because of personal activities, the University will not defend or represent you.

The responsibilities of the Office of General Counsel for providing legal services to other units of the University are explained in Policy 01-05-01, which can be found at:

Q. Will the Office of General Counsel help me with personal legal questions?

A. No. OGC’s role is to provide legal services for the University. For assistance in finding a lawyer to assist you with a personal matter, you may contact the Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service at 412-261-5555.

Protecting Children at the University

On July 6, 2015, Governor Wolf signed into law a bill amending Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law.   Compliance information, including requirements for reporting suspected child abuse and for obtaining child protection clearances, is posted here:


Q. I received a letter requesting University records under the Freedom of Information Act. Do I have to give them the records?

A. The Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) applies only to federal agencies, but University documents that have been submitted to federal agencies may be produced in response to a FOIA request to that federal agency. For example, when you have successfully applied for a federal grant, your grant application is subject to release by the funding agency under FOIA. The University can request the deletion of certain information, including salaries of personnel, and unpublished or proprietary research data from the grant application before it is released by the agency. In certain, very limited cases, FOIA may also apply to research records generated by the University under federal grants, if a federal agency publicly and officially cites those records in promulgating a regulation or administrative order. You should immediately forward any letter requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act to the Office of General Counsel.

Q. I received a letter requesting University records under the Pennsylvania Open Records Act. Do I have to give them the records?

A. The Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law excludes state-related universities from the Commonwealth agencies and State-affiliated entities that are subject to broad open records requirements. You should immediately forward any letter requesting information under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know Law to the Office of General Counsel. While most provisions of the Right-to-Know Law do not apply to state-related universities, the University does file an annual report required by the Right-to-Know Law that is made available to the public.



Q. I received a subpoena to appear as a witness in a case. What should I do?

A. If the matter for which you have been subpoenaed involves your duties or activities at the University, contact the Office of General Counsel for further instruction. If the matter is unrelated to the University, you should contact your personal attorney.


Q. I received something called a “subpoena duces tecum” asking me to turn over University-related documents. How do I respond?

A. You should not respond and should not turn over any documents to anyone. You should immediately contact the Office of General Counsel, which is responsible for and handles all subpoenas pertaining to University documents. The Office of General Counsel will work with you to gather responsive documents, make appropriate objections, and, in some cases, seek a protective order to preserve the confidentiality of the documents requested.