When hope and optimism aren’t enough.

Nothing says taking responsibility like asking for a get out of jail free card.

Higher-education leaders seeking to open their campuses for in-person operations this fall are asking Congress for protections that would insulate colleges from lawsuits brought by students, faculty, or staff who contract the new coronavirus.

The American Council on Education sent a letter on Thursday to Senate and House leaders seeking “temporary and targeted” liability-exposure protections for institutions that open their campuses this fall. The letter, co-signed by more than 70 other higher-education associations, also seeks protections for faculty and staff members and institutional systems, including affiliated nonprofit organizations and health-care providers.

Maybe Father Jenkins can explain the moral value of “come play for us, athletes, and make us some money, or pay your tuition to attend, students, but if you get sick or make others sick, that’s on your own dime”.

And some of you question why I’m cynical about school administrators’ decision making.


Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, The Body Is A Temple

24 responses to “When hope and optimism aren’t enough.

  1. JG Shellnutt

    Is that protection NEEDED, or is it just an abundance of caution? I have not known of institutions needing to be shielded historically from liability from communicable diseases, particularly if the public goes there of their own volition.

    Seems to me it would make sense to acknowledge that they will open their campuses up but that all folks have the option of distance or online learning still…essentially not forcing anyone onto campus. This seems to be a way to insulate themselves, but without needing federal protection.


  2. ATL Dawg

    They should include this in their sales pitch to students. “We’re so confident in our ability to provide you with a safe environment that we’re lobbying congress to protect us when you sue us for not doing it.”

    It’s a nice complement to bringing the unpaid labor back to work in June even though the actual students aren’t back until at least August.


    • Athens Townie

      Are you equally indignant about basically every category of business across America doing essentially the same thing?

      Universities are not alone in seeking to manage their liability risks as things “reopen” around the country. In anything, universities are late to the party.

      “Major U.S. business lobbying groups are asking Congress to pass measures that would protect companies large and small from coronavirus-related lawsuits when states start to lift pandemic restrictions and businesses begin to reopen.”

      https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-usa-liability/corporate-america-seeks-legal-protection-for-when-coronavirus-lockdowns-lift-idUSKCN223179 (from April 21)

      “The biggest push, business groups say, is to give companies enhanced protection against lawsuits by customers or employees who contract the virus and accuse the business of being the source of the infection.”

      https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/28/business/businesses-coronavirus-liability.html (from April 28)

      GTP picks on higher-ed (and makes many valid points) because of where this blog is focused. But you could make parallel critiques of almost any category of large organizations that is run by human beings.


      • ATL Dawg

        Ok, if you makes you feel better…

        Any category of business across America selling to 18-22 year olds in the same manner deserves the same criticism.

        I won’t even make them fit the criteria of refusing to pay a significant segment of their labor force while also trying to convince everyone that it just wouldn’t be appropriate.


        • Athens Townie

          I wasn’t suffering from righteous indignation. So I appreciate the get well gesture, but (sadly) I expect this of our corporations and institutions, most of which are designed and incentivized to act in self-interest. Many of them seek profits, avoid liabilities, and relentlessly lobby for favorable regulatory situations with ethical considerations in the back seat (or maybe even in the trunk, gagged and bound). American universities are little leaguers in this game. American corporations are the big dawgs.

          I’m with you on the unpaid labor issue. I’ve long been for improving player compensation and initiatives like long-term health insurance, etc. I’m just looking at the broader behavior of risk mitigation (i.e., ex ante liability management) as nearly universal and not something specific to higher-ed.


          • ATL Dawg

            I agree with most of what you wrote. The corporations make the schools look like amateurs (pardon the pun) in the realm of manipulating lawmakers. Lobbying is out of control, as is corporate campaign finance.

            However, I’m not giving the schools a pass just because the corporations are worse. I stopped cutting them any slack a while ago and the pandemic has really highlighted how skewed their priorities have become.


  3. TripleB

    I agree that assumption of risk would affect the prospects of any suit against the university. But if I operated a university or college (or a business open to the public), I would be a little worried that someone would make a claim that the school was negligent in taking preventative measures or enforcing safe practices. I can understand why they want some liability protections. I think the business organizations (Chamber of Commerce, etc.) are going to seek this too.

    I guess we are going to have to decide if we want to push the reopening of our institutions and the economy, or if we want some schools and businesses to have to wait until it is absolutely safe to get going. As for Washington, that decision will probably be made along party lines.

    I have two kids at UGA. I hope they can go to campus for their senior year. I hope I can go to a game with them this year. I think it is worth the known risks. It doesn’t bother me that the school might want some liability protection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If they want liability protection, it should be in the context of a safe harbor provision established by law. If an institution doesn’t comply with the guidelines, it doesn’t get protection.

      Liked by 2 people

      • ApalachDawg aux Bruxelles

        amen to that


      • Mayor

        While I disagree with the whole concept of giving liability protection (read: immunity) to anyone for their own negligence if that does happen I think your approach is the most responsible one, Senator.


  4. Rick

    I would think the whole country is hoping to get protection from the Trial Lawyers of America, who are licking their chops at the opportunity to sue every small business, government and entirety that opens to the public.

    Liked by 2 people


    For heaven sakes, don’t get in the way of lawyers trying to earn their 40%


  6. Malcolm X

    Yeah, every white male fascist hates trial lawyers. Then one day, they get hosed and discover that life is brutal and cruel. There is no justice. Boy they sure want a trial lawyer then. Most of my clients hated lawyers, and then they hired me to fight the motherfuckers.


    • TNDAWG

      So, for expressing my opinion, I am a “white male fascist”. The only part of the constitution lawyers adhere to is that which makes them money. I don’t hate lawyers, just those who pontificate that they are “doing a service for the people.” BS


      • DawgPhan

        It was probably all the horrible stuff you post on here on a daily basis that lead to the label, doubt he came to that conclusion recently.


        • TNDAWG

          daily basis? my first post in several months is not daily. Differentiate betweenTNDAWG and tn dawg is not t’he same person.


          • TN Dawg


            I don’t post anything to be classified as a “white fascist” either.

            Don’t let ’em try that excuse.

            Unless, of course, that preferring the play of the black quarterback at OSU to the golden boy white kid makes you a “white fascist”, in which case I plead guilty.


  7. Reipar

    There is a reason the businesses and schools want this protection. I have been getting emails for over a month for classes how to defend and prosecute these cases. Even if the defendant prevails they will still spend a ton on defense costs.


    • Classic City Canine

      Perhaps they should take better care of their premises, employees, and customers? Hmm…



    Last night in ATL was sad..it should have been shut down…it could have been shut down.


  9. TN Dawg

    Should a school be held responsible if you contract H1N1 from a classmate and die?

    What is the legal threshold for mortality rate for the seasonal flu at which a school may operate with normal operations?

    Who will issue the mortality rate for seasonal flu under which schools will make those decisions?

    Will colleges and universities be granted access to the medical records of all students, faculty and support staff?

    Will colleges and universities be granted access to medical records for US postal workers that handle mail delivered to schools? To every visitor to campus?

    I’m interested to know these answers.

    One UGA student dying from coronavirus is it really any different than one student dying from influenza A, influenza B, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS, measles, mumps, or any other communicable disease.

    Will colleges now be required to guarantee a pathogen free campus?


  10. Paul

    Our government has repeatedly refused to issue specific guidelines for reopening, calling them “too prescriptive.” Clearly, everyone wants prescriptive. They want to know that if they follow the guidelines, whatever they may be, they won’t get sued. In the absence of standard guidelines they want immunity. It seems to me you’re going to have to give them one or the other. Otherwise chaos ensues. Everyone does something slightly different. An avalanche of lawsuits follows. And one by one, case by case, we eventually come to some sort of general consensus. That method is long, tedious, extremely messy and totally unnecessary. The politicians need to do their jobs. They’re getting paid to lead. You asked for the job. Get to work.