Categories of Student Organizations
Student organizations are voluntary associations of University of Tennessee students, which are legally separate entities from the University. Student organizations are student initiated and student run. Student organizations that are registered with the University through the Center for Student Engagement may have access to certain University-controlled benefits and resources, such as facilities use and funding eligibility. Varying opportunities and mandates exist depending on the type of registered student organization.
With the exception of social fraternities and sororities, whose relationship with the institution requires a more detailed and exacting peer and administrative review, any group of students may seek to register as either a Continuing or Temporary Registered Student Organization.
Continuing Registered Student Organizations
Any group of at least eight (8) students meeting the requirements contained herein that agree to meet University set expectations in order to maintain registration with the University of Tennessee and whose purpose for existing is presumed to endure beyond ninety days is considered a Continuing Independent Registered Student Organization (ISRO). IRSOs are required to have a president, an advisor, and an updated constitution/bylaws. All IRSOs are required to complete the Annual Renewal Process with the Center for Student Engagement to maintain an active organization status. Additionally, the advisor and organization may be required to meet certain provisions, such as trainings and workshops, in order to maintain registration status. IRSOs are required to have their contact information updated in VOLink at all times.
Temporary Registered Student Organizations/Student Government Association Campaigns
Any group of at least eight (8) students meeting the requirements contained herein and whose purpose for existing is presumed to be temporary. During registration, these groups will include an end date for their organization. If such an organization wishes to become an ISRO, it will need to follow the registration process outlined under registering a new student organization.
A registered student organization whose purpose for existing is less than 90 days is considered to be a Temporary Registered Student Organization.
Any group of at least eight (8) students meeting the requirements contained herein and whose purpose for existing is presumed to endure through elections for the Student Government Association only will be considered a Student Political Party.
Department Sponsored Organizations
These are registered student organizations that are advised and supported by a campus department. In these cases, the student organization works with the department in a direct way in fulfillment of the department’s mission. A Department Sponsored Organization will be either a Continuing Independent Registered Student Organization or a Temporary Registered Student Organization depending upon the length of time it is presumed that the organization will endure. Department Sponsored Organizations are considered to be Continuing Registered Student Organizations.
Sororities and Fraternities
Any group seeking to establish a social fraternal organization on campus must contact the Office of Sorority and Fraternity for procedures and policies relative to this action. The Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life manages the process for establishing a social fraternal organization. As the group completes the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life’s process for expansion, the corresponding Greek Council may recommend to campus leadership that registration be granted. Registration is granted by the Chancellor on the recommendation of the Vice Chancellor of Student Life. Once registration is granted, the social fraternal organization will then complete the process of becoming a Registered Student Organization as a sorority or fraternity. Sororities and fraternities are expected to uphold the minimum standards and follow the policies of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life. Withdrawal of registration of social fraternal organizations may be initiated by the University or the respective governing body with the final decision being the responsibility of the University.
Social fraternities and sororities shall not be required to reveal their secret rituals provided these rituals do not conflict with local, state or federal law, or with university regulations.
In an effort to have targeted education and resources to promote a positive fraternal experience on the campus, and create a partnership between the national organization and the campus, the University discourages the establishment of social fraternity or sorority operating outside the of the lens of the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life. Unrecognized groups are ineligible for housing in the University’s fraternity and sorority communities, and a group’s operation as an unrecognized group will be evaluated in any later request for recognition by the group.
At the University of Tennessee, voluntary associations of students are an important part of the educational process. The University has a positive responsibility to encourage such associations as a means by which students can learn and develop outside the classroom. In doing so it neither endorses nor disclaims any particular idea, system of thought, or point of view.
When groups of students wish to have a continuous association causing them to congregate for activities on the campus, requiring from time to time the use of the University facilities and holding themselves out to the general public as a group centered on the campus, it is proper that they be registered by the University. All registered associations shall be accorded the same privileges and bound by the same obligations. Registration by the University does not constitute an endorsement of the purposes or activities of an association by the faculty, administration, or student body.
Advisory Committee on Student Organizations
The Center for Student Engagement shall utilize an Advisory Committee on Student Organizations (ACSO) in the procedural review of constitutions of proposed organizations. The ACSO may also formulate and recommend rules, regulations, and policies regarding registered student organizations.
Matters pertaining to policies within an organization shall be the concern of the organization and its advisory council. Matters pertaining to the relationship of an organization to other organizations or to the University shall be the concern of the ACSO.
Student members of the ACSO shall be appointed the director of the Center for Student Engagement. A member of the Center for Student Engagement staff will serve as a committee advisor and liaison to that department.
New Student Organization Registration
To register a new student organization, students and advisors must follow the process below:
- Complete Online Registration Form on VOLink: Student Organizations wishing to register a student organization will be required to complete the online registration form on VOLink. The online registration form is a form a student will complete to have their organization officially registered by the University of Tennessee.
- A listing of the names and titles of all officers as well as the names of at least eight (8) petitioning members shall be submitted with the organization’s application via the student organization system found online via VOLink.
- Upon completion of the Registration Form, a Student Engagement Ambassador will reach out to the applicant to schedule an Information Session, in which any concerns about the application will be addressed. Additionally, this Information Session will introduce students to the registration process, policies and procedures for being a registered organization, resources available for student organizations, and an overview of VOLink.
- Following the Information Session, the Advisory Committee on Student Organizations (ACSO) will review the application, constitution, and any other information available in order to determine whether the organization conforms to the policies and regulations established for the registration of student organizations. Upon approval, the student organization will become a Registered Student Organization, and the applicant will be notified via email. The organization can then commence operations immediately.
Additional Provisions to the New Student Organization Registration Process:
Temporary Organizations: If a temporary student organization would wish to become a registered student organization, the organization would need to complete a Student Organization Reclassification Form and meeting with a staff member in the Center for Student Engagement.
Sport Clubs: An organization wishing to become a sport club must seek approval from the Sport Club Coordinator in the RecSports Department
Social Fraternities and Sororities: Any group seeking to establish a social fraternal organization on campus must contact either the Office of Sorority or Fraternity Life for procedures and policies relative to this action. After the group completes the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life process for expansion, the Office of Sorority and Fraternity Life in consult with the corresponding Greek Council may recommend an invitation for campus recognition be granted. The invitation is granted by the Chancellor on the recommendation of the Student Life staff. Once invitation for recognition is granted the social fraternal organization will then complete the process of becoming a Registered Student Organization. Withdrawal of registration of social fraternal organizations may be initiated by the University administration or the respective governing body with the final decision being the responsibility of the University administration. Social fraternities and sororities shall not be required to reveal their secret rituals provided these rituals do not conflict with local, state or federal law or with University regulations.
Campus MultiFaith Council: An organization wishing to gain support from the Campus MultiFaith Council should contact the President of the Campus MultiFaith Council.
New organizations may begin the registration process by submitting the New Student Organization Application found on VOLink. New organizations may register any time during the year. Organizations are required to submit a constitution along with their application. Local chapters of regional or national organizations will be required to submit their local constitution and, in addition, any statements of their parent organization to which their local constitution refers or which determine local policy above and beyond that which is stated in the local constitution. The local constitution must contain the following:
Name of the organization
The phrase “the University of Tennessee” is regarded as a trademark and consequently cannot precede the name of a campus organization; however, the phrase may follow the name, e.g., Chess Club at the University of Tennessee.
Statement of purpose
Said purpose must include aims and activities legal under local, state, and federal law, and this statement of purpose must be in conformity with written University regulations. It is required that the actual purpose of a student organization conform with the purposes stated within the organization’s constitution.
Membership eligibility requirements
Registered student organizations, including those affiliated with an extramural organization, shall be open to all students unless the organization, by its nature, exists explicitly for a certain subgroup in selecting its membership. There must be no discrimination with regard to race, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, age, or disability. The following statement must appear verbatim in organization constitutions:
“Membership is open to all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status.”
A registered student organization may restrict membership based on the provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Same-sex Organization requirements:
- The organization must have tax-exempt status under Section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code
- Members must be limited to students, staff, or faculty at the University of Tennessee
- The organization must be a “social fraternity or sorority” as defined by the United States Department of Education
Officers must be full-time students, except for organizations where membership is composed of both faculty and student members, and a faculty member may serve as an officer. To be eligible to serve as an officer of a registered student organization, a student should be in good academic standing at the time of his/her election or appointment and during his/her term of office. In addition, a student may be judged ineligible for the office if found responsible for violating a University Standard of Conduct. When an election is held in a registered student organization, the names of new officers must be updated on VOLink within one (1) week.
Statement of the terms of officers and the time and method of election
The individuals within the organization have the discretion of setting terms of officers, time, and method of election.
Frequency of meetings
The individual within the organization have the discretion of establishing the frequency of meetings
A statement of any membership dues, including amount and frequency of payment as well as a process for receipting; an agreement that all funds will be received and disbursed through the Student Organizations Business Office; and a provision for the disposition of funds remaining in the event of the dissolution of the group must be included. Organizations must select a specific group if donating any remaining funds.
Provisions for an organization advisor
All registered student organizations must choose one or more advisors, and a provision for this selection must be included in the constitution, but the name of the advisor(s) should not be listed. Except for local chapters of national social fraternities and sororities, which may have alumni advisors, the advisor shall be a full-time faculty or staff member or a full-time graduate student. In procuring an advisor, questions regarding should be referred to the Center for Student Engagement staff members who are responsible for being familiar with the constitution and purposes of the student organization they are advising and with University policies regarding student organizations. Advisors may counsel their organization in the exercise of responsibility, but they do not have the authority to control the policy of the organization. The officers of the organization are responsible for keeping their advisors aware of the policies and actions of their organization. Financial records must be available to the organization’s advisors at all times.
In the event that an organization advisor is no longer able to serve in this capacity, the student organization has thirty (30) days to replace their advisor and update this information in VOLink. Failure to do so will result in the organization being placed in inactive status.
Denial of Registration
If the ACSO denies an application for registration, it must be based on one or more of the following grounds:
- The statement of purpose is illegal under local, state, or federal laws or does not conform with written University regulations.
- The organization would, in the opinion of the ACSO, constitute a danger to the continued or proper functioning of the University.
Any decision by the ACSO to withdraw or deny registration to a student organization may be appealed to the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Life (AVC) by the affected organization. When a decision by the ACSO is appealed, the AVC shall abide by the following procedures in hearing the appeal:
- The ACSO has the burden of proving the charges against the organization, including the presentation of a detailed statement of why the organization should be denied registration or registration should be withdrawn under the University’s policy governing student organizations.
- The organization may be represented by an advisor of its choice.
- The organization may present a defense against the charges. A copy of the charges must have been provided to the organization a reasonable time in advance of the hearing, along with all information available to the ACSO in drawing up the charges.
The AVC is the final decision on all appeals.
Each year, the student organization president will need to renew their organization. The process updates the Center for Student Engagement and VOLink with officer contact information, bylaws/mission/purpose statement updates, and current organization rosters.
- Complete the Renewal Form on VOLink: The student president and/or executive member will also be required to attend the annual Student Organization Conference, Knoxville (SOCK). The following will be discussed at the meeting:
- Campus Policies and Procedures – including reservation information
- Student Programming Allocation Committee Funding and other university funding processes and opportunities
- Hazing Prevention, Sexual Violence Prevention/Title IX, and Student Conduct
- What the CSE offers student organizations
The renewal form on VOLink will be approved after the attendance at the SOCK is confirmed.
If a student organization president does not attend SOCK, the organization will become inactive until a makeup session is attended.
If an organization fails to complete the re-registration process by September 1, the organization will be moved to an inactive status. An inactive status results in the organization being unsearchable in VOLink and all VOLink abilities will be frozen. Inactive organizations are not able to access other benefits, such as reserving campus rooms, until they gain active status.
In order to be deemed active again, the organization must complete the steps outlined above.
If an organization is inactive more than two academic years and the organization has funds in their Student Organization Business Office account, those funds will be moved to the Student Engagement Enrichment Fund unless the organization’s constitutions state otherwise.
Registered student organizations may be affiliated with an off-campus organization, where such affiliation is:
- Clearly indicated, either by the title of the organization or its constitution at the time of registration, or by specific statements in connection with any activities growing out of a later affiliation.
- Consistent with the purposes set forth in the constitution.
- Not such as to change significantly the nature of the organization as primarily an association of students on campus. Affiliation with an extramural organization does not of itself affect the right of a student organization to operate on the campus. When seeking registration, the student organization must make clear those obligations imposed on the local chapter by extramural affiliation.
When there is a conflict between the policies and procedures of the extramural organization and those of the University (e.g., policies pertaining to membership eligibility or voting privileges), the obligation of the student organization is to the University and its policies.
Organization E-mail Accounts
Organizations are eligible to submit information requesting a student organization e-mail account through the OIT website. Passwords can only be reset for registered organizations that are listed in the public A-Z list. Organizations that have been inactive for three (3) or more years will have their e-mail accounts disabled.
A student organization is eligible for registration if it does not deny membership on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, citizenship, veteran status, sexual organization, gender identity, or gender expression. A registered student organization may restrict membership based on the provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Student organizations, although registered or otherwise permitted to operate on or near university property and even though required to conform to certain prescribed university procedures in some cases, are voluntary associations of students and are not in any way or manner operated under the general supervision of the University or its Trustees, officers, administrators, or employees. Neither the University nor any of its Trustees, administrators, officers and employees are in any way or manner liable for acts or failures to act on the part of such organizations. It is especially noted that the University is not responsible for bodily harm or death to participants in voluntary organizations or activities.
Further information regarding student organizations can be found in the University’s Regulation 1720-4-2 (available at http://publications.tnsosfiles.com/rules/1720/1720-04/1720-04-02.pdf). In case of any conflict between the University’s Regulation and Hilltopics, the University’s regulation will govern.