Regulations for Independent Student Organizations


Recognition of Independent Student Organizations

Officers' Responsibility

General Requirements

Recognition of Independent Student Organizations

The Committee on Student Life has the authority to grant official recognition to ISOs and has established regulations for their governance as set forth in the Handbook for Students, including without limitation under the headings Responsibilities of Independent Student Organizations and Regulations for Independent Student Organizations. ISOs also are expected to abide by the regulations of the Dean of Students Office available online at the DSO website and all policies in the Recognized Student Organization Guide. The College expects ISOs to comply with all applicable regulations. If the Committee on Student Life determines that an ISO has failed to do so, it may revoke the ISO’s charter. ISOs must re-register with the Dean of Students Office each year in order to continue their recognition. Should an ISO not meet the registration deadline, fail to turn in any of the registration documents, and/or not reconcile debts with outside vendors, then the ISO will be placed on probation by the Dean of Students Office. During the probationary period, the ISO will be unable to reserve space on campus, advertise for events, use the Harvard name, and/or participate in the visiting program or fall activity fairs.

The official list of ISOs and rules governing their activities are available from the Dean of Students Office.

All officially recognized ISOs have the privilege of using Harvard College’s name and its facilities in accordance with the limitations detailed on the Dean of Students Office website. Complete information on the procedures that should be followed to obtain recognition is found online at the DSO website.

Official recognition follows upon recommendation of the Undergraduate Council (UC) Rules Committee to the Committee on Student Life. Student organization proposals are evaluated by the Committee according to the following criteria:

  • Compliance with all applicable Harvard policies.
  • Demonstrated non-duplication of the mission of previously recognized ISOs and lack of clear similarity with another already-recognized ISO.
  • Clearly articulated objectives and goals.
  • Feasibility of funding the stated goals, projects, or publications.
  • Demonstrated plan for sustainability.
  • Local autonomy (whether all policy decisions will be made without obligation to any parent organization, national chapter, or charter).
  • At least ten undergraduate members. All officers and a majority of the members must be enrolled undergraduates of Harvard College.
  • Adherence to the University's non-discrimination policy.
  • Demonstrated benefit to the members, campus, and/or wider community.
  • Demonstrated need for recognition based on benefits provided to recognized ISOs.

To maintain official status, ISOs must register with the Dean of Students Office each spring. Failure to meet these requirements will cause an ISO to be placed on probation and to lose all privileges given to recognized ISOs.

Officers’ Responsibility

The officers of each ISO are responsible for knowledge of the rules governing independent student organizations and are expected to keep members of their organization informed of all such rules. If there is any doubt about the interpretation or if any ISO wishes an exception made, the Dean of Students Office should be consulted. (Members of ISOs should note that they are of course also subject to all expectations for conduct set forth in the Handbook for Students.) Officers of ISOs are reminded of their accountability under the Drugs and Alcohol Policy. Any violation of the rules may lead to the suspension or revocation of an ISO’s charter by the Committee on Student Life.

The officers of every ISO are expected to update their information with the Dean of Students Office as needed, depending on the leadership transition of each student organization, in order to assume activities for the academic year in question. As noted above, ISOs that fail to meet the requirements of registration will be placed on probation and/or will lose their recognition status by the College.

General Requirements

In addition to the Responsibilities of Independent Student Organizations set forth elsewhere, the following requirements apply to ISOs:

  • Only ISOs that have received approval from the Dean of Harvard College may use “Harvard College” in their names. Approval of the name and recognition by the Dean’s Office constitutes permission to use that name in notices of meetings and written materials. Any regular publication sponsored by the ISO that uses “Harvard” in its title needs advance permission. Permission to use “Harvard” or “Harvard College” in the name of a group applies to undergraduate ISOs, and not to alumni groups (see also The Use of Harvard University’s Trademarks (Names and Insignia) or visit the following website: Explicit advance permission of the Office of the Dean or Provost is needed before an organization can give permission to a third party to use the Harvard name or to imply connection with the College or University.
  • ISOs must not duplicate the mission of previously recognized organizations.
  • College policy (see General Regulations and Standards of Conduct) requires that students on probation may not engage in any competition or activity that, in the opinion of the Administrative Board, may interfere with their College work. A student on probation must attend all classes and be especially conscientious about all academic responsibilities. If the offense or unsatisfactory academic record is related to participation in extracurricular activity, the Administrative Board may at its discretion restrict participation; in cases in which management of time appears to be the problem, the Administrative Board may ask the student to obtain the Board’s permission for participation in each individual extracurricular activity.
  • Students on leaves of absence or requirement to withdraw may not take part in student activities, including student organizations.
  • Faculty members may not be voting members or officers of undergraduate ISOs. They are, however, encouraged to serve as advisers, sponsors, or consultants.
  • No organization shall be allowed to appear on a commercially sponsored radio or television program.
  • No organization shall in any publication, broadcast, public performance, or other venue purport to represent the views or opinions of Harvard University, or its body.
  • No organization may act so as to endanger the tax-exempt status of Harvard University.
  • No organization may be connected with any advertising medium, including the press or other public forum, that makes use of the name of Harvard (see also The Use of the Harvard Name and Insignia and
  • Students and student organizations are expected to respect the privacy of students and alumni/ae particularly those with FERPA blocks.