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Frequently Asked Questions

Personal Legal Resources

University Legal Counsel cannot provide legal advice to students or provide representation to employees regarding matters of a personal nature, such as landlord-tenant disputes, criminal matters, or divorce. If you are a student and need legal advice or require representation, you may contact Student Legal Services at (540) 231-4720. Student Legal Services is a free, pre-paid legal service that is available to all Virginia Tech students who have paid the Blacksburg campus student activity fee. Virginia Tech employees that require the services of a lawyer may contact the Virginia Lawyer Referral Service toll-free at (800) 552-7977.

In-state Residency Issues

University Legal Counsel does not handle or provide information regarding in-state residency requirements. If you are currently an undergraduate student and have questions regarding the laws, requirements, and/or application materials for in-state tuition, please contact the University Registrar at (540) 231-6252.

Graduate students should contact the Graduate School at (540) 231-8636.

New undergraduate students, including transfer students, should contact the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at (540) 231-6267.

Sponsored Research Programs

For information on applying for sponsored research programs, please contact the Office of Sponsored Programs at (540) 231-5281. The Office of Sponsored Programs provides information on policies that are intended to protect the nature of university research and to protect the rights of individuals as well as the rights of the university.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind such as inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce. Virginia Tech Policy 13000 governs ownership of intellectual properties created by university employees or through the use of university resources. The policy defines the rights and responsibilities of the affected parties and provides a process to determine IP ownership. State law requires all university employees, as a condition of employment, to be bound by this policy. The policy applies to all permanent and visiting faculty, research faculty, classified staff, wage employees, and students.

For the purposes of Virginia Tech's policy, IP is grouped into two categories: 1) The traditional results of academic scholarship, i.e. textbooks, literary works, artistic creations and artifacts; and 2) The novel results of research such as products, processes, machines, software, biological technology, etc. The presumption of ownership differs depending on the nature of the intellectual property.  

General guidance regarding ownership of intellectual properties is provided on the LINK + LICENSE + LAUNCH Resources for Inventors website.

Immigration Issues

Virginia Tech employees seeking information on H-1B visas, J-1 exchange visitor visas or permanent residency should contact International Support Services at (540) 231-3736. 

Graduate students seeking immigration information should contact Graduate Student Immigration Services, located in the Graduate Life Center at Donaldson Brown, at (540) 231-8486. 

Undergraduate students seeking immigration information may contact the Cranwell International Center at (540) 231-6527.

Conflict of Interest

A conflict of interest occurs when a faculty or staff member is in a position to advance one's own interests or that of one's family or others, to the detriment of the university. Both state and federal law define conflict of interest and the conditions under which such conflicts may be deemed acceptable. 

Guidelines for managing a potential faculty conflict of interest may be found on the Research and Innovation website and in Virginia Tech Policy 13010.

Filing a Grievance

The grievance procedure is a process through which a Virginia Tech classified or university employee can bring workplace concerns to upper levels of management. This process is more formal than mediation and requires that rules be followed strictly. The Grievance Procedure Manual lists the rules that must be followed. Employee Relations staff assist employees in filing grievances and management in responding to the grievance, and monitor the process to ensure that both the employee and management comply with the rules.

Grievances must be filed within 30 days of the time the action being grieved occurred. Employees should contact Virginia Tech's Employee Relations department at (540) 231-9331 to confirm the appropriate management steps for their department or work unit, including employees in Virginia Tech's Extension and Agricultural Experiment Units and other off-campus operations. 

The faculty grievance process for tenured and tenure-track faculty is outlined in section 3.7 of the Faculty Handbook. The Faculty Handbook also sets out the grievance process for A/P faculty (section 7.7), faculty with continued appointment or on the continued appointment-track (section 4.7), non-tenure-track instructional faculty (section 5.7), and research faculty (section 6.17). Specific questions regarding the faculty grievance process should be directed to the Office of the Provost at (540) 231-2350.

Getting Subpoenaed or Sued

If you have been subpoenaed or if someone has sued you in your official university capacity, please contact University Legal Counsel at (540) 231-6293 immediately.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) 

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (34 CFR Part 99) guarantees an individual's right to the access of their academic record. This federal law also provides guidelines as to third party access and the appropriate security of the education record. FERPA stipulates that students have the right to inspect and review their academic record, control disclosure (designate confidentiality), and request amendment to the education record if an error is recorded.

For information on Virginia Tech's FERPA policies, please visit the University Registrar site.

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), located at § 2.2-3700, et seq. of the Code of Virginia, guarantees citizens of the Commonwealth and representatives of the media access to public records held by public bodies, public officials, and public employees.

A public record is any writing or recording -- regardless of whether it is a paper record, an electronic file, an audio or video recording, or any other format -- that is prepared or owned by, or in the possession of a public body or its officers, employees, or agents in the transaction of public business. All public records are presumed to be open, and may only be withheld if a specific, statutory exemption applies.

The policy of FOIA states that the purpose of FOIA is to promote an increased awareness by all persons of governmental activities. In furthering this policy, FOIA requires that the law be interpreted liberally, in favor of access, and that any exemption allowing public records to be withheld must be interpreted narrowly.

For more information about FOIA and your FOIA rights, please visit Virginia Tech's policy site.

Contracts and Signature Authority

University Policy 3015 governs the execution of contracts. Per policy, University Legal Counsel must review all contracts prior to execution. Only positions set out within the signature policy have been granted signature authority for contracts. For information regarding contract review, please contact Tracey Gallagher, Contract Review Officer, at (540) 231-1262.

Contract Review Process

Contracts, agreements, MOUs, etc. that are not required to route through the Procurement Department (e.g., contracts for direct pay items or goods/services under $2,000 that are not placed against university contracts) must be reviewed by University Legal Counsel prior to execution by the department. The department should mail or email a copy of any such document to Tracey Gallagher (M/C 0121). 

The length of review depends on current workload, any deadlines conveyed by the department, and length and complexity of the document. University Legal Counsel will do its best to work with the requesting department on any deadlines provided. If a contract has not been returned to the department within 10 business days, please contact Tracey Gallagher by phone at (540) 231-1262.  

Export Control Issues

For export control issues, please visit the Office of Export and Secure Research Compliance (OESRC). OESRC supports Virginia Tech's commitment to complying with U.S. laws and regulations applicable to export and trade sanctions.

Workers' Compensation

An injured employee is required to immediately report an accident or illness to the direct supervisor. If you have been injured during the course of your employment at Virginia Tech, please contact Human Resources at (540) 231-9331 or (540) 231-3463. For general information regarding your rights under the Workers' Compensation Act or filing claims, please visit the Human Resources website.

Harassment and Discrimination

University Policy 1025, the Virginia Tech Policy on Harrassment, Discrimination and Sexual Assault, prohibits discrimination or harassment against employees, students, applicants, or participants in university activities on the basis of age, color, disability, gender (including pregnancy), gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, national origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status, unless otherwise permitted or required by applicable law.

If you have a concern about discrimination or harassment, please contact the Office for Equity and Accessibility at (540) 231-2010.

Disability Accommodations

Virginia Tech is committed to a policy of non-discrimination in employment and education and complies with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. Policy 4075 sets forth an individual's rights under the ADA and procedures for making reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities. Employees with a disability should contact ADA & Accessibility Services at (540) 231-2010 for complete information regarding your rights.

Services for students with disabilities are provided through the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) office.