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Criteria for Approval

The following criteria are considered in approving new student groups. When evaluating new group requests, staff consider the degree to which the proposal meets each of the established criteria. Those proposals that best meet all the criteria listed below will most likely be approved.

1. Complement the university's mission


Explanation

Groups recognized by the University through Office of Student Engagement operate in the name of Stanford and Stanford's educational mission. Broadly speaking student groups must support the university's mission of teaching, education and research although student groups expected to support activities that are of primary interest to Stanford students.  

Given Stanford's educational mission new organization proposals must be able to meet the mission and goals of the university, consistent with its non-profit status.  Organizational proposals directly linked to a newly formed 501(3)c non-profit organization are not permissible since the university cannot use its resources (e.g.. space, funds, name etc.) to support the development of new 501(c) organizations. Individual students can certainly initiate such organizations on their own but would be expected to do so outside the resources of Stanford.

If the student organization is affiliated with a longstanding national charitable organization, the university expects that the national organization will fully support and follow the policies and best practices of Stanford University, especially in regards to local autonomy. If the national organization cannot demonstrate its ongoing support of university policy including local student decision-making, program planning and funding, the student organization, as an affiliate of the national organization, may not be permitted.

Less successful examples

  • A retail shop/service that does not directly support students on campus, such as a series of coffee carts on campus and in Palo Alto.
  • A profit-making start-up that designs and sells iPhone applications.
  • A new charitable organization designed to provide health education resources in Tanzania.

More successful examples

  • Black and Queer at Stanford: A support organization dedicated to the affirmation and advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning and queer identified students of African descent.
  • Biological Interdisciplinary Open Maker Environment (BIOME): An organization dedicated to shaping the future of bioengineering by providing a safe, supportive space for students to work on independent bioengineering projects, educating students on laboratory techniques and other related skills, and fostering a community to discuss the study, practice, and future of bioengineering.

2. Have a clear purpose that is best met through a voluntary student organization.


Explanation

Students regularly generate new ideas for groups and projects each review cycle. Given that neither Stanford nor ASSU has unlimited resources, we look for the strongest proposals that drive a need to exist for years to come as a vibrant and active organization. Not all interests and ideas need to be a university recognized to occur. Informally you can meet with others and explore an interest. Or, if an individually based project, perhaps you can find a faculty sponsor and do independent credit?

For this application, your proposal should have a clear definable purpose, clear outcomes and activities that can’t exist without ongoing support of a cadre of student members, ASSU funding and other institutional support such as space and staff resources.   The purpose should clearly and succinctly state your purpose, scope and activities that distinguishes your group and activities from other student groups and university departments and programs. Your group should have clear and regular activities that your group plans and executes on behalf of your own organization.  Student organizations that wish to serve as "granting agencies" for other student organizations and activities will not be approved since this is the role of ASSU. And, remember that without recognition you will not be able to use the Stanford name or resources- - - though don’t let this stop you from gathering informally.

Additionally, it is important that your proposed purpose and activities must largely be based at Stanford so that the largest number of students can benefit from your organization. Typically this means that your group's activities should show that the activity is broadly available and accessible  to Stanford students.  Some activities, such as community service in the local community or an outdoor experience in northern California cannot readily occur on campus, but the rationale for off-campus activiites must be clear, compelling and meet ASSU funding guidelines.

Less successful examples

  • "Say No to Smoking," with a goal of helping middle school aged children learn about the health risks of smoking. While this is a compelling goal, it is unclear how it is related to Stanford and to Stanford students.
  • "Students for Health at Stanford," an organization that has a goal of promoting health services around the world. Here it would be hard to determine if this group would duplicate existing ones, would support university policies and would not create undue risk to Stanford students and other program participants.
  • Students for Drake Music is not a current group , yet something that students might enjoy doing. There are many ways students can come together to enjoy Drake's music without being a recognized student organization. The level of structure needed to do this already exists informally and the interest/need does need the support of a long-term group with a leadership structure and continuity. Instead this idea, while attractive to students, is more akin to a student interest that already exists and can be easily met.

More successful examples

  • Stanford Review: "The Stanford Review, a student-run biweekly newspaper, offers an alternative voice on campus—a conservative voice. The Review is dedicated to promoting intellectual debate on political issues and to training students to think and write clearly."
  • Stanford Film Society: "The Stanford Film Society is committed to giving students the opportunity to make and view films from all genres as well as the chance to learn about all aspects of cinema from distinguished filmmakers who we invite to speak on campus. We strive to provide students with exposure to and education in film in an effort to facilitate film appreciation on campus."

3. Demonstrate a broadly recognized need that is not currently being met.


Explanation

The university currently has close to 700 recognized student groups that are actively involved on campus. Stanford is fortunate to have an engaged student body that creates a rich and vibrant student life although the high level of student activity creates challenges. For example, Stanford has a a moderately-sized student body and finite space, money and time so it is not possible to to support every good idea. We also highly value collaboration and have a commitment to maintaining and strengthening existing student groups.

With these goals as a foundation new groups must demonstrate a broadly recognized need that is not currently being met on campus and does not duplicate an existing student group or campus department. Uniqueness alone is not a sufficient rationale for demonstrating an unmet need. Stanford looks for a balance between a new and unique idea with something that meets a fairly broad unmet need that is of broad interest to the general student body. For example, a group devoted to tutoring in elementary schools in Redwood City would likely meet a broad need, but a different group founded to work in each individual elementary school might not.

We also expect students hoping to start new groups to first consider involvement in existing ones.  To search for existing groups, visit CardinalSync.

Less successful examples

  • A new energy group devoted to: "encouraging Stanford students to reduce energy consumption by creating traveling informational exhibits that will be displayed in dining halls." While this specific activity may not exist yet, the goal is to unite and educate Stanford students to promote campus sustainability. This is a duplication of Students for Sustainable Stanford and Green Living Council.
  • An entrepreneurship group for North America. Many groups already promote entrepreneurship at Stanford, and there is little recognized need for a narrowly focused group. A few of the existing entrepreneurship groups include Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students, Asia-Pacific Student Entrepreneurship Society, and Future Social Innovators Network. Better would be to work with existing groups.

More successful examples

  • The Stanford Quad: "Stanford's yearbook that provides an annual snapshot of Stanford University."
  • Student Organizing Committee for the Arts: "harnesses the collective potential of Stanford's artists and student groups by creating inclusive opportunities to display and perform across genres."

4. Demonstrate sustainability for at least a two to three-year period.


Explanation

It can take considerable time and resources to create and support student groups on campus. The goal of a Stanford-sponsored student group is to create a purpose and structure that lives beyond the involvement of the group’s founders. Sustainability is an important aspect of any student group proposal and must be demonstrated in your plan. Consider:

  • An idea that is broad enough that it can continue for a period of years.
  • An idea attractive enough to Stanford students that the group will be able to recruit members beyond the founding group.
  • A structure that provides clear leadership transition.
  • Orientation and training activities for members.
  • A realistic budget with ready ways to achieve and maintain funding from year to year.
  • Realistic plan for other university resources needed to support a group including availability of space and staff resources. 
  • A good mix of students from different years.

Note:

  • Given their short time left on campus, seniors cannot easily be the main driving force for a new student group proposal. However, they can assist in forming new groups.

Less successful examples

  • A group formed to produce a one-time benefit fundraising concert. Instead, it would be better to work directly with Stanford Concert Network which is a long-standing student organization and has a strong history of producing concerts.
  • A group devoted to an annual conference of Latin American students visiting Stanford for a cultural exchange at little or no cost to the participants. While a laudable goal, the ability for a student group to annually raise funds to bring students to campus from Stanford sources is not an easily sustainable project.
  • An acrobatic group that needs specialized recreational facilities and a sprung wood floor.

More successful examples

  • Stanford Shakespeare Society: A group that has been in existence for ten years and performs in a variety of non-traditional and creative venues. Members fulfill a variety of roles from acting to production.
  • Down with Gravity: A group that has a regular practice time and regularly welcomes new participants.
  • Stanford Pre-Business Association: A long-standing group that meets an important student need and regularly connects with faculty and alumni.

5. Comply with all local, state and federal laws and university policies.


Explanation

The group and its activities must comply with all laws and university policies. For the most relevant policies see the complete list of policies that relate to student groups. Some important policies to review include: high impact events, complicated projects, local autonomy, benefit fundraisers, membership, nondiscrimination, off-campus fundraising, co-sponsorship, travel, and youth programs. 

Less successful examples

  • The Stanford Nudist Society: Local Santa Clara County ordinances place limits on public nudity. One might also question how this supports the educational mission of the university.
  • Stanford Gambling or Poker Club: Local and state laws prohibit most forms of gambling and poker. 

Note:

In both of these cases university policy would not likely limit an individual’s ability to engage in these activities provided that they are done as private individuals, in private spaces and not in the name of Stanford.

More successful examples

  • GSB Wine Circle: Clearly local liquor laws and university policy apply here, but the group is all of age and has a good plan for following the law and university policy.
  • KZSU Radio Station: It is important to have a student-run radio station on campus but its mission and structure must still be designed to meet the mission of the university and FCC governmental guidelines.

6. Involve activities that do not create undue risk or liability.


Explanation

Groups and activities that are done in the name of Stanford can create undue risk to our students and others which the university cannot support as sponsored activities. Most of these activities involve some level of physical activity or travel that may be difficult to supervise. By policy the university will not allow bungee jumping and sky driving. Other group proposals that have not received university recognition include kiteboarding and a gymnastics club team.

Less successful examples

  • Fire art
  • Backpack wilderness camping with children
  • An international travel service program for high school and college students to the Amazon
  • Parkour
  • Whiskey tasting. While Stanford has approved beer and wine tasting groups for graduate students it has declined to approve groups devoted to tasting hard alcohol and spirits. Instead, students of legal age can pursue such activities on their own.

More successful examples

  • Stanford Club Triathlon Team: A club triathlon team with members coming from all sorts of athletic backgrounds bounded by goals ranging from getting in shape to completing their first triathlon.
  • Taegeuk Football Club (TFC): A club that is designed to foster good relationships with universities and organizations around the Bay Area and exchange Korean culture through the sport with other football teams in the area.

7. Possess committed currently registered student members.


Explanation

Stanford requires a group of committed students who are prepared to support the group for a period of time which must include at least ten students including three that are willing to assume and maintain a key leadership role. Additionally, you are expected to identify three separate individuals who will be able to serve as an authorized representative (president, co-president and financial officer) for three quarters.  

Less successful examples

  • Ima Leeder has already developed a mission statement, a constitution and a plan for a major conference. She then asks for help from her five busy friends, who agree to assist her on the day of the conference. They have no discernible commitment to the group and its purpose. 
  • A group of students want to form a group to bring more events and speakers about Iranian culture to campus, but all of them are too busy to take on officer positions.

More successful proposals

  • Stanford Dance Marathon: The group began with an active group of interested students and has grown to over 500 participants, dozens of active planners, and an executive team of 3–5 highly experienced students.
  • Stanford Fleet Street Singers: Has evolved to a tight-knit ensemble of performers, in which many members volunteer for multiple and shared group roles including musical direction, business management and production.

8. Create a name that clearly represents the function of the group.


Explanation

Your group name should provide a clear sense of your group's purpose and activities and can anchor the group's activities for years to come and assist in recruiting new students. New groups should avoid names or acronyms that might cause confusion with existing Stanford groups, departments or programs. 

Less successful proposals

  • The Stanford Club
  • The Journal of Medical Education, a name that could easily be considered a journal of the Stanford Medical School
  • FSI, the Free-Thinking Stanford Innovators, could be confused with the Freeman-Spogli Institute
  • The Center for Sustainable Project Management: Would others see this as a student project or a department of Stanford?

More successful proposals

  • Stanford Equestrian Team
  • LITES: Lighting Innovation and Technology

Qualifications

  • Budget. If your proposed organization foresees programming activities that exceed $3,000, we ask that you also include a budget with estimated income/expenses. Please refer to the budget template here.
  • University space. This approval process cannot guarantee ongoing access or assignment to university space for work projects, storage or specialized activities. It is not easy to obtain specialized spaces for an individual group and any such space arrangements are outside the purview of the new organization recognition process. That said, the university will make every attempt to accommodate access to regular meeting spaces on campus as available.
  • Speakers. Groups wishing to hosts speakers may do so but these speakers are limited to speakers with minimal honoria costs. Speakers that charge more than a few thousand dollars in fees should be referred to ASSU Speakers Bureau.  ASSU Speakers Bureau's mission is to sponsors popular, high cost speakers.
  • University advisor. Depending on the level of complexity and scope of a group's activities, the university may require a specifically identified university advisor, either a faculty or staff member.
  • Competitive travel. There are restrictions on the amount of on-campus funding a student organization can expect for travel competitions.  First, on-campus funding (whether by ASSU, TSF or other campus sources) is limited and not guaranteed. Generally, only Club Sports and other long-standing collegiate competitions that involve an activity critical to the group's core mission  can receive ASSU or TSF funding.  It is possible for limited "non-funded" competitive travel within the Bay area, California, or is some cases, the US, to be approved provided that the travel comes from other on-campus sources such as a department. Limited off-campus fundraising is permissible after the org's one-year probation period has ended, although significant off-campus funding is not often successful.
  • Conference travel. There are limits on the level of student organization sponsored travel to conferences outside of the Bay Area. Due to local autonomy, national or parent organizations cannot require a Stanford student organization to attend a conference at the expense of the university or ASSU. 
  • International travel programs. Student organizations cannot be approved to conduct international travel programs because the resources and oversight required are beyond the scope of a voluntary student organization.
  • Non-profit 501(c)3 organization.  A recognized student organization cannot also be a non-profit 501(c)3 organization founded, lead or actively involving current Stanford students. With review, it is possible for organizations to be affiliated with long-standing national non-profit organizations that make provisions for campus chapters, support local autonomy and provide adequate insurance for organization activities.
  • Consulting services. Organizations with the primary purpose of providing consulting services for entities outside Stanford are not permitted. Organizations that have a consulting aspect to the group's activities may be permissible if they provide open membership and involvement for all students and are carefully reviewed and approved by the university. Most successful are proposals that are designed to support on-campus projects or non-profit organizations without fees.