Student Organization Working Group

Convened in Spring 2023 to consider strengths and areas for improvement in MIT’s student organization practices.

Student involvement in student organizations (including clubs and non-varsity sports) helps create an enriching campus experience and opportunities for hands-on learning at MIT. Over the years, the landscape of MIT’s student organizations has evolved. The number of recognized organizations has grown to more than 550, which has posed some challenges in advising, risk management, space resource allocation and program funding.

For these reasons, Chancellor Nobles and Vice Chancellor and Dean for Student Life Nelson charge the Student Organization Working Group (SOWG) to consider the strengths and areas for improvement in MIT’s practices relating to student organization governance, financial, space resource management, membership policies, and risk management protocols. The working group will prepare a report with recommendations and advice that will be delivered to Chancellor Nobles.

Specifically, SOWG is asked to weigh our current approach in light of best practices in the field, and to recommend areas for improvement and policy changes in the following contexts:

Recognized student organizations create opportunities for leadership, hands-on learning, and peer-to-peer engagement. 

  1. What is the broad governance structure that guides policies relating to student organization recognition, membership, and finances and space resource management practices? 

    1. What is the role of the Division of Student Life, Association of Student Activities, the Undergraduate Association, and the Graduate Student Council in recognizing, funding, and advising student organizations? How are decisions made related to student organization recognition? What criteria should guide continued recognition as a student organization?

    2. What are the pros and cons to these approaches?

  2. What principles and criteria should guide MIT’s student organization recognition process (e.g., shared governance, financial resources, space, advising, redundancy)? 

  3. How might these criteria be codified as policy relating to student organization recognition processes at MIT? Consider the following: Where do policies reside? How are policies updated? Who is involved in these processes?

Student organizations exist for the benefit of MIT students; however, MIT’s historical approach has operated on the premise that some non-student (e.g., MIT staff, faculty, partners/families, alumni, and non-MIT community) participation can add value to members’ experiences. 

  1. Keeping student safety and opportunities for learning at the forefront, what type and level of involvement should non-students have in student clubs and organizations? 

  2. What criteria should guide non-student participation? Should MIT employ background checks, codes of conduct, and participation agreements? Should non-student members be subject to training and fees? Are non-student members eligible to assume leadership positions, to get involved in risk management, or to have the same decision-making authority as student members?

  3. What criteria and processes should be used for removing or limiting participation of members from student organizations, both student and non-student members? Should decision-making be allocated differently based on the reason for removal or limitation (e.g., behavioral concerns, lack of participation)?

  4. What resources and support are needed (e.g., space allocation, funding, staff support)?

Student organization funding is limited and comes from a variety of sources (e.g., New Fund allocation, Student Life Fee, reserves and restricted funding, unrestricted/GIB, sponsorships, donations). Additionally, MIT’s systems were not developed with student organizations in mind, which results in complications for group members. For example, students have to front funds for programs and events and submit receipts for reimbursement. Also, student groups may experience longer lead times for contract approvals.

  1. What financial resources are available to recognized student organizations? How does this compare to other schools of our size? 

  2. What are best practices among peer schools for funding, managing, and supporting student organization spending? 

  3. What principles and processes should guide student organization funding? How should funds be allocated? How should reserves be managed from year-to-year? How should spending be managed? What happens to a de-recognized group’s funding?  What are the pros and cons of these processes?

  4. What space resources are needed to support student organizations and their activities? What principles and processes should guide the distribution of these resources?

  5. What are recommendations for managing space resource allocation, funding of and spending by MIT student organizations going forward?

The SOWG will convene in March 2023, meeting twice per month for one hour, with the goal of concluding its review and making recommendations by fall 2023. Spring 2023 meetings will be held on Tuesdays from 12:00pm-1:00pm on March 7, March 21, April 4, April 18, and May 2, with a potential additional meeting on May 16. 



  • Steve Hall, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Head of House at New Vassar
  • Ryan de Freitas Bart, PhD Candidate, Aeronautics and Astronautics, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, School of Engineering
  • Suzy Nelson, Vice Chancellor & Dean for Student Life, Division of Student Life


  • Jared Berezin, Comm Lab Manager, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Head of House at Random Hall
  • Justin Steil, Assistant Professor of Law and Urban Planning, Department of Urban Studies and Planning 
  • Kim Vandiver, Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Dean for Undergraduate Research, Director of the Edgerton Center, Director of UROP
  • Zawad Chowdhury, Year 4 Undergraduate Student, Mathematics, School of Science
  • Paula Contreras Nino, Year 2 Undergraduate Student, Management, Sloan School of Management
  • Favour Oladimeji, Year 3 Undergraduate Student, Biological Engineering, School of Engineering 
  • Cormac O’Neill, PhD Candidate, Mechanical Engineering, School of Engineering
  • Vincent Zu, PhD Candidate, Chemical Engineering, School of Engineering
  • Gus Burkett, Senior Associate Dean, Diversity & Community Involvement, Division of Student Life 
  • Peter Cummings, Executive Director for Administration, Division of Student Life
  • Nick Jewell, Manager of Club Sports, Intramurals & Sports Camps, DAPER, Division of Student Life
  • Paul Murphy, Associate Dean & Director in the Student Organizations, Leadership and Engagement Office (SOLE), Division of Student Life
  • Meghan Funk, Staff to Working Group, DSL Project Manager, Division of Student Life