What are Academic Field Trips and why are they covered in the Risk Management website?
Field trips are an essential part of many college courses and provide valuable learning experiences for graduate and undergraduate students of the University. However, they can present serious safety exposures and high liability exposures. The forms, procedures and guidelines presented in these Risk Management Academic Field Trips web pages are designed to provide you with user friendly procedures to follow for maximum protection for the students, instructors and the University.
While dangers at the field trip site may exist to varying degrees and must be considered, the travel of CSUN students to and from off-campus activities, which are officially recognized by the University, is the greatest liability exposure and must be controlled. Voluntary field trips or excursions are usually made in connection with courses of instruction or school related social, educational, cultural or athletic events. Such trips may be local, out-of-state or to a foreign country. You will note that many references focus on reducing the liability associated with the transportation exposure of these activities. Please be advised that student travel associated with internships and service learning is not the responsibility of the University and is not covered by any University insurance program.
The intent of liability limiting procedures is not to inhibit education but rather to help faculty make decisions that are in their own interest and for the protection of their students and the University. As the primary person responsible for the planning and execution of a field trip, the instructor will need to consider the hazards very carefully, weigh the benefits and plan for emergencies. If faculty want to discuss these issues or have any questions, contact campus Risk Management well in advance of the trip.
The Risk Management information and forms in the Risk Management website dealing with Academic Field Trips can be accessed from the following outline:
Field Trip Planning (Forms are marked with an asterisk.)
- Academic Field Trip Leader/Administrator Checklist
- Academic Field Trip Transportation Requirements
- International Academic Field Trip Travel
- Academic Field Trip Transportation Requirements
- Student Authorization to Operate Privately Owned Vehicle *
- Student Air Travel Voluntary Participation Notice *
- Student Travel Accident Insurance Policy
How often do the Academic Field Trip Informed Consents Forms need to be completed?
Each student participant should complete this Academic Field Trip Waiver of Liability and Hold Harmless Agreement for each University sponsored field trip or activity.
What if there are multiple field trips associated with a course?
If a student participates in multiple field trip activities in a given semester, list the multiple activities, including dates of each, on the waiver of liability form.
What is the purpose of the hold harmless clause on the waiver of liability forms?
A hold harmless clause on a liability waiver form may have legal standing in any court of law. The participant's signature on the waiver form means that the participant will not sue the University if the participant suffers any damage or loss as a result of participating in the activity. The purpose of the hold harmless clause is to discourage claims against the University.
Who is qualified to be a witness for the witness signature line on the waiver of liability form?
Faculty members may be witnesses to a waiver of liability form. This may be best managed by the faculty member asking student participants to read, sign, and pass forward the completed waiver forms all at the same time. The faculty member then signs as a witness on the signature line for all completed and submitted waiver forms.
Where are the Field Trip forms kept after they are collected? How Long?
The completed and signed Field Trip forms are to be kept for a minimum of two (2) years in the field trip sponsor's academic department. For minors, the form should be kept a minimum of three years, or until the minor turns 20. If a claim is filed during this period, the department will be requested to provide a copy of the participant's signed waiver of liability form.
What are the requirements for students who volunteer to drive on a field trip?
Student drivers who volunteer to drive other students in their private vehicles on a field trip must meet all the CSU requirements. These requirements include a current valid California Drivers license, and proof of private vehicle insurance coverage. Student volunteer drivers must also complete a Student Authorization to Operate Privately Owned Vehicle for any University-affiliated Program or Trip that is to be kept in the employing department's personnel files.
Are there any requirements for student passengers in another student's car going on a field trip?
Students who make personal travel arrangements as passengers with fellow classmates in their private vehicles are not required to provide proof of vehicle insurance to a field trip sponsor. However, students should be given notice that the driver's private vehicle insurance is primary coverage for any injuries to passengers and/or any vehicle damage. The University is not responsible for students who make their own personal travel arrangements.
The requirement that all field trips should begin and end on campus is impractical and often impossible. Why is it necessary?
The guideline that all field trips should begin and end on campus is a GUIDELINE and not a requirement. This guideline is related to the requirement of the Student Travel Accident Insurance Policy purchased by CSU. A field trip that begins and ends on campus is less likely to be questioned as a "field trip" by the insurance policy claims administrators. This travel accident insurance covers students who are away from campus on a University sponsored field trip or traveling to or from a field trip site.
Students who make their own personal transportation arrangements (i.e. private car, carpool with other students, public transportation, etc.) to and from home/other site and the field trip meeting place are to be given notice that personal travel is done at their own risk. The University takes no responsibility for students that make their own travel arrangements to and from a field trip meeting site. Field trip sponsors/leaders may designate a meeting time and place for a field trip. However, they must notify their students that personal transportation arrangements are done so at their own liability risk.
Are students required to sign waiver forms for class assignments completed outside the classroom (i.e. visit at a museum site, social service agency site, elementary school site, etc.)?
No, such releases are not required. The University does not provide liability coverage for students completing class assignments outside the classroom. Faculty is encouraged to thoroughly scrutinize student assignment sites for potential risks and to recommend adequate personal safety practices.
Small groups of my students in my Opera Workshop class perform at off-campus venues such as retirement centers, other universities, community centers to do outreach concerts and demonstrations. Students provide their own transportation and these are not CSUN ticketed events. Are there any waivers that have to be signed?
Such activities are considered field trips so each participating student should sign the standard informed consent form.
Are there any limitations for students who attend professional conferences and workshops as a part of their coursework?
There is no University restriction or limitation for students who attend professional conferences and workshops for course credit. If students attend conferences or workshops, students must be given notice that they attend and/or participate at their own risk.
What is the liability associated with academic field trips and how can they be mitigated?
Recognizing that field trips involving students are often an essential part of academic course work, there are a number of risks associated with field trips that must be addressed. This is especially important when the trip involves hazardous activities/materials or dangerous sites. Activities should not be held (risk avoidance) in which there is a clear and present danger to the health and safety to students. Inadequate procedures to control the risks associated with off-campus field trips and special events unnecessarily expose participating students to undue risk and increase the potential for loss to the campus community and the CSU.
The usual academic or University sponsored extracurricular activities may be controlled through appropriate risk mitigation strategies such as:
Ensuring that the trip is a mandatory course requirement so there is no question of coverage on student travel accident insurance policies;
Requiring that the field trip be limited to certain authorized participants who sign appropriate liability release agreements;
- Ensuring that trip leaders understand what to do if something goes wrong;
- Arranging vehicle transportation by individuals who have valid driver's licenses and are authorized to use their vehicles only if properly insured; and
- Stipulating the types of safety precautions and instructions delivered to participants.
When does an "Informed Consent" form need to be completed by the student?
The "Informed Consent" form is essentially the same as the "Academic Field Trip Waiver of Liability and Hold Harmless" form but is often modified to address the specific hazards and potential injuries associated with a particular activity. The "Informed Consent" form, also often called just a "Release", should be used for activities for all volunteers. Informed consent means that the person who signs the form accepts, understands and assumes the risks inherent with the activity and agrees not to sue the University.
Is a student driving his/her personal private vehicle to a field trip site location required to pass the Defensive Driver Course?
No. The requirements for a student in the class taking a field trip, who will be using a personal vehicle to go to the field trip site, are:
- Must possess a valid California Driver's License
- Must be covered by State law required minimum liability insurance
- Must be authorized to drive through by approval of the "Student Authorization to Use Privately-owned Vehicle for any University-Affiliated Program or Trip."
- In addition, the student, as well as all students on the field trip, must sign the "Academic Field Trip Informed Consent Form."
What are the requirements associated with a University program that requires a student to travel by air?
The requirements are spelled out in Executive Order 1041 that details the necessary authorization and the appropriate carrier insurance and waivers that need to be signed by the student. In particular, the student must be advised of the dangers of flying (especially foreign airlines) and sign the "Student Air Travel Informed Consent Statement" which is kept in the sponsoring department.
What are the requirements for student drivers who drive other students in a University rented vehicle on a field trip?
Since students are prohibited from driving State vehicles (University rented vehicles are considered State vehicles), students must not drive University rented vehicles. If it becomes necessary for a student to operate a State vehicle, the student must be "officially" appointed as a "Volunteer" through CSUN's HR Department and meet all the CSU requirements for a volunteer and State vehicle driver.
What does the Student Travel Accident Insurance Policy cover?
This CSU purchased insurance policy is an automatic blanket travel and accident policy that covers enrolled students at the academic field trip site, and for travel to and from the site, up to a maximum of $25,000 for specified medical expenses. See the Student Travel Accident Program webpage in the Risk Management website.
What is the DMV Pull Notice Program?
The DMV Pull Notice Program is the University's procedure to request driving records of its employees directly from the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The Department of Public Safety, under the direction of the Chief of Police, administers the program. It is a California State University mandated requirement that all State employees authorized to drive on state business, whether by using a state vehicle, personal vehicle or electric cart be enrolled in the program. If you drive less than three times per month on University business, you may be exempted from this program at your supervisor's discretion.