Student Organization Manual

 

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Chapter 8: Risk Management

 

Philosophy

We encourage student organizations to work with the Assistant Dean of Students staff, SOC staff, and organization advisors in order to plan safe and successful activities. Student Organization Center staff members are committed to working with student organizations to assist them in managing the risk that can occur in the course of student activities; including but not limited to risk of injury, financial risk, and risk violation of institutional rules and regulations.

 

Mandatory Risk Management Training for all Student Organizations and Advisors
Texas state law mandates that student organizations will receive risk management training that addresses specific subjects including sexual harassment, building and fire safety, alcohol education, hazing prevention, and other important information. Training sessions are conducted at multiple times so that the training is as convenient to students as possible. However, the training is mandatory and student organizations that do not participate will lose their registration status. For more information about the training go to www.utdallas.edu/sof.

 

 

Student Organization Travel

Student organizations travel for many purposes: retreats, conferences, competitions, and for fun. Traveling can help an organization accomplish its goals and can serve an extremely valuable purpose. However, it is important to remember that travel is a high-risk activity. With proper risk management, your organization can reduce the risk your organization faces as a result of travel.

Registered and Sponsored Student Organizations are required to comply with the university travel policy. Visit www.utdallas.edu/deanofstudents for the complete student travel policy.

 

Fire Prevention and Awareness

A fire can occur anywhere, causing a catastrophic event and irreparable loss of human lives. Because of the potential danger, student organization members need to understand and be knowledgeable of some basic precautions that need to be taken to reduce the risk of fire.

When we think about fire, we usually think about fire happening at our place of residence. Unfortunately, fire can occur anywhere, including venues that student organizations use to host events, such as off-campus clubs, apartments, or houses. When a place for a social function is selected, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Does the location have sprinklers?
  • What is the occupancy limit? Do not exceed this limit.
  • Are your decorations flammable? If so, get them fire-proofed or do not
    use them.
  • Are the smoke detectors blocked or covered? Ensure that smoke detectors are in good working order and are not covered in any way.
  • Do you know where to exit in the event of a fire? Remember the best way out may not be the way you entered.

The Law, Rules, and Information on Hazing

Under state law (Texas Education Code, section 51.936 and section 37.151 et seq.), individuals or organizations engaging in hazing could be subject to fines and charged with a criminal offense.

According to the law, a person can commit a hazing offense not only by engaging in a hazing activity, but also by soliciting, directing, encouraging, aiding or attempting to aid another in hazing; by intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly allowing hazing to occur; or by failing to report in writing to the dean of students firsthand knowledge that a hazing incident is planned or has occurred. The fact that a person consented to or acquiesced in a hazing activity is not a defense to prosecution for hazing under the law.

In an effort to encourage reporting of hazing incidents, the law grants immunity from civil or criminal liability to any person who reports a specific hazing event in good faith and without malice to the dean of students or other appropriate official of the institution and immunizes that person for participation in any judicial proceeding resulting from that report. Additionally, a doctor or other medical practitioner who treats a student who may have been subjected to hazing may make a good faith report of the hazing activities to police or other law enforcement officials and is immune from civil or other liability that might otherwise be imposed or incurred as a result of the report. The penalty for failure to report is a fine of up to $1,000, up to 180 days in jail, or both. Penalties for other hazing offenses vary according to the severity of the injury which results and include fines from $500 to $10,000 and/or confinement for up to two years.

The law does not affect or in any way restrict the right of the university to enforce its own rules against hazing.

The law defines hazing as any intentional, knowing, or reckless act, occurring on or off the campus of an educational institution, by one person alone or acting with others, directed against a student, that endangers the mental or physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of pledging, being initiated into, affiliating with, holding office in, or maintaining membership in any organization whose members are or include students at an educational institution. Hazing includes but is not limited to:

 

A. any type of physical brutality, such as whipping, beating, striking, branding, electronic shocking, placing of a harmful substance on the body, or similar activity;

B. any type of physical activity, such as sleep deprivation, exposure to the elements, confinement in a small space, calisthenics, or other activity that subjects the student to an unreasonable risk of harm or that adversely affects the mental or physical health or safety of the student;

C. any activity involving consumption of a food, liquid, alcoholic beverage, liquor, drug, or other substance which subjects the student to an unreasonable risk or harm or which adversely affects the mental or physical health of the student;

D. any activity that intimidates or threatens the student with ostracism, that subjects the student to extreme mental stress, shame, or humiliation, or that adversely affects the mental health or dignity of the student or discourages the student from entering or remaining registered in an educational institution, or that may reasonably be expected to cause a student to leave the organization or the institution rather than submit to acts described in this subsection;

E. any activity that induces, causes, or requires the student to perform a duty or task which involves a violation of the Penal Code.

 

The Rules and Regulations of the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System, Series 50101, Number 2, Section 2.8, provide that:

 

A. Hazing with or without the consent of a student is prohibited by the System, and a violation of that prohibition renders both the person inflicting the hazing and the person submitting to the hazing subject to discipline.
B. Initiations or activities by organizations may include no feature which is dangerous, harmful, or degrading to the student, and a violation of this prohibition renders both the organization and participating individuals subject to discipline.

 

Activities which under certain conditions constitute acts that are dangerous, harmful, or degrading include but are not limited to:

  • calisthenics, such as sit-ups, push-ups, or any other form of physical exercise;
  • total or partial nudity at any time;
  • the eating or ingestion of any unwanted substance;
  • the wearing or carrying of any obscene or physically burdensome article;
  • paddle swats, including the trading of swats;
  • pushing, shoving, tackling, or any other physical contact;
  • throwing oil, syrup, flour, or any harmful substance on a person;
  • rat court, kangaroo court, or other individual interrogation;
  • forced consumption of alcoholic beverages either by threats or peer pressure;
  • lineups intended to demean or intimidate;
  • transportation and abandonment (road trips, kidnaps, walks, rides, drops);
  • confining individuals in an area which is uncomfortable or dangerous (hot box effect, high temperature, too small);
  • any type of personal servitude which is demeaning or of personal benefit to the individual members;
  • wearing of embarrassing or uncomfortable clothing;
  • assigning pranks such as stealing, painting objects, harassing other organizations;
  • intentionally messing up the house or a room for clean up;
  • demeaning names;
  • yelling and screaming; and
  • requiring boxing matches or fights for entertainment.

 

Hazing “Myths and Facts”

Myth #1: Hazing is primarily a problem for fraternities and sororities.
Fact: Hazing is a societal problem. Hazing incidents have been frequently documented in the military, athletic teams, marching bands, religious cults, professional schools, and other types of clubs, and/or organizations.

Myth #2: Hazing is no more than foolish pranks that sometimes go awry.
Fact:
Hazing is an act of power and control over others—it is victimization. Hazing is pre-meditated and NOT accidental. Hazing is abusive, degrading and often life-threatening.

Myth #3: As long as there’s no malicious intent, a little hazing should be OK.
Fact:
Even if there’s no malicious “intent” safety may still be a factor in traditional hazing activities that are considered to be “all in good fun.” For example, serious accidents have occurred during scavenger hunts and kidnapping trips. Besides, what purpose do such activities serve in promoting the growth and development of group team members?

Myth #4: Hazing is an effective way to teach respect and develop discipline.
Fact: Respect must be earned, not imposed. Victims of hazing rarely report having respect for those who have hazed them. Just like other forms of victimization, hazing breeds mistrust, apathy, and alienation.

Myth #5: If someone agrees to participate in an activity, it can’t be considered hazing.
Fact: In states that have laws against hazing, consent of the victim can’t be used as a defense in a civil suit. This is because even if someone agrees to participate in a potentially hazardous action it may not be true consent when considering the peer pressure and desire to belong to the group. In Texas, the fact that a person conceited to or acquiesced in a hazing activity is not a defense to prosecution for hazing under the law.

Myth #6: It’s difficult to determine whether or not a certain activity is hazing—it’s such a gray area sometimes.
Fact: It’s not difficult to decide if an activity is hazing if you use common sense and ask yourself the following questions.

Make the following inquiries of each activity to determine whether or not it is hazing.

  • Is alcohol involved?
  • Will active/current members of the group refuse to participate with the new members and do exactly what they’re being asked to do?
  • Does the activity risk emotional or physical abuse?
  • Is there risk of injury or a question of safety?
  • Do you have any reservation describing the activity to family members, to a professor, or university official?
  • Would you object to the activity being photographed for the school newspaper or filmed by the local TV news crew?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” the activity is probably hazing.

Adapted from: StopHazing.org, Educating to Eliminate Hazing. Copyright StopHazing.org 1998–2005. www.stophazing.org

An organization violates a regents’ rule, university regulation, or administrative rule when one or more members of an organization fail to report to appropriate university or civil authorities promptly their knowledge or any reasonable information about a violation (Handbook of Operating Procedures, Chapter 46)

Activities which are dangerous, harmful, or degrading may also be considered hazing under state law (Subchapter B, Chapter 4, Title I, Texas Education Code).

For further information or clarification of new or probationary member activities, contact the Assistant Dean of Students, SU 2.4 (972-883-6196).

 

Alternatives to Hazing

Sometimes, organizations that haze new members are confused about how to change these practices. There are many creative ways to change from a hazing to a non-hazing organization. The following are some specific examples of ways to eliminate hazing and make membership a challenging but positive experience.

In many organizations, the very term “pledge” is often equated with hazing practices. Many national organizations have sought to eliminate this term in order to foster more positive attitudes toward the new members. Some substitute terms include “associate members” and “new members.”

When organizations are challenged to eliminate hazing practices, some members may be resistant to this change. In many cases, those who are most vocal against eliminating hazing are those who are bitter and angry about the hazing that they themselves endured and expect that others should be abused in order to gain “true” membership in the organization. You will also find that some of these individuals are likely to be bullies of the organization; people who enjoy a “power trip” at the expense of someone else.

Of course, if you try to eliminate hazing in your group, you will likely encounter many elaborate reasons for why this will be devastating for your organization. While there will be some staunch supporters of the status quo, there will be many who can be convinced of the negative effects and potential risks of hazing. Believers in the supposed “benefits” of hazing may be more likely to change their opinion if they can envision some alternatives.

Adapted from: StopHazing.org, Educating to Eliminate Hazing. Copyright StopHazing.org 1998–2005. www.stophazing.org

 

Educating to Eliminate Hazing
  • Foster Unity: Have the members of your organization work together on a community service project. Visit a ropes course to work on group cohesiveness, communication, and leadership skills. In organizations with houses, the group might work together on a room improvement project. Another option for fostering unity without hazing is for the members to work together to plan a social or athletic event with another organization.
  • Develop Problem Solving Abilities: Have new members discuss organization weaknesses such as poor recruitment, apathy, and poor scholarship, and plan solutions that the organization might then adopt.
  • Develop Leadership Skills: Encourage participation in campus activities outside of the organization. Encourage new members to get involved in organizational committees and/or leadership roles. Develop a peer mentor program within your organization for leadership roles. Invite university/community/business leaders into the organization to share their experiences.
  • Instill a Sense of Membership: Plan special events when the entire organization gets together to attend a movie, play, or religious service. Plan a “membership circle” where students participate in a candlelight service in which each person has an opportunity to express what membership means to them.
  • Promote Scholarship: Take advantage of your university academic and tutoring services. Designate study hours for members of your organization. Invite university or community experts to discuss test-taking skills, study methods, time management, etc.
  • Build Awareness of Organization’s History: Invite an older member to talk about the organization’s early days, its founding, special traditions, and prominent former members.
  • Knowledge of the Greek System (for Greek Organizations): Invite leaders of the Greek community and/or advisors to speak on Greek governance including their goals and expectations of the Greek system.
  • Aid Career Goals: Use university resources for seminars on resume writing, job interview skills, and for information on various careers.
  • Involve All Members in the Community: Get involved with campus and community service projects. Plan fund raisers for local charitable organizations.
  • Improve Relations with Other Organizations: Encourage new members to plan social or service projects with other organizations; work together to plan joint social or service activities.

 

Alcoholic Beverages

On-Campus
Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in university facilities, athletic facilities, or public areas of the campus. Exceptions to this policy require prior approval from the President’s Office.

Off-Campus
When hosting events off-campus, please remember that your student organization is accountable to applicable city, local, and state laws, including those pertaining to alcohol. For more information about the state law, go to www.tabc.state.tx.us. For ideas on how to effectively manage off-campus events with alcohol, including good risk management practices, please consult with staff in the SOC, the Greek Life advisors, or the Associate Dean of Students.

 

University Policy on Firearms and Facsimile Weapons

The University of Texas at Dallas prohibits the possession or use of firearms, facsimile weapons/bombs, armor-piercing ammunition and knives on university property, including academic, administrative, special use, recreational and housing facilities, as well as all grounds and parking lots. This policy applies to students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors.

 

Date and Slave Auctions

At UT Dallas, equality, openness, and sensitivity are strongly held values. The Student Organization Center encourages student organizations to consider these values when planning events and activities.

Sometimes organizations hold “Date” or “Slave” auction events as a way to raise money. Student Organization Center staff members understand that groups who hold these events, or have held them in the past, usually do so with good intentions. We would like to challenge student organizations to think more deeply about these events, the potential unintended effects of these events, and to consider holding alternative events that could accomplish the same objectives.

“Date” or “Slave” auctions involve the process of “bidding” on a human being for their services or the ability to spend time with a certain person. This process devalues a human being to the level of merchandise and involves a comparison of the relative “value” of each person being auctioned. This process has the appearance of actual slave auctions, which are a real and tragic part of this country’s history.

Furthermore, we would like organizations to consider the safety concerns that arise as a result of “Date” auctions. When a person “wins” the ability to spend time with another person, there is no way of discerning their true motives. Given the prevalence of sexual assault in our culture, safety concerns exist if you allow a member of your organization be compelled to spend time alone with someone that she/he may not know.

For all of these reasons, and because of the many imaginative and feasible alternatives to these activities, SOC staff feels that date and slave auctions should be avoided by student organizations at UT Dallas.

 

Crisis Response

While student organizations are advised to plan their activities and events in such a way as to avert crisis, it is important to proactively plan how to respond in the event one should occur. Intentional development of a crisis response plan prior to an event or activity will empower the organization to effectively respond. Educating members prior to a crisis is crucial. All organization members must know who is in charge and be prepared to follow the plan. The following information is intended to assist students in the development of a crisis response plan, but should not be considered a complete plan, rather a guide for designing a protocol that fits the organization’s needs.

As a student leader, it is important to understand that crisis can happen to you and your organization. If this happens, know that you are not alone. Outreach to the staff in the Office of the Dean of Students Office to assist you. It is important to be aware of your own feelings, perceptions, and issues so that you can monitor your ability to cope with the difficult situation.

 

General Crisis Response Plan

  • Develop a crisis response strategy for your organization prior to your event or program.
  • Create a step-by-step process for what to do in case of a crisis.
  • Designate organizational officers and crisis team who can take charge of a crisis situation.
  • Review your crisis response plan on a regular basis and update plan as needed.

If medical attention is needed, attend to those needs before doing anything else.

  • Contact 911 for off campus events and/or contact 972-883-2331 for emergency and non-emergency calls on-campus or get appropriate help.

Consult the medical release form (if available) for any special needs of victims.

Contact the appropriate authorities

  • Notify the UT Dallas Police Department at 972-883-2331.
  • Notify your advisor if she or he was not part of the activity.
  • Notify all organization members in a meeting.
  • Notify the Office of the Dean of Students (SSB 4.400 telephone 972-883-6391) in the event of a serious injury or death.

In the case of student death, do not contact family. This is best done by the appropriate authorities.

Statements about the incident

  • Following the accident, empathize with victims/families but avoid saying anything other than “We sympathize for those affected by this. The situation is under investigation and more information will be shared when it is available.”
  • When more information does become available to you, your organization spokesperson should decide what information will be released.
  • Consult with your university advisor and/or national representative to discuss what things you should discuss in a post-incident press conference or release.

Post-Incident

  • Cooperate fully with those evaluating the incident.
  • Gather as a group together as soon as possible. Lack of pertinent and accurate information can contribute to the critical nature of the situation. If necessary, Counseling Center staff are available to provide outreach support to individuals and the organization. The Office of the Dean of Students can help facilitate requests for counseling support.
  • Covering up or ignoring information is never the recommended manner for handling a post-incident situation.
  • Learn from the event.

 

Internet Security and Online Social Networking

While all of the technologies in which we rely make our lives easier, they can also lead to a lot of trouble if they are not used with some care. Consider the following questions:

What will a future employer find about you and your organization when they search the Internet? Will Facebook or MySpace have anything about you or your organization that you would not want a potential employer to see?

Does your organization have any sensitive information on paper or in computer files from previous members (for example: social security numbers on old tests)?

A lot of information is stored on, or accessed with our computers and other devices. It is very important that you treat your and your members’ personal information with extreme care. Also, if you are ever in a position which makes you aware of other people’s private information, you need to know that the law requires you to do everything you can to protect that information.

For more information and practical tips on security essentials please speak to a SOC staff member.

 

Updated: January 29, 2013