MOUs with Community Partners

MOUs and other Risk Management Topics

Note: These guidelines are intended to provide general direction for faculty members engaging in service-learning. However, as every situation is different, you should also consult directly with your school/college, UGA Legal Affairs, your community partner, and other relevant entities to make sure that you appropriately determine the details for your particular program.

Any time that part of the responsibility for students’ educational experiences is being shared with a community partner (e.g., a tutoring program, a non-profit organization, a local business, etc.), a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) should be put in place. MOUs can be for a single student placement for a single semester, or for many students across multiple years. MOUs spell out the university and the community partner’s obligations, rights, and expectations, and are also very important in clarifying issues relating to liability, background checks, and other risk-management aspects. Especially if the supervising faculty member is not physically directly supervising the student activities, it is vital for an MOU to be in place. Even when services are being provided remotely (such as tutoring on Zoom), MOUs are likely still appropriate.

Typically, for "indirect" or project-based service activities (e.g., creating a website, doing market research, delivering a site plan), where students aren't "on site" and under community partner supervision, MOUs are not needed. However, there should still be a written agreement in place describing relevant details, such as planned deliverables, timing, etc. (Note also the Intellectual Property details below.)

MOUs are drafted and approved by UGA’s Office of Legal Affairs, and are routed through that office for signatures. Individual faculty members, as well as departments or schools/colleges, can be the on-campus liaison, and typically deans/directors have authority to sign off on them for UGA. Legal Affairs can provide a standard version of the MOU for the community partner agency to review and sign; there is also a more in-depth version of the MOU for situations pertaining to health care/HIPAA.

If there is no community partner agency—for instance, the student is working on a service activity with an individual rather than through an organization—the faculty member is fully responsible for supervision of the service-learning activity and there is no MOU.

The Office of Service-Learning presently maintains annual MOUs with both the Athens Community Council on Aging and with Oasis Catolico Santa Rafaela, covering the various service-learning courses that are engaged with these two long-standing partners.

For questions about service-learning MOUs, please contact Natalie Cox at the UGA Legal Affairs office.

Intellectual Property

Generally, students retain ownership in any intellectual property they create, unless the students have assigned ownership to the partner organization. Depending on what student work is being produced, faculty should discuss this with the community partner and it would be up to the site to present an agreement for the student to sign or refuse. If an agreement is entered into between the student and the site, it can for full, partial, shared ownership, etc. If community partner organizations expect transfer of ownership, the students need to be told this at the time of signing up for the class so they can pursue other interests if they don’t wish to assign their rights.

General Information about Background Checks

Expectations surrounding background checks should be clarified with the community partner. When students work in a community placement, the community organization may require background checks; in some cases, students must pay for these. Results of background checks go to the agency only, and the agency must decide if there is a concern about a student placement based on the results. Neither the university nor faculty members should see, review, or discuss the results of background checks. 

Not all community partners require background checks. UGA does not require or provide background checks, though some schools/colleges/departments may require students to undergo them; however, those results should still only go to the organization where the student might be placed.

Adverse Events

If something adverse (e.g., legal, medical or ethical problem) happens involving a student or university employee while at a service-learning site, the supervising faculty member should contact UGA Legal Affairs for guidance.

Mandatory Reporting of Suspected Abuse

Effective July 2012, all personnel (including volunteers) at organizations in Georgia that provide services to children must report suspected physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, or sexual exploitation. Reporting is required within 24 hours and should go to DFaCS, the police, and/or the supervisor at the agency; for students taking part in service-learning, UGA Legal Affairs should likely also be notified. Also, any programs that involve work with minors should review and be in compliance with UGA's policies regarding Programs and Activities Serving Minors.