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Guidelines for Graduate Student Organizations

If you are a leader of a graduate student organization, here are some important resources here to help you run your group effectively, to stay in good financial, legal and administrative standing, and to avoid getting yourself and your group members into trouble. 

Carefully review this information and share it with your group leaders and group event planners. You and your group are held responsible for understanding and following these important guidelines, with potentially serious consequences if you do not follow them.

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Finances & Taxes

All graduate organizations are expected to comply with both Yale and School regulations, and US federal and state tax laws. The information below summarizes some of the laws that may affect your organization. This is not a comprehensive listing of all federal and state tax laws that may apply to student organizations, but rather a summary of some of the basic tax laws affecting organizations. Graduate student groups may also wish to review the Financial Information provided for YC undergraduate student organizations, as many of the issues are the same for all.

Finances & Bank Accounts

Most graduate student organizations and their finances are expected to be administratively independent of the university. To maintain fiscal independence, student organization finances are not administered by the McDougal Graduate Student Life (GSL) Office and student group funds cannot be held or left with the office. All McDougal GSL funding is through approved post-event reimbursement, preferably paid to the group bank account or in some cases to the individual student who expended funds on behalf of the group. 

  • Apply for a US Employee Identification Number (EIN), the equivalent for an organization of the individual Social Security Number (SSN) or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).
  • Setup an organization account at a local bank. We recommend that graduate student organizations establish their own local bank account to handle their finances. The McDougal GSL Office cannot set up these outside bank accounts, but can verify to banks that a particular organization is registered with Yale and our office. An organization may not use the Yale name on its bank account.
  • Establish effective financial controls. For effective financial controls, we encourage groups with bank accounts to use a two-signature rule on checks and expenditures, with the organization’s president or chair and treasurer as the signatories. Someone should also conduct regular financial reports and audits and review statements.
  • No PTAEOs, sorry - Graduate Student Life at the McDougal Center and the Graduate School can NOT setup a University account (PTAEO) for a graduate student organization or hold funds for a group. 

Tax Exemption & Reporting

Student organizations are not allowed to use the university’s tax-exempt number for purchasing goods and services tax-free. Your group may wish to apply for your own non-profit status or tax-exempt status.

  • All registered graduate student groups are required to to operate exclusively on a not-for-profit basis.  Filing federal and state returns for an organization and complying with related federal and state tax laws is the responsibility of each organization..
  • Non-profit status: Graduate student groups can investigate whether they can register with the Secretary of the State of Connecticut as a non-profit, with the federal government as a 501(c)(3) group, or as a charitable organization
  • E-postcard annual filing with IRS: There are IRS 990-N “e-postcard” filing requirements for exempt organizations with gross receipts of less than $25,000 per year. Failure to file the annual 990-N e-postcard for three consecutive years may result in the revocation of an organization’s exempt status and legal problems, and may trigger the revocation of group registration with Yale offices.

Publicity Channels

  • McDougal Graduate Student Life lists all currently registered graduate student graduate here each year - this list is updated each year after the registration period concludes.
  • Website - is where groups can request an ITS website on the Yale server designed and maintain by group members. The new Orgsync system can create websites for registered groups with portals in the new system, so web design skills are not needed.
  • Email - You may also request a Yale e-mail address for the organization or use gmail
  • Graduate School Orientation showcases numerous student organization. Each year, we invite all graduate student orgs registered with McDougal GSL-GSAS to participate in the Graduate Activities Fair during GSAS Orientation in late August. Invitations are emailed in early August. To request group welcome events be included on the Graduate School Orientation Schedule, please email well in advance.
  • McDougal Grad Student Life E-Notes is the weekly email newsletter where registered graduate student groups can submit announcements of their major events. McDougal Graduate Student Life E-Notes is an E-newsletter distributed to 6,000+ graduate and professional student, postdoc and spouse/partner subscribers.
    • Use the form link on this page to submit to the McDougal GSL e-Notes by Thursday midnight of the week before your event. Events are included on a space available basis and subject to editing for length and tone. 
    • Groups that receive funding from McDougal Graduate Student Life must submit their events for inclusion in the McDougal GSL E-Notes. Failure to comply may jeopardize reimbursement and future funding.
  • Additional publicity options are the Yale Calendar, the GPSS Calendar and announcements, the Yale Daily News and of course your own Facebook page, email lists or group pages.

Licensed Merchandise - Yale insignia items for your organization

To protect the Yale name, logos, and images, Yale University expects student groups to produce or buy only licensed merchandise imprinted with your group name or logo, using providers who adhere to Yale guidelines. This means that Tshirts, mugs, pens, and other logo items should be reviewed before production and must follow Yale trademark guidelines.

  • If you are creating your own group logo or using the Yale name. logos or images on merchandise for your group, you should consult with Yale Trademark Licensing staff and work with your producer before items can be approved for production.
  • Yale Licensing has FAQs and includes the list of things Yale will not approve for licensing.
  • Official Yale Insignia goods providers include the Yale Bookstore, Campus Customs on Broadway, or YPPS.

Film & Movie Screenings On campus

Use Licensed Movies Only

For student organizations to show a movie anywhere on the Yale campus, or publicly advertised off-campus, the movie must be specially licensed for “Public Performance” by the MPAA

  • Even if your group is a non-profit and/or is not charging admission, you cannot just rent or stream a video from HBO, Netflix or Hulu or borrow a copy from an individual or library and play it to a group, whether in the McDougal Center, HGS, a dormitory, auditorium, or class room on the Yale campus. 

  • An exception is made for movies shown for legitimate classroom face-to-face teaching purposes for an actual course; Most grad student group activities do NOT fall into this category. 

  • Some older movies may be “in the public domain” (copyright expired) and thus may be shown free of charge and without licensing.

Licensing Costs 

The licensing cost is about $100-$500 per video, no matter how often shown or to what size audience, even if no admission is charged.  

Companies that license movies for “public performance”

Student Groups can get licensed movies from companies that license films for public performance for the University sector in the USA:

Criterion Cinemas in New Haven

Criterion Cinemas downtown (86 Temple Street) has excellent first run films for group events and rents screening rooms for film showings and parties. Contact the manager - 203-659-2600

  • You can also purchase packs of Bonus Tickets, $7 discount group ticket vouchers, which can be used for events or resold to graduate students at cost.

Legal & Risk Management Issues

Fundraisers, Raffles & Prizes

Many student groups want to raise funds to support their events or for charitable purposes, but you need to be very careful when doing it. The State of CT closely regulates charitable raffles or prize drawings for cash or prizes, and of course gambling or gaming of any kind - poker tournaments, casino gaming, bingo. You can do some of these things, but you must consult the CT state rules and get permits if necessary,

In general, most University offices and funding group do not give University cash to groups to be used directly for charitable purposes. While not donating to the charity directly, some camoys funders may allow you to request funds for food or supplies for your group’s fundraising event.

Political Campaign Activity, Activism & Elections

During election seasons, groups considering engaging in political activity or engaging with candidates should consult the University Guidelines on Political Campaign Activity and Activism. If you have questions contact the Yale Office of Federal Relations. If your group is a registered non-profit [i.e., 501-(c)(3)] please consult the IRS fact sheet for restrictions in its ability to endorse political candidates or campaigns

Risk Management Issues - Insurance, Travel, and Driving

Group leaders and event planners should carefully review the resources and guidelines from Yale Risk Management for making student group activities safer and reducing your risks and liability.

Serving Alcohol & Hosting Tailgating Parties

The Office of Graduate Student Life requires that all registered graduate organizations offer alcohol responsibly should they choose to serve it at their events on or off-campus. Student organizations must follow all Yale rules and state laws regarding the provision and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Connecticut state law holds legally responsible those hosts who serve alcohol to underage persons, in public or private gatherings, and even in private homes and apartments. Failure to follow these laws and rules puts your organization, its leadership, members and any guests attending events at risk and can result in serious penalties and prosecution. Given the seriousness of these issues, you may be required to discuss your group event in advance with the assistant dean and director of McDougal Graduate Student Life, and other administrators as appropriate. Transgressions may result in revocation of group recognition, rescinding of any current or future funding, and possible disciplinary action.

21+ ID checking 

Whether hosting events on-campus or off-campus, student organizations must have policies and practices to prevent the serving of alcohol to those under 21 years of age, and to safeguard guests from over-consumption or from drinking and driving.

  • If you are serving alcohol, your group leaders, or a trained bartender or server, should check government-issued photo IDs at the door or before serving alcohol to attendees. A Yale ID card does not contain validated birth date information.
  • Use wristbands or handstamps if needed to show who is 21+ and legally able to be served and to consume alcohol.

Alcohol Tips

Organization leaders should carefully review information from Student Wellness at Yale Health on risk reduction and the responsible use of alcohol at events.

Some tips for responsible event planning if alcohol will be served:

  • Always offer food and non-alcoholic beverages, for non-drinkers and to help moderate consumption.
  • For large events where alcohol will be served, hire professional servers and bartenders or specially trained student servers (TIPS, Rserve), or host your event at a licensed establishment.
  • Use responsible publicity. Use of email, Facebook, posters, etc., for grad student events serving alcohol should focus on the social, cultural and educational aspects of the event, as opposed to the consumption of alcohol itself.
    • Mention other beverage options available (“beer, wine, and soda served” or “alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages available”).
    • Notices should also state “21 and over with government photo ID required” as needed.
  • No cash bar is allowed without a state license. Unless your student group has procured a one-day or long-term liquor sales license in the State of Connecticut, or you are working with a licensed bar or caterer, you are not legally able to sell or charge money for alcohol at your event (and don’t even try to get around this by just selling empty cups or wristbands).

Tailgating parties at home football games at the Yale Bowl

For safety and legal compliance, Yale strictly controls areas and rules for individual and group pre-parties or “tailgating” at the Yale Bowl area for home football games. 

  • Please see the Athletics Student Tailgate information & regulations. You must register your group tailgate and follow the tailgating rules regarding alcohol, equipment and vehicles. 
  • Enjoy Free Student Tailgate Village at Yale Bowl: Avoid the work of setting up your own tailgate by bringing your student organization to the Student Tailgate area with limited free beer (21+), water stations, and entertainment, open for 3 hours before every home game.

​Have Questions or need advice - contact McDougal GSL!