Managing Risks Involved in College Greek Life

Hazing, underage drinking, sexual assaults, destruction of property…these are just a few of the litany of issues that are often associated (rightly or wrongly) with college Greek societies.  Exercising control over your school’s Greek life is not the only prudent action you can take to combat these issues, ensure the safety of your students, and protect the integrity of your institution. Fundamental controls include clearly defining acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, detailing the process for investigating allegations of improper conduct, defining penalties with follow through, and offering training for students, faculty and staff. Beyond this, institutions must first understand that failure to properly educate and curb improper behavior can lead to liability for the negligent actions by these groups.

With membership growing in Greek organizations across the country, as well as increased development of additional clubs and student activity groups of various types, failure to exercise control could be problematic. Some considerations to evaluate:

1.    It all starts with a contract - use that contract to clearly define the organization’s obligations and responsibilities to the institution. 

  • Ensure consistency and clarity between all contracts that exist with a single Greek organization; lease, registration or member agreement.
  • Clearly state indemnification and/or allocation of risk terms that are compliant with local statute (consult with your attorney on this).
  • Define reporting procedures in the event of accidents, fires, damage and even maintenance issues; what may have initially appeared as a minor event could escalate and potentially be something the institution is required to report to its insurance carrier.
  • Mandate complete compliance with institution conduct and policy, and also local regulations and laws. This is imperative as insurance policy terms and conditions can exclude illegal activities.

2.    Require all fraternities and sororities to maintain their own commercial general liability policy, with limits that reflect their actual activities and liability profile. Keep the documentation on file, even after the term has expired.

3.    Your institution MUST be named as an ADDITIONAL INSURED via endorsement to that policy.  Although you may be named in a claim or suit, this status permits the institution to be covered under the organization’s policy for covered claims up to the limits of the policy (that is why limits must be set based on actual risk profile - see above).

Keep in mind that risk is not 100% transferable.  Often, adverse public relations results if your institution does not also take reasonable steps to monitor and hold student organizations accountable based on defined acceptable and unacceptable actions and activities. There is no question that Greek chapters and activities can benefit campus experience for all students (not just the member students) and the surrounding community when those activities complement the institution's educational mission and purpose.

Read more: Claims Journal article regarding fraternity in the spotlight after student deaths

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