The Office of Legal Affairs is Rochester Institute of Technology's in-house corporate legal office. We provide legal advice, counseling, and service to RIT and represent the University on all legal matters arising out of its activities. We address existing and potential legal matters in order to help RIT achieve its mission. In addition, Legal Affairs coordinates and supervises all legal services for the University, ensuring that they meet the highest standards for our community. We consistently provide strong, vigorous, and reasoned legal advocacy.
The Office of Legal Affairs is the in-house corporate legal office for the Rochester Institute of Technology. Staff, faculty, and students may not employ outside attorneys to represent or provide legal services for any RIT related purposes. The decision to retain outside counsel resides with the General Counsel. In addition, only the General Counsel and his staff have the authority to enter into contracts for services with partner law firms.
*The Office of Legal Affairs will not provide legal advice to any individual members of the RIT community relative to personal legal issues. If you need assistance with a personal legal matter, please visit the Legal Referrals section.
The Office of Legal Affairs will not provide legal advice to any individual members of the RIT community relative to personal legal issues. For information on choosing a lawyer, please click here. If you need assistance with a personal legal matter, the following resources are being provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered as an endorsement of any personal legal service by the RIT Office of Legal Affairs:
Hyatt Legal Services
RIT offers employees an opportunity to participate in MetLife's Hyatt Legal Plan, a leading provider of group legal services. Hyatt Legal Plan is now available at over 300 organizations in the U.S. and provides legal services to over a million plan participants.
The attorney-client privilege preserves the confidentiality of communications, oral or written, between lawyers and their clients. For the privilege to exist, the communication must be to, from, or with an attorney for the purpose of requesting or receiving legal advice. The privilege is designed so that clients will be encouraged to be completely truthful with their attorneys. As a result, the lawyer is able to give appropriate legal advice based on all relevant facts, thereby promoting voluntary compliance with laws and regulations.
The privilege was originally developed to protect individuals in their relationships with their attorneys; however, the privilege also applies to institutions. Therefore, any confidential communications that you have with the attorneys in the Office of Legal Affairs, for the purpose of seeking legal advice concerning university legal matters, are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
It is important to remember that confidentiality is the key to preserving the privileged nature of the communication. If the substance of the attorney-client communication is disclosed to persons outside RIT, or even to persons within the university who are not directly involved in the matter, the privilege may be lost. Therefore, when you have had confidential communications with attorneys representing RIT, you should not discuss those communications with anyone outside of the university, and limit disclosure of the communication only to those persons within RIT who have a business necessity for the information.
When you request legal advice concerning RIT business, the attorneys in the Office of Legal Affairs are committed to preserving the privileged nature of all confidential communications.
Who does the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) represent?
OLA provides legal advice and representation to RIT, including all its colleges, offices and departments. This includes providing advice and counsel to RIT’s trustees, officers, faculty and staff acting in their official capacities on a variety of issues affecting the Institute. The office does not and cannot represent individual faculty, staff members or students in personal legal matters outside the scope of Institute business.
Will OLA represent me if I am sued?
OLA may represent you directly, or through counsel engaged by RIT, if you are sued in your official capacity as an RIT employee. OLA cannot provide legal advice or representation to students, employees or others related to personal matters.
Are my communications with the OLA attorneys confidential?
Communications that RIT faculty and staff have with the OLA attorneys, made in confidence, for the purpose of seeking or giving legal advice concerning RIT matters, are protected by the attorney-client privilege from disclosure to third parties, but may be shared with other University officials who have a need to know. However, we will make every effort to keep communications confidential to the extent possible. If you have any questions or concerns about the confidentiality of a particular conversation, you should ask the OLA attorney before the conversation begins.
Can I/my department retain outside counsel for an RIT matter?
No. RIT personnel should never contact outside counsel concerning RIT business; only RIT’s VP and General Counsel can retain and approve compensation for outside counsel on behalf of RIT. If you believe outside counsel is needed for an RIT matter, you should contact OLA. RIT’s VP and General Counsel will evaluate the matter and determine whether outside counsel is necessary or appropriate. If so, OLA will retain outside counsel with the required expertise.
What should I do if someone tries to serve me with legal documents?
You cannot accept service of legal documents on behalf of RIT. It is the policy of RIT to require legal service of a properly issued subpoena from any person or government office seeking information from RIT. In this regard, all subpoenas relating to RIT should be served at the Office of Legal Affairs since this is the only department allowed to accept service of process on behalf of the Institute. If a process server attempts to serve you with documents, you should politely decline and direct them to the Office of Legal Affairs (in USC). If you are served documents that name you personally in your official capacity, notify OLA immediately and forward the documents to this office. OLA will review the documents, determine what steps are necessary and discuss your involvement with you, if any.
If you are served with a subpoena or other legal document addressed to you concerning a non-RIT matter, you should seek the advice of private outside counsel.
What should I do if I receive a call or letter from an outside attorney?
If you are contacted by an attorney in connection with RIT business or your work for RIT, please notify OLA immediately. OLA will work with you to determine what steps are necessary. Do not speak or correspond directly with an attorney representing someone outside of RIT who has a pending legal matter or is threatening legal action. If an employee learns of facts which may lead to a claim or lawsuit being filed against RIT, the employee should immediately report the matter to OLA.
Can RIT staff with a law degree, who does not work in OLA, provide legal advice?
No. RIT’s Vice President and General Counsel has been appointed to serve as the legal adviser to RIT. Only attorneys in the Office of Legal Affairs can provide legal advice and representation to RIT.
Who can bind RIT to transactions with third parties?
RIT Bylaws provide that the President, or their designee, shall have the authority to sign contracts and documents in the name of the Institute. Vice Presidents are administrative officers of the Institute with such powers and duties as are delegated to them by the President.
RIT's Signatory Authority Policy (https://www.rit.edu/fa/svp/content/signatory-authority) provides that Vice Presidents can define the approval levels for expenditures and commitments initiated in the ordinary conduct of business within their divisions. However, approval authority exists only to the extent that it is explicitly granted to such employee from more senior management and must be in writing. Students do not have authority to bind the Insitute.
What is a litigation hold?
Under federal and state law, RIT has a duty to identify and preserve records that relate to anticipated or pending litigation, or other legal or administrative proceedings involving RIT. A litigation hold is a notification sent from the Office of Legal Affairs to RIT employees, agents, or representatives instructing them to preserve and/or produce RIT Records (as defined by RIT Policy C22.0) and not to delete electronically stored information or discard hard copy documents that may be relevant. A legal hold notice means you may have relevant information and does not necessarily mean that you are directly involved in the legal action. Once the matter has been completely resolved, OLA will release the hold placed on the RIT Records so the provisions of C22.0 may resume.
What Is FERPA and What Rights Do Students Have Under FERPA?
FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, also known as the Buckley Amendment. It has three purposes. First, it protects the privacy of student educational records. Second, it guarantees students the right to review educational records and to seek to amend those records. Finally, it gives students the right to limit disclosure of information from their records. The Act applies to all institutions that receive federal funding which includes RIT.
When is the student covered under FERPA?
An eligible student is defined as any matriculated individual who is currently attending or who formerly attended RIT. Applicants who are either refused admission or decline to matriculate do not fit the definition of eligible student and therefore are not covered under FERPA. A matriculated individual has passed the Add/Drop deadline of a term and therefore has a transcript record with RIT. Students gain FERPA rights when they turn 18 or enter a postsecondary institution at any age. This definition applies to all credit and non-credit students.
What educational records are covered by FERPA?
Educational records are defined as those records pertaining to the permanent academic records of the student, testing data, disciplinary records, and financial information. These records can be in any medium such as handwritten, print, tapes, film, or electronic. This category also covers all records maintained officially by RIT which do not come under the categories of Directory Information or Sole Possession Records.
What records are not covered by FERPA?
Records not covered by FERPA include the following:
Sole Possession Records - These include personal notes or records retained by one individual for his or her own purposes. For example, an instructor’s personal notes do not fall under FERPA. These personal records can be shared with a substitute employee.
Peer Graded Coursework –Are covered when the instructor collects them and leaves the classroom with them.
Law Enforcement Records –Maintained and revealed only to law enforcement agencies.
Employment Records – Related to non-work-study employment situations.
Medical Records - Created by a health care professional and used only for the treatment of the student.
Alumni Records – Records relating to alumni donations and activities with the alumni association but not related to educational, student life or other records during the time the student attended RIT.
Any communication with a former student that is not directly related to the student’s academic record.
Who can access student information without consent?
School officials with a legitimate educational interest. A school official is defined as any employee of RIT or agent of the employee. The information sought must be used within the context of official RIT business and not for purposes extraneous to the official’s area of responsibility or to RIT. Disclosure to a school official having a legitimate educational interest does not constitute authorization to transmit, share, or disclose any information received to a third party.
Other schools to which a student is transferring or enrolled.
Appropriate officials and parents of a student regardless of the student’s IRS dependent status if the college determines there is a significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals.
Federal and state educational, audit/compliance or accreditation agencies and bodies.
Parties presenting a judicial order or subpoena.
Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student.
Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school.
State and local authorities within a juvenile justice system who are obeying a specific State law.
The College when using directory information for college and educational purposes.
What are a parent’s rights under FERPA?
Under FERPA, parents have limited rights to eligible student information. All parents have the right to directory information unless the student has filed for non-disclosure. Parents of a child who is a legal dependent under IRS code may obtain non-directory information. Proof of dependency is required. Parents of a child who is not a legal dependent under IRS code may obtain protected information only by obtaining a signed consent from their child or a court order.
Parents should contact the RIT Office of the Registrar for further information or can go to www.ed.govfor FERPA related questions.
What are a student’s rights under FERPA?
All present and former students are guaranteed the following rights:
Students have a right to know where educational records are kept.
Students have a right to inspect their educational records with sufficient written notice to the Office of the Registrar.
Students have the right to have records amended if necessary, by following institutional procedure to request changes.
Students have the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Education if they feel their rights are being violated.
Students have the right to educational record confidentiality except where special provisions are made.
Students have the right to prevent the disclosure of directory information.
What is “Directory Information”?
It is information that can be released without the student’s written consent. Each college, to some extent, can determine what information is classified as directory information. Directory Information is released only at the discretion of RIT or for educational purposes.
Directory Information at RIT includes:
Name, Primary address, telephone number, dates of attendance, enrollment status (full time or part time), hometown, class year, previous institutions attended, program of study, awards, honors, degrees conferred, sports activities.
Directory Information at RIT does not include:
Class attendance, student ID numbers, social security numbers, race/ethnicity/nationality, gender, financial status or information related thereto, grades/GPA, class list or schedule, disciplinary records.
What is the procedure for limiting the release of directory information?
You may request to have non-disclosure status. This will protect the release of the above listed directory information in addition to the already FERPA protected non-directory information. The student must complete a non-disclosure form in person at the Registrar’s Office. The signed non-disclosure form will remain in effect until the student changes it in person and in writing.
What information can be removed from an educational record before a student views it?
Any information that pertains to another student.
Financial records of the student’s parents.
Some confidential letters and statements of recommendation under conditions described in FERPA section §99.12.
Any document for which the student has signed a waiver of rights.
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subject to discrimination under any educational programs or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” -From the preamble to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html
What is Title IX?
Title IX was the first comprehensive federal law to prohibit sex discrimination against students and employees of educational institutions. Title IX benefits both males and females, and is at the heart of efforts to create gender equitable schools. The law requires educational institutions to maintain policies, practices and programs that do not discriminate against anyone based on sex. Under Title IX both males and females must receive fair and equal treatment in all educational programs and activities, including but not limited to:
educational programs and activities
course offerings and access
facilities and housing
health and insurance benefits
marital and parental status
What school levels are covered?
Title IX protects students, faculty and staff in federally funded education programs. Title IX applies to all elementary and secondary schools, colleges and universities. It also applies to programs and activities affiliated with schools that receive federal funds (such as internships or coops, or school-to-work programs) and to federally funded education programs run by other entities such as correctional facilities, health care entities, unions and businesses.
The standard for compliance is one of quality rather than quantity. The actual amount of money spent on women's and men's programs may differ as long the quality of facilities and services for each program achieve parity. For example, equipment needed for men's football may cost more than equipment needed by women's field hockey. Title IX compliance is achieved as long as both teams are given equipment of comparable quality.
Everyone benefits from Title IX. Title IX prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from practicing or allowing gender discrimination in educational programs or activities. Because almost all schools receive federal funds, Title IX applies to nearly everyone.
Is there a penalty for noncompliance?
Yes. Violating Title IX can lead to loss of federal funds. Violations can also result in significant legal damages and attorneys’ fees.
Are male students protected?
Yes, both male and female students are protected from harassment regardless of who is committing the harassing behavior.
How does Title IX impact courses offered?
Institutions may not provide separate courses and activities based on sex and may not require or prohibit participation in these programs based on gender. Some exceptions to this, however, are allowed. For example, sex education and human sexuality courses at the elementary and secondary levels only may be (but are not required to be) offered separately. In addition, generally, while physical education classes may not be segregated, separation is permitted within activities that involve significant bodily contact, such as wrestling, boxing, rugby, ice hockey, football, basketball, and similar contact activities. In intramural sports, separate teams for each sex are permissible in contact sports, as well.
Does Title IX protect only students?
No. Title IX protects everyone from discrimination, including, students, parents, employees and vendors.
How are schools held accountable under Title IX?
When schools become aware that sexual harassment, including sexual misconduct or discrimination, has occurred, they must take immediate action to stop the harassment, hold all parties accountable and take steps to prevent future harassment.
How does Title IX relate to athletic programs?
Title IX requires that schools, which receive federal funding, provide equal opportunities for members of both sexes. It addresses the availability, quality and kind of benefits, and the opportunities and treatment that athletes receive. There are three basic aspects of Title IX that apply to athletics:
Participation: Title IX is not a quota system. Educational institutions have three options to demonstrate equity and fairness in athletic opportunities. Schools can show that they comply with Title IX if they can demonstrate any one of the following:
Substantially proportionate athletic opportunities for male and female athletes;
A history and continuing practice of expanding opportunities for the under-represented sex;
Full and effective accommodation of the interests and abilities of the under-represented sex. Schools do not necessarily need to offer identical sports, yet they do need to provide an equal opportunity for females to play in sports of interest.
Scholarships: The total amount of athletic aid must be substantially proportionate to the ratio of female and male athletes.
Additional athletic program components: Title IX also mandates equal treatment in the provision of:
Game and practice times
Medical and training facilities
Travel per diem allowances
Practice and competitive facilities
Who enforces Title IX?
The Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education is charged with enforcing the civil rights and regulations in education. The OCR is staffed by a group of attorneys, investigators and support personnel working as case resolution teams from each of the agency’s twelve enforcement divisions. Each OCR division is charged with investigating and resolving cases of alleged illegal discrimination.
How do you report a Title IX Violation?
Reports of sex discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexual violence can also be made to the university’s Title IX Coordinator or Deputy Title IX Coordinators: www.rit.edu/titleix
In addition, concerns may also be reported to any of the following external agencies:
The Federal Copyright Act governs how copyrighted materials, such as movies, may be used publicly. This legal copyright compliance requirement applies to colleges, universities, etc. regardless of whether the institution is commercial or non-profit.
A license is required for all public performances. If a movie, regardless of whether you own it or have rented it, is shown in a place that is open to the public or any place where a substantial number of persons outside of a normal circle of a family or its social acquaintances are gathered, it is considered a public performance. RIT may have already obtained permission to use certain video Copyrighted Works. Inquiries regarding RIT permissions should be directed to the Director of the Center for Campus Life.
Do we need a license even if we don’t charge admission?
Yes. A license is required for all public performances regardless of whether or not admission is charged.
Who can grant a license for a public performance?
The movie studios that own copyrights, and their agents, are the only parties who are authorized to license sites such as colleges and universities. RIT may have already obtained permission to use a particular movie, so inquiries regarding video Copyrighted Works that RIT may have obtained permission to use should be directed to the Director of the Center for Campus Life.
What can happen if we show a copyright work that we did not obtain a license?
If you violate copyright law by conducting an unauthorized public performance, you can be prosecuted by the Motion Picture Association of America and its member companies.
Is a not-for-profit organization such as RIT allowed to hold raffles?
Lotteries are highly regulated games of chance which are governed by gambling statutes; the New York State Gaming Commission is the only entity allowed to conduct lotteries. A raffle is a form of lottery which is defined as an allowable game of chance by the law and is governed by, and must be conducted in accordance with, all rules and regulations specified under state and local laws. New York law allows certain not-for-profit organizations to conduct raffles, and Henrietta Town law requires that specific raffles conducted in the Town of Henrietta be licensed.
In order to determine if a raffle is allowed or if it must be licensed, RIT requires that every raffle be approved by the RIT Office of Legal Affairs or the Assistant Vice President, Compliance & Ethics before any tickets are sold. Certain RIT departments may require additional approvals, as well. The Raffle Approval Form must be submitted for approval no less than ten (10) business day before the first date of ticket sales.
When is a license required from the New York State Racing and Wagering Board to conduct a Raffle?
If the proceeds (money collected) from a single raffle are more than $5000 or the total proceeds of all raffles conducted on the RIT campus within a calendar year exceed $20,000, licensing will be required.
Who is permitted to sell raffle tickets?
RIT Community Members of the on-campus organization, who are approved to conduct a raffle by the Office of Legal Affairs or the Assistant Vice President, Compliance & Ethics.
Reminder - In New York State, it is unlawful for persons under the age of eighteen years of age to purchase raffle tickets, sell raffle tickets, or conduct or assist in the administration of a raffle drawing.
What about non-RIT groups, are they permitted to sell raffle tickets on the RIT campus?
No. RIT, as a New York not-for-profit educational corporation falls under the exemption in the law which allows an educational not-for-profit to conduct raffles in connection with its educational mission. This exemption only covers RIT and does not extend to non-RIT group activities on our campus. Unlicensed third-party activities conducted on the RIT campus could subject RIT to fines, jeopardize our federal funding, or cause other RIT licensing to be revoked.
The Raffle Rules and Approval Process document states that Raffle tickets should have a number of specific pieces of information printed on their face. Can we just purchase rolls of tickets from an office or party supply store?
If the raffle prize drawing will take place on the same date and location where the ticket is sold then yes, this style ticket is acceptable, however, the same rules, disclosure and notification requirements (noted below) still apply. Since the winner must not be required to be present at the drawing, you need to make sure that you have obtained contact information for notification purposes - you cannot simply draw another ticket until you find someone who is present at the drawing to win the prize.
All tickets must be sold at a uniform price (i.e. $1 = 1 ticket, $2 = 3 tickets, etc.). You are not allowed to use a subjective amount of tickets such as an "arm's length" or accept a donation of some item that does not have the exact same dollar value as every other donation item (i.e. can of food).
If the sale of tickets will occur in advance of the date the raffle drawing will take place, you cannot use the rolled tickets and you must create a ticket specific to your raffle; the following items MUST be printed on their face:
(i) Name (and identification number, if applicable*) of the authorized organization;
(ii) The location(s), date(s) and time(s) of the drawing(s);
(iii) The consecutively printed serial number of the ticket;
(iv) The price of the ticket;
(v) A list of the prizes offered;
(vi) The statement: "Ticket holders need not be present to win."
(vii) Each ticket stub or receipt shall reflect the name, address and telephone
number of the ticket purchaser, and the consecutively printed serial number of the ticket.
Can we hold an online raffle?
No. Neither the General Municipal Law nor Commission rules authorize the sale of raffle tickets over the internet or through the mail. Further, it is unlawful for anyone conducting a raffle to accept credit card or electronic payments for the purchase of raffle tickets. Raffle tickets can only be purchased in person by cash or check.
What is the difference between a prize drawing and a raffle?
If you are awarding an item of value (prize) by randomly selecting the winner from entries/tickets, where there was absolutely no purchase necessary in order to get that entry/ticket, than this is considered a free prize drawing, and not subject to the Raffle Approval Process. (This does not apply if you are charging a fee to get into your event.)
If you are selling tickets in which an item of value (prize) is awarded on the basis of chance as a result of drawing from among those tickets (which were sold at a uniform price), this would constitute a raffle and must have prior approval pursuant to RIT’s Raffle Approval Process.
If participants have paid admission or an entrance fee, can I give them a “free” ticket to the raffle with their paid admission?
No. This does not constitute a raffle under the law and falls under the category of a lottery, specifically an unlawful gambling scheme. If you intend to select winners from randomly drawn tickets, those tickets must be sold in accordance with all rules and regulations specified under state and local laws and have prior approval pursuant to RIT’s Raffle Approval Process.
Are “50/50” or “split-pot” raffles legal?
Yes. However, no other split is allowed (i.e. 60/40, etc.). Additionally, Gene Polisseni Center does not allow 50/50 raffles; they will only allow raffles of a physical prize (i.e. hockey stick, jersey, gift card, etc.)
Are there types of prizes that may not be used in a raffle?
According to NYS law, the following items may not be offered as prizes: alcohol, real estate, security bonds, shares of stock or evidence of debt.
How far in advance from the date of the raffle drawing may an organization sell raffle tickets?
Raffle tickets may not be sold more than 180 days before the drawing date. The winner must not be required to be present at the drawing.
Are there any days that a raffle cannot be conducted?
Raffles may not be held on Easter Sunday, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve.
The Office of Legal Affairs will not provide legal advice to any individual members of the RIT community relative to personal legal issues. For assistance with such matters, please consult one of these services for help:
Hyatt Legal Services
RIT offers employees an opportunity to participate in MetLife's Hyatt Legal Plan, a leading provider of group legal services. Hyatt Legal Plan is now available at over 300 organizations in the U.S. and provides legal services to over a million plan participants.