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ERIC Number: EJ794138
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Apr-11
Pages: 1
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 0
ISSN: ISSN-0009-5982
Voluntary Complications
Tribbensee, Nancy
Chronicle of Higher Education, v54 n31 pA38 Apr 2008
In a student production of "Dracula" at Texas A&M University some years ago, the final scene was exceptionally dramatic. One actor stabbed another, who was playing the vampire, in the chest with a real knife. A volunteer director from the community, who was assisting the drama club, had decided that the scene required the actual weapon, not the fake blade normally used as a prop. Eleven years of litigation ensued after the seriously injured student sued Texas A&M for damages. The Texas Supreme Court ultimately dismissed the suit, saying that "the play's director was an independent contractor for whose acts or omissions the university is not liable." But the case demonstrates that colleges can never be too careful when dealing with people who aren't employees. Vehicle accidents by volunteer drivers, for example, have resulted in costly claims against colleges. Many claims arise each year from injuries to volunteers themselves--often involving the inexperience of the volunteers or inadequate supervision or training. The most serious claims often involve volunteers who behave inappropriately toward children on campuses, such as when working in a day-care center or participating in a special recruiting program for high-school students. Potential liability issues for colleges include claims of negligence (including negligent hiring and supervision), intentional harm, and sexual harassment. Claims may be for injuries that the volunteer suffers as well as causes. Especially in these times of tight budgets, higher education relies heavily on the generosity of volunteers to provide valuable educational and cultural experiences for students. Those volunteers may be members of the community, students, employees, and occasionally employees' spouses. As the unfortunate stabbing incident at Texas A&M illustrates, the actions and decisions of volunteers require at least the same level of supervision as those of paid employees.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A