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Improving Contracting on Campus: A Layperson’s Guide to Understanding Contract Basics

Alyssa Keehan, Esq., CPCU, ARM
March 2021

Why Read This

United Educators (UE) recently studied more than 2,000 pending claims related to poor contracting practices, seeking to identify preventable claims.

Examples of the weak contracting practices seen include:

  • Relying on an oral agreement when a written contract would have memorialized and clarified each party’s rights and obligations
  • Behaving in a way that implied a contract when one didn’t exist
  • Using a written agreement that lacked detail or included ambiguous terms
  • Entering into an agreement that couldn’t be performed or was onerous to perform as written
  • Signing a vendor’s form contract that would put the institution at a disadvantage if a problem occurred

Avoid problems like these by helping staff understand contracts and by reviewing contracting practices to ensure sound processes exist.

Key Takeaways

  • Legally enforceable contracts require a promise to be given in exchange for consideration; contracts can be written, oral, or implied.
  • Many claims and unexpected liabilities are avoidable through clear campus contracting policies and procedures.
  • Institutions that take time to implement good contracting practices are likelier to be bound to written contracts that have been reviewed for favorable language and less likely to face contractual problems.

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