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Liability Releases and Waivers

Releases and waivers serve to minimize legal exposure to the University in the event of injury to a participant or property damage in connection with a University-related trip, program, or activity.

Why are release agreements so important?

Northwestern University sponsors numerous voluntary travel, recreational, cultural, or educations, and physical activities for members of the University community and the public. In order to ensure that participants fully understand and appreciate the risks associated with these activities, as well as to mitigate the potential liability risk to the University, participants need to sign release and/or waiver agreements.

How are release agreements retained?

Signed agreements are to be maintained by the sponsoring department per the University’s Retention Schedule.

When are waivers required?

The use of waivers are required when departments sponsor activities that are inherently risky. In general, departments should use waivers for physical activities, extracurricular activities, off-campus travel, and/or minors.

Which Activities Require Waivers?
  • When minors are involved
  • High risk and/or unusual activities that could cause serious injury or death
  • Use of hazardous materials or safety equipment
Strongly Recommended
  • Events with overnight stays
  • Out of town trips
  • Third parties, including non-NU students, using NU facilities
May be Appropriate
  • Short distance travel (2+ hours)
  • Recreational activities
Not Required
  • Activities with little risk
  • Activities required for course curriculum/credit

General Waiver – Elective/Voluntary Activity is used when members of the public or students participate voluntarily in University-sponsored activities like summer camps, recreation classes, etc.

General Waiver – Required Activity (High-Risk) is for activities or field trips that students are required to participate in in order to pass a required class. University employees acting within the course and scope of employment must be supervising these activities. This version omits the provision that waives University liability for losses resulting from its own negligence.

Visitors and/or volunteers in laboratories should refer to section 5.4.7 Visitors to Laboratories of the Office of Research Safety's Laboratory Safety and Chemical Hygiene Plan web page.  Please email the completed Visitor and Volunteer Lab Agreement forms to

Activities Involving Minors

Please refer to Northwestern’s Youth on Campus for additional forms and resources. Please remember that pursuant to University policy, any Covered Program that involves minors must be registered.