Liability in the UR Students’ Association has been called into question following a recent accident involving the UR Raas Team.
The team was involved in a car accident on the way to a competition in North Carolina. Although the team has declined to comment with any further details about the accident, according to the SA Government senate minutes from Nov. 7, the team “spent a large sum of money to pay for transportation home.”
There is presently no formal protocol in place for how to respond to emergency situations that may arise while groups are traveling.
“[Prior to this accident], we didn’t give any money proactively in case of emergency,” Dean of Students Matthew Burns said.
Currently, when emergency situations arise, they are handled on a case by case basis.
“We can authorize immediate expenditures … for something to make up for damages,” SA President and senior Bradley Halpern said. “I would want to be clear that’s not a guarantee; we make decisions as they come up. There’s no formal [insurance] policy.”
This accident has caused the SA and the administration to examine liability and ways to handle future emergency situations.
“Student government is responsible for any groups that we approve,” Halpern noted. “Any SA-sponsored group should feel supported by SA Government, and that includes if there is any sort of catastrophe. As such, the SA is discussing means for proactive emergency response.”
He continued to explain that one of the most important parts of the current policy is to give groups contact information before they leave campus so that they have the ability to contact someone who can assist them in the event of an emergency. There is, for example, a dean on duty at all times who students can contact if any problems occur.
Additionally, some steps have already been taken to help eliminate liability risks prior to departure.
“We have strengthened our off-campus trip waiver by reviewing the policies at Eastman School of Music and the waivers used by Club Sports,” Assistant Director of Wilson Commons Student Activities Lydia Crews said. “Our waiver now requires an advisor signature and includes a written directive regarding who to contact in case of an emergency.”
However, according to Burns, other issues surrounding organizations traveling off campus must be addressed before the liability problems can be solved.
“The broader issue is that there are more and more groups competing in events, and there’s an increasing need for travel,” he said. “That brings with it a host of problems … transportation is itself an issue.”
Burns believes that the SA and administration must first determine how to get groups to competitions and other events safely and cost effectively. It is likely that they will begin following the model set by athletic teams when they travel.
“The answers to the questions about what to do with the liability come after we answer the questions about transportation: who gets to go, how they will go, [etc.],” Burns said.
The administration currently calls largely upon the SA to make these decisions. There is no specific time frame for when any choices regarding transportation will be made.
In contrast to the views of the administration, the SA would like to see at least the initial liability procedures instated by next semester.
“We already do training for other things at the beginning of the semester, so it would be convenient to do this at the same time,” Halpern said.
Hansler is a member of the class of 2015.