Faculty Member

Why compliance matters to me

Compliance is a willingness to follow a prescribed course of action, such as laws and regulations. At U-M, compliance is not about policing people’s behavior; it is about constantly striving to understand our many and varied obligations and follow them. One of the biggest challenges for faculty members in terms of compliance is the fact that their day-to-day activities are so varied, that they intersect with many different compliance topics.

Compliance specialists and legal advisors can support and assist you in interpreting laws and understanding what requirements apply to your work. But ultimately, you understand your work best, and are best placed to determine whether you are in fact complying with the law.

Your own reputation, the University’s reputation, and the funding and support that U-M relies on to fulfill its mission are dependent on every member of the U-M community taking responsibility for their own activities, and for the compliance of those activities with legal and ethical standards.

To strengthen U-M’s compliance culture and to support you in managing your obligations, the Office of the General Counsel has developed this website, as part of a University wide initiative that takes a big picture view of compliance by U-M.  This Compliance Resource Center is designed to guide you through the various compliance topics relevant to your work.

Read more about the goals of this initiative…

How compliance intersects with faculty life

If you teach students in a classroom environment, there are many regulatory issues that can arise. While not all of these are your direct responsibility, it is important to have a general awareness of the various issues in play, so that if they arise, you can identify them and initiate action to address it. Examples (which are covered in more detail on our Classroom Teaching page) include:

  • Teaching spaces must comply with facilities related safety and access laws.
  • Student records are protected by FERPA, and must be handled in accordance with that law
  • Class materials – creating and reproducing them raises copyright compliance issues.
  • If the class has a laboratory component – raises occupational safety issues, plus there may be permits associated with the use/supervision of certain equipment or chemicals.
  • Having GSIs or graders – raises employment, equity and tax compliance issues; and immigration compliance issues if they are international students.
  • Class attendance – if an international student is constantly failing to attend class, that may be inconsistent with their visa status, putting them at risk of deportation (and U-M at risk of non-compliance if we fail to report such a problem).
  • Student support – ensuring equal access and treatment raises equity compliance issues.
  • Incidents in the classroom (e.g. an assault by one student of another) – these need to be reported to the Department of Public Safety, to meet U-M’s crime reporting obligations.
  • Field trips or student placements – raise additional compliance issues, particularly around safety.

If you conduct research that is administered and funded through U-M, a wide range of research compliance obligations (including human subjects or animal subjects requirements) and grant administration requirements may apply. See our Research Compliance Overview for a summary of the key research compliance obligations.

If you supervise or mentor students in a research or clinical setting, remember that you are responsible for modeling professional responsibility for those students. This includes helping them learn about the laws, compliance obligations and ethical norms specific to your discipline – including general issues like avoiding conflicts of interest, collecting and using data responsibly, using research funds ethically, and treating animal and human subjects properly. Only if students see their mentors and supervisors modeling professional practices will they learn to act according to the same standards. [For further guidance, see “How to Mentor Students: A Faculty Guide” (published by the Rackham Graduate School), and other resources collated by the MORE (Mentoring Others Results in Excellence) program.]

Read more about the kinds of laws U-M needs to comply with…

How will this website help?

A major long term goal of U-M’s Comprehensive Compliance Initiative is to raise general awareness about compliance. Faculty members work at the front line of U-M’s research and academic function, thus are best placed to spot compliance issues when they arise. Greater awareness can ultimately empower you as faculty members to understand better how and when compliance intersects with your day-to-day work in the University.

The first step in raising awareness is the development of this Compliance Resource Center, which can guide you through the compliance topics relevant to your work.   We suggest you spend a few minutes browsing the compliance topic areas, or the operations and activities library.  Both of these will be built upon gradually over time, to house practical resources, contacts, links and information.  We hope that these pages will be of benefit not only as an orientation for newcomers to the University, but also as a quick and constant reference for those with more knowledge and experience in handling compliance at U-M.


Established 3/4/11, last updated 3/7/17 – Contact us if you believe any information is incorrect or outdated