1. Am I liable for the actions or activities of the organizations that I advise?
Probably not. When you are advising a student organization, you are acting on behalf of Northern Michigan University and are, therefore, under the protection of the University’s liability coverage. It is recognized that as an adviser you do not control the activities of a student organization.
A word of caution: Avoid situations where you as an individual are personally contributing to a potentially dangerous situation (i.e., providing alcohol for group members, arranging for an outdoor challenge experience that is not under the supervision of professional staff, etc.). By doing this, you are helping to remove yourself from liability exposure; you will also be role modeling appropriate behavior for the students that you are working with.
A final note: Even though it is recognized that organization members plan and implement their own activities, you as an adviser can play a very important role by helping them think through potentially dangerous situations. Activities such as trips, social activities, competitions, etc., will be better, safer events if you ask questions and offer advice as to safety factors and precautions that could be taken. You can help keep our students safe!
Please note: Specific questions concerning adviser liability can be directed to Julia Santa Maria, Assistant Director of the Center for Student Enrichment, at 906-227-1772 or Andrew Zerbel, Risk and Insurance Manager, at 906-227-2745.
2. How much of a time commitment is involved with advising a student organization?
The amount of time involved varies greatly from organization to organization, depending upon the nature of the group, how active it is, and what their expectations for an adviser are. The time commitment is an issue that should be discussed with organization members so as to avoid any misunderstandings.
3. What are the rewards for advising a student organization?
It is really special to know college students outside of the classroom or an office setting. Advising is a great way to get to know students as individuals – what they think, what is important to them and how they view the university and the world around them. It is very rewarding to assist students in accomplishing something that is important to them.