Forming student groups becomes more complex

In the past, setting up a University student group has been a matter of filling out a few pages of paperwork.
But this year, officers of each group must also attend a meeting before the end of October to learn about new rules and to determine their relationship with the school. A few student organizations will be granted tax-exempt status and liability insurance. Some will undergo annual financial training, and others might be required to change their names.
All student groups will be required to carry general liability insurance starting next year.
“I don’t think student organizations clearly understand their liability,” said June Nobbe, director of the Campus Involvement Center.
Since the 1950s, student organizations have been autonomous from the University, Nobbe said. Because they are autonomous, officers of student groups are vulnerable to lawsuits.
Nobbe said that nobody knows yet how much the liability insurance will cost, and whether the office will charge each student group a flat fee next year, or charge more for groups which have higher liability risks.
Dan Whittaker, secretary for American Institute of Architecture Students Minnesota, said he still had a lot of questions about the insurance rule, especially about the cost. But he said having insurance is a good idea.
“In these days, it’s required. It’s a necessity,” Whittaker said. “It’s too risky to go without it.”
The groups that get liability insurance through the University will also give up some independence.
“Now that the University has created this new category, obviously some requirements will go along with that in order to avoid risk,” Nobbe said.
For example, such a group would have to be affiliated with a University department and work with a faculty or staff advisor. They would also have less autonomy in creating their programming because of their University-endorsed status.
University officials would have authority to take money out of an endorsed account to pay group’s bills.
“In this category, if there was an unpaid bill to a vendor, we’d be able to go in and pay it even if the student group didn’t want us to,” Nobbe said.
Groups like the Homecoming Committee and the competitive sports clubs would fall into this category.
Because the University is distinguishing between groups that are University endorsed and those that are not, some non-endorsed groups might have to change their names to make that distinction clear.
An autonomous group’s name could say that it was “at the University of Minnesota,” but it could not say it was the “University of Minnesota’s.” The specifics of this rule have yet to be ironed out.
Nobbe said the new organization also separates groups with complicated finances from those with more simple structures. That allows the Campus Involvement Center to use its limited resources to train only the groups that need it.
Groups which have paid employees, receive student service fees, or are classified as business enterprises will receive the training.