Risk Management

For the purposes of this section, an event may be defined as any activity, social, fundraiser, meeting, function, travel, or other program (speaker, concert, workshop, etc.) that an RSO may host.

With all of the activities that student organizations participate in, risk is inevitable. Some organizations, depending on their purpose and level of activity, inherently pose more risk than others. Risk management is not intended to take the fun out of the organization’s activities. Risk management does not mean preventing all risk; it is being proactive and determining what the risks are and trying to minimize them. It is important that all RSOs plan their events carefully and take appropriate precautions so that they can avoid situations that may jeopardize their standing as an organization, or worse, the health and well-being of a person or persons. See “Insurance” for information on liability and event insurance. In the event of an accident, RSOs should immediately report the incident to OSI (after obtaining emergency assistance, if needed). In most situations, OSI staff members can assist organizations via advice and support. Additionally, the Office of Student Conduct encourages groups to self-report incidents (by submitting an on-line incident report), so that the office is aware of a situation before other parties, including police, make them aware.

Risk Management entails brainstorming to determine the worse case scenarios that could happen at the event and (1) taking steps to minimize the risk before the event, and (2) creating action plans ahead of time, in the event one of the worse case scenarios happens. If the organization has a national/local affiliation, the group should discuss Risk Management issues and procedures with it.

Programs

If the organization is sponsoring a program (speaker, concert, etc.), Risk Management may minimally include:

  • Becoming familiar with the facility layout (including emergency exits)
  • Assigning specific members to watch for “problems” or risky behavior at the event
  • Completing a SAFE Form (if applicable)
  • Purchasing Insurance (if applicable)

Event Responsibility
Responsibility of an event may be defined by, but is not limited to, the following criteria. An organization could be responsible for an event if:

  • It was planned as an organization event.
  • The organization helped fund or advertise for the event.
  • The organization’s name is associated with the event on publications, flyers, shirts, etc.
  • A visible majority of the guests at the event are members of the organization.
  • It is any event that an observer would associate with the organization.

Additionally, the Golden Rule outlines some guidelines that may determine if misconduct is attributable to a student organization, rather than an individual member or members. For more information, see “General Principles of Group Responsibility” in the Office of Student Conduct section.

Socials
If the organization plans socials (with or without alcohol), Risk Management may minimally include:

  • Not announcing the socials at meetings or other event functions
  • Hiring security and/or an EMT
  • Utilizing third party vendors
  • Having taxi cab/ shuttle information handy
  • Sticking to the pre-set guest list
  • Assigning specific members to serve as party monitors (cannot drink alcohol)
  • Purchasing Insurance (if applicable)
  • Completing a SAFE Form (if applicable)
  • See “Event Planning” for additional information.

Travel
If the organization plans to travel (conferences, retreats, competitions, etc.), Risk Management may minimally include:

  • Assigning a trip leader, whose responsibility it is to coordinate travel plans (including a driver rotation, weather reports, etc.)
  • Having each member sign a release, medical history, and emergency contact form and giving a copy to the trip leader and advisor
  • Having each member sign a trip expectations form, that sets expectations related to travel (concerning alcohol, participation, financial, etc.)
  • Locating the nearest hospital from the destination
  • Wearing seat belts
  • Not utilizing 15 passenger vans
  • Communicating travel plans to the organization’s advisor

General Risk Management Tips:

  • Create a Risk Management officer position, someone whose main focus is to raise awareness and provide education on risk issues.
  • Coordinate training and education on risk management.
  • Develop policies and procedures to address risk issues within the organization, and create an operations manual.
  • Develop an action plan to respond to identified risk issues, and include this in the operations manual.

Liability
Liability means responsibility, usually in the form of financial responsibility, for a harm or injury. The question of upon whom liability rests is not a black-and-white issue. Questions of liability are largely determined by the specific facts of a case and depend on several fluid factors. One of those factors is risk – the greater the risk of injury or damage created by an event or activity, the more important is the question of who will share in the liability in the event that injury or damage occurs. Other factors in the liability analysis include risk management (i.e., safety measures taken, insurance, etc.), duty of care, participation by others, and negligence by others. These factors make understanding liability difficult for those who are not students of the law. When student organizations choose to have events with alcohol (whether they are planned or not), the question of liability becomes even more significant because the risks are greater. Sometimes people get hurt or facilities get damaged (regardless of the presence of alcohol), and certain parties may seek restitution for any damage done. Keep in mind that if a student organization and/or officer(s) knows of a risky event and has the power to stop it, liability weighs heavily.

Negligence
Negligence can be defined as “conduct falling below a prescribed standard for the protection of others.” In order to prove that an organization has been negligent, it would have to be shown that: (1) there exists a duty of reasonable care, (2) that the organization breached that duty or standard of care, and (3) the breach of care was the cause of the injury. In other words, if a reasonable person thought that the organization owed a duty to care for the injured person, that the organization breached that duty, and that the breach caused the person’s injuries, the organization could be considered negligent and the organization and/or individuals (including officers and members) may be held liable for the injury. For example, say a student attends an organization’s lecture program. As she is walking to her chair, she trips over an unsecured microphone cord, falls, and breaks her arm. A reasonable person would probably believe that the organization could have/should have secured the cord (by taping it to the ground), and that her arm breaking was caused by her tripping over the cord. In this simple example, a reasonable person would probably say that the organization is negligent, and liable for her injury.