University of Denver, Stop Lobbying Congress for Corporate Immunity

Chancellor Haefner, University of Denver

https://www.cpr.org/2019/03/19/university-of-denver-nixes-mandatory-sat-and-act-scores-from-applications/

Sign our petition to tell the University of Denver to stop lobbying Congress for corporate immunity for COVID-19 related lawsuits! Students should not be required to waive liability when we return to campus.

Petition by
Julieanne Buchanan
Denver, Colorado

To: Chancellor Haefner, University of Denver
From: [Your Name]

We demand universities and colleges, including the University of Denver, oppose and stop lobbying for corporate immunity. Students should not be required to waive liability when we return to campus.

DU is a member of the American Council on Education (ACE), an industry group which is lobbying Congress to give institutions and corporations blanket immunity from all COVID-19 related lawsuits upon reopening. [1]

Corporate immunity would give colleges and universities a free pass to recklessly or negligently expose students and employees to the deadly COVID-19 virus. [2] It would also prevent lawsuits against big employers that force workers to work in unsafe conditions, against nursing homes that fail to put basic safety measures in place, or any other bad-acting corporation that gambles with workers’ and consumers’ lives. Corporate immunity is effectively a license to recklessly expose students and workers to COVID-19, and it places the larger communities surrounding schools at risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Blanket corporate immunity could shield universities and other big employers from liability if they [3]:
• Unreasonably fail to provide students and campus workers with PPE.
• Fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that students can socially distance in classrooms and student housing.
• Are aware that a student has tested positive for COVID-19, and fail to reasonably trace and test other campus community members that the student has come into contact with.
• Fail to take reasonable steps to prevent students who are sick from coming to class.
• Unreasonably ignore clear guidance from state or federal public health officials.

Workers of color would be most at risk. Black and Brown Coloradans are already getting sick and dying of COVID-19 at higher rates than their white counterparts. [4] Corporate immunity would give universities and employers free reign to jeopardize the lives of workers of color, who are already less likely to be able to work from home.

The University of Denver should be doing everything possible to protect us from the risks posed by coronavirus -- not demanding blanket immunity to unreasonably gamble with students’ and workers’ lives. Accordingly, and in the interests of transparency and public health, we ask the University to (1) disavow any intention of forcing students, faculty, and staff to sign blanket liability waivers as a condition for returning to campus and (2) publicly reject federal legislative efforts to overhaul and displace state tort law by writing a letter to ACE asking that they refrain from the lobbying effort.

[1] Danielle McLean, Higher-Ed Lobbying Group, Eyeing an in-Person Fall, Asks Congress for Liability Shields, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION (May 28, 2020), https://www.chronicle.com/article/Higher-Ed-Lobbying-Group/248878.
[2] Kery Murakami, Colleges Worry They'll Be Sued if They Reopen Campuses, INSIDE HIGHER ED (May 15, 2020), https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/05/15/colleges-seek-protection-lawsuits-if-they-reopen. Emily Bazelon, What Will College Be Like in the Fall?, N.Y. TIMES MAG. (June 3, 2020), https://nytimes.com/2020/06/03/magazine/covid-college-fall.html.
[3]https://www.peoplesparity.org/opposecorporateimmunityforschools/
[4] https://covid19.colorado.gov/data/case-data