Liability and Risk Management

Organization advisors play an integral role in the risk management process. When making decisions about risk, you must consider the exposure of the group, the university, and yourself to legal liability. First and foremost, you should have consideration should be safety. When a group is planning an activity, you should help them think through any and all possible safety concerns. Some situations may be more obvious than others. The advisor’s job is to challenge the group to think of all possibilities, assess the likelihood of something happening, and think of ways to minimize the risk. In most cases, when appropriate steps are taken to mediate potential risks, those steps are adequate protection for legal liability for your group and yourself.

Personal liability may be of concern for you as advisor to a student organization. It is important to know that when advising, you are serving in an official role of the university and are therefore covered by the university’s insurance policies. Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee that you would not be personally named in a lawsuit should some unfortunate event occur within a group you are advising or as a result of their activities. To protect yourself and your organization, it is important that you not ignore any foreseeable risk, and that you advise the organization to follow all policies and procedures of the Office of Student Engagement and Missouri State University, as well as the State of Missouri and all Federal laws.

In general, advisors are covered when they follow policies and procedures, and are diligent in exploring and advising prudently to avoid or minimize risk. However, no one, regardless of status, can be released from liability due to negligence. Failure to act or to alert the Office of Student Engagement or the Division of Student Affairs when you have a concern puts you at risk. Remember, always err on the side of caution.

Below are some questions related to risk and legal liability you should consider when helping an organization plan an activity or event. If you have any concerns about a potential risk associated with a group’s activities, consultation with the Office of Student Engagement is always advised. Additionally, we have provided you with an Event Planning Matrix and worksheet, to help guide yourself and your organization through the risk management process. A copy of the worksheet can be found in the Appendices of this handbook.

Risk Management Considerations

• What are all foreseeable possibilities for injury or harm?

• If one of these possibilities occurs, how severe would be the consequences?

o Possibility of death? Possibility of severe injury? Possibility of minor injury?

• How likely is each of the possibilities?

• How do level of severity and likelihood of occurrence intersect?

o High potential severity and high likelihood of occurrence: Event should not take place unless there are mediating steps that can decrease severity and/or likelihood significantly.

o Low severity and high probability of occurrence: Event should be assessed for risk, but may not require the cancellation or major modification of an event.

• What steps can be taken to minimize the chances of injury or harm?

• What preparatory steps can be taken in case a foreseen risk occurs despite mediating efforts?

• Is the event legal, allowable by university policy and guidelines, and ethical?