When you accept the position of advisor to a student organization at UW-Milwaukee you also accept some additional responsibility. When advising a student group, as an employee of the University you are expected to behave sensibly and conscientiously. Advisors should be active and informed when working with and advising student organizations. You should take responsibility for questioning activities and decisions of a student organization and voice disagreement when you see a problem. Generally, you are expected to act as a “reasonably prudent person” in your actions and involvement with the student group.
The risk of lawsuits for a student organization advisor is usually low, but you are not immune from being sued. The applicable general standard in this situation is that you must behave like a “reasonable person,” that is, behave the way a reasonable person would in a similar situation.
In order to reduce risk, advisors need to be aware of the actions of the organization, even if they are not in attendance at all meetings or events. It is important to be aware of University policies and regulations as they affect student organizations. If a questionable situation/activity arises, as an advisor you should:
Tell an organization that what it is doing, or planning to do, is wrong, inappropriate, and/or illegal.
Offer alternative suggestions to activities that may be less risky.
Warn participants in activities of the risks involved.
(See Hold Harmless Agreements & Liability Waivers below).
Provide for proper instruction, preparation or training for participants in an activity.
Act only within the scope of your authority. (Do not sign contracts, give approval for activities, or speak on the behalf of the University unless you have been given explicit authority to do so.)
As an Organization Advisor, there are a couple of procedural questions you should answer with the organization officers before the group begins planning an event.
What is the purpose of the organization and does the activity fit that purpose?
What attempts have been made to reduce the risks associated with the activity?
What regulations apply to the activity and does the activity comply with these regulations?
It is the responsibility of the advisor to be aware of the decisions that are made in order to respond to questions, to ensure that financial and legal issues are properly addressed, and to better understand the climate and attitude of the organization and its members.