State laws and policies

Laws pertaining directly to education enacted by the New York Legislature are located in McKinney's New York Education Law, which is available in Penfield Library. Copies of Policies of the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York  and the Code of Ethics for State Employees are given to every professional staff member.

Policies of the Board of Trustees

The basic document for the guidance of faculty members in all matters affecting their relations with the university is the Policies of the Board of Trustees. Copies are made available to every faculty and professional staff member and may be obtained from the Office of Human Resources.

The responsibilities of the President, college administrative officers and chairpersons of departments and divisions are detailed in the Policies of the Board of Trustees, Article IX, Titles A, B and C.

Code of ethics for state employees

To inform faculty members of state policy regarding conflict of interest in the discharge of their duties, Section 74 of the Public Officers Law is quoted below:

Code of ethics

1. Definition. As used in this section: The term "state agency” shall mean any state department, or division, board, commission, or bureau of any state department.

2. The term "legislative employee" shall mean any officer or employee of the legislature, but it shall not include members of the legislature.

3. Rule with respect to conflict of interest. No officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should have any interest, financial or otherwise, direct or indirect, or engage in any business or transaction or professional activity or incur any obligation of any nature, which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his/her duties in the public interest.

4. Standards.

a) No officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should accept other employment which will impair his/her independence of judgment in the exercise of his/her official duties.

b) No officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should accept employment or engage in any business or professional activity which will require him/her to disclose confidential information which he/she has gained by reason of his/her official position or authority.

c) No officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should disclose confidential information to further his/her personal interests.

d) No officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should use or attempt to use his/her official position to secure unwarranted privileges or exemptions for himself/herself or others.

e) No officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should engage in any transaction as representative or agent of the state with any business entity in which he/she has a direct or indirect financial interest that might reasonably tend to conflict with the proper discharge of his/her official duties.

f) An officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should not by his/her conduct give reasonable basis for the impression that any person can improperly influence him/her or unduly enjoy his/her favor in the performance of his/her official duties, or that he/she is affected by the kinship, rank, position or influence of any party or person.

g) An officer or employee of a state agency should abstain from making personal investments in enterprises which he/she has reason to believe may be directly involved in decisions to be made by him/her or which will otherwise create substantial conflict between his/her duty in the public interest and his/her private interest.

h) An officer or employee of a state agency, member of the legislature or legislative employee should endeavor to pursue a course of conduct which will not raise suspicion among the public that he/she is likely to be engaged in acts that are in violation of his/her trust.

i) No officer or employee of a state agency employed on a full-time basis nor any firm or association of which such an officer or employee is a member nor corporation, a substantial portion of the stock of which is owned or controlled directly or indirectly by such officer or employee, should sell goods or services to any person, firm, corporation or association which is licensed or whose rates are fixed by the state agency in which such officer or employee serves or is employed.

j) If any officer or employee of a state agency shall have a financial interest, direct or indirect, having a value of ten thousand dollars or more in any activity which is subject to the jurisdiction of a regulatory agency, he/she should file with the Secretary of State a written statement that he/she has such a financial interest in such activity which statement shall be open to public inspection.

5. Violations.   In addition to any penalty contained in any other provision of law any such officer, member or employee who shall knowingly and intentionally violate any of the provisions of this section may be fined, suspended or removed from office or employment in the manner provided by law.

Disruptive activities

Regulations and Procedures for Maintaining Public Order on SUNY Campuses were adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1969 in compliance with Section 6450 of the Education Law and are published as Part 535, Chapter V, Title 8, of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York. These regulations prohibit the following conduct:

No person, either singly or in concert with others shall;

  1. Willfully cause physical injury to any other person, nor threaten to do so for the purpose of compelling or inducing such other person to refrain from any act, which he/she has a lawful right to do, or to do any act, which he/she has a lawful right not to do.
  2. Physically restrain or detain any other person, nor remove such person from any place where he/she is authorized to remain.
  3. Willfully damage or destroy property of the institution or under its jurisdiction, nor remove or use such property without authorization.
  4. Without permission, expressed or implied, enter into any private office of an administrative officer, member of the faculty or staff member.
  5. Enter upon and remain in any building or facility for any purpose other than its authorized uses or in such manner as to obstruct its authorized use by others.
  6. Without authorization, remain in any building or facility after it is normally closed.
  7. Refuse to leave any building or facility after being required to do so by an authorized administrative officer.
  8. Obstruct the free movement of persons and vehicles in any place to which these rules apply.
  9. Deliberately disrupt or prevent the peaceful and orderly conduct of classes, lectures and meetings or deliberately interfere with the freedom of any person to express his/her views, including invited speakers.
  10. Knowingly have in his/her possession upon any premises to which these rules apply, any rifle, shotgun, pistol, revolver or other firearm or weapon without the written authorization of the Chief Administrative Officer whether or not a license to possess the same has been issued to such person.
  11. Willfully incite others to commit any of the acts herein prohibited with specific intent to procure them to do so.
  12. Take any action, create or participate in the creation of any situation which recklessly or intentionally endangers mental or physical health or which involves the forced consumption of liquor or drugs for the purpose of initiation into or affiliation with any organization.

These prohibitions are not intended, nor are they to be construed, to limit or restrict the freedom of speech or peaceful assembly. Their purpose is not to prevent or restrain controversy and dissent but to prevent abuse of the rights of others and to maintain public order appropriate to a college or university campus.

Indemnification for legal liability

Section 17 (1) of the New York Public Officers Law provides indemnification for certain acts of state officers and employees, including members of the faculties, supervising staffs and employees of the state-operated institutions of the State University. It reads in part as follows:

1. (a) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, the term "employee" shall mean any person holding a position by election, appointment or employment in the service of the state, whether or not compensated, or a volunteer expressly authorized to participate in a state-sponsored volunteer program, but shall not include an independent contractor. The term employee shall include a former employee, the employee's estate or judicially appointed personal representative and persons who assist in the Education Department or the Department of Health as consultants or expert witnesses in the investigation or prosecution of alleged professional misconduct pursuant to Title Eight of the Education Law or Title II-A of the Public Health Law.

2. (a) Upon compliance by the employee with the provisions of subdivision four of this section, the state shall provide for the defense of the employee in any civil action or proceeding in any state or federal court arising out of any alleged act or omission which occurred or is alleged in the complaint to have occurred while the employee was acting within the scope of his public employment or duties; or which is brought to enforce a provision of section nineteen hundred eighty-one or nineteen hundred eighty-three of title forty-two of the United States code and the act or omission underlying the action occurred or is alleged in the complaint to have occurred while the employee was acting within the scope of his public employment or duties.  This duty to provide for a defense shall not arise where such civil action or proceeding is brought by or on behalf of the state.

(b) Subject to the conditions set forth in paragraph (a) of this subdivision, the employee shall be entitled to be represented by the attorney general, provided, however, that the employee shall be entitled to representation by private counsel of his choice in any civil judicial proceeding whenever the attorney general determines based upon his investigation and review of the facts and circumstances of the case that representation by the attorney general would be inappropriate, or whenever a court of competent jurisdiction, upon appropriate motion or by a special proceeding, determines that a conflict of interest exists and that the employee is entitled to be represented by private counsel of his choice. The attorney general shall notify the employee in writing of such determination that the employee is entitled to be represented by private counsel. The attorney general may require, as a condition to payment of the fees and expenses of such representation, that appropriate groups of such employees be represented by the same counsel. If the employee or group of employees is entitled to representation by private counsel under the provisions of this section, the attorney general shall so certify to the comptroller. Reasonable attorneys' fees and litigation expenses shall be paid by the state to such private counsel from time to time during pendency of the civil action or proceeding subject to certification that the employee is entitled to representation under the terms and conditions of this section by the head of the department, commission, division, office or agency in which such employee is employed and upon the audit and warrant of the comptroller. Any dispute with respect to representation of multiple employees by a single counsel or the amount of litigation expenses or the reasonableness of attorneys' fees shall be resolved by the court upon motion or by way of a special proceeding. Where the employee delivers process and a request for a defense to the attorney general as required by subdivision four of this section, the attorney general shall take the necessary steps including the retention of private counsel under the terms and conditions provided in paragraph (b) of subdivision two of this section on behalf of the employee to avoid entry of a default judgment pending resolution of any question pertaining to the obligation to provide for a defense.

3. The state shall indemnify and save harmless its employees in the amount of any judgment obtained against such employees in any state or federal court, or in the amount of any settlement of claim, provided that the act or omission from which such judgment or settlement arose, occurred while the employee was acting within the scope or his/her public employment or duties; the duties to indemnify and save harmless prescribed by this subdivision shall not arise where the injury or damage resulted from intentional wrongdoing or recklessness on the part of the employee.

4. The duty to defend or indemnify and save harmless prescribed by this section shall be conditioned upon (i) delivery to the attorney general or an assistant attorney general at an office of the department of law in the state by the employee of the original or a copy of any summons, complaint, process, notice, demand or pleading within five days after he/she is served with such action or proceeding and in the defense of any action or proceeding against the state based upon the same act or omission, and in the prosecution of any appeal. Such delivery shall be deemed a request by the employee that the state provide for his/her defense pursuant to this section.

5. The benefits of this section shall insure only to employees as defined herein and shall not enlarge or diminish the rights of any other party nor shall any provision of this section be construed to affect, alter or repeal any provision of the workers' compensation law.

Special attention is called to the requirement that papers served on any officer or employee of the state must be forwarded to the Attorney General within five days in order to obtain the protection of the Act. Notice of such action must also be reported to the President of the college.

The question of what constitutes negligence in cases where students request the use of facilities outside of scheduled class hours has arisen from time to time. Based on information received from the State University legal counsel, the following guidelines have been established:

  1. Power tools and dangerous chemicals are not to be made available to those who it is known are unskilled in their use without instruction and/or close supervision. Power tools are to be in proper working order and have the requisite guards or safety devices at all times.
  2. The department should satisfy itself as to what facilities, equipment and materials can be considered dangerous or hazardous and be guided accordingly.
  3. Whether supervisory negligence is involved in any accident will always be determined on the facts of the individual case and the decision will rest upon what degree of care was reasonably required under all the particular circumstances. Therefore, close supervision by one skilled in the uses and potentialities of dangerous equipment and materials is the best way to prevent liability.

"Right to Know" law relative to hazards of toxic substances

The "Right to Know" "Law was passed with an understanding that workers in New York State and their families may be in danger because of exposure to toxic substances at the work site. Accordingly, the law maintains that workers have an inherent right to know all of the health hazards associated with exposure to toxic substances for two reasons:

  1. Employees have a right to make an informed decision about the possible cost of employment to health and life.
  2. Employees can observe symptoms of toxicity in themselves and understand the relationship between the symptoms and exposure, and can, therefore, evaluate the need for any corrective action.

Employers across the state are given specific responsibilities in order that workers may exercise this right. The Department of Health is given duties to assist communication between employers and workers concerning toxic substances, and it is given the power to gather information about occupational health hazards. The Department of Labor is given the responsibility of cooperating with the Department of Health in implementing the law and enforcing those provisions of the law under the Labor Department's jurisdiction.

The "Right to Know" Law defines a toxic substance as any substance which is listed in the latest printed edition of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances or has yielded evidence of acute or chronic health hazards in human, animal, or other biological testing. While this definition may seem unusually broad, the NIOSH Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances alone lists over 39,000 chemicals.

The law excludes from consideration all substances for which no toxicity information exists, but which may have a considerable toxic or other hazardous potential.

Any employee who believes that a safety or health violation or imminent danger exists may request an inspection by notifying the Industrial Commissioner. If the commissioner, upon such inspection, believes there is a violation of these regulations, the commissioner shall issue an order for compliance by the employer within a reasonable time. Violation of a labor law or any regulation or order of the Industrial Commissioner is a misdemeanor.

Orange colored posters stating the "Right to Know" law are posted in each building as a reminder. The posters contain the name of the local contact person for further information.