State Liability Protection

State Liability Protection

The type of liability or risk facing advisors varies greatly depending on the type of organization being advised and the type of activities planned by that organization. Student organizations are considered to be affiliated with, but not official units of, the University. Therefore, the University does not usually cover the actions or activities of student organizations. This is especially true of organizations classified as social (see organization database for this information). Nonetheless, the registration process has been developed to give the University community an accurate listing of active student groups on campus. Registration does not mean the University supports or adheres to the views held or the positions taken by registered student organizations. Responsibility for any action which violates federal, state, local laws and ordinances or University policies must be assumed by the individual group’s officers and members.

If your advisor position is part of your job description, then working with a student organization would likely constitute acting within the scope of your duties. In this case, you would be protected by the University’s liability coverage, so long as your actions are not shown to constitute unreasonable personal negligence or illegal or other outrageous conduct.

In the case where your advisor role is purely voluntary and not directly connected to your employment with the University, then liability coverage is more confusing. Typically advising a student organization can be viewed as University service and is indirectly related to your employment. For state liability protection to exist, however, there must be direct relationship between the purpose of the organization and the University’s mission.

The University of Wisconsin System publishes guidelines regarding the extent to which the State Self- Funded Liability Program (SSLP) applies to the activities and functions of Student Organizations: Students, Student Organizations, and Liability Coverage. The SSLP Plan does not insure the liability of the student organization itself, but will defend and protect the faculty/staff member from liability arising from his/her position as advisor to the student organization. Key factors in determining the liability protection in a given situation are the campus mission, the level of benefit and control that exists between the organization and the University, and the agency status of individuals involved.

Additional Information