SafeNSure requested that I post a bit about my dealings with the high-ups at my University in terms of parkour, so here I am obliging him.
Before I begin with the actual story, let me highlight a bit of my parkour background. I started a pretty small group at the University of Redlands during April of my Junior year there (2007) because I was interested in parkour and wanted some people to do it with. At most we had 14 people at one session, but we usually had around 4 each jam. Towards the beginning, me and my friend Andy were the most active and influential members of the group, and we were also staying in Redlands over the summer. So, we kept the jams consistent and enjoyed the very empty summer campus.
During July, through PKCali we were contacted by a reporter for the Press Enterprise, a pretty large newspaper in southern California. A little while later and we were being interviewed and photographed for their article on parkour (along with another traceur in the area, Jason). We had a good time and eagerly awaited the article.
When the article came out, we bought a few copies and were pretty happy with it, although the reporter was pretty inaccurate and didn't ask us a lot of questions he should have. He also made it sound significantly more dangerous than we ever were. Regardless, we sort of forgot about it a few weeks later, until I was contacted by the head of Public Safety.
He had seen the article and wanted to talk with me about it. I ended up on the phone with him for about a half hour discussing precautions we took, safety levels, but mostly exactly what the sport is. He was actually really nice and cool about it - he said if the school allowed it then he was totally fine with it. He even asked us to teach the officers a thing or two.
So I was feeling good about it, but then a few weeks later I had a meeting scheduled with the dean of students. I knew that she was going to have the head of public safety and the University's insurance lawyer there, so I made sure to prepare as best I could with answers to the questions I knew I would get.
It was a long discussion, and I think I did a very good job trying to be reasonable and understanding. Here is something I posted on PKCali a few months ago detailing the discussion:
By the end of the discussion, the dean of students was undecided, the head of public safety thought it was fine, and the insurance lawyer was totally against it. No matter what I said, he wouldn't change his mind.
His arguments and my counter-arguments went something like the following:
Him: You can hurt yourself and might sue us.
Me: We assume full responsibility for what we are doing and will sign waivers of liability.
Him: Those waivers don't really mean anything, you can still sue. [i](this is sort of true. Basically, if we decide to sue, the school will show the waivers to the judge. The judge can decide to throw them out if he feels for any reason they should be thrown out.)[/i]
Me: Well what about people on the football team? Although it may not appear to be true, football is significantly more dangerous than parkour and percentage-wise there are many more injuries.
Him: There are medical personnel on site to deal with any injuries.
Me: There are currently four people in the parkour group with emergency medical training, including me. [i](this was true.)[/i]
Him: Well football is backed by the NCAA.
Me: I'm telling you now that if I got hurt I would never sue, I will sign a hundred papers saying so, I'll swear it in a court of law, I will do absolutely anything needed. I know that everyone else in the group would do the same.
Him: Whether or not you would sue, your parents will.
Me: No, I can say with certainty that they wouldn't.
Him: Yes they would.
Me: NO, they wouldn't. [i](here is where I started to get angry.)[/i] My parents don't believe in lawsuits and know that everything I do is my own responsibility. They wouldn't.
Him: Well the insurance companies would force them to sue, because they wouldn't pay the damages.
Me: Oh yeah? Well then they would sue the insurance company.
Him: Okay, but regardless, the buildings aren't meant for that sort of activity.
Me: We don't go onto roofs. We stay on the ground and on fences, benches, etc.
Him: But a bench still isn't meant to have someone jump onto it, you could damage or destroy it. And if you break a railing off a building are you going to be able to pay for it? That's thousands of dollars.
Me: We're very careful about what's breakable, and I would pay the money for the repairs if I broke it.
Him: Well then you need to give us a list of all the possible locations you go to, and we need to come see what you do there.
Obviously there's a lot of paraphrasing in there, but you get the idea. In the end, I got permission to do whatever on the quad, or anything that resembles something another sport does and is in the same location. I never bothered to give the guy a list of all the places I would go, because I didn't think it was worth my time. Pretty much when he started saying that I could damage a cement bench by doing vaults over it (probably exerting like 50 pounds of force, maximum, and these benches can hold two football players no problem), I realized that he was never going to change his mind. If I did bother to make a list and show them all the spots, he would approve very few spots or none at all. They also said that people from off campus were never allowed to come at all.
So, I went off campus from then on. I think the lesson is really to try to keep under the radar as much as possible until you can't anymore. And if you're in a newspaper article, get it made in a public park and be sure to mention that you don't go on campus. That's what we did for the second article we were in, and all was fine. Also, don't do anything particularly annoying to people like going on roofs. If you're jumping over a railing, they will say, "stop it, you could hurt yourself," and that's it. Then you walk to somewhere else. Avoid high falls, leaving marks on walls, and the like while on a campus.
Businesses that take participants on endeavors such as adventure trips (like climbing or rafting) typically have a few levels of protection, which are:
1) Participants sign waivers of liability.
2) All leaders are medically trained and instructed rigorously on how to avoid negligence.
3) The company has a special kind of insurance that covers being sued, usually up to something like 3 million dollars.
Like I said before, a judge can throw out waivers if they feel the situation calls for it (so that's #1 gone). Then it will go to court, and the jury will have to agree that there was some sort of negligence on the part of the company or their employee. If they do, that's #2 gone. Finally, the company gets sued, and then they will lose their insurance after it has paid. #3 gone.
So if my University had actually allowed me to parkour, then they would have lost their ability to fall back on #2, which is big. Because if I hurt myself and sue them, then I can say that they were negligent by not stopping me. I know, it's stupid. But that's America.
Anyway, I've typed enough. Discussions?