Handbook for Student Organizations at Virginia Commonwealth University

Policy Type: Local
Responsible Office: University Student Commons and Activities
Initial Policy Approved 02/07/1997
Current Revision Approved: 08/31/2021

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, such as sports clubs, the Student Government Association, fraternities and sororities, are subject to the additional policies or procedures established by another unit or department of the university that has a relationship with the organization. Such additional policies and procedures are set forth in writing by the unit or department. 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 dismissal. 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 Content

Statement and Purpose
Contacts
Who Should Know This Handbook?
Student Organizations at VCU

Alcohol Prohibition
Initial Registration
Annual Re-Registration
Registration Denial or Loss of Recognition
Naming of Student Organizations
Membership  
Funding
Promotions and Advertising
Student Organization Conduct
Administrative Enforcement
Forms
Related Documents

Revision History 
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 on the Monroe Park and MCV Campuses.

Student Organizations at VCU

Student Organizations at VCU are groups whose membership is comprised of VCU students and that offer educational, service, recreational, social, or co-curricular opportunities to their members. 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. 

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 are those groups whose mission not only serves its membership and officers but also promotes the vision, mission, and culture of the university. These 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 include, but are not limited to:

  • Student Government Association
  • Graduate Student Association
  • College Panhellenic Council
  • National Pan-Hellenic Council
  • Interfraternity Council
  • Multicultural Greek Council
  • Sports Club Council
  • Student Media Commission

To the extent a sponsored student organization serves as an agent of the university by participating in a university process, such as appropriation of student activity fees, the organization must comply with all university requirements governing the process. A student organization that fails to comply with such requirements may lose its Sponsored status, including any university benefits and services associated with its status as a Sponsored Student Organization, through the Administrative Enforcement process described below. Following a loss of Sponsored status, a group may complete the process to convert to a registered student organization, which may include changing its name.

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 work in a collaborative partnership with Sponsored Student Organizations or university and are provided some support by a unit or department due to their direct connection with Sponsored Student Organization. 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)

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.

Alcohol Prohibition

As of August 16, 2021, and for the 2021-2022 school year, alcohol is prohibited at all activities, events, and gatherings of recognized student organizations with undergraduate student membership, regardless of how the event is funded. This rule does not apply to the lawful use of alcohol by members of a student organization if not part of the organization’s activity.

The university is committed to reviewing this rule, as well as other policies and procedures that affect student organizations, throughout the school year and will invite students to participate in the review process.

Initial Registration

Students desiring to establish a student organization must complete the following

  1. Certify that the group’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.) 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 if the active membership consists primarily of students in attendance at an institution of higher education and 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 organization officers by applicable deadline(s).
  4. 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 as outlined in their handbook/manual by applicable deadlines
  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 dismiss the recognition of any organization through the Administrative Enforcement process described below if:

  1. The organization has failed to meet any of the requirements outlined in this Handbook by the applicable deadline(s).
  2. The student organization is no longer active

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. Only upon specific written authorization by the supporting university unit or department, Affiliated and Sponsored Student Organizations may use the University’s name in the name of the student organization.

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, 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 departmentt
  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.

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 appropriated 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 Commission, 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 university policy, including the temporary alcohol prohibition for student organizations (2021-2022), described above, and 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 in promotions and advertising materials 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:

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 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.

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

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

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

Approval

Revision Date

Title

08/31/2021

08/31/2021

Handbook for Student Organizations at Virginia Commonwealth University

07/01/2019

07/01/2019

Policies and Procedures for Student Organizations at Virginia

08/12/2019

08/12/2019

Student Organization at VCU Conduct Procedures Manual

02/07/1997

05/05/2008

Rights and Responsibilities of Registered Student

11/19/1993

08/05/2004

Procedures for Registered Student Organizations on the Monroe

Benefits and Resources for Student Organizations

Sponsored Student Organizations

Affiliated Student Organizations

Registered 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 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
  • 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 university for approved purchases.
  • Potential for additional funding through the affiliated department/unit
  • Access to organization office space on campus (if available)
  • Priority access to reserved space for University-wide annual events through their affiliated department/unit

 

  • Professional staff support and guidance for registered student organizations 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 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)
    • Webpage in Ramsconnect where student organizations can provide upcoming events
  • Advising from our Student Involvement Ambassadors in regards to registration, resources in our centers, and purchasing-related questions