The Catholic University of America


A. Waivers and Releases

1. General Considerations

Q. If the field trip is a mandatory component of the class must faculty obtain a waiver from students?

A. If the field trip is mandatory, then waivers and releases may not be effective. It would not truly be voluntary, and therefore likely not enforceable.

However, a waiver and release is effective for voluntary activities that students participate in while on a mandatory trip. For example, if a student is on a trip to New York City to perform in a required concert for music class, he or she may be asked to sign a release for anything that he or she does while not performing (i.e., sightseeing).

Q. If the field trip is optional must faculty obtain a waiver from students?

A. If the field trip is an optional component of the class, then waivers and releases will protect the university from liability and should be obtained unless the trip is very low risk, as noted below.

Q. If a student is a minor, must faculty obtain a permission slip from the student's parent?

A. Yes, for minor students (typically those under the age of 18) permission slips from their parents or guardians are required.

Q. What must a waiver or release contain?

A. Waivers and releases should contain a description of the activity. For high risk and hazardous activities, a specialized release with a through description of the specific risks should be used.

Q. Where can I find an approved waiver/release?

A. Here is a general waiver and release. The waivers and release page also has releases tailored for specific activities. If you need assistance on choosing or customizing a waiver, please call the Office of General Counsel at 5142.

2. High Risk Trips

A release must be obtained for high risk activities, even if they are mandatory. A release will put students on notice of the risks and dangers that the activity will entail. Examples of high risk activities include:

  • Trip to an unfamiliar part of the Washington D.C. area, especially one that is unsafe or prone to crime.
  • Trip that involves certain sports or physical activity (e.g., kayaking, rock climbing).

3. Low Risk Trips

Releases should be obtained unless the activity is a very low risk. Examples of low risk activities include:

  • Trip to a Smithsonian museum in downtown Washington, D.C. or
  • Walking tour of Georgetown to observe architecture

B. Transportation Arrangements

Q. What forms of travel are appropriate for local field trips?

A. The safest forms of travel include public transportation and university-provided buses or vans driven by employees holding commercial drivers licenses.

Q. May a faculty member ask students to provide transportation to other students (i.e., carpool)?

A. No, it is not appropriate to ask students to transport each other on university activities. The university may not know if students have their license, what their insurance limits are, etc. It is better either to hire a van to transport them to the destination or to simply announce that students are on their own to get to the destination.

Q. If students arrange their own transportation, would the university still be liable?

A. Generally not, as long as the activity is optional.

Q. Is the faculty member covered by the University's insurance if he or she drives their own car?

A. Only partially. Any time an employee uses their own car for university business, their insurance would be primary, and CUA's insurance would sit excess of that. The faculty member's insurance would pay the first dollar through his/her total coverage in any claim. CUA will be liable for any amount of a claim in excess of the faculty member's insurance.

If a faculty member uses his or her car to transport people on a field trip, the faculty member must provide the university with proof of insurance prior to the trip (i.e., copy of insurance card).

C. Personal Property

Q. If a student or faculty member's personal property is lost or damaged while on the field trip will the University cover the cost?

A. No. Students are strongly encouraged to have insurance to cover personal belongings. The university does not insure the personal property of any student. The university has no responsibility for any theft, damage, destruction, loss, etc., of any personal property, including but not limited to, money, valuables or equipment belonging to or in the custody of the student, whether caused by intentional or negligent act, failure to act, natural causes, fire or other casualty.

This Q and A was created with the assistance of Nancy Conneely, student legal intern in the Office of General Counsel.

links updated 6/10/08 rab