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A new policy from Oswego State requires all Greek Life organizations to purchase $1 million liability insurance by the fall semester.
A letter sent to members of Greek Life on April 18 states that the university reviewed its “registration and risk management policies for student organizations” and found that they would require the fraternities and sororities to prove they have attained a Fraternal Information and Programming Group liability insurance, which also names the college as an additional insured.
The letter was signed by Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Jerald Woolfolk, who said that the policy change is not something new for universities. She said that because it was a policy decision, no members of Greek organizations were brought in to discuss the decision.
“A few years back there was a conversation at SUNY that campuses should consider requiring Greek Letter organizations to get liability insurance,” Woolfolk said. “Some SUNY campuses decided that they would make all of their Greek Life orgs to get it, some decided that new orgs that came to campus would need to get it… SUNY Oswego, from my understanding from people who have been here long before me, decided that what we would do is require any new local Greek organizations, if they were new, to have a $1 million insurance and the Greek organizations that were already registered, they would be grandfathered in.”
With the new policy, organizations must show proof that they have liability insurance when they register each year. All recognized organizations of Greek Life must register before the fall semester each year through LakerLife.
Organizations that are part of larger national networks already have this type of insurance. Denvol Haye, president of Delta Kappa Kappa, said that before the policy change, organizations were grandfathered in, so if for any reason they lost their recognition status with the university they would need to show proof of liability insurance when reapplying.
According to a representative from James R. Favor and Company, based in Aurora, C.O. the cost for the policies required under the new rule range based on a number of variables. The insurance company provides a variety of policies, which include the liability insurance for fraternities and sororities. They said that policies could range from $1,000 to $30,000 to upwards of $100,000.
Jaimie Kaplan is the current president of Alpha Delta Eta, a local sorority, which she said will be impacted by this policy. She said that the policy change was sprung upon the local organizations at an inconvenient time.
“I was just upset because my sorority has been around for 90 years and we’ve never had to worry about something like this,” Kaplan said. She said that the policies for her sorority could range from $5,000 to $7,000, or even more, per year. Kaplan said that ADH is fortunate enough to have a strong alumni network, which is helping them through this process.
“I thought it was kind of sprung on us at the last minute,” Kaplan said. “It’s the end of the semester, everyone is busy and it would be nice to know at the beginning of the semester this is what your goal needs to be by August so the entire semester we could have worked on it and fundraised, at least some sort of other effort, but now we’re scrambling by August to figure something out.”
According to Kaplan, some organizations are floating the idea of going national in order to comply with the regulation.
“I got the email sometime towards the end of last week and my immediate reaction was, ‘I didn’t know what exactly that meant,’” Mathew Jones, president of Zeta Chi Zeta said. “I don’t think that it’s exactly right for them to do that, I think it’s a complete discrimination against Greek organizations as a whole and I think that they’re trying to weed out some of the smaller organizations.”
Jones said some of the smaller organizations do not have the funds to afford policies of this magnitude.
Woolfolk acknowledged that the lawsuit filed against the university in March for an alleged hazing incident with a Sigma Gamma pledge was a “point for consideration.” Woolfolk added that the school considered national events as well.
“In light of things that are going on nationally, in terms of hazing… we made the decision to require all Greek Letter organizations to have liability insurance,” Woolfolk said. “It protects them and it also protects the institution in the event that something occurs and that someone is hurt and we’re in court, so that’s what is important.”
All three organizations are currently working with their alumni associations to figure out how to afford the liability insurance. If they cannot afford it, they will most likely be forced to go unrecognized by the school.
“We have the option of not being recognized or getting this policy,” Haye said. “It’s to where, yeah, I understand why the school wants to put this policy in place, obviously the incident with Sigma Gamma and the school got sued for something because of a local fraternity, so I understand the reason for this.”
Woolfolk reiterated that the policy is not something new. It has been done before all over the country.
“We’re in line with several of the SUNY campuses, this is not something new. This is just a move we needed to make and we just made it,” Woolfolk said. “We want to always make sure that we are following best practices.”