Frequently Asked Questions for Student Groups in response to altered University Operations (updated 8.14.20)
I’m a new student and want to connect with student groups. How can I do that? What will the University be doing to facilitate this?
We are excited to debut a new student group engagement platform called Penn Clubs. This is the official student group database, created by Penn students, to encourage engagement and connection with student groups (undergraduate, graduate and professional) and their events. You can browse groups by type and keyword as well as sign up to get more information about how to join/learn more. All student groups are asked to re-register in mid-August so you will continue to see the number of groups in Penn Clubs increase over the next several weeks.
The traditional fall Student Activities Fair will be virtual this year through Zoom, September 1-3pm. Details will be communicated to the first year email listserv and New Student Orientation (NSO) closer to the event date.
How should my student group sign up for the Student Activities Fair?
The Student Activities Council (SAC) organizes the Activities Fair. Many groups will receive an email directly from SAC. You can also visit their website for updated information.
Student Group Operations
Can my group host in-person events?
All student group activity (undergraduate, graduate and professional) is expected to be hosted virtually. This includes performances, practices, competitions, meetings, coffee chats, interviews, auditions, etc. of any size.
Virtual events will provide an opportunity to be as inclusive in your planning as possible. Enrolled students will be located all over the world and even those on campus may want to be cautious about their personal interactions.
What kind of technology support is being provided to student groups?
While virtual engagement is different it can be very meaningful and one of your most inclusive options for involving group members located across the world. All enrolled Penn students will be receiving a Zoom Pro account via their home school (timelines on when these will be available vary by school).
OSA also has access to special licenses for Zoom Webinar and BlueJeans Events which have participation capacities up to 1000. We will have a process determined by which groups can request use by the end of the month.
Can we start to plan fall events?
Yes, student groups can begin to/continue to plan virtual events. Virtual events do not need to be scheduled through the OSA. This is truly one benefit of hosting activities online – no space reservations required!
Please do remember that contracts still need to be signed by the University and any purchases being made via your student group account should be discussed and approved by your Financial Coordinator in advance.
Can my group start to plan for Spring events?
Given the uncertainty of the operations plan for the University when classes resume in January 2021, it is important to build lots of flexibility into your event plans. Spring event reservations typically open in October and it is unclear when/if spring reservations will be approved.
Can members of my group get together off-campus?
In accordance with the Campus Compact, student groups may not organize or host social activities on or off-campus which may cause safety risks to themselves or the community.
The biggest factors in determining risk include crowd size, indoor vs. outdoor, duration of event and forceful exhalation. Refer to this risk index for more guidance.
Indoor and outdoor activities are limited to 25 people or less (including event hosts and event staff). Masks and social distancing of 6′ are required indoors and outdoors. It is unlikely that these sorts of accommodations can be made in outdoor spaces in the off-campus neighborhoods.
At this time, the University has suspended event registration (with and without alcohol).
Those groups and/or individuals who host events out of line with this guidance may be sent to the Office of Student Conduct for further investigation.
Can my group spend money?
Yes, student groups are now able to spend money. Given the restriction on in-person activities we anticipate that groups may have different needs than those they have in a typical school year. You are encouraged to be in communication with your Financial Coordinator in advance of any purchases for your group.
Can groups spend money on food?
Groups will not be permitted to use organizational funds to purchase communal food and/or alcohol.
This supports the restriction on social programs organized/hosted by groups and supports the University’s public health goals by discouraging communal dining.
Groups must receive approval to purchase non-communal food with student group funds in advance of those purchases. Requests should be initiated through the Food Purchase Request Form. Reimbursement requests will not be honored for food purchases that were not pre-approved.
What do I do with cash deposits I need to make on behalf of my student group?
As our office is not open to accept cash deposits, we ask that you safeguard the funds you are currently holding. As soon as we are back in our physical location, we will share guidance with groups about how and when to deposit their funds.
I’m the new Treasurer/VP Finance for my group and need to get a Student Program Card (SPCard). How do I do that?
Students can submit Program Card applications at this time. Because we anticipate the volume of purchasing by most groups to decrease, we will be reducing the number of cards available to a single group. Please be in touch with your Financial Coordinator to discuss your needs further.
Can I travel as part of involvement in my student group?
In support of the Campus Compact, travel is restricted to essential academic work and will be approved on a limited basis. Prior approval is required to use student organization money to fund travel.
Student groups are encouraged to use funds identified for travel to support student attendance at virtual academic and professional opportunities.
My group usually hires a director or instructor to help us. Can we still do that?
At this time, there is a hiring freeze within the University which includes Temporary Staff.
What happened to money my group did not spend last year?
SAC groups with any remaining revenue in their account had those funds rollover to their account for Fall. GAPSA and the UA funds were moved into a Reserve for which they oversee disbursement.
Can my student group make a charitable donation with accumulated funds?
The Student Activities Council (SAC) created a pathway for giving for their recognized groups. The full process including limits, forms, an FAQ and other resources can be found on SAC’s website.
Are Financial Coordinators available?
Yes! Financial Coordinators are available via email. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your assigned FC for group and event-specific guidance.