What's In a Name?

For purposes relevant to the University, Ferris State University's Board of Trustees policies define a contract as an "oral or written agreement . . . between the University and another entity for the acquisition or purchase or barter of property or services for the direct benefit or use of either of the entities."

As suggested previously, there are numerous synonyms for "contract," and University and Board of Trustees policies and procedures regarding contracts apply to these agreements no matter what they may be titled. Some typical titles for University contracts include the following (this is not an all inclusive list):

  • Agreement
  • Affiliation Agreement
  • Appointment Letter
  • Articulation Agreement
  • Commitment Letter
  • Construction Contract
  • Employment Letter
  • Grant
  • Insurance Policy
  • Lease
  • Letter of Intent
  • Letter of Understanding
  • License
  • Memorandum of Intent
  • Memorandum of Understanding
  • Option
  • Purchase Agreement

Key to any of these is that if the document contains a bargain to do or not to do something then it is a contract. Only if it is clear from the terms and conditions within a document that the parties do not intend to be bound (i.e. nonbinding letter of intent) will the document be treated as other than a contract. On campus, we have observed particular confusion in this regard. Some drafters mistakenly believe that a memorandum of understanding is "less binding" than a contract covering the same terms and conditions. Not so. If there is intent to be bound to a particular deal, it is a contract regardless of the title placed on it.