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Safety vs. tradition

| Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Is the world more dangerous? Is the world more careless? Or is the world more fearful? I am currently in a business law class, and lately discussions have covered what makes a company liable.

We looked at the case of McDonald’s coffee causing third-degree burns on the lap of an 81-year-old woman. She won the lawsuit, in case you were unaware. McDonald’s has since augmented their warnings.

I work at Starbucks, and from my encounters with hot coffee splashes, I am not surprised that all of our sleeves have warnings on them and that I am required to warn customers about the heat. But McDonald’s and other coffee companies alike did not significantly reduce their coffee temperatures.

We also discussed whether the University should be liable if a student is hurt falling off a bench in the football stadium or if a bench breaks (one bench in the sophomore section splintered during the Texas game). A student could be seriously harmed if dropped during celebratory push-ups. A student could also be injured dancing the Irish jig. There is a risk that someone could throw marshmallows stuffed with rocks during the senior day marshmallow fight.

Should the University make more of an effort to control these risks and protect students and fans? Is the University acting negligently by allowing students to participate in unsafe activities? Should the University be fearful of being sued? A balance needs to be found between safety and tradition because these traditions have become an integral part of our culture.

The Fisher Roof-Sit was cancelled this year due to an incident that happened last spring when a student died after falling off the roof of the Joyce Center. I think it is respectable that the University cancels events which place students on roofs this year, but my concern is for future years.

The Fisher Roof-Sit was a signature event for that hall. The men of Fisher would sit on the flat part of their roof next to the big green “F” and shout at everyone who passed by in an effort to raise money for those without roofs. While the residents in neighboring South Quad dorms may have found the event annoying, it was a clever and effective charity event. Should this event be cancelled indefinitely? Or should some extra precautions be taken to let the event continue on?

There are many warning labels that seem ridiculously obvious, but they are there because a company does not want to be held liable. It is reasonable that the University does not want to be held liable for injuries. However, if a line is drawn here between safety and tradition, I wonder what tradition may be the next to go.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Annmarie Soller

Annmarie is a first year student at the University of Notre Dame. Originally from Marysville, Ohio she now lives in Lyons Hall and is studying Business Marketing and Art History.

Contact Annmarie