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Office of the General Counsel | Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I give out student information over the phone?

A: Never a good idea. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, protects the privacy of student records with certain limited exceptions. Even parents, again with certain exceptions, are not entitled to their child’s student records unless the student has signed a waiver to that effect. Further, it can be hard to ensure that the person on the other end of the telephone is who they say they are.

Q: What should I do if a get a subpoena for records or to appear in court?

A: Please forward the subpoena to the general counsel for review, since not all subpoenas are enforceable in the District of Columbia, and we don’t want to hand over records pursuant to an invalid subpoena. Also, some subpoenas require that Trinity alert the person whose records have been subpoenaed, and some require staying mum. If it looks like you’ve been subpoenaed to testify, most of the time they’re just after the records, at least in the beginning. It’s best to talk it over with the general counsel.

Q: Can I drive my students to an off-campus event?

A: No. To do so is a violation of Trinity policy, and Trinity’s liability insurance will not cover you in the case of an accident.

Q: Can I sign a contract after getting a purchase order approved?

A: No, because only a handful of people are authorized to sign things, and even then they must be specifically designated to sign by the president. This is important because in signing an agreement you are binding Trinity to its terms, and if you do not have the authority to do so, things get very complicated. In the worst case, you be be left personally liable for whatever you signed.

Q: What should I do if one of my students tells me she has a disability?

A: Students who identify themselves to you should be referred to Trinity’s Office of Disability Support Services (DSS), and they will work with the student to gather documentation and arrange for the necesssary accommodation(s). In order to ensure fairness and a uniform process, it’s important that individual faculty not provide accommodations on their own, or deviate from the course of action that DSS will prescribe. Accommodations can be modified over time, of course, but all changes must be made through DSS.

Q: Our office supply vendor gave me Nationals season tickets. Is that okay?

A: No. It is imperative that even the appearance of influence or a conflict of interest be scrupulously avoided. Only the most de minimus gifts (say, a handful of pens with the vendor’s name on them) can be accepted.

Q: Where can I find help with a family, consumer or landlord/tenant matter?

A: A good place to start is the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, at www.dccourts.gov. Their website explains how the system works, and what resources may be available to you as a litigant. In addition, the city has several legal non-profits that will give legal advice and in some cases representation free of charge if you meet certain income criteria. Some of these are the Neighborhood Legal Services Corporation, www.nlsp.org; Law Students in Court www.dclawstudents.org (supervised by licensed attorneys); the Legal Aid Society www.legalaiddc.org. If they cannot help you because they are over capacity, or if your income exceeds their eligibility guidelines, they may be able to suggest another resource. Please note this list is not an endorsement of any of these organizations – just information.


Contact the Sarah M. Phelps, General Counsel, in the Office of General Counsel at 202-884-9049, or by email at phelpss@trinitydc.edu.edu.

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