Many club sports captains might think twice before encouraging players to tackle an opponent or use elbows in a match. At a club sports training workshop last weekend, club sports officers learned that they, not the University, were liable to be sued in the event of a player or fan injury.
“I always assumed that the Athletic Department was at least the parent of all the club sports,” said Tim Pennucci, CC ’09, vice president of the ultimate frisbee team. “But it seems like they want to make it so that the University isn’t liable for any of the actions of club sports. It’s fine in a way, but it’s a little intimidating that they expect us to actually manage a sports franchise.”
According to the club sports handbook, club sports receive funding from the Club Sports Governing Board, not directly from the University. Club sports officers are also supposed to obtain insurance coverage for their own clubs and list Columbia as a co-insurer.
“Right now, if we’re not covered and something happens, the officers are responsible,” Pennucci said. “Basically, if we’re holding practice, the officers are taking a risk, but we’re still going ahead with practice because it’s probably worth the risk.”
While many officers expressed concern about the liability policy, rugby President Luis Lucas, CC’08, said he would be surprised if anyone filed suit for an injury,
“There are very few students who are going to go ahead and sue their club and club officers for slipping on the stairs at a stadium,” Lucas said. “We are going to have to start worrying a little more about our fans and making sure that they comply with all the rules of the Baker Athletic Complex, but I’m not that worried because our fans are our parents and friends.”
The first of its kind, the seminar last weekend explained the technicalities of the club sports guidelines, of which many captains said they were not aware. Although no policies changed this year, the Club Sports Office has been increasing the regulation surrounding club teams and attempting to institutionalize the program’s procedures, said returning club officers.
“The Club Sports Office basically wanted to relay to the club sports officers exactly what they had been liable for all this time,” Lucas said. “This was basically just an instructional meeting that was long overdue.”
“I think the reform that’s going on in club sports is actually quite important, and is working to legitimize club sports,” Pennucci said. “Assuming club sports will work out, and we receive proper funding, it should really excel club sports into the spotlight here at Columbia.”