Registering a student organization

All student organizations must register or renew their group each year with the Campus Activities Office. If an organization was registered the previous year, they may simply renew their group, as general information will carry over from year-to-year.  Organization registration and renewal typically takes place after July 1 each year, and registration privileges are valid from the first day of classes through commencement (some exceptions may apply).  Note that student organizations must be completely registered before they may operate on campus.

Student organizations are responsible for maintaining information in their Campus Groups page, including updating activities, meeting times/location, contact information, and officer/advisor information.

Independent vs. University Organizations

Please read the following information closely to determine if your organization is classified as independent or university.  Certain privileges and restrictions are inherent to each.  

Independent organizations are primarily those organizations that have a volunteer advisor whose duties and responsibilities, and/or university job description (if applicable) does not require service as an advisor to that organization. Advisors work with organizations on their own time.

In addition to the privileges available to all organizations, independent organizations are eligible to use the Cornell University name in their organization name for publicity, uniforms, or other purposes, according to university guidelines regarding the use of the Cornell name, logo, and artwork, and subject to approval through Campus Activities. However, when entering into legally binding, contractual agreements, an organization that uses the Cornell name in its organization name must use the university name in a locational sense. For example, “Cornell Rugby Football Club” should be “Rugby Football Club at Cornell.”

Clubs are not permitted to use the word “team” in their name. For example, “Cornell Ski Team.” Only official Cornell University teams under the Department of Athletics may use the word “team” in their name.

Student members of independent organizations will qualify for Club Insurance coverage through the payment of the Student Activity fee.

University organization is affiliated with a university department or unit. That department or unit acknowledges the organization as part of its activities and has assigned an employee or graduate student to advise the group and oversee the organization’s activities. University organizations sponsor activities that fully relate to the education, research, and community-service mission of the university and to the goals or objectives of the university department or unit to which they are affiliated. The department or unit may, but is not required to, provide office space, a university account administered by the department or unit, a financial allocation and/or faculty, staff, or other administrative support. The membership of university organizations may comprise only currently registered Cornell University students or faculty/staff members. Nonmembers of the Cornell community may be considered volunteers to the organization but not as members. Volunteers must be approved by the Department of Risk Management and Insurance

In addition to the privileges available to all organizations (see below), university organizations are eligible to:

  • be included on the Cornell University insurance policy for Cornell events
  • enter into contractual agreements with outside parties as “Cornell University”
  • use the Cornell University name

University student organizations are not permitted to have a non-Cornell bank account. See page 9 of Policy 3.23 ( unless you receive approval.  Only External/Independent Student Organizations can manage their funds in an outside/non-Cornell bank account.

Graduate/Professional vs. Undergraduate Organizations

Student organizations are classified as either Graduate/Professional or Undergraduate.  This classification is typically determined based on the membership of the organization, as well as the funding source (if applicable).  Unless an organization has specifically outlined in their constitution/bylaws, students may be members of either graduate/professional organizations or undergraduate organizations regardless of their class year status.  The same is true for holding executive board positions.  Organizations are encouraged to outline criteria within their constitution and/or bylaws if they prefer to have specific requirements for their officers and/or members.

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. Undergraduate student organizations must list four (4) officers when registering, and graduate/professional student organizations must list at least three (3) officers when registering. The same person may not serve in more than one position, and the advisor may not serve as an officer. Organizations are responsible for updating the officer and advisor information themselves.

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.

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.