Policy Regarding Undergraduate Organizations

Statement of Policy Regarding Undergraduate Student Organizations

Recognized Independent Student Organizations

Sponsored Student Organizations

Unrecognized or Non-Harvard Organizations

Funding and Finances

Hazing

Harvard College categorizes student organizations in the following way:

  • Recognized Independent Student Organizations (ISOs). ISOs receive designated benefits from the College, are responsible for meeting filing requirements with the OSL, and are accountable to the College for responsible use of those benefits.
  • Sponsored Student Organizations (SSOs): SSOs are led, organized or sponsored by University departments, offices or units and thus do not meet the definition of recognized Independent Student Organizations. SSOs receive designated benefits afforded to ISOs and file with the OSL to obtain access to those benefits.
  • Unrecognized or Non-Harvard Organizations (such as Final Clubs, fraternities, sororities, Social Clubs): As these organizations are not recognized, the College does not provide them with access, support, or benefits. Individual students involved in such organizations of course remain subject to the College’s policies.

Recognized Independent Student Organizations (ISOs)

Through recognized undergraduate organizations each new class leaves its special mark on the cultural, social, and intellectual life of the College. In granting recognition to Independent Student Organizations (ISOs), the intention of the College is to support students who wish to pursue their various interests and talents in ways that are separate from formal course study. Recognition of an ISO is not an indication that the University approves or endorses the ISO’s goals, activities, or points of view.

Provided these ISOs meet and maintain the College’s requirements for recognition, the College is willing to provide them with certain benefits and privileges. However, ISOs are independent and distinct from Harvard University. The College’s recognition of, and provision of benefits and privileges to, an ISO does not mean that the ISO is a unit of the University or controlled by the University. The University is not responsible for an ISO’s contracts or other acts or omissions.

An ISO is defined as a group of Harvard College students who unite to promote or celebrate a common interest. While the membership of an ISO may include students from other Harvard graduate or professional schools, the majority of the members must be Harvard College undergraduates. Faculty, staff, or community members, as appropriate, may participate in ISO activities, but may not hold leadership roles. Only currently enrolled undergraduates at the College are permitted to serve as officers of recognized ISOs.

Recognized ISOs must maintain local autonomy. This means that the ISO must make all policy decisions without obligation to any parent organization, national chapter, or charter, and without direction, interference or pressure from any such entity.

ISOs do not qualify for use of the University’s taxpayer identification number or the University’s tax-exempt status in connection with purchases or sales by the ISO, gifts directly to the ISO, interest or other income of the ISO, or any other activity of the ISO. The College will consider requests to establish an account controlled by the College to which contributions might be made for the benefit of an ISO.

Benefits Granted to Recognized Independent Student Organizations

ISOs granted recognition by the Committee on Student Life may receive many benefits, which include:

  • Plan Events and Activities on Campus
    • Ability to reserve College rooms, concert halls, and outdoor spaces for events and activities.
    • Permission to publicize, poster and reserve sandwich boards on campus including posting on the College Calendar.
    • Access to ticketing services provided by the Harvard Box Office.
  • Recruit on Campus
    • Participation in the annual student activity fair held in the fall, as well as an opportunity to enter the lottery for the activity fair held each spring for prospective students.
    • Inclusion in the online directory of student organizations.
    • Ability for students to list their ISO or SSO affiliation in the Harvard College Yearbook.
  • Use the Harvard College Name
    • Permission to use the Harvard College name and trademarks, in accordance with Harvard guidelines.
  • Manage Finances and Fundraising
    • Organization banking account at the Harvard University Employees Credit Union.
    • Ability to apply for and receive grants from University sources, such as the President's Public Service Fund, the Office for the Arts, and the Undergraduate Council.
    • Ability to fundraise with specific permission from OSL.
    • Upon demonstration of a useful contribution to the Harvard College community through the activities of the ISO, the College may determine that a gift or endowment account controlled by the College, to which tax-deductible contributions may be made, may be established at the College for the benefit of the ISO.
  • Access Services and Support
    • Email and website organization accounts through the Harvard Computer Society.
    • Advising and support services from the OSL.
    • Ability to archive organizational materials in University Archives.
    • Ability to apply for and/or receive a mailbox, office, or storage space in the Student Organization Center at Hilles.

Responsibilities of Recognized Independent Student Organizations

Recognized Independent Student Organizations are expected to meet the following requirements to remain in good standing with the College:

  • Compliance
    • Comply with all local, state, and federal laws and regulations, and with Harvard’s policies and requirements, as set forth in the Harvard College Handbook for Students, the OSL website, and any other written materials from the OSL.
    • Operate in a manner consistent with the goals and standards of the University.
    • Re-register with the OSL each fall.
    • File a current constitution and bylaws with the OSL making clear that the ISO does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical disability.
    • File non-hazing attestation forms annually with the OSL, take active steps to understand hazing and identify hazing activities, and undertake only team-building activities that do not involve hazing.
    • Submit to the OSL a complete list of officers and members demonstrating that the ISO meets the requirements listed below. Notify the OSL promptly when there are changes in the roster of officers.
      • All officers and a majority of the members must be enrolled undergraduates in good standing with the College. A minimum of ten undergraduate members is required.
      • All other members must be students from other Harvard graduate or professional schools.
    • Attend all required training sessions, including those held annually.
    • Secure appropriate insurance coverage, when applicable, for organizational activities.
  • Communication
    • Consult with the OSL when planning any activities for which significant attendance is anticipated (including, for example, outdoor events, conferences, parties, or late night socials) or when planning any other event that involves unusual or potentially risky activities or elements.
    • Provide timely notification to the OSL and the Committee on Student Life of any changes in its constitution and by-laws and submit a copy of the amended documents for approval. Inform the OSL of any other changes within the ISO in a timely fashion.
    • Maintain with the OSL an accurate and complete list of officers and members.
    • Communicate with University offices in a timely manner. When services are needed from University offices, ISOs should assume that at least three weeks prior notice is required.
  • Leadership
    • Manage University resources wisely, ethically, and according to University and College guidelines.
    • Develop and ensure successful officer transitions including good record keeping and new officer orientation.
    • Manage organization’s finances responsibly by maintaining accurate financial records, implementing appropriate procedures, and meeting all financial obligations.
  • Accurate Representation
    • Clearly and accurately identify the ISO’s relationship with the University in print and electronic publications, on websites, and in promotional materials, fundraising, contracts, and other activities. In all dealings with third parties and written materials, the ISO is required to include the appropriate disclaimers.
    • In all written materials, ISOs should describe themselves as: “A student-run organization at Harvard College.”
    • In all contracts, ISOs should include the following two provisions: (1) “The parties hereto agree and understand that Harvard University is not a party to this contract and that Harvard University is not responsible, under any circumstances, for performing any obligations of this contract;” and (2) “[Third Party]’s use of the name “Harvard” (alone or as part of another name) in advertising or promotional materials is not permitted.”
  • Local Autonomy
    • Maintain local autonomy in the governance of the organization. This means that the ISO must make all policy decisions without obligation to any parent organization, national chapter, or charter, and without direction, interference or pressure from any such entity. ISOs that have graduate trusteeships or other advising boards composed of responsible alumni ordinarily will be considered to be in compliance with this rule.
  • Advisers
    • Have an adviser who is an employee of the University and preferably one who holds a personal interest or professional expertise that relates to the organization he or she is advising. Consult regularly with the adviser regarding the activities of the organization.

Sponsored Student Organizations

Some student organizations are led, organized or sponsored by University departments, offices or units and thus do not meet the definition of recognized Independent Student Organizations. These sponsored student organizations (SSOs) generally have the following characteristics:

  • A University department, office or unit acknowledges the organization as part of its activities and works closely in a supervisory capacity with the organization.
  • The mission, purpose, and goals of the organization are aligned with those of the University department, office or unit.
  • The organization’s events and activities are carried out on behalf of the University department, office or unit.
  • The University department, office or unit plays a role in selecting the organization’s members.
  • The University department, office or unit may provide advising and financial resources to support the organization.
  • Funding for the organization’s activities is provided directly by the University department, office or unit.
  • Unlike recognized ISOs, the organization may not sign contracts on its own behalf; instead, all contracts must be signed by an officer of the University.

Benefits Granted to Sponsored Student Organizations

  • Plan Events and Activities on Campus
    • Ability to reserve College rooms, concert halls, and outdoor spaces for events and activities.
    • Permission to publicize, poster, and reserve sandwich boards on campus including posting on the College Calendar.
    • Access to ticketing services provided by the Harvard Box Office.
  • Recruit on Campus
    • Participation in the annual student activity fair held in the fall.
    • Inclusion in the online directory of student organizations.
    • Ability for students to list their ISO or SSO affiliation in the Harvard College Yearbook.
  • Use of the Harvard College Name
    • Permission to use the Harvard College name and trademarks, in accordance with Harvard guidelines.
  • Access Services and Support
    • Email and website organization accounts through the Harvard Computer Society
    • Advising and support services through the OSL.
    • Ability to archive organizational materials in the University Archives.
    • Ability to apply for and/or receive a mailbox, office, or storage space in the Student Organization Center at Hilles.
  • Use of the University's tax-exempt and non-profit status. 

Responsibilities of Sponsored Student Organizations

In order for the OSL to provide privileges and benefits to SSOs, the following filing requirements must be met:

  • Officer information
  • Sponsorship Attestation Form signed by the University office or department
  • Non-hazing compliance form
  • A current constitution and bylaws that do not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or physical disability

Unrecognized or Non-Harvard Organizations

The regulations for ISOs require that they maintain local autonomy. This means that all policy decisions must be made without obligation to any parent organization. In this way, the independence and integrity of the College are maintained.

From time to time, undergraduates raise questions about their membership in unrecognized or non-Harvard organizations. It is important that students make well-informed decisions when considering membership in these organizations. Organizations such as Final Clubs, fraternities, sororities, or Social Clubs are not permitted to conduct any activity at Harvard even though their activities involve Harvard undergraduates.

However, in special circumstances, unrecognized student organizations whose membership consists entirely of Harvard College undergraduates may, at the discretion of a particular Harvard office or department, be permitted to co-sponsor educational programs organized by that office or department.

Funding and Finances

ISOs seek funds from a variety of sources that include membership dues, fee-paying events, advertising, alumni/ae endowments, and friends of the organization. Most of these endowments, foundations, and friends’ groups have been established to perpetuate the ISO and to provide financial subsidy for programs. Endowments are usually administered by alumni/ae groups in consultation with the Office of Student Life. The College encourages the development of such financial arrangements and, when appropriate, will use University resources to assist with fund drives. Such fund drives must have the prior approval of the Office of Student Life. An ISO must obtain permission through the Dean to solicit support from its alumni/ae.

The earnings of any ISO may not accrue to individual members. Some ISOs pay salaries to members for services performed by those members. ISOs wishing to pay such salaries or other forms of remuneration must first receive approval from the Office of Student Life. It is expected that salaries will ordinarily conform to current student wage rates in student employment, although special compensation may be given to managers of ISOs.

ISOs are responsible for their own finances and for keeping their own financial records, and the College expects that they will be managed in a prudent fashion. The Office of Student Life provides training for financial officers and guidelines for the maintenance of financial records through workshops held each year.

Under the conditions of recognition, financial officers will be required to attend a financial seminar, ISOs will be required to present annual financial reports to the Office of Student Life, and an audit of an ISO’s finances may also be required.

ISOs that are Massachusetts corporations and federally tax exempt are reminded of the requirement to file special financial reports annually with the Secretary of State in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and with the Internal Revenue Service.

The College makes a considerable contribution to student organization success by providing: student organization offices and lockers in the Student Organization Center at Hilles; rooms for meetings and other facilities; resources for music, debate, drama, and dance; in-kind contributions such as professional advice in fundraising for existing foundations, friends’ groups, and new projects; help in ticketing events through the Harvard Box Office; event planning and support; leadership training; mailboxes and mail delivery for student groups; negotiated transportation options; and more. For more information on how the College can help your ISO, feel free to stop by the Office of Student Life at University Hall, Ground Floor South or email osl@fas.harvard.edu.

Hazing

The laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts forbid any form of hazing in connection with initiation into a student organization (see Hazing). As a condition of College recognition, all student organizations must file non-hazing attestation forms with the Office of Student Life. Students should also consult an important guide, Preventing Hazing at Harvard, available online at the Office of Student Life website, that explains the College’s policies regarding hazing, how to identify hazing activities, and suggestions for group activities that do not involve hazing. These policies also apply to unrecognized organizations whose membership is made up of Harvard College students. See http://osl.fas.harvard.edu/hazing.