The Indiana State Police have released a series of tips to help residents avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.  Carbon monoxide (CO2) is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas that does not cause irritation to the eyes or throat.  Often victims don’t realize they are inhaling toxic gas until they become ill.  More than 500 people die annually from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure:

  • Flu-like symptoms with no fever
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Irregular breathing
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Feeling better after leaving a particular structure but feeling ill upon return

Safety measures to prevent exposure:

  • Purchase a carbon monoxide detector for every level of your home.  Don’t ignore the alarm when it is activated.  Open the windows and leave the structure until the carbon monoxide has been located.
  • Have your traditional heating system inspected annually.
  • Never warm up a motor vehicle in a garage even if a door is open; have your vehicle checked for exhaust leaks.
  • Be sure all fuel burning sources like has and wood stoves, fire places and portable heaters are working properly and their flues or chimneys have been inspected.
  • Never burn charcoal indoors.
  • Never use a gas range or oven for home heating.
  • Never use gasoline or diesel powered electric generators in an enclosed area.
  • If the structure you are in is air tight and lacks ventilation, crack open a window for fresh air.

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Athletic sports embody everything about the competitive spirit while teaching players about team dynamics and the rules of fair play. But there is some degree of risk in playing the game – especially if the limits of strength, endurance and speed are pushed. “Athletes who push the limits sometimes don’t recognize their own limitations…,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This can lead to injuries and illness, including sprains and strains, heat illness, concussions and heart failure.

Educational institutions, both public and private, and parks and recreation departments that sponsor competitive sports programs should have a safety and health program that promotes sound practices to help athletes play it safe and stay healthy. Programs may vary depending on the age of participants and the level of competition. In all cases, they should be reviewed routinely to help ensure they are current and comply with applicable state laws and athletic association bylaws as appropriate. They also should review the best practices promoted by athletic associations, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Federation of State High School Association, state high school and middle school athletic associations and coaches associations, among others.  

Coaches, athletes, school officials and parents all play an important role in helping to ensure safe practices in competitive sports. When a player is not playing it safe or a health issue or injury is suspected, the player should be taken out of play. In instances of an injury or suspected injury or health issue, the player’s condition should be evaluated (including, as appropriate, an evaluation by a medical professional) and the player not returned to the game or sport program until medically released for play. Coaches and athletes should be trained in the signs and symptoms of health-related issues during conditioning, practice and play, including for heat illness, concussions and heart failure, among others, and take timely and appropriate responsive action to help mitigate the health impact.

Competitive sports – playing it safe programs and practices

Athletic programs should include sound risk control principles to help in injury prevention. Some program principles include, but are not limited to:

General risk management principles:

  • Hire qualified, certified coaches and athletic trainers
  • Establish and communicate a policy and procedure for reporting and addressing incidents of youth abuse and molestation. Educate all coaches, athletic trainers, athletes, other school officials and parents on your policy and procedure
  • Ensure all paperwork is signed and received before the start of the season, including: Annual consent and acknowledgment of risk of injury forms and waivers signed by athletes and/or parent, good sportsmanship/conduct forms signed by athletes, annual proof of individual, parental or institutional health insurance (covering sport injuries), an annual medical exam/evaluation and immunization record from a qualified medical professional, giving clearance to play a particular sport
  • Promote a drug-free environment

â—Ź Provide planned and supervised conditioning, practice, competition and travel
â—Ź Comply with applicable state laws and, for NCAA member institutions, all NCAA bylaws

Health, wellness and medical management:

  • Have medical resources/qualified medical professionals in place in the event of an emergency, including the capability of early defibrillation per your state law
  • Educate coaches and athletes on heat illness, sickle cell trait, heart disorders, staph infections (MRSA), sprain/strain and head injuries Put measures in place to mitigate the effects of extreme heat (rest breaks, fluids), and be prepared to respond to signs of heat illness. Provide conditioning and practice exercises within the capabilities of athletes for optimal readiness. Be aware of any medical restrictions for athletes regarding exercising and extreme heat. Teach athletes about the importance of good hygiene, especially regarding skin breaks, abrasions and skin infections, which could lead to staph infections/MRSA
  • Have a written catastrophic injury response plan
  • Have a written concussion management plan Consider the use of baseline testing for concussion management. Baseline testing provides a pre-injury capabilities score for memory, reaction times and cognitive processing and can help medical professionals make return-to-play decisions, post injury
  • Review OSHA’s blood-borne pathogens standard to determine its applicability to your program
  • Require a post-injury release form from a qualified medical professional before an injured athlete returns to play

Additional information for concussion mitigation and management

Concussions can be silent villains – the signs may not be readily detected. They can lead to brain damage, paralysis and, in some cases, death. To help coaches, athletes and parents identify and respond to concussions, a number of organizations offer information on concussion prevention and management, including the NCAA and the American Football Coaches Association. Additionally, the CDC, in partnership with leading organizations and experts, also provides Heads Up: Concussion in High School Sports. In addition to knowing the symptoms and what to do in the event of a concussion, “Heads Up” recommends a four-step Heads Up Action Plan before the season starts, as well as educating athletes and parents.

Facility and equipment:

  • Use safety standards when purchasing mandated personal protective equipment. Maintain and repair equipment at all times. Have a process for athletes to inform coaching staff when equipment becomes unsafe or illegal
  • Provide mandated protective equipment. Train athletes on and enforce use and proper fit
  • Routinely inspect your athletic area/facility, including the warm up area, and playing fields for maintenance, repair and good housekeeping
  • Be prepared for lightning. Education and prevention are key to avoiding risks associated with lightning strikes

An athletic program based on sound safety and health management principles can help schools and park and recreation departments play it safe!

The information provided in this document is provided by Travelers and is intended for use as a guideline and is not intended as, nor does it constitute, legal or professional advice. Travelers does not warrant that adherence to, or compliance with, any recommendations, best practices, checklists, or guidelines will result in a particular outcome. In no event will Travelers, or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, be liable in tort or in contract to anyone who has access to or uses this information for any purpose. Travelers does not warrant that the information in this document constitutes a complete and finite list of each and every item or procedure related to the topics or issues referenced herein. Furthermore, federal, state, provincial, municipal or local laws, regulations, standards or codes, as is applicable, may change from time to time and the user should always refer to the most current requirements. This material does not amend, or otherwise affect, the provisions or coverages of any insurance policy or bond issued by Travelers, nor is it a representation that coverage does or does not exist for any particular claim or loss under any such policy or bond. Coverage depends on the facts and circumstances involved in the claim or loss, all applicable policy or bond provisions, and any applicable law.

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What we have learned from the fall semester of 2020 that can help our clients as they potentially re-open in 2021:

  • Most campus outbreaks have been related to small and large gatherings without masking and without social distancing and have occurred in bars, in on and off campus residences, and in Greek housing.
  • Students with COVID-19 are frequently asymptomatic so universal masking, physical distancing and contact tracing with testing will help prevent transmission.
  • The virus is primarily transmitted via aerosols/droplets; therefore, property physical distancing in groups will help minimize the spread, along with universal mask requirements.
  • Ventilation is critical to reducing the transmission of the virus.
  • There is little evidence to show secondary transmission is occurring in student-to-student in instructional settings.
  • Though the issue with surface exposure has been shown to pose a lesser threat, high touch areas should still be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
  • It is essential to get the students involved in the public health practices and plans for the chapter house.
  • Students must be involved in planning, messaging and the development of safer social activities. Review our Planning Safer Events resource.
  • Herd immunity will only be achieved with widespread public acceptance of the vaccine.
  • Universities who provide frequent testing for COVID-19 asymptomatic or presymptomatic students enhance the health, safety, and well-being of the campus and broader community.
  • If a chapter house does allow for quarantined members, the room should have private bathroom facilities and be supplied with a thermometer, sanitizing wipes, tissue, soap, hand sanitizers and toiletries.

As in all things during the pandemic, it is critical that you be aware of what your national organizations and institutions are doing in terms of COVID-19 guidance and recommendations. The Greek system continues to be looked at for their leadership, and it is a great opportunity for the Greeks on every campus to show their support for the well-being of the fellow students, the campus and the broader community.

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We fairly regularly receive questions from members and alumnae regarding the use of individual’s personal homes for chapter events. From a risk management standpoint, we have a few different opinions based on the type of event being held. However, regardless of the type of event being held (whether it be a philanthropic fundraising event, an alumnae chapter meeting, or a recruitment event), the important thing to remember is that the homeowner would be responsible for any bodily injury or property damage that might occur from the actions or inactions of an attendee at the function. The homeowner, by hosting the event in their home, takes responsibility for any injury or damage that occurs during the event. Presumably, their homeowner’s policy would serve as the appropriate way to handle the incident.

We highly recommend that the event organizers advise the homeowner of this information prior to the event, so the proper expectations have been set beforehand. Obviously, this might convince some volunteers to rescind the use of their home, but this alternative is far better than having them upset when we decline a claim that developed out of their event in their home.

If the homeowner would not wish to be exposed in this liability but still would like to hold the event in their home, we encourage them to draft a contract between the homeowner and the chapter, in which the organization agrees to add this homeowner on as an additional insured and, therefore, receive coverage under the national liability policy. This type of arrangement must be approved by the Fraternity/Sorority Headquarters.

If a function is planned at an individual’s home that rises to the level of a significant event with many attendees, such as a fundraiser, we would highly recommend that there be a specific contract in place between the group and the owner of the home listing the terms and responsibilities of each party to the contract, such as provisions that clarify which party is responsible for any bodily injury or property damage that comes from the event. If you are contemplating this type of event, please contact us as early in the planning process as possible, so that we can address the necessary insurance verbiage and requirements upfront. If we deem that the exposure is outside of the normal level of risk, the insurance company may require some additional premium.
The other potential exposure that must be properly addressed is the matter of catering and the serving of alcohol at these events. In these cases, both the organization and the homeowner would need to take the appropriate measures to ensure that both the caterer and who ever serves the alcohol has their own insurance coverage in place to cover their actions.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Use CTRL+F to search for a specific term on this webpage.

Aggregate Limit: A limit in an insurance policy stipulating the most it will pay for all covered losses sustained during a specified period of time, usually one year. Aggregate limits are commonly included in liability policies and apply per chapter location.

Bodily Injury: Injury to the body, sickness or disease sustained by a person, including death resulting from any of these at any time.

Certificate of Liability Insurance: This is a certificate issued by the insurance company detailing the particulars of the insurance coverage in place for all chapters and regions under the general liability policy. This certificate may be used to document the existence of coverages for chapters and regions. This document is not sufficient when a third-party requests a certificate where they are named as an additional insured.

Certificate of Liability Insurance for an Additional Insured: This is a certificate issued by the insurance company detailing the particulars of the insurance coverage in place for all chapters and regions under the general liability policy. This document specifically identifies a third party as being expressly covered under the general liability policy for a specified period of time (i.e. an additional insured). This form of insurance certificate is often requested by facilities where chapters or regions are planning to hold events.

Claim: An incident where the injured party is making a demand for compensation under the terms of an insurance contract.

Director’s & Officer’s Liability Insurance: Offers directors and officers protection from personal liability and financial loss arising out of wrongful acts committed or allegedly committed in their capacity as officers and/or directors.

Exposure: The measure of your vulnerability to loss.

General Liability insurance: Coverage that pertains, for the most part, to claims arising out of the insured’s liability for injuries or damage caused by ownership of or responsibility for property, sale or distribution of products, and liability for the insured’s operations.

Incident: An occurrence involving bodily injury to a member or guest that does not result in a formal claim. All incidents must be reported when discovered due to possibility of them becoming a claim.

Intentional Act: Deliberately fraudulent acts or omissions, wanton, willful, reckless or intentional disregard of any law or laws. An accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general, harmful conditions.

Property Damage: Physical injury to tangible property, including all resulting loss of use of that property. All such loss of use shall be deemed to occur at the time of the physical injury that caused it; or Loss of use of tangible property that is not physically injured. All such loss of use shall be deemed to occur at the time of the “occurrence” that caused it.

Underwriting: The process of selecting risks for insurance and classifying them according to their degree of insurability, so that the appropriate rates and premiums may be assigned. The process also includes rejection of those risks that do not qualify.

Have we missed a term that you would like to see explained? Contact Sara Sterley with your suggestion. Thank you!

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Contracts are complicated

In the “good old days,” making arrangements for functions of the organization were far simpler; over time, it has become more complex. In addition, many third-parties are now requiring that a contract be signed before a venue or a service can be utilized, and we typically find that every contract is different.

The essence of any contract is the agreement that for certain compensation, certain services will be provided. For example, a facility is being rented (the service) and your organization is expected to pay a specific fee as set forth in the contract (the compensation).

If you have reviewed these contracts, you will agree that it is not simply setting these terms, but addressing the numerous other conditions also being required. It is in this review of the contract that you need to be aware of some of the common issues, as you consider obligating your organization under the contract.

One of the more subtle, but far reaching issues of the contract is the transfer of liability from one party to another. This can be done explicitly in the contract with wording, such as, “while in your use, you are responsible for any property damage to the rented facility” or the less explicit requirements referred to as indemnification (being put back whole) or hold harmless clauses. Ideally the contract would make a specific mention of this point under a titled section, but that is not always the case. Therefore, it is critical that the entire contract is thoroughly read to detect for any and all contractual obligations which you are being asked to comply.

We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of event contracts. Be concerned with any of the following verbiage in your contracts:

  • Hold harmless
  • Indemnification
  • Additional insured
  • Primary and non-contributory

Some examples

Here are some examples of the more common transfers of liability, though it bears mentioning that you cannot transfer all liability, but can certainly minimize your liability to claims:

  1. The hotel contract requires your organization to hold them harmless for any bodily injury of your attendees while on their property.
    • If you agree to this term and there is a bodily injury incident, then you have forfeited the opportunity to sue the venue for an unsafe physical condition in the property because you are holding them harmless.
    • Logically, the entity that has the greater “control” of the conditions of the physical property should be the one bearing the greatest liability, so holding them harmless is not preferable.
    • Your agreement may be for exposures that are not covered by your insurance policy, though a remote possibility, it could occur.
  1. The sorority chapter is hosting an event at the local park where you have contracted with a caterer to provide the food and alcohol for the event. The caterer is requiring evidence of your insurance coverage and wants to be added to your insurance policy as an Additional Insured.
    • The most alarming trend is the request for a non-insured to be added to your policy and given the full rights under the policy. In doing so, you forfeit the opportunity to sue this “Additional Insured” for their actions, which may have well been the only reason why a claim occurred. The classic example here would be the caterer not practicing good risk management and over-serving someone who becomes intoxicated and then assaults another attendee at the function. Your insurance policy would be obligated to defend this caterer and potentially pay for any judgment against them. We prefer to have each party to a contract rely on their own insurance coverage and then rely on the “courts” to determine where negligence lies and ultimately where the liability rests for paying for injury or damages.

If renting a facility, points to consider:

Do a walk-through of the facility and make reference in the contract of any visible property defect or damage that was present before your function was held. This eliminates the possibility of the venue alleging that you damaged their property while holding the event in their facility.

Review the contract carefully and look for indications of transferring the risk with the following verbiage:

  • Additional Insured
  • Hold Harmless
  • Indemnification

If you are unsure whether or not unfavorable language is in the contract, complete this form to have your contract reviewed.  After consulting with an attorney specializing in contract review, MJ has taken a little different approach when it comes to reviewing contracts containing indemnification and hold harmless clauses.  Over the years, we have found that most contracts contain these clauses and more times than not, we were unsuccessful in having the clauses removed.  Amending or rewriting a contract is more of a legal issue rather than an insurance issue; therefore, MJ is not in a position to provide legal advice on these clauses.  We will still be reviewing contracts for insurance requirements, i.e. Additional Insured and Primary Additional Insured; however, when the only items embedded are hold harmless and indemnification clauses we are advising that the contract meets the insurance review.  This is not saying that you shouldn’t be mindful of these conditions and take greater precaution than you normally would with your event because of these contractual requirements.

Additional Insureds are specifically designated parties that have the same benefits afforded by the insurance coverage that you have as a named insured. This means that you will have to share your policy limits with any Additional Insured to your location. There is no premium charge for this substantial coverage that they receive.

Additional Insureds increase the number of potential claims that could be made against your insurance policy. As they are covered by your policy once you sign a contract obligating your organization to list them as an Additional Insured, you lose the opportunity to sue them if they were negligent in their responsibilities under the signed agreement. Potentially, your policy would have to pay for a claim and the defense costs of a claim in which the Additional Insured was grossly negligent and in which you had little to no responsibility.

If renting a facility and alcohol is being served by either the facility or an outside caterer, here are some points to consider (in addition to the other facility example above):

  • Look for the publicly displayed liquor license for the venue or ask to see a copy of the license for the vendor serving the alcohol to ensure that it is in
  • Secure a Certificate of Insurance which includes the minimum limits on the next page plus the coverage for Liquor Liability, which is in addition to their
    General Liability coverage.

If hiring a contractor or contracting with a venue/service, points to consider:

Secure the services of only an insured contractor or company and ensure that they have the following recommended minimum limits of liability insurance by getting a copy of their Certificate of Insurance (where applicable):

  • General Liability $1,000,000 per occurrence
  • Liquor Liability $1,000,000 per occurrence
  • Automobile Liability $1,000,000 per occurrence
  • Workers’ Compensation $500,000 per accident

The main reason why we recommend that your contractors have their own insurance is so your organizations coverage would not have to respond to a claim that was caused solely by your contractor. The reason why we recommend the above minimum limits is that these are industry standards and should we need to file a claim against the subcontractor for damage or bodily injury they caused, we would want sufficient limits to access or what we refer to as subrogation against a third party.

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The Certificate of Insurance Request Form

  1. Always complete the Certificate of Insurance Request Form as COMPLETELY as possible.
    • Always specify your GREEK CHAPTER NAME. NOT Alpha Alpha Alpha* at ISU.  Is that AAA at Indiana State University? Iowa State University?  Illinois State University?
    • CORRECT: Beta Chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha Sorority*
  2. Always be ACCURATE when stating the name and address of the venue requesting the Certificate of Insurance. Remember:  A Certificate of Insurance is issued to provide proof that your organization is adequately insured. Therefore, you would not request that the Certificate of Insurance be issued to Alpha Alpha Alpha Sorority*, or to Susie Sorority, or Abigail Advisor, my Advisor.  This is the name and address of the VENUE or VENDOR that has asked that you provide proof of insurance.

Is there a contract?

A contract could be an Agreement, a Waiver of Liability, a Facility Use Agreement or Rules and Regulations. These documents often obligate the insured to legal ramifications, so if there are any insurance requirements in the contract that the chapter is required to agree to or sign, attach any supporting documents to the Certificate of Insurance Request Form.

Reviewing Contracts

  1. When you have a question on a contract or have a contract with insurance verbiage….please complete the Certificate of Insurance Request Form and upload the entire contract via the form on our website.
    • A snippet may not contain all the requirements needed in determining how favorable or unfavorable the contract is.  Contracts often have insurance languagethroughout the entire document, which can be easily missed and often contradict other things in contracts.
  2. Please avoid sending contracts without an explanation or supporting documents. Always complete the Certificate of Insurance Request Form with any contract to avoid big delays.

Requesting a Certificate from Someone Else

  1. When reviewing or requesting a Certificate of Insurance from a third-party vendor or a venue when they are providing the alcohol, always ensure that the limits are specified on the Certificate of Insurance. We recommend the following limits, but check with your organization’s policies. Recommended minimum limits (when applicable):
    • General Liability—$1,000,000
    • Liquor Liability—$1,000,000
    • Workers’ Compensation/Employee Liability—$100,000/$500,000/$100,000
    • Automobile Liability (for buses) —$1,000,000
  2. Feel free to cut and paste the following verbiage to request a Certificate of Insurance from a third-party.

As part of our event planning process we are required by our National Organization to obtain a Certificate of Insurance from venues/vendors we chose to use for our events. It is recommended that we use vendors/venues with a minimum of $1, 000,000 General Liability and $1,000,000 Liquor Liability.  The Liquor Liability and Liquor Liability limits must be shown on the Certificate of Insurance for venues/vendors where alcohol is being provided.  The purpose of this document is to simply provide the limits and proof that coverage is in place.  We are not asking to be covered under your insurance policy as we have an insurance policy that will cover any damages caused by our negligence.

*We are using this as a generic sorority name as an example. Substitute in your sorority’s name.

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Whether or not to quarantine sick members or employees at the chapter house is up to each individual chapter and house corporation to decide based on their organization’s guidance, their campus and local health department guidance, and the structure and layout of their individual facilities.

Many of our clients are feverishly preparing for their members to return to campus, both resident and non-resident. We can only imagine the stress and anxiety that you are facing as you navigate the opening of your chapter house. We appreciate you and your leadership as you face this challenge, you need to be confident in knowing that your organization has secured a comprehensive insurance policy to cover the entities and your exposure to liability. 

As we have urged, we are confident that you will implement the COVID-19 CDC guidelines, you will have trained your staff on the procedures, and you will have educated all your collegiate members on the safety guidelines. Having done so and doing your best to get compliance, your liability will be significantly reduced. The standard is “what a prudent and reasonable person would do.”

During these chaotic times, the comprehensive insurance coverage that your organization has purchased hopefully gives you the freedom to make the best business decisions for your chapter or house corporation.

Safety measures are being implemented for not only your collegiate members, but just as importantly, for your employees. We recently had a question that we wanted to address for reference. The question was what should be done if the house director becomes ill with the COVID-19 virus. 

Below are some points to consider:

  • If the house director has a private entrance and bath, it can be much easier to quarantine an individual in this space. If the chapter house is her only home, you can have her stay at the house. Safety measures must be considered during her quarantine time (see our Things to Consider Before Reopening resource for further guidance).
  • If there is no private entrance and bath, your options become more limited and must be carefully considered.
  • In quarantine, she will not be able to perform her usual duties, so a temporary employee will need to be hired that would not necessarily need to live in the chapter house who could assume these duties.
  • Should you hire an additional employee, we would ask that you contact us to discuss any insurance implications which are doubtful. Workers’ compensation laws are very strict, and we don’t want you being at odds with these conditions.
  • The insurance company does not require that the person who is doing the traditional house director functions live in the chapter house, so this gives you more options to consider.
  • We would encourage you to look to your university as they may have graduate students or past RAs that could be used for this temporary period.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact your Client Executive should you have additional questions or need further guidance.

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Campus dynamics dedicate how each chapter and house corporation adapts

As a house corporation volunteer, you are in the midst of reviewing the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the chapter operations and the possibility/probability of your college or university being opened this fall academic semester and what that would look like. We have come to understand that each and every campus will be deciding the best option for its students and that the sorority chapters will undoubtedly have to follow their lead.

Thus, we think that this is a good time to make a connection with the appropriate university personnel who can help you also navigate this matter more effectively. As a means of trying to establish a relationship/partnership with the university, we are suggesting some basic questions that you may want to consider asking to get a sense of where the university is currently thinking which may ultimately help you gauge your direction. As a private organization, you will have the choice to make the decisions that work best for your house corporation and the chapter but sharing information can also be of some assistance in this very challenging matter.

Whom to contact at the university will vary by university, but we have seen many universities designated a COVID-19 taskforce. We recommend asking to speak to someone on the taskforce, if applicable. If that is not possible, the office of the Dean of Residential Life would be a great resource to connect with now, as well. 

Consider determining the university’s position on the following:

  • When will the decision be made by the university of their plans for the fall 2020 semester?
  • Will you be encouraging your students to go home should they be tested positively for the COVID-19 virus?
  • Will you provide quarantine/isolation rooms for all university students? Or just university housed students?
  • Are you aware of any restrictions on a sorority to quarantine their members if they are in private fraternal housing?
  • Have your faculty been advised on how to accommodate the needs of a quarantine student, such as online learning during their time of isolation?
  • Will there be a specific cleaning service that the university is using that could also be used by the house corporations?
  • Can we acquire cleaning solvents and supplies from the universities’ venders?
  • Is there a chapter code of conduct in place currently from the university?
  • Is there a university housing agreement in place that addresses the expectations of housing, should you choose to not close your chapter even though the university may be pushing all education online?
  • Will the university be moving to house their students in single rooms from the typical two student room arrangements?
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With the situation changing so frequently, please be sure you are reviewing the most updated version of this document and, as always, check with your national organization before taking any of these recommendations.

Whether or not to quarantine sick members at the chapter house is up to each individual chapter and house corporation to decide based on their organization’s guidance, their campus and local health department guidance, and the structure and layout of their individual facilities.

We have created some questions to consider in making the decision whether or not to quarantine sick individuals at the chapter house:

Exterior considerations

  • Universities may have a quarantine area, but it may likely be only for university-housed students
  • Campus health centers generally do not have overnight housing capabilities
  • Transporting a known infected individual exposes more of the population to the virus should the student be forced to go home
  • Students living in off-campus housing will likely self-quarantine
  • Hospitals only have capacity for the most ill individuals, so a quarantine elsewhere will be required

Individual considerations

  • The personal risk for serious illness from COVID-19 among the primary age-group of our  student population is extremely low and those who do contract the illness are unlikely to need medical care
  • Our member residents likely will not want to leave the chapter house and/or campus

Sorority considerations

  • Does your housing agreement give you the permission to evict? Tenant laws are very liberal, so you may have trouble evicting a resident for non-compliance.
  • It is difficult to isolate a person in many of our chapter facilities because of the recommendation for private rooms, bathrooms, etc.
  • The delivery of food by employees poses an increased risk to our employees
  • Does potential exposure to the virus by our employees bring on more workers’ compensation and employment practices liability exposure?
  • How would volunteers coming on to your property feel about a known infected person on the property?
  • If members know that they cannot stay at the house to be quarantines, are they more likely to be dishonest about their health?
  • With no current immunity offered to businesses trying to re-open (though this is currently being proposed at the federal level), as you increase your duty of care, so too do you increase your potential liability.
  • With enhanced education of best practices and close adherence to it, the isolation can be a low risk. The importance of education of your members remains one of the most critical parts of re-opening a chapter house and maintaining its operation.
  • Creative solutions being explored will be necessary to be able to react quickly should a member become ill with the virus. Some examples we have heard mentioned:
    • All campus house corporations jointly renting a four-bedroom apartment to serve as a quarantine site
    • All members should be urged to have a “crash bag” that can be grabbed if they take ill or they have to move because a roommate becomes ill.

Legal liability exists when:

  • The wrongdoer (chapter house or corporation) is found guilty of “negligent conduct” meaning they breached a duty owed to the injured party
  • The injured party suffers actual damages such as getting ill with the virus
  • The wrongdoer’s negligent conduct is the proximate cause of the injury or damage

What actions during the COVID-19 crisis could possibly lead to the insured (chapter and/or house corporation) being found legally liable for an injury from the virus? Before we lay out some examples it is always important to remember that society and the courts generally only require that a person or entity act “as a reasonable and prudent person” and using their best, and most informed, judgement act accordingly. 

Examples might be:

  • Allowing an employee who is known to be infected with the virus to continue working
  • Forcing an employee to continue to work in a chapter house where there are resident members who are ill and isolated at the house
  • Failure to adhere to required health and prevention guidelines
  • No efforts to educate your employees and/or members on the health and prevention guidelines
  • Remaining open following an order by a civil authority to close
  • Indiscriminate application of rules and guidelines for the members of how to safely live in the chapter house to not expose your sisters to the virus

There are numerous other scenarios; however, the major point is that there will be advice from experts like the CDC on how to follow health and prevention guidelines to keep your chapter house safe from spreading COVID-19. The key is to follow the health and prevention guidelines, educate your employees and members on these guidelines, and put measures in place to ensure their compliance of these guidelines.  Should someone get injured or ill and allege they did so on your property, you will be able to confidently defend your position by having followed these best practices.

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At MJ Sorority, we created this resource packet to help our clients plan safer events during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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