Risk management necesary

Membership in a greek organization requires a level of responsibility unknown to most greeks. Nowhere is this more evident than supervising the reasonable use of alcohol. Despite the tireless attempts by national organizations and universities to educate greeks, chapters across the country continue to fall victim to the consequences of not properly supervising the consumption of alcohol.

The current legal trend is to impose liability for damages on a social host. Therefore, a fraternity that furnishes alcohol to its guests exposes itself to a level of risk that only can be reduced by proper supervision. Case law demonstrates that a fraternity, much like a bar tavern, can be held liable for any injuries an individual sustains that can be linked in any way to the negligent behavior of the social host and can also be held liable for any property damage or injuries caused by the intoxicated guest. Therefore, a fraternity may be held directly responsible for the actions of any guests to whom they serve alcoholic beverages. This responsibility does not end when the guest vacates the premises.

Despite the perceived unfairness of the laws governing social responsibility, chapters must not only accept responsibility for their actions, but also take steps to effectively manage their exposure to risk. Although chapter members tend to see risk management guidelines, such as those prescribed by F.I.P.G., as nothing more than limits to their social livelihood, it is imperative that chapter leaders educate their members and guests as well to decrease the chapter’s exposure to potential lawsuits.

Risk management has become of the utmost importance as the judgment against fraternities have surpassed the million dollar mark. Currently, fraternities and sororities are ranked by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners as the sixth worst risk for insurance companies – just behind hazardous waste disposal companies and asbestos contractors. Society has become intolerant of the irresponsible behavior exhibited by college students which has, on numerous occasions, resulted in the loss of life. Therefore, it is imperative that chapters protect themselves by adhering to the guidelines that can manage the inherent window of liability. Often, this requires that chapters dispel timeless traditions and incorporate seemingly harsh rules and regulations. Of course, doing so is no small feat and the resistance may seem insurmountable. However, chapter leaders should approach the task in the same fashion that a chef would attempt to cook an elephant in a frying pan – one slice at a time.

While eliminating risk is simply not possible, reducing risk is completely necessary. This does not require the abolishment of social functions or the elimination of “fun,” but it does necessitate a responsible outlook and the implement risk management guidelines only benefit themselves and their members. Conversely, those who do not exercise reasonable care may be compromising their existence.

Concerned greeks are invited to attend Greek Lecture Series on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m. in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium. The featured speaker will be Robert Manley, Burke & Fisher, and he will speak on the philosophy of F.I.P.G. (Risk Management Guidelines). Manley, Burke & Fisher is a professional legal association that publishes the periodical ‘Fraternal Law,’ which provides information on the legal aspects of operating a greek organization.