This policy provides guidance to students and student organizations regarding the limits of liability and risk coverage available through the State Self-Funded Liability Program. Students and student organizations should be aware that, with certain exceptions explained herein, most student organization activities are not covered by the University’s liability programs. Student organizations should be aware of the limits of the coverage and, at times, may need to purchase separate insurance.
While this policy provides guidance, the final decision as to whether liability coverage exists for any group or an individual rests with the Wisconsin Attorney General, and all coverage decisions are dependent upon the facts of the situation in which the damage or loss occurred.
The State of Wisconsin and its arms and agencies, including the University of Wisconsin System, covers the cost of damages and provides legal representation for defendants who are proceeded against in an official capacity for actions while performing their duties as an officer or employee in the scope of employment or for acts committed by authorized agents in the scope of their agency. See Wis. Stat. § 895.46.
Except as otherwise indicated below, students are neither employees nor agents of the University. Because most student organizations operate outside of the control of the university most of the time, student participants in student organizations are usually not protected by the State Self-Funded Liability Program.
III. Exceptions to the presumption against liability coverage for students
A. Student Government
Students participating in governance and/or policy development for the University are likely to be covered by the State Self-Funded Liability Program while acting in their official capacities as student government leaders or while acting in the scope of their duties for the University as participants in governance. Students have been vested with governance responsibilities by state statute, see Wis. Stat. § 36.09(5).
B. Student employees
Students employed by the University, even where such employment is considered to be incidental to student status (such as teaching and research assistants), are covered by the State Self-Funded Liability Program for their actions committed while performing their duties as an employee and within the scope of their employment.
C. Internships and similar programs
Coverage depends upon the nature of the internship program, but is generally extended where the student is either receiving degree credit or the internship is a degree requirement. Students should direct questions to program advisors.
D. Volunteers or joint-sponsored events.
Students volunteering for University events or student organizations holding events that are jointly sponsored by the University are likely to be considered agents of the University and thus covered by the State Self-Funded Liability Program for acts committed in the scope of that agency.
E. Use of University vehicles.
The State of Wisconsin permits authorized University of Wisconsin System students to drive state vehicles. See Wisconsin Fleet Driver and Management Policies and Procedures Manual (2004), § 1.1. Students who have signed a Vehicle Use Agreement and who are authorized by the University to drive University fleet vehicles for qualified purposes are covered by the State Self-Funded Liability Program when the vehicle is being operated for the intended purpose
IV. Faculty and staff advisors
Faculty and staff advisors to students and student organizations are covered by the State Self-Funded Liability Program for acts performed in the scope of employment. Where a faculty or staff member has been duly appointed as an advisor, most activities involved in carrying out advising duties would be within the scope of employment.
Students with specific questions about liability coverage should contact the faculty or staff advisor assigned to the organization or program in question or, if no such person is available, the campus risk manager.
Revised: May, 2014.