Policies for Student Organizations

The university expects members of organizations to follow the policies and procedures of Cornell University, in addition to local, state, and federal laws. For more information on Cornell University policies, go to http://www.policy.cornell.edu/.

Statement on Hazing

Cornell University prohibits any organization from engaging in any action or situation which endangers mental or physical health, or involves the consumption of liquor or drugs for the purpose of initiation into or affiliation with any organization. See Campus Code of Conduct and Section 6450 of the Education Law of the State of New York. Pursuant to Section 6450 of the Education Law of the State of New York, the above statement shall be deemed to be part of the by-laws of all organizations registered at Cornell University. The organization agrees that if it engages in conduct in violation of such statement, the nature of the conduct and any sanctions imposed may be reported publicly.

From Cornell University's Campus Code of Conduct (Article II.A.1.f):

"To haze another person, regardless of the person's consent to participate. Hazing means an act that, as an explicit or implicit condition for initiation to, admission into, affiliation with, or continued membership in a group or organization, (1) could be seen by a reasonable person as endangering the physical health of an individual or as causing mental distress to an individual through, for example, humiliating, intimidating, or demeaning treatment, (2) destroys or removes public or private property, (3) involves the consumption of alcohol or drugs, or the consumption of other substances to excess, or (4) violates any University policy."

Individuals found in violation may be subject to the following sanctions: 

  • Oral warning 
  • Written reprimand  
  • Appropriate educational tools (such as reflection papers, counseling, letters of apology, and directed study)  
  • Sanctions payable in full or in part by community work performed in a manner acceptable to the judicial administrator. 
  • Community work
  • Probation  
  • Suspension  
  • Dismiss Fraternity and Sorority Judicial Code

For more information on hazing, including regulations and alternative practices, visit www.hazing.cornell.edu.

Officers and Advisors

Officers of registered student organizations must be registered, matriculated full-time students at Cornell University's Ithaca campus.  Part-time students, non-matriculated students, students on a leave of absence, or students who are abroad may not serve as officers of student organizations.

Organizations are required to have an advisor who is a full-time member of the faculty or staff of Cornell University (Ithaca campus). Graduate students may serve as advisors of university organizations if they are designated as such by university departments or units and are supervised in this capacity by a currently employed Cornell University faculty or staff member.

Advisors of independent organizations are volunteers. This activity is not a condition of their employment at Cornell University. The advisor assists the organization in reaching its stated goals, and should be familiar with the organization’s constitution, the policies and procedures of Cornell University, and the activities and membership of the organization.

Officers of the organization should meet with the advisor to discuss their respective roles and responsibilities. Clarifying expectations early will help the organization continue to be effective throughout the year.


Membership in registered student organizations must be open to all persons without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national or ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, citizenship, or handicap. Title IX of the Federal Educational Amendment of 1972 exempts fraternities and sororities from the requirement that membership in their groups be open to all persons regardless of gender. Note that fraternities and sororities must register with the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life, and are not eligible to register with the Campus Activities Office.

In addition,

  • All members must be from the Cornell community (currently registered students, and/or full- and part-time faculty and staff members) and include some student representation.
  • Members may disassociate from an organization at any time.
  • Non-Cornell community members will be considered as volunteers with organizations. They may avail themselves of the student club insurance by declaring themselves and paying the appropriate fee.
  • Officers and/or Executive Board Members must all be currently enrolled students at Cornell University (Ithaca campus).
  • Participation is voluntary.


A contract is a legally binding agreement between 2 or more parties. Never sign a contract until you can meet all of the terms. Do not sign a contract or make an offer until you have secured all of the funding you need to pay for the event.

A contract is drawn up following a written offer that has been accepted in writing by an artist or agent. The written offer should include date, venue, time, name of artist, name of sponsoring organization, fee, deadline for acceptance and a clause that indicates that the offer is contingent upon both parties’ mutual agreement on terms in the contract and addenda.

Be careful! Some agents will accept verbal offers that include the specific information mentioned in the above section. Verbal offers can be legally binding. We strongly recommend putting everything in writing instead to protect you and your organization.

An artist or his/her agent may draw up a contract and send it to you to review and edit.

  • University organizations are required to have contracts reviewed by the appropriate employee(s) in your department/unit who shall seek review by representatives in University Counsel and Risk Management and Insurance. An appropriate university authority will execute the agreement on behalf of the university.
  • Independent organizations may wish to seek independent legal advice prior to entering into a contractual agreement. The independent organization, and not Cornell University, is party to, and bound by, the agreement. While staff in the Campus Activities Office cannot offer legal advice, they are available to consult with you regarding your contract and recommend and/or require that you make certain changes.

Independent organizations must also include the following clause in their contract(s):

“[NAME OF ORGANIZATION], the party to this agreement/document, is an independent student organization and is neither a unit of Cornell University nor an agent of Cornell University for any purpose. [NAME OF ORGANIZATION] is not authorized to commit Cornell University contractually and therefore this agreement/document does not contain the commitment of, and is not in any manner binding upon or enforceable against, Cornell University.”

When an artist does not have a contract, independent and university organizations can draw up a contract and send it to an artist or his/her agent for review using forms available via SAFC, GPSAFC, CUTonight and/or the Campus Activities Office. The forms are called Standard Engagement Agreements and have been developed by University Counsel. The form used by independent organizations is slightly different from the form used by university organizations, so be sure to use the proper format.

Constitution and Bylaws

The constitution is the basic framework of any organization. It should include the purpose, requirements for membership, officer duties and selection, decision-making principles, and other general operating principles. Specific organization rules and detailed procedures belong in the bylaws. Simplicity and flexibility are the keys to a good constitution. When writing or revising the constitution, keep in mind both the organization’s immediate needs and its future goals.

Once the constitution and bylaws are developed, it is important to review them regularly. The needs and goals of the organization will shift over time, and it is important that the constitution and bylaws reflect the current state of the organization.

Violation of Policies and Disciplinary Action

Organizations alleged to be in violation of the Campus Code of Conduct will be referred to the Judicial Administrator. Organizations found to be in violation of the Campus Code of Conduct may receive one or more of the following:

  • a written reprimand
  • a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $500
  • restriction of privileges for a period not to exceed one year
  • suspension of privileges for a period not to exceed one year
  • recision of permission to operate on university property

Please refer to the University Policy Office for additional information on the Campus Code of Conduct and other university policies.

Not-for-profit status

Organizations shall be not-for-profit in nature and individual members may not benefit financially from the organization’s activities.

Use of alcohol

The use of alcohol at student organization events is restricted to graduate/professional organizations only.  Undergraduate organizations are generally not permitted to serve alcohol on campus without special permission.

All events at which alcohol is served must be registered with the Campus Activities Office using the Event Registration Form. A university-approved caterer must be used, and organizations must have caterers obtain permits.

Sponsors of events at which alcohol is served must adhere to the Cornell University Alcohol Policy, and all local, state, and federal laws.

When planning an event at which alcohol will be served, be aware of the following:

  • Alcohol may not be served at concerts or intercollegiate athletic events.
  • “All-you-can-drink” events and drinking contests are prohibited.
  • Substantial nonalcoholic beverages and food must be available and clearly labeled.
  • Inducements to alcohol consumption must not be included in event promotion.
  • An authorized representative of the sponsoring group, who is 21 years of age or older and is designated as “person in charge,” will remain free from intoxicating substances during the event, and be formally responsible for the event.
  • Advertisements and promotion of events should highlight the availability of nonalcoholic refreshments. No reference is to be made to the amount or brand names of beverages being served.

Please be advised that Cornell Catering holds the license to serve alcohol in Willard Straight Hall - The Bear's Den, Robert Purcell Community Center and the Big Red Barn; the Department of Athletics and Physical Education holds the license for Kegglers Pub and Moakley House, and the Statler Hotel holds the license for the Statler Hotel. Cornell Catering has first right of refusal for events at The Johnson Art Museum. No other caterers are authorized to provide alcoholic beverage service in these facilities.

Registering events

The Event Registration Form is the event-registration tool of Cornell University (formerly called the Use of University Property form, or UUP). The entire event registration process takes place on-line through use of e-mail and the internet. Once the event planner has completed the on-line form, university officials are notified (via e-mail) and are asked to approve the event through an automated process. Officials may contact the event planner if they have any questions, or if they require any additional information. If a meeting is required to discuss the proposed event, the event planner will be notified. Once all university officials have approved the event, the event planner will be notified (via e-mail) that their event has received final approval.

Failure to file the Event Registration form according to policy can result in the event not receiving approval. When possible, university officials permit some flexibility on the deadlines, but are not required to do so. 

By completing the Event Registration Form, event planners will not only notify key university personnel of events, but will also gain insight into event planning. Each person listed on the form should be considered as a partner who will consult with you and your organization to plan an event that will be enjoyed by all.

The event planning web site, including the on-line form and guidelines for event registration, is located at www.activities.cornell.edu/EventPlanning.

Sport clubs

A "Sport Club" is defined as a group of Cornell students, which may also include alumni, faculty, and staff, that voluntarily organize to promote, practice, and further their skills and collective interest in a particular sport or athletic activity.  Only current Cornell University students may participate in competitive sport club activities or activities that are physical in nature (i.e. boxing, contact martial arts, etc.).  Non-students may be brought in as coaches, consultants, and/or teachers for competitive sport clubs.  Non-students may participate in non-competitive and/or non-physical activities.  Like all independent or university student organizations at Cornell, the sport club also offers opportunities for development of life skills such as leadership, cooperation, scheduling, budgeting, organizational dynamics, sportsmanship, and teamwork.  The sport club may be recreational, instructional, and/or competitive in nature. Members may display a variety of skill levels and may place varying degrees of emphasis on extramural competition. The executive board and/or officers of the club must be 100% full-time Cornell students. The sport club is student-initiated, administered and funded, and responsible for its own membership requirements.  All such requirements must be consistent with the Campus Code of Conduct to protect and promote Cornell's educational purpose. 

In addition to the requirements for registration of all student organizations, sport clubs must complete some additional paperwork, including the Sport Club Addendum (available on-line during the registration process), and the 'Assumption to Assume Risks and Waive Claims' form, which must be completed by each member of the club. 

Merchandise Approval

Using Cornell's name, logo or artwork on merchandise

Cornell, like most major colleges and universities, has a policy and a licensing program that regulates the use of its marks (i.e., names, trademarks, insignia, logos, images, and the like) on items such as T-shirts, caps, key chains, mugs, pens, banners, table cloths, stickers, etc. This process helps prevent bootlegging, ensures that Cornell marks are used appropriately on quality products approved by the university, and that the products are manufactured under a labor code of conduct that prohibits sweatshop conditions. All uses of university name and marks, including those of schools and colleges, departments, programs, and student organizations and projects that are identified with Cornell, must be approved before any item can be ordered and produced.

For your request to be approved you must select a manufacturer that is licensed by Cornell University. A list of licensed manufacturers is available on-line (see the bottom section of the list). A separate request form must be submitted for each item. Cornell University's Brand Center includes the required on-line request form to obtain approval for merchandise designs. Submissions are typically reviewed within 48 business hours and you will receive an email with a formal approval, or instructions on how to make the design compliant. The email approval is required for expense reimbursement and should be obtained before placing any order.

Reserving space

Each building/room has its own policies, and information about reservations.  For a list of buildings and contacts, go to http://registrar.cornell.edu/spaces.  For information on reserving space in one of the Community Centers, Campus Life, Willard Straight Hall, Carol Tatkon Center, or CALS, use the R25 Reservation System.  Note that most on-going classroom reservations are done by semester. Check with the building coordinator for information on your reservation.

Funding, finances, and taxes

Most registered student organizations are eligible to apply for funding from the Student Assembly Finance Commission (SAFC) or the Graduate & Professional Student Assembly Finance Commission (GPSAFC).  Some student organizations and/or departments may provide funding for events.  

For groups that are funded through the SAFC or GPSAFC, the university may provide resources for you. However, student organizations may apply for and set up bank accounts independently of the university.

Independent organizations may not use Cornell University's tax exempt status or tax identification number when making purchases or applying for an outside bank account. In addition, independent organizations may not use Cornell's purchasing methods when purchasing goods or paying for services (procurement card, eShop, Purchase Orders, CU Internal Billings, etc.). 

University Organizations must follow Cornell policies regarding payments for services (i.e. contracts, insurance, etc.). University organizations should check with their advisor and sponsoring department before conducting business including, but not limited to, paying for services, goods, or setting up an outside bank account.

University student organizations are not permitted to have a non-Cornell bank account. See page 9 of Policy 3.23 (https://www.dfa.cornell.edu/sites/default/files/policy/vol3_23.pdf) unless you receive approval. Only External/Independent Student Organizations can manage their funds in an outside/non-Cornell bank account.

For information about requesting payments to Foreign Nationals, please visit https://www.dfa.cornell.edu/tax/foreignnationals/

Open fires

Organizations that wish to hold events involving open fires require the completion of a University Open Burning Permit (available in 521 WSH) and may require a permit or approval from the local fire department. An Event Registration Form (formerly Use of University Property form, or UUP) is also required for the event. Regulations and guidelines for the use of open fires on campus are available from the Campus Activities Office or Environmental Health and Safety (607-255-8200). The use of barbecue grills and other outdoor portable cooking equipment does not require an open burning permit. Barbecue grills may only be used outside and away from structures and vehicles.


Many organizations use rallies on campus as forums to present views on campus, national, and world issues. Title One (Statement of Principles and Policies), Article III (Responsible Speech and Expression) of the Campus Code of Conduct outlines the university policy on responsible speech and expression. Rally organizers are expected to be familiar with this section of the campus code, assure each speaker’s right to free speech, and take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of speakers and participants. The rally space is located on Ho Plaza between WSH and the Campus Store. To reserve this space, organizations must make reservations on-line using the R25 Reservation System, and complete the Event Registration Form. In accordance with the campus noise ordinance, and to minimize the potential for disruption of classes, amplified sound is permitted on campus only between the hours of noon and 1 p.m. on weekdays. This is the only time organizations may use a microphone or megaphone at rallies. Emergency regulations forbid crowds on and in front of the WSH steps.

Political Campaign Activity

According to Cornell University Policy 4.18:

Cornell University supports freedom of thought and expression by members of its community. Cornell encourages faculty, staff, and students to be full participants in the civic process, including communicating with policymakers on issues of importance and contributing time and money to the candidates of their choice as private citizens, using their own resources. These activities must be done in a personal capacity, and not imply in any way that the university supports, opposes, or otherwise endorses any candidate for public office.

For Clubs and Organizations:

Recognized independent student organizations must clearly indicate and prominently disclose their separateness from the university when engaging in political campaign activity, including sponsoring an event on campus. Organizers must make a disclaimer at the beginning of any such event, as well as in any printed materials or advertisements publicizing the event, that the university does not endorse candidates for public office, that the opinions expressed are not those of the university, and that an independent recognized organization has sponsored the event, such as the following:

“This event/publication/solicitation is sponsored solely by the [name of independent recognized organization] without the support or endorsement of Cornell University. Cornell University does not participate in political campaigns on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office.”