Policies and Resources

Student organization leaders planning events and activities should be familiar with the following policies and procedures.  Contact soch@fas.harvard.edu for additional information and general event advising. For more information about operating your student organization, please see our 2018-2019 Recognized Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide. 

Table of Contents

Event Registration

Certain events should be registered with the Dean of Students Office in order to obtain services such as ticketing, bartenders, HUPD details, and licensing.  Event Registration also is used to notify the DSO of large events and activities so that we are better equipped to answer questions that may come from Harvard community members or the general public.  View more information about Event Registration.  Connect with the DSO for advising and assistance in navigating the following policies and resources. 

Co-sponsorship of Events

The College requires that each student organization maintain local autonomy, having no institutional connections with outside organizations. Co-sponsorship of an event with non-Harvard organizations or individuals is not permitted on the Harvard campus.

Student organizations may not co-sponsor on-campus events with external or unrecognized organizations (e.g., non-profit organizations; businesses; independent contractors) and may not collaborate with unrecognized student organizations (final clubs, fraternities, sororities) on campus.  Non-Harvard organizations and individuals may not hold events on campus by using a student organization as a vehicle to stage an event on campus property or to reserve a campus room for a function (i.e. running a workshop about the organization or product, or hosting an event aimed exclusively at recruitment).  Any employment recruitment events should be coordinated in conjunction with the Office of Career Services.

Room reservation privileges granted to recognized organizations are non-transferable.

In special circumstances, unrecognized student organizations whose membership consists entirely of Harvard College undergraduates may, at the discretion of a particular Harvard office or department, be permitted to co-sponsor educational programs organized by that office or department.

Free Speech

The principles of free speech and the free interchange of ideas are fundamental to the Harvard community.  View the FAS Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities and the FAS Free Speech Guidelines.  Student organizations should align their programming with the value of free speech and put measures into place that protect free speech, particularly if they are hosting an event where these principles have the potential to be compromised.  Please contact Kate Colleran with any concerns and/or to seek assistance with controversial speakers or programs. The Office of the Dean of Harvard College reserves the right to cancel an event which it deems to pose a risk to the safety or learning environment of Harvard College. 

Dignitaries and Other High Profile Guests

Student organizations inviting dignitaries and other high profile individuals should begin to work with the DSO prior to extending an invitation.  View the Marshal’s Office visitor guidelines for additional information.  Student organizations are reminded to accurately represent their relationship to the College and to bear in mind free speech guidelines

Restricted Dates

Student organizations are not permitted to host events, programs and activities during Exam Period and rooms are unavailable for reservation during that time.  Large, late night social events are not permitted in the Houses over Head of the Charles Weekend or on nights preceding an administration of the LSAT.  In addition, restrictions may be placed on events during Reading Period if they interfere with residential areas and libraries where exam preparation is underway.

Hosting Overnight Guests

Student organizations hosting overnight guests must follow the overnight guest policy in the Handbook for Students.  When student organizations host guests for conferences and other large events, it is expected that the organization will provide the Yards and/or Houses with guest information including the full name of each guest, their assigned room or suite, and their Harvard College host at least 2 business days in advance of the event.  Student organizations also should collect and have available emergency contact information for all such overnight guests.

Student organizations arranging for overnight stays for event attendees are expected to make clear to all participants that the event is student-run and that participants will be hosted overnight by volunteer Harvard students in their dorm rooms.

Accessibility and Accommodations 

The University is committed to providing a welcoming, accessible environment for individuals with disabilities and in compliance with state and federal regulations.  Student organizations should plan their events and activities with accessibility in mind.  University Disability Services provides resources and guidelines for event planners.  The Residential Events Relocation Policy provides guidance when utilizing House spaces and responding to requests for accommodation.

The College has funding designated to offset the cost of accommodations.  For more information on this or for general guidance on accessibility, contact the Student Engagement Team.


Build an assessment plan into the event timeline. Decide from whom (organization members, attendees, etc.) and how to gather feedback (reactions, surveys, media reviews, attendance numbers, formal debrief, etc.). Be sure to keep a record of feedback, and use the feedback to evaluate whether goals were met for the event and to determine how to improve the event if it were repeated. 


Student organizations must follow the State Sanitary Code in relation to the service of food. For events open to individuals beyond the membership of an organization, food should either be prepackaged or prepared by licensed foodservice establishments/caterers.  Homemade food may be served at events and activities limited to an organization’s membership, although the organization takes on liability in doing so.  

In rare circumstances, organizations may be permitted to prepare their own food for events open beyond its membership under the supervision of a Serve-Safe trained food safety manager in a licensed kitchen and under the auspices of a temporary foodservice permit from the City of Cambridge. View more information about food safety at Harvard.   


If an event includes the service of alcohol, it should be planned in accordance with the Harvard College Alcohol Policy. The section Policies and Procedures Governing Social Events on Campus provides specific guidance for student organization leaders. 

Student Event Services (SES)

The SES team handles the service of alcohol at student organization events.  Team members also staff student organization late-night social events and serve as crowd managers as required by the Massachusetts State Fire Code.  The 2014-2015 rate is $21.50/hour.  To arrange for SES staffing, register the event.  

Please note that all event requests must be finalized at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled event.  If a request is received under this timeframe, staffing cannot be guaranteed.

HUPD and Security

Depending on the scope and nature of an event, a HUPD detail or other security services may be needed.  Large, late night social events, ticketed events for 100+ in certain venues, and events with high profile participants are the most common types of events that require police or security.  To arrange for coverage, register the event.  

Rates for the 2014-2015 academic year are as follows:

  • HUPD
    • Standard rate- $57.30/hour, 4 hour minimum
    • Party rate- $70.30/hour, 4 hour minimum
  • Securitas
    • Varies depending on officer, averages $37/hour, 4 hour minimum 

Licensing with the City of Cambridge

The City of Cambridge License Commission (CLC) issues a variety of one-day licenses to student organizations for their events:

  • One-day Entertainment License
    • Required when there is an admission charge
    • Not required for events that have program fees (e.g. conferences)
    • Not required for events that have a suggested donation
    • Sanders Theatre, Lowell Lecture Hall, Agassiz Theatre, Loeb Drama Center, Farkas Hall, and the Dance Center all have annual licenses, no one-day license is needed
    • Most off-campus venues already have appropriate licensing
    • The license must be requested no later than 3 weeks in advance.
    • $50 fee
  • One-day alcohol license
    • Required when alcohol is served at an event with an admission charge, when there is a cash bar, or when alcohol is served at an event open to the general public
    • The license must be requested no later than 3 weeks in advance.
    • $55 fee for events with attendance under 100, $75 fee for events with attendance of 101 or more
  • One-Day Vendor’s License
    • Required for the sale of goods at an event or on the Science Center Plaza
    • Sale of books is allowed without a license
    • The license must be requested no later than 3 weeks in advance.
    • $10 fee
  • Raffle
    • Gambling and games of chance, including raffles, are prohibited in the City of Cambridge, but an organization can obtain a license that provides special dispensation to hold a raffle
    • Raffles involve the sale of tickets or entries for a random drawing.  Door prizes and drawings, where no cash is involved, are permitted without a license and not considered games of chance.
    • The license must be requested one month in advance.
    • $10 fee

Licenses are requested from the CLC by the DSO on the event organizers' behalf; please do not contact the CLC directly.  To arrange for a license, register the event.

Gambling and Games of Chance

The City of Cambridge prohibits gambling (e.g. poker), games of chance (e.g. roulette), and activities that simulate the playing of games of chance, even when no money is involved.  Therefore, casino nights and other like activities are prohibited by City ordinance.  Special licensing is available for raffles.  See the Handbook for Students for more information.

Fire Prevention Regulations and Crowd Management Requirement

The Massachusetts State Fire Code requires the following:

  • Crowd Manager Staffing
    • When dances, parties, and other events have music and an area designated for dancing.
    • When the occupant load is 100 or more as listed on the Certificate of Inspection.
    • One Crowd Manager is required for every 250 occupants or portion thereof based upon the Certificate of Inspection.
    • In most cases, a Student Events Services team member serves as the primary Crowd Manager for student organization events.  If additional Crowd Managers are required, undergraduates can fulfill the role provided they are 21 years of age or older and have successfully completed the Crowd Manager Certification Training.
  • Emergency Planning and Preparedness for Live Performances (including dances and parties)
    • Prior to the start of a performance, an audible announcement should notify occupants of the location of the exits to be used in case of a fire or other emergency.
    • If a written program, playbill or similar document is distributed prior to a program or performance, it must include a diagram of the location of all egress routes and areas of rescue assistance for use by persons with disabilities.

View more information from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services

The City of Cambridge prohibits the following:

  • Open flames unless utilized for cooking.  This includes bonfires, fire pits, and floating/sky lanterns.
  • The usage, possession, or sale of fireworks, including sparklers, by private citizens.  Displays by licensed professionals are permitted, but in most cases these are cost prohibitive for student organizations or logistically impractical to occur in or around the Harvard Square area.


On-campus events with an admission fee are ticketed through the Harvard Box Office (HBO) and are eligible for the Student Events Fund (SEF).  The HBO can also provide ticketing services for free events and for student events being held off-campus, such as conferences.

To avoid additional fees, ticketing must be requested at least 15 days prior to an event.  Ticketing forms for events in Paine Hall, Lowell Lecture Hall, Sanders Theatre, and other OFA venues are available from the venue production staff.  For all other locations, register the event to initiate ticketing.  View additional information on Box Office Fees, the Student Events Fund, and ticketing services for student organizations provided by the HBO

Press and Media Coverage

Harvard Public Affairs and Communications (HPAC) provides permissions and permits for outside media to report, photograph, and film on campus.  View the University's policies for photography and filming on campus.  Student publications recognized by the College do not need to go through the permitting process in order to cover on-campus events.

Filming, Photography, and Recording

In order to respect the privacy of individuals, filming, photography, and recording is limited on-campus.  Student organizations should plan the documentation of their events and activities according to the following guidelines:

  • In general, non-Harvard reporters, photographers, video/motion picture cameras, and media recording equipment are not permitted inside FAS buildings, including classrooms, laboratories, dormitories, dining halls, office buildings, or other facilities.
  • Photography/filming/recording of special events, guest speakers, and performers is permitted in designated areas only, i.e., specific auditoriums, arenas, etc.
  • Organizations must secure permission in advance, in writing, from the FAS Communications Office.
  • Photography/filming is not permitted in classrooms, laboratories, administrative offices, or restricted areas.
  • Permission of any student(s) who will be photographed or filmed in wide shots of the Yard or elsewhere on-campus must be secured in advance.
  • Photographers from student publications recognized by the College:
    • Are permitted to photograph special events and activities in the Houses and dorms, but must identify themselves and their organization, ask permission from the organizers,
    • Are permitted in classrooms during a class session with the permission of the teaching professor. The photographer should identify him/herself and his/her organization to all students in the class before taking photos.  Students in the class should be given the opportunity to opt out to being photographed.
    • Are permitted to take photos in FAS administration buildings only with the permission of the department director, administrator, or building manager.

Questions about these guidelines should be directed to Colin Manning.


To help ensure a contract is in the best interest of the student organization and in line with College policy:

  • The student organization’s official name, not Harvard University or any subsidiaries, should be party to the contract
  • The phrase "an independent student-run organization at Harvard College" should follow the student organization name
  • Include the following two required phrases
    • The parties hereto agree and understand that Harvard University is not a party to this contract and that Harvard University is not responsible, under any circumstances, for performing any obligations of this contract.
    • [Party]’s use of the name “Harvard” (alone or as part of another name) in advertising or promotional materials is not permitted.
  • Review a proposed contract following best practices in contract considerations and seek legal guidance as appropriate. Organizations may benefit from legal expertise of alumni or friends of the organization.
  • While the DSO cannot provide legal advice, contracts can be submitted for review by emailing soch@fas.harvard.edu.  Please provide at least 2-3 business days for review.


Because ISOs are independent from the University, they are not covered under Harvard’s insurance.  With the exception of automobile insurance, the University has insurance partners to assist student organizations in obtaining coverage for their most common needs.  

  • General Liability/Special Events: Commonly needed for large-scale productions, fashion shows, charity walks/runs, or when contractually required by an outside venue for an off-campus event. 
  • “All risk” Property Insurance: Covers all property owned, rented, leased, or borrowed by a student organization when brought onto Harvard’s premises.  Generally needed for fashion shows, performances for which equipment or instruments are rented, or various novelty events.
  • Automobile insurance: Student organizations are encouraged to rent vehicles through a preferred vendor that has an agreement with Harvard.  Please note that while student organization travel is not considered "Harvard-sponsored business," the corporate codes may be used to receive discounts.  Additional insurance should be purchased through the rental company to provide adequate coverage. 

The University does not provide automobile insurance for students using personal vehicles for student organization business. If an incident or accident occurs, the owner of the vehicle would be required to use his/her personal automobile insurance to cover the incident. If the owner of the vehicle does not have adequate limits of insurance, a claim could be made against the individual operating the vehicle. Any student using his/her own vehicle, a family vehicle, or a friend’s vehicle should be aware of this prior to agreeing to drive for a student activity. 

Screening Commercial Films, Documentaries, and other Copyrighted Material

Student organizations are expected to be in compliance with copyright laws that govern commercial films and documentaries.

If the copyrighted material will be screened outside of a House, then the public performance rights must be secured by renting the film from a distributer, utilizing a copy of the film with the public performance rights, or obtaining in writing the public performance rights from the copyright holder.  If admission is charged, any surplus revenue must be used to further the educational goals of the sponsoring organization, as outlined in its charter or constitution. For more information, see the Handbook for Students

Media and Technology Services

Media and Technology Services (MTS) provides a wide array of services to student organizations, including equipment rental, use of classroom technology, and technician staffing.  View their resources for student organizations for more information.  

  • Please note there generally is a fee for all self-service classroom technology, but some events in Sever Hall qualify for free use  
  • MTS manages the UC Equipment, which is free for student organizations to use
  • All AV in the SOCH is free for use at the SOCH by student organizations


The following is a list of vendors that student organizations have utilized in the past for events.  Their listing does not imply endorsement by the DSO or Harvard University.

Audio/Visual Services

Equipment Rental





On-campus: One-day or multi-day guest parking passes can be purchased through Harvard Transportation and Parking Services.  Use Department: Visitor to Campus and Code: 7700 to complete the transaction.  On-campus permits must be purchased in advance; there is no drive-up service at the parking locations.

Off-campus: The Harvard Square Business Association provides a list of municipal parking lots in the Square.  Please note their rates and availability vary.  Metered street parking is also available.