Code of Conduct

Policy on the Conduct and Discipline of Registered Student Organizations

This Policy on the standards and procedures for Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison establishes a Student Organization Code of Conduct as well as procedures for reporting information that alleges violations against student organizations and for the imposition of disciplinary sanctions should a student organization be found responsible for the alleged actions. It was originally adopted on April 25, 1996, by the Associated Students of Madison and revised by the Committee on Student Organizations during the 2003-04, 2005-06, 2009-2010, 2011-2012, 2013-2014, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 academic years.

The University recognizes that participation in student organizations constitutes an integral aspect of the living-learning environment. Student organization membership affords opportunities to develop skills in areas such as leadership, fiscal management, event planning, ethical decision-making, delegation, and team building. We expect that students will adhere to high standards of behavior in the execution of their organizational responsibilities.

This Policy is a means to strengthen the standards that are expected of RSOs and which expand upon and complement the University’s teaching, research and public service missions. The Policy also is a means to provide for an expedient and effective process for handling those situations when the University’s standards of conduct are not upheld. While detailed and lengthy, this Policy is a tool that both helps protect the rights of RSOs while making sure those organizations are held accountable to their members, the University community and the community-at-large.

The Committee on Student Organizations (CSO) is the principal body for implementing and revising this Policy. The CSO itself is an appointed body of students, faculty, and staff; a majority of the Committee is made up of students. Revisions to this Policy are made in consultation with the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement (CfLI) and the Dean of Students, and such revisions are subject to approval by the Chancellor.

The Student Organization Code of Conduct in this Policy applies to all University of Wisconsin-Madison RSOs. The disciplinary procedures outlined in Section II apply to all reports alleging Code of Conduct violations. Social fraternities and sororities are subject to the regulations listed in this Code of Conduct, the Student Organization Resource & Policy Guide, and the registration requirements and the conduct rules of their governing umbrella groups: Panhellenic Association, National Pan-Hellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, or Multicultural Greek Council.

Questions regarding this Policy may be addressed to the Chair of the Committee and to the Director of CfLI. These individuals may be contacted at the Center for Leadership & Involvement.


I. Student Organization Code of Conduct

Any violation of the following regulations by an RSO may result in disciplinary sanctions against the organization.  Registered Student Organizations are not exempt from discipline for such actions under this Policy that constitute violations of federal, state, or local laws, and may be subject to additional action by an appropriate judicial body.

All Registered Student Organizations:

1. Must comply with the eligibility requirements and financial regulations published in the Student Organization Resource & Policy Guide;

2. Shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed other than commitment to the beliefs of the organization, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status parental status, or sex, unless pursuant to an exception recognized by applicable federal and state law.  Student organizations that select their members or officers on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs (e.g., religious or political beliefs) may limit membership, officer positions, or participation in the organization to students who, upon individual inquiry, affirm that they support the organization’s goals and agree with its beliefs, so long as no student is excluded from membership, officer positions, or participation on the basis of his or her race, color, creed other than commitment to the beliefs of the organization, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status, or, unless exempt under Title IX, sex;

3. May be subject to disciplinary action as a result of violations of federal, state or local laws not otherwise addressed in this Policy;

4. May be subject to disciplinary action as a result of actions of individual members of the organization undertaken while representing the organization;

5. While conducting business or participating in events, an RSO shall be responsible for all activities and/or damages that may result. An RSO must exercise reasonable caution to ensure that it and its contracted agents and vendors not cause harm and/or damage to the property of students, University employees, the University, or other organizations.  RSOs are responsible for not harming individuals or fostering an environment that may constitute a serious danger to the personal safety or well-being of a member or guest of the University community (students and University employees) or guests and do not obstruct or seriously impair University run or University authorized activities;

6. Shall be responsible for compliance with all University policies, including, but not limited to, the use of University facilities and grounds, fleet vehicles, electronic information technology and facility reservation contracts;

7. Shall insure that invitations to events taking place in a University facility are limited to students, faculty and staff of the University unless an exception is specifically authorized in accordance with appropriate facility use policies;

8. May not knowingly organize, sponsor, cosponsor or in any way coordinate an event with any student organization that has been prohibited from participating in that type of event or has had its RSO status terminated. If an RSO is suspended or on probation, the RSO shall not participate in any activities which would violate the conditions of the suspension or probation;

9. Are accountable, through their primary contact, officers and other designated representatives, to the University. When an organization’s primary contact, officers, or other designated representatives make a knowingly false statement, either orally or in writing, to any University employee, committee, or agent, on a matter relating to the activities of the organization or its members, the organization shall be subject to discipline.  Organizations must also submit any updated contacts to the Center for Leadership & Involvement if/when contacts or the contact information for contacts change;

10. Student organizations that serve or permit possession of alcoholic beverages and/or other drugs, including controlled substances, at student organization functions, on or off campus, may be disciplined if violations of alcoholic beverage laws, the Registered Student Organization Alcohol Policy (SOAP), or university regulations occur at student organization functions if the violations involve members and/or guests.

11. An RSO shall not conduct or condone any activity expected of someone joining the RSO or to maintain full status in the RSO that humiliates, degrades, abuses, endangers, sexually violates, causes emotional and/or physical harm or requires a person to give up personal liberty regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.  Examples may include but are not limited to use of alcohol, servitude, taking away cell phones, not allowing class attendance, requiring apparel that would normally be considered poor taste, scavenger hunts for questionable materials, engaging in activities designed to create excessive fatigue, smearing of substances on skin or consumption of vile substances.

  • *Due to the complexity of hazing, additional information for RSOs to reference for other examples and commonly accepted definitions can be found at www.stophazing.org

12. Shall abide by decisions of the Committee and/or the Dean of Students regarding complaints arising out of this Policy.


II. Disciplinary Procedures for Violations of the Student Organization Code of Conduct

Timelines in this section regarding the report and hearing process may be extended for the Committee by the Associate Dean of Students or designee upon petition by the Chair of the Committee. Extension of timelines in this policy shall apply once the process outlined in this section is initiated.

1. Any student, University faculty, staff, student organization or community member may report an alleged violation of the Code of Conduct as provided within this Policy.

2. A report that an RSO has violated any provision of the Code of Conduct must be submitted in writing, via email, or using the electronic report form to the Center for Leadership & Involvement or designee within twenty (20) school days of when the Reporter knew or reasonably should have known of the incident. The report must include a statement of the facts upon which the allegation is based, the name and mailing address of the Reporter and any documentation regarding the report. No formal action can be taken on anonymous reports. (If any student organization, registered student or other concerned party has a report against an RSO for reasons other than a Student Organization Code of Conduct violation, they should contact the Student Judiciary, Greek Judicial Board, Center for Leadership & Involvement Staff, Dean of Students Office, or other appropriate governing body directly.)

3. The Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement or their designee will forward a copy of the report to the Chair of the Committee

4. After consulting the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement or designee, not exceeding ten (10) school days from the receipt of the report, the Chair of the Committee will determine:

  • Whether the report is timely;
  • Whether the report puts forth a possible violation of the Code of Conduct;
  • Whether the report involves an issue under the jurisdiction of any other judicial body.
    • If it is found that another judicial body has jurisdiction over the issue, the report will be shared with that group, however the CSO may still hold jurisdiction

5. If the report is not timely or no potential violation of the Code of Conduct is determined by the Chair of the Committee and the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement or designee, no formal action will be taken. The reporter, RSO and CSO will be informed of this decision in writing.

6. Through the decision of the Dean of Students or their designee, an RSO’s registration status may be suspended on an interim basis pending final resolution of the report for any one of the following reasons:

  • It is deemed necessary for reasons of health or safety;
  • The RSO is alleged to have engaged in egregious or discriminatory behavior to the degree that an immediate interim suspension is warranted.

7. All interim suspensions must be presented to the Committee at the next CSO meeting. The Dean of Students or designee will consult with the CSO and determine if the interim suspension will continue. Interim suspensions can only be lifted under the conditions outlined in (8.)

8. An interim suspension made under (6.) will be in effect until:

  • The suspension is lifted by the Dean of Students or their designee; or
  • The CSO process is completed

9. If a possible violation of the Code of Conduct does exist, the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement, or designee, shall determine if:

  • The report alleges a violation that could be mutually resolved;
  • The Committee has enough information based solely on the report to hold a hearing; OR
  • The Committee does not have enough information based solely on the report, in which case the report will be forwarded to Dean of Students Office for an investigation
    • If the report is forwarded to Dean of Students Office, the role of the Investigating Officer will be:
    • To collect information regarding the report,
    • Prepare preliminary findings to present to the Chair of the Committee and the Director
    • If warranted, recommend action to be taken by the Chair and Director as outlined in (11.)
    • If warranted, recommend sanctions

10. The Chair of the Committee, any time before a final decision is issued, may resolve a report with the RSO for the appropriate, mutually resolved sanctions. The Committee must affirm these mutually resolved sanctions by a majority vote at the next CSO meeting.

  • If the CSO affirms the mutual resolution, the primary contact of the RSO and the Chair of the CSO must sign an official statement outlining the resolution(s).
  • If the CSO rejects the mutual resolution, the report will move forward to a hearing as outlined in (12.)

11. Following the information gathering by the Investigating Officer (Step 9c of this section), and within twenty (20) school days of initiating the information gathering, the Investigating Officer will share preliminary findings with the Chair of the Committee and the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement (CfLI). After consulting the Director of CfLI, the Chair shall either:

  • Not initiate formal action;
  • Call a meeting of the Committee to hold a formal hearing on the report
  • Notice of a hearing must be sent to the respondent at least five (5) school days prior to the hearing; or
  • Mutually resolve the report, as outlined in (10.)

12. If a formal hearing on the report is necessary, it:

  • Shall be open only to the members of the Committee, the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement, and student representatives of the RSO against which the report was filed. Any Committee member may recuse himself or herself from hearing a report. If a clear conflict of interest exists for a Committee member, and the member refuses to recuse himself or herself, the Committee may recuse the member by majority vote. If the Chair is recused, the Committee shall appoint an interim Chair to handle the proceedings of the report. The Committee may operate at a smaller membership for hearings, provided there is a student majority and at least three students able to serve.
  • Shall permit the student representatives to have an advisor present at any point, but in an advisory capacity only. Advisory capacity means that the advisor may speak to RSO representatives, but cannot address the CSO at the hearing.
  • Shall allow for the Director of CfLI or designee (except those in the appellate chain, outlined in Section II, Subsection 15) to present a case in favor of the allegation, using witnesses and evidence as relevant.
  • If the report is forwarded to the Dean of Students Office (as under Section 9, Subsection c), the Investigating Officer will present the findings of the investigation.
  • Shall allow for student representatives of the RSO to cross-examine witnesses present at the hearing and present witnesses and evidence in the RSO’s defense.
  • Shall allow for members of the Committee to ask questions of both sides for clarification of facts.
  • Shall be recorded.
  • May involve multiple reports against the same RSO in the same hearing. Should this situation arise, each report will be heard in chronological order.

13. Following the formal hearing, the Committee will meet as soon as reasonable to deliberate. Such deliberations will be open only to members of the Committee. Within ten (10) school days of the hearing, the Committee shall issue a decision, based upon a “preponderance of the evidence” standard. The result of such decision may include:

  • Dismissal of the report; or
  • Implementation of sanctions deemed appropriate by the Committee, including, but not limited to, warnings, education and service events, probation, suspension or termination.

14. The Chair of the Committee shall notify the respondent in writing of the Committee’s decision and the respondent’s right to appeal the decision within ten (10) school days. The decision of the Committee shall be forwarded to the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement and included in the RSO’s disciplinary file. The respondent shall inform the Chair of the Committee and the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement of a decision to appeal within ten (10) school days. Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Chair of the Committee and the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement.  Sanctions issued in the decision letter remain active unless the appeal decision modifies or strikes down these sanctions.

15. Appellate jurisdiction for CSO decisions shall rest with an Ad Hoc CSO Appeals Committee. The creation of an Ad Hoc CSO Appeals Committee shall be the responsibility of the Dean of Students or an Associate Dean of Students, with the following requirements.

  • The creation of an Ad Hoc Appeals Committee shall be initiated upon receipt of the formal request for an appeal that satisfies the requirements of section 14. Appeals may only consist of allegations that the Committee on Student Organizations failed to follow its processes and material prejudice to the RSO was the result.
  • The Dean of Students or their designee shall solicit for a minimum of one student from the approved student Organization Development Consultants (ODCs) of the Center for Leadership & Involvement. At the beginning of the Fall Semester, the ASM Shared Governance Committee shall approve the list of active ODCs, and may remove any selections according to their processes. Students selected shall not be current representatives of the CSO, and shall serve for the duration of the appeal in question. The Center for Leadership & Involvement shall have ex officio rights for any ASM approval process, as outlined in section 18(e).
  • The Ad Hoc Appeals Committee may include more than one representative of the Dean of Students office, so long as the number of Dean of Students Office representatives does not exceed the number of student representatives.
  • The Ad Hoc Appeals Committee will conduct an administrative review of the case to determine whether a due process violation has occurred in the appellant’s case. If a violation of due process is found to have occurred, the Ad Hoc Appeals Committee may uphold, modify, or strike down the sanctions placed on the appellant by the CSO. The appellant may also request the committee direct the CSO to rehear the case.
  • The Ad Hoc Appeals Committee shall have full access to all evidence presented to the Committee, the minutes and recordings of the hearing of the appellant’s case. The Ad Hoc Appeals Committee may request any further clarification from the Committee, Center for Leadership & Involvement, or the appellant.

16. Reports filed less that twenty (20) school days prior to the first day of Spring Commencement will establish timelines beginning the first school day of the following fall semester.
17. The voting members of the Committee shall be as follows:

  • Two faculty representatives.
  • Three academic staff representatives from offices outside of the Division of Student Life
  • One academic staff representative of the Center for Leadership & Involvement.
  • Nine student appointees made in collaboration with the Associated Students of Madison and the Center for Leadership & Involvement. The Center for Leadership & Involvement shall be responsible for accepting applications and forwarding them to the ASM for appointment consideration. CfLI may remove students not in good standing with the University. The ASM Shared Governance Committee shall be responsible for the timely appointment of students. However, the CfLI Director and/or any designee they choose are permitted to actively participate in all appointment processes of students as ex officio members to ensure the process fairly provides diverse perspectives on the committee. This involvement may include but is not limited to formation of application procedures, interviews, and deliberations, with the exception of voting rights.

III.  Definitions Used in This Policy:

Anonymous Reports are reports where no one, including the chair or the Director of CfLI, knows the identity of the reporter.

Assistant Dean, or Investigating Officer, is an Assistant Dean of Students in the Division of Student Life.

Associate Dean, is the Associate Dean of Students of the University.

Associated Students of Madison (ASM) is the student government association formed in 1994 to represent student concerns.

ASM Student Judiciary is the branch of student government responsible for planning campus elections and settling disputes.

Business day means any day on which the University conducts regular business.

Chancellor is the Chancellor of the University or designee.

Committee on Student Organizations (CSO or Committee) is the University’s official Committee on Student Organizations as originally adopted by the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) and approved as University policy by the Chancellor. This committee is filled with representatives from the ASM Shared Governance process, Center for Leadership and Involvement, Faculty and Academic staff according to section 17 of this policy. The CSO exists to revise and implement the Registered Student Organization (RSO) Code of Conduct, and is invested with judiciary powers in order to review allegations of misconduct by RSOs.

Committee on Student Organizations Chair (Chair)
is the person appointed annually by the Committee at their first meeting of the academic year. The Chair serves as the spokesperson for the Committee and is responsible for bringing information regarding reports to the Committee.

Confidential Reports are reports where the chair and Director of CfLI know the identity of the reporter, but the identity of the reporter is not shared with any other party without written consent of the reporter.

Controlled Substance means substances defined in Ch. 161, Wisconsin Statutes or other substances that may be detrimental to health, though not against Federal, State or Local laws.

Day means calendar day, except as specifically noted otherwise in this Policy.

Dean of Students is the Dean of Students of the University or designee.

Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement (or Director) is the Director of the Center for Leadership & Involvement of the University or designee.

Disciplinary Sanction means any action affecting the status of an RSO, as an RSO, that is imposed in response to the organization’s misconduct. The term includes, but is not limited to, educational programming, restitution, community service activities, apology letters, probation (including denial of specified University privileges), suspension, termination or other such sanctions deemed appropriate by the Committee.

Discrimination (Discriminatory), as referred to in this Policy, is determined based on Regent Policy 30-06, which states:

“That, upon recommendation of the UW System President, the Board of Regents adopts the following policy on the recognition of student organizations: Student organizations that select their members or officers on the basis of commitment to a set of beliefs (e.g., religious or political beliefs) may limit membership, officer positions, or participation in the organization to students who, upon individual inquiry, affirm that they support the organization’s goals and agree with its beliefs, so long as no student is excluded from membership, officer positions, or participation on the basis of his or her race, color, creed other than commitment to the beliefs of the organization, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status or parental status, or, unless exempt under Title IX, sex.”

Egregious Behavior is conduct which is extreme and outrageous, exceeding all bounds usually tolerated by the University community. This behavior must be a violation of UWS 14, 17, 18 and/or student organization policy, as determined by the University.

Event – The Committee on Student Organizations determines the likelihood of an event based on information provided in each case and uses the preponderance of the evidence standard to make the final determination.  Cases are independent of each other in their practice and therefore treated as such.  When identifying events some concepts considered may include but are not limited to member attendance, funding, location, advertising, and capacity.

Financial Records means account statements, checking and savings records and all other records of receipt or payment of funds from any source of organization funds.

Greek Judicial Board
is the body that decides upon reports arising out of social fraternities’ and sororities’ code of conduct under the jurisdiction of the Greek Judicial Board.

Hearing Panel
means the Committee on Student Organizations.

Individual Misconduct means student conduct that violates UWS 14, 17 or 18.

Investigating Officer: see “Assistant Dean.”

On the Record means that no information other than that presented at the hearing can be added while reviewing the case in the appellate jurisdiction in the case of an appeal.

Organization Development Consultants are students appointed by the Center for Leadership & Involvement that work closely with student organizations.

Preponderance of the Evidence means whether it is more likely than not that the violation happened based upon the available/presented information.  In mathematical terms, it would mean the information leads the committee to be 51% sure that the violation did or did not occur.

Primary Contact means the designated contact person of the RSO as listed on the group’s registration form.

Probation means the RSO is permitted to remain registered only upon the condition that it complies with all University rules and regulations and with other standards of conduct that the organization is directed to observe for the duration of the period of the probation. Probation may include the suspension of organizational rights as specified by the CSO. Probation may not exceed eight semesters in duration for any given misconduct. Violation of probation requirements shall be grounds for further sanctions, up to, and including, termination.

Provost means the Provost of the University or designee.

Quorum for the Committee means a majority of the appointed members, unless otherwise provided for in this Policy. There must be a student majority and at least three students and one faculty/staff able to serve.

Registered Student Organization (RSO)
is a group, composed mainly of, and directed by, students, consisting of at least four (4) students, and which has filed, and had approved, all appropriate registration forms with the Center for Leadership & Involvement and meets the eligibility criteria for registration.

Reporter is the person, as allowed in this Policy, who brings forth information that may allege possible misconduct by an RSO.

Respondent is the person or RSO about whom or against which an allegation of possible misconduct is brought forth.

School day means any day on which classes normally meet, including finals week, but excluding summer session.

Student, for the purposes of this Policy, is any person who is registered for study at the University for the current academic period. A person shall be considered a student during any period that follows the end of an academic period the student has completed until the last day for registration for the next succeeding academic period, except that a student from the spring academic session, who is not attending any summer session, shall remain classified as a student, for purposes of this Policy, until the last day for registration for the succeeding fall academic period.

Suspension means a temporary loss of all of an RSO’s privileges for a specified period of time, not to exceed two years. Notices of suspension will be sent to Central Reservations, and possibly to other campus offices and funding bodies.

Termination means the revocation of a student organization’s status and privileges as an RSO for a length of time and according to terms to be determined by the Committee.

Witness means anyone with knowledge of the incident that the presenter or respondent brings to a hearing, excluding confidential reporters.  The presenter is also considered a witness.

University means the University of Wisconsin – Madison.