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Framework for Non-Student Involvement in Voluntary Student Organizations

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Student organizations have long sought the counsel and expertise of various non-student advisors, instructors, coaches, and community members (“non-students”). This involvement can provide a net benefit to students, though the exact nature of this involvement has, at times, presented challenges to student well-being, autonomy, and effective operations in a University context.

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This document seeks to provide a framework through which to understand and direct the involvement of non-students in recognized student organizations.

Framework Details


  • Student Health & Well-Being: The safety and well-being of students are of paramount importance. The greater the involvement from a non-student, the higher the standard to ensure the health and well-being of Stanford students.
  • Local Autonomy & Student Learning: With rare exceptions, leaders of voluntary student organizations have the decision-making authority regarding the operations and decisions that affect their group. While non-students can have a significant voice and influence in the process, except in extreme situations related to health & safety, they should ensure that the group’s student members and leadership are making their own decisions. Students should be free from a non-student’s coercion. Non-students should be mindful and transparent when they have a possible conflict of interest.
  • Conflict of Interest: When members of their immediate families have significant financial interests in, or consulting or employment arrangements with, other business concerns, it is important to avoid actual or apparent conflicts of interest between their University obligations and their outside interests.
  • Transparency & Clarity: An important skill for student leaders to develop is the ability to enter agreements and create effective boundaries. As such, this framework either requires or highly encourages written agreements depending on the nature of the non-student involvement. In addition, the University has a vested interest and fiduciary responsibility in tracking any such arrangements and ensuring that the protocols below are followed. 
  • Coordinated Response: When issues arise, the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) will seek to work in conjunction with any non-student, but always in coordination with the student leaders.
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  • Advisor: Anyone who plays a significant role in overseeing the general functions of the group, provides insight on group operations, and otherwise assists the group in a regular way. Advisors can be University staff, faculty, alumni, chapter advisors, or community members with expertise or knowledge. Advisors are generally unpaid roles but many Stanford staff serve as advisors to groups in their official university capacity.
  • University Advisor/Coordinator: Anyone who is employed by Stanford for the purposes of advising or overseeing one or more student organizations. (e.g. OSE staff, Community center staff, Professional school student life office)
  • Ongoing Coach/Instructor: Anyone who has significant or ongoing contact with the group to provide expertise or direction regarding a specific activity or skill. Coaches and instructors may be employed by Stanford, contracted for payment by the student organization, or serve as volunteers, the latter of which may be provided some payment at the discretion of the group. A coach may also serve as an advisor, but that is not assumed.
  • Non-Student Participant: Anyone other than a currently enrolled Stanford student who has significant contact or involvement with the group. While non-students may participate in some ways, they should never be considered “members” or take leadership roles within a group.
  • Stanford Affiliate: Anyone with an active Stanford ID card, including postdoctoral students and spouses with Courtesy Cards. Alumni are not considered “Stanford Affiliates” by this definition.
  • “Significant” Contact: Contact with the group or its leadership more than twice a month. In addition, any sort of overnight travel with the group is considered “significant” contact.
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Revocation of Non-Student Involvement

Involvement in Voluntary Student Organizations – whether as a coach, instructor, volunteer advisor, or other non-student participant – is a privilege afforded on the expectation that certain expectations are met. These include the specific expectations outlined on the chart below, as well as the general expectations of the Principles listed above. Stanford reserves the right to revoke participation or involvement in a student organization’s activities at any time and for any reason.

Issues regarding improper behavior by non-students should be brought to the attention of OSE or your University Advisor. If the participant is employed by Stanford, conversations may also involve other Stanford administrators. 

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Framework of Expectations

  Advisor* Ongoing Coach / Instructor Non-Student Participant
Registration Registration Form Registration Form Registration Form
Background Check, via HireRight** Yes** Yes** Yes, If On-Going Participation **
Core 10 Policies Training Yes Yes Yes
Advisor Training*** Yes -- --

* University Advisor registration and training is handled separately by OSE
** If working with minors, will use LiveScan
*** Partner Offices can use their own forms & training that meet standards, if needed

On-going participation in Stanford student organization activities is contingent upon your successful completion and passing of a background check. For non-Stanford participants, with no SUNet ID, PDF proof of completion of the Core 10 training should be emailed. 


Hiring and Paying of Non-Students

Student organizations may hire non-students in a few limited ways, some of which require prior approval from the Office of Student Engagement or your assigned University Advisor. 

Service Payments (Short-term). For master class instructors, honoraria, speakers, and other one or multiple-time service providers, under $10,000.

  • See FO Manual
  • At the end of the service, in recognition of contribution, groups may submit Service Payment requests (see FO Manual) for the instructors. In this case, instructors would be considered independent contractors of the ASSU.
  • If the instructor is already employed by the University, they will need to receive pre-approval from their University department to permit additional payment. Instructor is responsible for applying for aforementioned pre-approval.

Payroll Instructor (one year). For relevant circumstances, ongoing coaches/instructors whose total payment in the year is estimated to be greater than $10,000. This must be approved by OSE and align with Stanford HR practices and standards, including minimum wage, market rates and other compensation requirements

  • Student leader fills out the Instructor Request Form.
  • If approved, instructors will be placed on university payroll.
  • Each instructor will be paid on an hourly basis based on the number of hours of actual instruction time (paid working time during travel will need to be clarified in advance).
  • Instructors will be required to enter their hours worked on Stanford Axess.
  • While staff review and approve time cards, groups are responsible for transferring funds to cover their instructor’s wages plus fringe (discuss with your University Advisor).

Ongoing Employees (more than one year). This may only be done in relevant circumstances and at the discretion of the Office of Student Engagement and ASSU. Instructors or individuals with ongoing employment are reviewed and renewed annually, and must report to the contracted University department or ASSU, and work closely with the student organization. See the Director of OSE for more information.

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Non-Student Participants in Club Activities

Voluntary Student Organizations at Stanford exist primarily for the benefit of enrolled students, and privileges such as membership or leadership roles within an organization are reserved exclusively for enrolled students. However, with appropriate consideration to the Principles listed above, non-students may participate in some club activities. The following guidelines should govern such participation:

  • The student leaders and members of the organization, in consultation with their University Advisor/Coordinator, should be able to determine if and how non-students may participate.
  • Non-student participants are able to access university space during limited hours, tied to the mission of the organization. 24 hours/7 days a week access will be given to a limited number of non-student participants by the Office of Student Engagement on a case-by-case basis, for relevant and necessary circumstances.
  • Only the Office of Student Engagement, and relevant departments can physically grant access to on-campus space.
  • Participation from a non-student should never preclude an interested student from participating in an activity or partaking in an experience where space is limited
  • Stanford students must always comprise the majority of the membership of the student organization, including when participating in a club-sponsored activities or projects.
  • Wherever possible, non-student participation should be focused on individuals with a level of technical expertise or who would otherwise contribute to student learning, student safety or the other Principles listed above.
  • Non-students with “significant contact” (see above) are considered “regular participants” and should complete the Non-Student Participant Form and are subject to the expectations therein.
  • Stanford Affiliates (e.g. spouses, postdocs) may be given preferred consideration to other non-affiliates.
  • Non-students should in no way be competing for or otherwise “representing” Stanford or the student organization.
  • Groups who allow non-student participation may charge a reasonable fee to offset the cost of participants who do not pay student fees or membership dues.