MANAGE YOUR ORGANIZATION
There is a lot of responsibility that comes with putting on events for your organization and for the campus community. Safety and well-being should be your primary concern. Make sure you read through all of the necessary information here before your event to make sure it goes smoothly and safely. If you have any questions about planning your next event, please don’t hesitate to call Student Activities – Student Organization Development and Administration office at (979) 458-4371.
TYPES OF RISKS
Did you know that “risk” involves more than just getting hurt? There are five types of risks that we ask you to consider before planning your event:
- Physical risks – Yes, physical risks include those things that can hurt you, but this also includes how things like food, alcohol, dangerous environmental conditions, etc. can cause harm or injury. So keep it safe, Ags!
- Reputational risks – Poor conduct doesn’t just make you look bad, it also makes your organization and Texas A&M look bad, so make sure you think before you act.
- Emotional risks – You know that feeling. Something just doesn’t feel right…or maybe it doesn’t feel good. That’s probably your gut telling you that there are emotional risks at play. Hazing, discrimination, harassment, and sensitive topics all create emotional risks, so be sure to do that gut check before things go too far.
- Financial risks – You guessed it. Money. Make sure you have it before you spend it, and if you do have it, spend it responsibly.
- Facilities risks – Not all facilities are created equally. Make sure the space you’ve chosen is safe (and appropriate) for your event…and don’t forget to leave it the way you found it.
Once you’ve sorted out the risky components of your event, you can document your plans using the Event Planning tool in MaroonLink.
LIABILITY / INSURANCE
Student organizations, student leaders, and advisors aren’t exempt from the courtroom. As an organization, it is understood that you will do everything in your power to prevent harm or injury from occurring to both your members and participants. If you don’t take the time to train on safety, provide proper supervision for activities, maintain equipment that is being used, or warn others of danger, you could be found responsible for negligence, so please remember to take your duties seriously. When it comes to your events, you can never be too careful.
There are many ways you can protect your organization from liability including the use of waiver forms and insurance. Waivers are just one part of a bigger risk management plan, and they don’t do any good unless you educate participants on what they are signing and why they are signing it. A waiver is meant to help others understand the risks associated with an activity, but you have a responsibility to make sure that these risks are communicated clearly and specifically.
Additionally, insurance policies are available for purchase if you want to provide some extra protection for your event. Insurance policies don’t reduce risks, but they will help cover any expenses related to claims that are made against the organization if someone (or something) were to get injured or damaged. Sometimes your organization will be required to show proof of insurance to a third party that you are working with, but don’t worry…for a small fee, we’ve got you “covered.”
FOOD AT EVENTS
It’s a pretty safe bet that students like food, especially the free kind. Food can make an event awesome, so by all means, serve it up. But remember, there are some requirements that Texas A&M has put in place to make sure you serve it correctly. For starters, you can serve food internally (to members of your organization) with no forms or permits. However, if people from outside the organization will be chowing down, then make sure to follow these steps:
- Submit a Food Distribution Form to the TAMU Office of Environmental Health & Safety if you will be preparing and serving meat products, dairy products, or fruits and veggies, and make sure you turn it in at least 7 business days prior to your event.
- If you’re using a caterer, submit the Food Distribution Using Caterers Form, and of course, make sure you use a caterer who has all of their health permits and food handling procedures in place.
- Submit a Concessions Permit to Student Activities if you will be selling food on campus.
- Be prepared to obtain a Temporary Food Service Permit from the Brazos County Health Department if Environmental Health & Safety determines that one is needed.
Food is fun, but will require some advanced planning on your part.
ALCOHOL AT EVENTS
Student organizations are allowed to have alcohol at events as long as certain procedures are followed. These procedures are determined by Student Rulesand state law, so read these carefully to make sure you’ve planned your event appropriately. If you are unsure about whether or not your social event qualifies as an “organizational event,” ask yourselves the following questions:
- What is the purpose of the event? Does it relate to my student organization?
- Who will attend the event, and why?
- What resources are being used for the event? Is our organization providing any funding, marketing, etc. for the event?
- How is the event being publicized or communicated, both to the general public/campus community and to my organization’s members?
- Would a reasonable person associate this event with my organization? Would the media associate the event with my organization?
If you have any reservations about these questions or have even a slight feeling that the event might qualify as an organizational event, it probably does. Err on the side of caution and plan for a safe event in compliance with the Events with Alcohol policies found here.
Nearly all of our student organizations travel at some point in their existence. Some do it all the time, others only occasionally. No matter how often you travel, the procedures are going to be the same IF you are traveling on behalf of your organization and you are going 25 miles or more away from campus. Don’t worry, Student Rules have you covered:
- 1. Complete and submit a Travel Information Form at least 48 hours before your group departs. You’ll need the names, UIN’s, and emergency contact information of all participants traveling with your organization. The university will use this information to assist in an emergency situation, so it’s really important that we have a correct and up-to-date list of your participants and your travel plans.
- For international travel, you will be required to complete additional steps which are outlined here.
- 2. Have each traveling participant sign a waiver form that says they understand and accept the risks associated with the travel activity. We recommend you use the standard waiver form but be sure to modify the form by adding information about your specific activities in the Indemnity Clause section.
Legal language can be hard to interpret which is why it’s important to let your advisor and the Student Activities staff review any contracts before you agree to them. Most speakers, performers, facility rentals, and catering services will probably ask you to put your agreement in writing, and voila, you have a contract. Remember that these are legally binding once you’ve signed the dotted line.
Regardless of the format, most contracts are going to have standard components that are meant to protect each of the parties involved. Here’s what you’ll usually find:
- A description of the parties in the contract, the date of the contract and of the event, and a general overview of the goods or service being contracted.
- A statement of the contract duration, clarifying how long the document will be valid.
- A specific description of each party’s obligations and responsibilities as a result of the contract.
- Any relevant operative provisions, such as applicable warranties or exclusions. Often, this section will appear as a disclaimer or other limiting language that may give one party advantage over the other.
- A list of enforcement provisions to cover any “what if” situations, such as a party failing to fulfill its obligations, dispute resolution plans, unforeseen circumstances affecting the terms of the contract, etc.
- A closing section that indicates the agreement of both parties to the terms of the contract.
- You may see an indemnification clause that says one party will be compensated for any damaged caused by another party. There may also be a hold harmless clause that says one party cannot sue the other party or hold it liable for losses.
PLEASE NOTE: It is not recommended that student organizations agree to indemnify or hold harmless another party. To do so would not be in your best interest. If the other party does not agree to remove this language from their contract, then include the following preface to the original language: “To the extent permitted by the laws and constitution of the State of Texas…”
One of the most important things to remember is that student organizations are NOT employees or designated representatives of the university, meaning, you can’t commit the university to a contractual agreement. Some third parties have a hard time understanding this, so we ask that you make it clear for them by including this statement somewhere in your contract: “(Name of Organization) is a recognized student organization at Texas A&M and cannot represent the university or contractually obligate the university to any agreement.”
Because of the legal obligations associated with contracts, the university requires organizations to have their contracts reviewed before committing to the terms of the agreement. Contracts can take up to 4-6 weeks for a proper review given all the eyes that look at it (trust us, it’s for your own protection), so get a copy to Student Activities as soon as you’ve ironed out all the details with your vendor. And remember, do not sign your contract before it has been reviewed and approved by Texas A&M.