The University Record, January 18, 1999
By Jane R. Elgass
The faculty is, of course, central to the University. Im here to help you and am happy to hear about your concerns and questions, Marvin Krislov told Senate Assembly members at their Jan. 11 meeting.
Krislov, who joined the University as vice president and general counsel Nov. 2, noted that he is the son of an academic who headed the faculty senate at the University of Kentucky, so I have some sense of issues that are important to the faculty.
Krislov emphasized during his remarks that the primary role of the Office of the General Counsel is to serve its clientsfaculty, staff and students. He said that his office favors being brought into early discussions of potential problems, and that his preferred approach to potential problems is to suggest alternatives, rather than say no.
He and his staff will be devoting time this winter to identifying areas where we need to be proactive, resulting in less time spent clearing up problems. A Web site that will serve as a forum to provide guidance and advice regarding interpretation of the law is in the planning stages.
I respect the role of the faculty, Krislov stated. There can be conflict, but we can work cooperatively. The General Counsels office can mediate, help people reach a compromise.
In response to questions following his address Krislov indicated that he is reviewing the types of work handled in-house and by outside counsel, with an eye to getting the best possible service for the University. He said the current mix is not likely to change significantly, but will be tweaked in a few areas. He explained that the office probably will be adding new resources in the intellectual property area. When work is done inside, he explained, we can advise on the front end before a problem develops.
He also commented on situations in which two U-M clients might be adversaries, and conflict of interest issues.
With a three-part client basefaculty, staff, studentsit is inevitable that parties on opposite sides of an issue might request assistance from the Office of the General Counsel.
We will represent anyone acting in an official capacity for the University in good faith, Krislov said. In instances in which two U-M individuals have adverse interests, we may try compromise, we may assign separate attorneys, we may recommend that one or both parties seek their own counsel.
Its a difficult question and one that we spend a great deal of time thinking about in the office. Decisions are really made on a case-by-case basis.
When asked if his office adjudicates matters, Krislov said, we get involved, but we might not take the formal role of adjudicator. My obligation is to advise the ultimate decision-maker regarding the legal interests of the University in the long term.
Noting that faculty have sometimes had bad experiences in seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), one Assembly member commented that a Web site that contains information on what reasonably can be expected from the FOIA office* would be helpful. Also helpful, the faculty member noted, would be information on what faculty can expect from Krislovs office.
*The FOIA Office is headed by Lewis Morrissey and is not part of the Office of the General Counsel. Krislovs office provides counsel to the FOIA Office.