One particular afternoon as a freshman at the University of Colorado was possibly the most embarrassing experience of my life.
As I rode my metallic-blue mountain bike back to my dorm from economics class, a strap from my oversized backpack got caught in the brake of my bike.
I catapulted over the front of my handlebars, and hit my head on the sidewalk in front of me. I lay dazed and concussed with my backpack-bike contraption mangled on top of me.
It was one of those moments where witnesses didn’t know whether it was appropriate to laugh or call 911. In my moment of shame, several bewildered students approached me to help.
In this lawsuit-infested society, my peers did not fear getting sued and did not see any other option than to help me get on my feet and offer assistance.
I am disappointed to say that because of strict bureaucratic rules, the administration in CU’s Housing and Dining Services could not (or would not) offer similar limited support.
My doctor at the Wardenburg Health Center told me that I needed to have my resident adviser check on me an hour after I went to sleep to make sure I was still alert.
When I told the RA about this request, she seemed nervous, but was eager to help. I appreciated the fact that assisting me in this way was probably outside of her job description.
Shortly thereafter, I received some disconcerting news that my RA was not allowed to wake me up for “legal reasons.” I certainly do not blame the RA, nor do I necessarily blame the institution.
But is the general propensity to sue that great that institutions must protect themselves at every turn?
It seems that it is; my peers who witnessed my accident were protected under the Good Samaritan Law, while the institution was not.
After a 2-hour-long, 2 in the morning phone conversation, the head of CU Housing concluded, “You can take this up with our general counsel if you wish.” No one who worked for the university was permitted to be involved, and my friend, Ryan, woke me up — even though he had a midterm the next day.
This situation seems rather unnecessary; it’s not as if the RA was asked to provide any treatment or medication. Do ethics not take precedence over bureaucratic policy? In this case, they proved not to.
If individuals would only let ethics take precedence over law, they would perform actions that actually made sense. An institution should work to aid its constituents. CU should take a lesson from its students and do the right thing without an immobilizing fear of consequences.
This may be a difficult feat when protective parents threaten lawsuit at every turn.
I urge bystanders and faculty alike to have the courage to act on their principles. If you see someone in need of assistance, act on your values rather than fears. Though lawsuits seem prevalent, in a time of crisis, filing a lawsuit would be the last thing on a concerned parent’s mind.
Laura Hammerman is a student at the University of Colorado.