The University is committed to providing a rich learning environment in which every student has access to educational opportunities beyond the classroom. Student organizations are an important part of the fabric of Stanford and support peer interaction and learning, foster citizenship and leadership, and enhance student development.
For recognized voluntary student organizations, inclusivity is the goal; we believe that all students should have the ability and opportunity to explore their passions, learn new skills, forge lifelong friendships, and hone their leadership abilities. University recognition is a privilege granted to those student organizations that meet Stanford’s educational mission and the goal of creating a welcoming, inclusive student community. With University recognition and support, recognized organizations have the obligation to make their groups accessible and welcoming to any interested student.
Membership in a University recognized voluntary student organization (VSO) must be broadly open and welcoming to all Stanford students that are interested in supporting the mission of the student organization. Recognized student organizations are expected to develop recruitment and membership practices that ensure open, easy, and transparent access to membership and their group's activities.
Student organizations may use a few basic expectations to meet and sustain membership in their organization, such as attendance at meetings or payment of dues. With prior approval, performing arts groups that have ongoing ensembles may conduct an audition process if they also provide educational opportunities for all interested students.
- Broadly Open. Membership in voluntary student organizations must be broadly open to all currently registered Stanford students. Student groups should advertise and recruit broadly, giving all students access to their organization and its activities, provided they meet basic membership requirements.
- Active Participation. A member is a student who is active, involved, attends meetings and routinely participates in your organization's planning and activities. Students who simply sign-up on a mailing list are not considered members.
- Simple, Objective Requirements. Organizations may have simple, objective criteria that are based on a members's direct participation with their organization. Such criteria must be easily achievable by interested members. Acceptable criteria include: 1) regular participation in meetings, 2) attendance at an organization orientation/training, 3) assistance with planning an event, 4) organization dues, 5) grad/undergrad status, and 6) school designation (e.g. Law, Business etc.) A one-time orientation or training the length of one evening (3 hours) or weekend day (8 hours) is acceptable, but cannot be required during peak academic times. Ongoing orientations of a greater length cannot be used to determine who can become a member.
- Membership Tiers. Membership tiers are not permitted.
- Interns. Organizations may have intern positions, but all students interested must be accommodated. Clear, welcoming language and use of interest forms are useful mechanisms to use with intern programs.
- Nondiscrimination Policy. Group membership or activities cannot be in violation of the University's nondiscrimination policy, which includes sex, race, color, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or national and ethnic origin. For full policy see the Nondiscrimination Policy.
- Auditions. Arts organizations that have performance ensembles may conduct try-outs, provided this practice is clearly documented in their constitution and reviewed by OSE in advance. University preference is that open membership should be the default. All such try-outs must adhere to University policies, in particular, the Nondiscrimation Policy, Hazing Policy and Alcohol Policy.
- New Incoming Students. Student organizations are not permitted to recruit new members for their organization before an incoming student matriculates to Stanford. Recruitment activities may begin during the second day of New Student Orientation. No incoming undergraduate student should be offered organization membership or asked to represent a student organization until the conclusion of the New Student Orientation.
- Initiation Processes. Voluntary student organizations are not permitted to hold initiation activities or "tests" as part of a membership selection process, as such activity can be construed as hazing. Recognition or celebration ceremonies for new members must reflect Stanford's open membership policies, involve all existing members, and occur regularly throughout the academic year. A singular new membership class modeled after a fraternity/sorority structure does not fit a voluntary student organization model. Additionally, all celebrations must fully meet University policy for alcohol and must not involve any form of hazing.
- Full Compliance with University Anti-Hazing Policy. Under no circumstances should any student formally or informally conduct hazing activities.
- Current Registered Student. Student organization members must be currently registered students in good academic standing with the university. Students on "leaves of absence" or "suspension" cannot serve as members or leaders and must fully disassociate themselves.
- Non-students. Faculty, staff, post-doctoral scholars (postdocs), alumni, and other non-student community members may participate in public events. They may not serve as leaders, become members, engage in decision-making, or participate in regular activities on behalf of the group; nor can they represent the group or the university.
** For expectations for leadership selection, please see leadership selection.
Membership Practices At a Glance
- Attendance at a certain number of meetings
- Attendance at an orientation/training
- Help with planning an event
- Organization dues
- Undergrad/grad status