Legal Brief: Hold Harmless Process for University-sponsored Activities

“Legal Briefs” appears in e-Inside to keep faculty and staff informed of legal issues and their implications. An archive of past Legal Briefs is available online.

Throughout the course of an academic term, the university or one of its several components provides opportunities for students outside of the classroom either on-campus or off-campus. The more that the activity reaches beyond the normal pedagogical environment of the relatively traditional classroom, the greater the importance of ensuring that both the participant (whether student, employee, volunteer or guest) and the university understand the role and duties of the other. One common method to accomplish this is through the execution of a hold harmless and release agreement.

Hold harmless and release agreements are typically executed for activities initiated outside of the regular classroom. These activities can range from non-educational activities (such as blow-up bungie sumo wrestling at FlashFest) to educationally related activities (such as spelunking 200 meters into the earth for a geology course). Even when the risks are “open and obvious” to the participants, it is advisable to execute an agreement so that the parties understand their obligations to one another and to ensure that in consideration for participation the participant clearly agrees to hold the university harmless from any claims or damages and releases the university from liability should the participant become injured.

The Office of General Counsel has created a workflow that is available at through which faculty and staff can submit information about upcoming on- or off-campus activities. The organizer of the activity should fill out this form well in advance of the date of the event. Upon review of the information provided, the Office of General Counsel can then provide the appropriate hold harmless and release to the organizer. However, the organizer is still responsible for filling in any substantive information such as the activity name and other pertinent information.

The hold harmless and release must be filled out by each participant before the activity begins (if the individual participant is under the age of 17, then the parent of the participant must execute the form). Once executed, the organizer (usually the requestor) must collect all forms and retain them for a period of three years after the date of the event. The forms can be retained in the original paper format, or may be scanned (as long as the quality is at or above 300 dpi, color preferred) in an electronic file. Once the retention period has expired, the forms may be destroyed in accordance with the record destruction process set forth in the record retention schedule.

In the event that an injury occurs during an activity in which a form is in place, please complete a non-employee incident report and forward the report to the Office of General Counsel and the Office of Compliance and Risk Management as soon as possible.

If you have any questions regarding this brief or have another legal issue that you would like to discuss, please call the Office of General Counsel at 330-672-2982 or send an email to

POSTED: Thursday, March 10, 2016 02:48 PM
UPDATED: Saturday, December 03, 2022 01:02 AM

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