The American Council on Education and dozens of other groups representing higher education institutions wrote to Congress on Thursday urging the quick enacting of temporary and targeted liability protections related to the COVID-19 pandemic for colleges and universities.
In the letter, Ted Mitchell, president of the council said that as colleges contemplate reopening, the safety of students, faculty, staff and local communities is uppermost on their minds.
“But as colleges and universities assess how quickly and completely campuses can resume full operations, they are facing enormous uncertainty about COVID-19-related standards of care and corresponding fears of huge transactional costs associated with defending against COVID-19 spread lawsuits, even when they have done everything within their power to keep students, employees, and visitors safe,” said Mitchell in the letter.
Lawsuits, he said, will have a “chilling effect” on institutions’ decision making. And that’s the reason Congress needs to enact liability protections.
“These protections should be conditioned on following applicable public health standards, and they should preserve recourse for those harmed by truly bad actors who engage in egregious misconduct,” wrote Mitchell.