Alcohol Policies


The sale and service of alcoholic beverages on campus is governed by Federal laws, Wisconsin Statutes, University of Wisconsin System Administrative Codes, and UW-Madison regulations. The following is only a general guide for student organizations, not a complete, exhaustive list of laws, rules, and regulations. Please visit the University’s website for more information on alcohol policies and how they affect students.


[Created: April 25, 2014 | Updated: May 23, 2017]


  1.  An appropriate selection and quantity of non-alcoholic beverages and food must be available.
  2.  If event attendees are anticipated to include individuals below the minimum legal drinking age, then procedures must be in place to prevent consumption of alcoholic beverages by these individuals. Minimum requirements include:
    1. At an alcohol licensed venue, sober monitors and/or alcohol licensed venue staff must request an ID from every guest at the point of entry. Regardless of who IDs the guests, the organization maintains responsibility for making sure guests are properly identified.
    2. At a venue without an alcohol license, sober monitors and/or hired security staff must request IDs from every guest at the point of entry and before providing guests with alcohol. Regardless of who IDs the guests, the organization maintains responsibility for making sure guests are properly identified.
    3. Alcohol is dispensed in a designated area for attendees at or above the minimum legal drinking age. This includes alcohol brought by event attendees.
    4.  The organization will provide attendees with a wristband to indicate that the guest is at or above the minimum legal drinking age.
  3.  At any event where the consumption of alcohol is allowed, each sponsoring organization must provide a minimum of two sober monitors for up to 50 total attendees. One additional sober monitor from each sponsoring organization must be provided for every additional 25 attendees.
    1. The sober monitor shall refrain from the consumption of alcohol until the completion of the event.
    2. Half (50%) of the sober monitors from each sponsoring organization must be in an officer/executive position or have been a member for over one academic year.
    3. At least one sober monitor from each sponsoring organization must be at or above the minimum legal drinking age.
    4. The Sober Monitor’s duties shall be:
      1. to be present at all times during which alcoholic beverages are served or consumed;
      2. to ensure that the Registered Student Organization Alcohol Policy is observed by all persons in attendance at the event;
      3. to ensure that inebriated persons do not consume alcoholic beverages;
      4. to maintain or ensure control of alcoholic beverages at all times to prevent unauthorized consumption and ensure alcoholic beverages are properly secured at the conclusion of the event; and
      5. to ensure that individuals below the minimum legal drinking age do not consume alcoholic beverages.
    5. All sober monitors must have completed the online sober monitor training program within the previous calendar year prior to serving as a sober monitor. Follow the link to the Responsible RSO Sober Monitor/CSA Training to enroll in the online course.  Please make sure to not only watch the video but also complete the quiz with a passing grade.
  4. Total attendees at any given time may not exceed the fire code capacity of the venue or the requisite supplied number of sober monitors.

Any Registered Student Organization making alcohol available at a venue without an alcohol license must abide by the following additional policy: Alcoholic beverages present at the event are limited to beer (fermented malt beverages) and wine. Common sources of alcohol such as kegs, bowls, barrels, boxed wine, etc. are not permitted.

Note: The following sections are not policy. These are recommendations provided to Registered Student Organizations in the Student Organization Resource and Policy Guide. 


Note: some of the following may be required by your governing council (i.e. Interfraternity Council) or departmental sponsor (i.e. School of Pharmacy).

  • DO NOT serve or allow consumption of alcohol at events where a majority of students are under the minimum legal drinking age.
  • DO NOT consume alcohol at general or executive board meetings.
  • DO NOT use alcohol as an incentive for participating in an event or as prizes in contests. Liability increases when alcohol is used as an enticement.
  • DO ensure that if not at a 3rd party vendor, only sober monitors over the minimum legal drinking age serve as bartenders.
  • DO make sure all members can legally attend events at a liquor licensed establishment, by definition, a restaurant (less than 50% of sales are from alcohol) or a tavern (more than 50% of sales are from alcohol) which  holds a 18+ Center for Visual & Performing Arts license through the City of Madison.
  • DO NOT have activities where consumption of alcohol is the purpose, consequence, or reward. Drinking games and using alcohol as a reward leads to over-consumption because people drink when they win/lose not when they want to.
  • DO use a typed guest list that includes the names of all anticipated attendees. It is recommended that this list specifically note membership in the organization and age of the attendee, as well as the date of the event.  Do not allow anyone to enter the event unless they were on the guest list prior to the event.
  • DO set a specific start and end time for your event.
  • DO NOT use organizational funds to purchase alcohol or pool money from attendees to provide alcohol for the event. A BYOB policy for individuals over the legal drinking age is the best way to ensure appropriate alcohol consumption.
  • DO make sure that the food provided is unsalted. Salty foods encourage more alcohol consumption.
  • DO NOT charge for alcohol or charge an admittance fee for an event where alcohol is provided. This is likely considered “operating an unlicensed tavern” and is a criminal offense.
  • DO have third party vendor bouncers ID guests on behalf of the organization; however, the RSO remains responsible for all guests.


When deciding whether or not alcohol should be served an event consider:

  • How will the consumption of alcohol contribute to the event/activity?
  • Alcoholic beverages should never be the purpose or focus of an event/activity
  • If there is a significant number of underage students present, it may be inappropriate to permit service and consumption of alcohol at the event
  • Ways alcohol consumption could detract from the event/activity
  • Containing alcohol in an isolated “beer garden” separates “of age” and “underage”
  • Counters goals of collaboration and networking
  • Removes opportunities to meet new people, share an interest and have fun together
  • Could increase the cost of having the event/activity
  • If alcohol is served, you must also offer non-alcoholic beverages and food, as required by University regulations
  • Security officers may be required
  • Funding sources do not include alcohol as an allowable expense, so the cost comes directly from the RSOs budget

Download PDF of Student Organization Alcohol Policies