STUDENT ORGANIZATION HANDBOOK



Handbook for Student Organizations at Virginia Commonwealth University

Local Responsible Office: University Student Commons and Activities

Initial Policy Approved: 02/07/1997

Current Revision Approved: 08/19/2022

Statement and Purpose

The purpose of this Handbook is to describe the program for student organizations at VCU, including applicable policies and procedures.

University Student Commons and Activities (The Commons) establishes policies and procedures for all student organizations. Certain student organizations with Affiliated or Sponsored status are subject to the policies and procedures in this Handbook in addition to any policies or procedures established by the unit, department, or school/college of the university that has the affiliate or sponsoring relationship with the organization. Such additional policies and procedures are set forth in writing by the unit, department, or school/college. Some applicable links are included at the end of this document.

Noncompliance with this Handbook or applicable university policy may result in disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct against a student organization up to and including permanent loss of recognition as a student organization at VCU and against an individual student, up to and including expulsion.

Moreover, The Commons may take administrative action against a student organization and its officers or members as set forth in this Handbook.

VCU supports an environment free from retaliation. Retaliation against any student or employee who brings forth a good-faith concern, asks a clarifying question, or participates in an investigation is prohibited. All applicable dates referenced in this handbook will be available on RamsConnect.

Contacts

The Commons officially interprets this policy. The Commons is responsible for any revisions to this policy. Please direct policy questions to the Director of University Student Commons and Activities.

Table of Contents

Statement and Purpose 
Contacts 
Who Should Know This Handbook? 
Student Organizations at VCU 
Sponsored Student Organizations
Affiliated Student Organizations
Registered Student Organizations
Alcohol (Student Organization Events with Alcohol) 
Hazing Prevention and Discipline
Initial Registration 
Annual Re-Registration 
Registration Denial or Loss of Recognition
Naming of Student Organizations
Membership
Advisors
Funding
Promotions and Advertising
Student Organization Conduct
Administrative Enforcement
Forms

Related Documents:

1. Fraternity and Sorority Policies and Documents 
2. Student Code of Conduct 
3. VCU Student Government Association Constitution and Bylaws 
4. RecWell Sport Clubs

Revision History
Appendix A: Benefits and Resources for Student Organizations

Who Should Know This Handbook?

All members of student organizations are responsible for knowing this policy and familiarizing themselves with its contents and provisions.

Application of Handbook

The provisions of this Handbook are applicable to all student organizations at VCU, including its Monroe Park and MCV Campuses.

Student Organizations at VCU

Student Organizations at VCU are groups whose membership is composed of VCU students and that offer educational, service, recreational, social, or co-curricular opportunities to their members. Student organizations include organizations with undergraduate and graduate/professional membership. Alumni, faculty, staff, and community members may engage with a student organization, participate in its activities, and perform responsibilities for the organization. However, the university does not consider any individual who is not a student to be a member of the organization or hold an officer role for the purpose of this Handbook. The university may hold student leaders and members of an organization accountable for the conduct of the organization's guests, including participants in an organization's activities or events.

VCU is an institution of higher education, and each student organization is not part of the institution, but rather exists and operates independently of the university. The student organization is not an agent, servant or employee of the university, and neither has authority to act for the other or commit the other to any activity, transaction or agreement. The university may hold the student organization and its members accountable for their compliance with applicable policies.

VCU recognizes the following three tiers of student organizations based on the organization's relationship with the university, the purpose and scope of its activities, and its service to the university community: Sponsored Student Organizations, Affiliated Student Organizations, or Registered Student Organizations. All Sponsored Student Organizations and Affiliated Student Organizations must also register the organization and are therefore subject to all policies governing Registered Student Organizations, including this Handbook and the Student Code of Conduct.

No organization is recognized in one of these tiers until it has completed online registration in RamsConnect. An organization that fails to maintain its online registration through RamsConnect is in violation of this Handbook, which may result in action against the organization, including suspension or loss of recognition.

Sponsored Student Organizations

Sponsored Student Organizations work in a collaborative partnership with a particular university unit or department.

VCU provides additional support to these organizations because they promote the university's mission, act as participants in the university's provision of services to students or student organizations, and/or present events for the university community consistent with the university's mission. Sponsored Student Organizations often oversee or have some responsibility for Affiliated Student Organizations or serve in a capacity where they are providing campus-wide programming or initiatives for all VCU students.

Sponsored Student Organizations include, but are not limited to:

  • VCU Student Government Association
  • Graduate Student Association
  • College Panhellenic Council
  • National Pan-Hellenic Council
  • Interfraternity Council
  • Multicultural Greek Council
  • Sport Club Council
  • Student Media Board
  • Activities Programming Board
  • Graduate & Professional Student Programming Board
  • VCU Alternative Breaks

Some additional requirements applicable to certain Sponsored Student Organizations include the university's requirements for the appropriation of student activity fees. Links to additional rules, guidelines, and requirements for Sponsored Student Organizations can be found in the Related Documents section of this policy.

Affiliated Student Organizations

VCU provides specialized programming and support to Affiliated Student Organizations in order to promote their contributions to the university community. These organizations may work in a collaborative partnership with Sponsored Student Organizations and/or university departments, schools, or colleges and are provided some direct faculty or staff support and/or financial support by a unit/department/school/college. Some Affiliated Student Organizations contribute to the university community by routinely presenting programs, opportunities, and services for students and others.

Affiliated student organizations include, but are not limited to:

  • Student Today Alumni Tomorrow supported by VCU Development and Alumni Relations (DAR)
  • Student media outlets supported by the Division of Student Affairs
  • Fraternity or Sorority chapters supported by the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL)All Sports Clubs supported by Recreation and Well-Being (RecWell)Business Student Ambassadors supported by the School of Business
  • All Sports Clubs supported by Recreation and Well-Being (RecWell)
  • Business Student Ambassadors supported by the School of Business

Links to additional rules, guidelines, and requirements for affiliated student organizations can be found in the Related Documents section of this policy.

Registered Student Organizations

VCU provides basic administrative support and benefits to all Registered Student Organizations. Registered Student Organizations are responsible for complying with the requirements set forth in this Handbook and as otherwise established in writing by The Commons. Registered Student Organizations are not affiliated with VCU departments/schools/colleges in any way. They are encouraged to have a faculty or staff advisor but the advising relationship does not imply a direct connection between the advisor's department and the Registered Student Organization. The majority of clubs and organizations at VCU are Registered Student Organizations.

Alcohol (Student Organization Events with Alcohol)

All student organizations at VCU, regardless of tier, are subject to the university's "Student Organization Events with Alcohol Policy," and students must comply with all local, state, and federal laws regarding the possession, consumption, and distribution of alcohol. If a student organization wishes to host an event with alcohol present, they must review the following policy:

Scope - Definition of Alcohol Event: This policy applies to all student organization activities or events where alcohol is present, including any activity or event hosted, sponsored or endorsed by the student organization, regardless of location. Student organizations include organizations with undergraduate and graduate/professional membership. Any activity or event described in this section is an Alcohol Event for the purpose of this policy.

Event Notification: All student organizations must complete the Notification of an Event with Alcohol Form in RamsConnect at least fourteen (14) days in advance of any Alcohol Event.

Requirements: The following requirements apply to the student organization and all members and guests for any Alcohol Event:

(1) Comply with all federal, state, and local laws. For example:

a. No person under the legal drinking age (21) may possess, consume, provide, sell or be provided alcoholic beverages.

b. Attendance must not exceed local fire or building code capacity of the premises or venue.

(2) Alcoholic beverages may be provided, served or sold only on a per-drink basis and by a licensed and insured third-party vendor (e.g., restaurant, bar, caterer, etc.).

(3) Non-alcoholic beverages must be equally visible and available at every point of provision, service or sale as any alcoholic beverages. The student organization must ensure that the Alcohol Event host provides appropriate food items and sufficient quantities to last throughout the Alcohol Event as long as alcoholic beverages are present.

(4) The presence of alcohol products above 15% alcohol by volume ("ABV") is prohibited.

(5) Common sources of alcohol, including bulk quantities, which are not served by a licensed and insured third-party vendor, are prohibited.

(6) A student organization must not co-host or co-sponsor an event with a bar, event promoter, or alcohol distributor; however, an organization may rent a bar, restaurant, or a private space within an establishment operated by a licensed and insured third-party vendor to host an Alcohol Event.

(8) Attendance by non-members of the student organization at any Alcohol Event must be by invitation only, and the student organization must utilize a guest list system.

(9) No alcohol is permitted at any event or activity related to the new member recruitment process. This includes but is not limited to, recruitment, intake, rush, new member activities, meetings, or initiation, "bid night," "Big/Little" events or activities, "family" events or activities, and any ritual or ceremony.

(10) The student organization, members, or guests must not permit, encourage, coerce, glorify or participate in any activities involving the rapid consumption of alcohol, such as drinking games.

(11) The student organization, members and guests must comply with applicable university policies, including the policies on Alcohol and Other Drugs and Reservation and Use of Space (see section II.B.1 on Major Events as any event on university property where alcohol is served).

Enforcement:

The Student Code of Conduct provides the adjudication process for any reported violation related to alcohol. Due to the nature of the risk involved with certain types of alcohol and activities, if any student or student organization is charged with violating this policy, VCU considers the following as aggravating factors, which will increase the severity of the sanctions issued to a student or studentnorganization found responsible for violating this policy:

(1) Serving alcohol to persons under the age of twenty-one (21);
(2) Alcohol products above 15% alcohol by volume ("ABV");
(3) Common sources of alcohol, including but not limited to, punches, bulk quantities, liquor handles (1.75L), etc.;
(4) Games of rapid consumption;
(5) Serving alcohol during recruitment events and/or new member activities;

6) Evidence of hazing related to the event.

Hazing Prevention and Discipline

Hazing is an unproductive and hazardous activity that is incongruous with the mission and value of VCU and has no place at this university, either on or off campus. The university's Hazing Prevention and Discipline Policy defines hazing as:

Any mental or physical requirement, request, or obligation placed upon any person, through a situation created recklessly or intentionally, that could cause discomfort, pain, fright, disgrace, or injury; or that is personally degrading.

Hazing includes, but is not limited to, acts in violation of Virginia Code § 18.2-56 that recklessly or intentionally endanger the health or safety of a student or students or inflict bodily injury on a student or students in connection with or for the purpose of initiation, admission into or affiliation with or as a condition for continued membership in a club, organization, association, fraternity, sorority, or student body regardless of whether the student or students so endangered or injured participated voluntarily in the relevant activity.

Hazing also includes the following:

Psychological Hazing: Any act that is likely to (a) compromise an individual's dignity; (b) cause an individual embarrassment or shame; (c) cause an individual to be the object of malicious amusement or ridicule; or (d) cause an individual emotional distress.

Physical Hazing: All forms of physical activity that are used to harass, punish, or harm an individual.

In compliance with Virginia law, select student organizations may not accept new members until prospective and new members complete VCU's Hazing Prevention training. In addition, current members in these select student organizations will be required to complete VCU's Hazing Prevention training on an annual basis. The Commons will notify student organizations annually whose membership process and organizational structure meet the requirements of this law. These select student organizations will be designated as such in RamsConnect.

Initial Registration

Students desiring to establish a student organization must complete the following:

1. Certify that the organization's operations, including its membership practices, comply with all applicable university policies, including the university's policy on Preventing and Responding to Discrimination. Specifically, VCU prohibits unlawful discrimination in the workplace, academic setting or any of its programs or activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin (including ethnicity), age, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions), parenting status, marital status, political affiliation, military status (including veteran status), genetic information (including family medical history), sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or disability. However, applicable law permits the following two exceptions:

a. Virginia law permits a religious or political student organization to determine that ordering the organization's internal affairs, selecting the organization's leader and members, defining the organization's doctrines, and resolving the organization disputes are in furtherance of the organization's religious or political mission and that only persons committed to that mission should conduct such activities. (Va. Code §23.1-400.)

i. An organization making such a determination must so certify in the registration form.

b. Federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sex/gender (Title IX) does not apply to the membership practices of a social fraternity or social sorority at VCU if the fraternity or sorority is exempt from taxation under the Internal Revenue Code. (20 U.S.C. §1681(a)(6)(A); 34 C.F.R. § 106.14(a).) All other programs and activities of social fraternities and sororities are governed by Title IX if they receive any Federal financial assistance.

2. Certify that the purposes and activities of the proposed organization are not in violation of local, state, or federal law.

3. Submit the officer eligibility form for all student or governed by Title IX if they receive any Federal financial assistance.

4. Submit the officer eligibility form for all student organization officers by applicable deadline(s).

5. Complete registration forms and training required by The Commons by the applicable deadline(s).

Annual Re-Registration

All student organizations must re-register each academic year. Student organizations that are looking to re- register must:

1. Be in compliance with all applicable university policies, including policies set by The Commons

2. Complete the online registration process in RamsConnect and any training required by The Commons

3. Sponsored Student Organizations and Affiliated Student Organizations must also be in compliance with any additional requirements for registration set by their supporting unit/department by applicable deadlines in accordance with written notice.

4. Submit a GPA authorization form for student organization officers by applicable deadline(s).

Registration Denial or Loss of Recognition

The Commons may deny, suspend or terminate the recognition of any organization through the Administrative Enforcement process described below if the organization has failed to meet any of the requirements outlined in this Handbook by the applicable deadline(s).

Naming of Student Organizations

Recognition of student organizations does not imply university approval or disapproval of the organization or its goals.

1. A Registered Student Organization may not use the university's name in the name of the student organization in such a manner to suggest the organization is sponsored by the university.

a. Registered Student Organizations may use "of VCU" or "at VCU" following the name of the student organization so that the location of the organization is reflected in the name.

2. Affiliated and Sponsored Student Organizations may use the university's name in the name of the student organization only with specific written authorization by the supporting university unit or department.

Membership

1. The members of student organizations must be currently enrolled VCU students

a. At least three (3) of which must be officers, including but not limited to, president, vice president, and treasurer.

2. Officers of a student organization must meet the following grade point average (GPA) and enrollment requirements at all times:

a. Undergraduate officers must be enrolled in at least six (6) credit hours and have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.5.

b. Graduate and professional officers must be in good standing with their academic department.

3. Required number of members:

a. All registered student organizations must maintain a minimum of eight (8) members

b. A university department or unit supporting an Affiliated Student Organization or a Sponsored Student Organization or a governing council or association may propose an exception to this requirement for a higher or lower minimum membership. The Director of The Commons will determine whether to make an exception to this requirement as proposed.

Advisors

All student organizations are encouraged to have a faculty or staff advisor. The role of an advisor is to help develop the organization's officers and members, guide the group in setting goals and objectives, and assist the Student Organization Office in ensuring that the organization is aware of university policy and procedures. Advisors should not facilitate financial transactions, though may advise the student officers on fiscal responsibility, nor should they select or appoint officers to the organization but may help oversee that elections are conducted per the organization's constitution.  Advisors are also asked to help mediate any student member conflicts within the organization and to let the Student Organization Office know if and when issues arise. Faculty or staff advisors of student organizations are Campus Security Authorities under the Clery Act and subject to the applicable training requirements, which will be communicated to advisors by The Commons in coordination with VCU Police.

Funding

Each student organization must make provisions for the businesslike management of its funds. Each student organization has access to an organizational account administered by the university for the purpose of receiving appropriate Student Activity Fees (SAF).

1. Each student organization is eligible to apply for allocations from the SAF through a governing council or association:

a. Registered Student Organizations apply to the VCU Student Government Association's Independent Finance Committee under its Appropriations Bylaws

b. Affiliated and Sponsored Student Organizations apply to their respective appropriating body, such as the Sport Club Council, Student Media Board, Graduate Student Association, or Fraternity and Sorority Finance Committee.

2. All student organizations receiving funds from the SAF must maintain these funds in a university account, which can only be accessed by authorized organization officers.

3. An organization may not deposit other (non-SAF) funds in a university account; The Commons encourages organizations with non-SAF funds to deposit them in an account at a bank or credit union. The Commons further encourages organizations to maintain access to an organizational account through officer transitions by always maintaining account access for at least two officers of the organization.

Promotions and Advertising

Students or student organizations promoting or advertising membership or activities on behalf of their organization should note the following:

1. References to alcoholic beverages, cocktails, keg, or other terms or illustrations descriptive of alcohol or its consumption may serve as evidence in the event of an alleged violation of Student Organization Events with Alcohol Policy, and/or the policy on Alcohol and Other Drugs.

2. VCU encourages student organizations to develop and promote inclusive programming and events consistent with its policy on Preventing and Responding to Discrimination.

3. The university logos and branding graphics may not be used without express written authorization by VCU University Relations.

Student Organization Conduct

All student organizations and/or their members are subject to the requirements of applicable university policies, including the following policies:

Student Code of Conduct
Reservations and Use of Space
Alcohol and Other Drugs
Computer and Network Resources Use Honor System and
Academic Standards Sex-based misconduct – Interim

Title IX Sexual Harassment - Interim
Event and Meeting Services: Guidelines and Procedures
University Trademarks & Licensing

Alleged violations of this Handbook or other policies should be reported through the Incident Reporting Form. Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, in consultation with The Commons or other administrative unit responsible for supporting the organization, will determine whether a reported violation is subject to action under the Student Code of Conduct or an administrative enforcement process.

Administrative Enforcement

An organization that fails to comply with administrative requirements set forth in this Handbook or otherwise established by a university unit or department may face administrative enforcement action. In an administrative enforcement process, the university will notify the student organization of its intent to take administrative action by sending an email to the student representative of the organization that describes the following: the organization's reported noncompliance, the applicable administrative requirement, the intended administrative action, and a reasonable period for the student organization to respond to the notice if it wishes to contest the action. To contest administrative action, the student organization should provide additional, relevant information for consideration by the university official responsible for the administrative action. If the university official maintains the administrative action, the student organization may seek review of the administrative action by the university official's direct supervisor by submitting a written request. The university's decision regarding the administrative action following such review is final.

This administrative enforcement process is separate from the adjudication of reported misconduct under the Student Code of Conduct.

Forms

● All required forms for student organizations are located on RamsConnect.

Incident Reporting Form

Related Documents

1. Fraternity and Sorority Policies and Documents

2. Student Code of Conduct

3. VCU Student Government Association Constitution and Bylaws

4. Sport Club Handbook

Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

Approval 08/19/2022.  Revision 08/19/2022.
Handbook for Student Organizations at Virginia Commonwealth University

Approval 08/31/2021. Revision 08/31/2021
Handbook for Student Organizations at Virginia Commonwealth University

Approval 07/01/2019. Revision 07/01/2019.
Policies and Procedures for Student Organizations at Virginia Commonwealth University

Approval 08/12/2019. Revision 08/12/2019.
Student Organization at VCU Conduct Procedures Manual

Approval 02/07/1997.  Revision 05/05/2008.
Rights and Responsibilities of Registered Student Organizations at Virginia Commonwealth University

Approval 11/19/1993. Revision 08/05/2004.
Procedures for Registered Student Organizations on the Monroe Park Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University

Appendix A: Benefits and Resources for Student Organizations

Sponsored Student Organizations

  • Professional staff or faculty designated as a primary advisor of the organization
  • University guidance in regard to risk management and contract review for the organization's participation in university programs, events and activities
  • Coordination with the university for approved purchases
  • Potential for additional funding through the sponsoring department/unit
  • Access to organization office space on campus (if available)
  • Priority access to reserved space for university-wide annual events through their sponsoring department/unit
  • Eligibility to request university approval and written authorization to use university logos, trademarks, and "VCU" as a component of the organization's name

Affiliated Student Organizations

  • Professional staff or faculty designated as a primary liaison to the organization
  • University department or unit providing guidance for the organizations and its activities
  • Coordination with the university for approved purchases.
  • Potential for additional funding through the affiliated department/unitAccess to organization office
  • Access to organization office
  • Access to organization office space on campus (if available)
  • Priority access to reserved space for university-wide annual events through their affiliated department/unit

Registered Student Organizations

  • Professional staff support and guidance from The Commons
  • Permission to reserve available university space for meetings and activities through the EMS reservation system
  • Access to student activity fee funds through an application process to SGA
  • Resources in The Commons and The Underground which include, but are not limited to:

- 150 copies per month
- 25 buttons per month
- Paint materials
- Computer stations
- Banner paper
- Meeting space (first come, first served)
- Dedicated group in RamsConnect 
-Advising from our Leadership Involvement Ambassadors in regards to registration, resources in our centers, and purchasing-related questions

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