Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Organizations and Recognition

What is a Recognized Student Organization (RSO)?

An RSO is a student organization that has been recognized through Campus Activities. All RSOs must re-apply for recognition on an annual basis.

What are the benefits of being recognized?

All RSOs may:

  • Receive and post messages on the student organization electronic mailing list.
  • Reserve campus facilities for events, programs and meetings.
  • Apply for university funding (including student program fee monies).
  • Conduct fundraising efforts within the stated Sales and Fundraising Policies of the university (see Section G.7. Sales and Fundraising). Student organizations (or individual members while acting in any capacity for the organization) may not: (i) conduct for-profit or commercial activities (or facilitate the for-profit or commercial activities of others), (ii) conduct a business (or facilitate conducting the business of others), or (iii) act as (or create the appearance of acting as) a liaison, representative, agent, facilitator, face or front for another business, person or entity. All recognized student organizations are permitted to fundraise on their own behalf. However, student organizations may only fundraise or pursue activities to benefit their organization, another student organization or an outside philanthropic agency or relief effort. No individual student(s) may receive any type of payment either in the form of money, discounts and/or goods and services.
  • Receive a discount on selected facility and equipment rentals.
  • Use a campus mailing address and/or mailbox.
  • Post notices on campus, within the posting policy.
  • Access organizational email and web accounts (the university will place the following disclaimer at the bottom of each organization’s website: USC does not control the content herein and takes no responsibility for any inaccurate, indecent or objectionable content, which is the sole responsibility of the student author). Students may not remove or otherwise take steps to defeat this disclaimer. Any attempt to do so will be cause for disciplinary action.
  • Access banking services at the USC Credit Union and/or through Campus Activities.
  • Use the name, logo or other trademarks of the university, while making clear to a reasonable person not from the campus that the organization is a student organization at the university and not the university itself. Use of the name, logo or other trademarks must be consistent with the USC Graphic Identity Program, including those specified in the Sales and Fund-raising Policies (see Section G.7. Sales and Fundraising). For information on Trademarks and Licensing, click here.
  • Use the poster room in Campus Activities office.
  • Post events on engageSC.

How does my student organization apply to be an RSO?

The recognition process must be completed within the first month of each semester for organizations seeking re-recognition and within the first month and a half for new student organizations. For information for recognition, visit the Campus Activities website or contact the Peer Leadership Team.

What is the difference between an organization and an assembly?

An assembly is an umbrella organization for similar RSOs and is part the Undergraduate Student Government (USG). An RSO’s membership in an assembly is voluntary; for example, a Latinx RSO may choose whether or not to belong to the Latinx Student Assembly (LSA). However, there are advantages to belonging to an assembly, such as funding, access to office space and art supplies, and public relations and webpage assistance.

To find a list of all student assemblies and contacts, click here.

How can I start a new RSO?

New RSOs may start during the first six weeks of each semester. To learn about requirements and to begin the recognition process, visit the Campus Activities website and contact the Peer Leadership Team with any specific questions.

If there is already an existing RSO with a similar purpose, can I still start a new one?

You can start a new RSO only if your group has a sizable and recognizable difference in goals and missions to the existing RSO. Your group will need to make a distinction in order to avoid confusion and overlap.

How do I know which RSOs exist on campus?

Students can find  for a comprehensive list of Recognized Student Organizations (RSOs) and information for each group on engageSC. Students, faculty, staff, and the general public can also click here for a list of RSOs and contact information.

How can I get involved in existing RSOs?

Many RSOs participate in the Involvement Fair, held the first Wednesday and Thursday of each semester. Club sport RSOs in the Recreational Club Council (RCC) have their own RecFest during the first week of the school year. You can also visit engageSC and search for groups by topic and interest. If you need further assistance, the Peer Leadership Team is available to help you find groups in which to get involved.

What is engageSC?

engageSC is the online platform for campus involvement. Log on to explore the hundreds of RSOs on campus, join existing RSOs, create new RSOs, connect with other students, see a calendar of RSO events, and more.

Can RSOs use the USC name and logos?

Only RSOs are permitted to use the name, logo and other trademarks of the university, while making it clear that the RSO is not a part of the university itself.  Use of the name, logo or other trademarks must be consistent with the USC Graphic Identity Program, including those specified in the Sales and Fundraising Policies (see Section G.7.Sales and Fundraising). Please see Trademarks and Licensing for more information.

Example of RSO name that is not permitted: USC Wiffleball

Examples of RSO names that are allowed: Wiffleball at USC; Trojan Wiffleball; SC Wiffleball

Unpermitted names may not be used in any RSO materials including social media, apparel and websites.

Can my RSO get an email through USC?

Yes, RSOs are eligible to have their own email address. To make a request for an email, click here and fill out the form.

Can we change the holder of our email address?

Yes. Click here to access the form, check “update an existing account,” and follow the on-screen instructions.

Can we send mass emails to students announcing our events?

No. However, RSOs can submit announcements to go on the weekly Campus Activities newsletter. To submit an announcement, please send your message with contact information and no attachments to stuacts@usc.edu by 11:59 p.m. on the Thursdaybefore you want to message to be sent. RSOs also can put their events on the engageSC calendar.

Why do we need an advisor?

The primary function of the advisor is to serve as a resource for the organization. Advisors will counsel and advise student organizations by asking the “tough” questions, assisting students in their thinking process and challenging the organization to go beyond the status quo. Advisors also provide continuity for an organization as they can pass along valuable information regarding the history of the organization and their past accomplishments. An active advisor can improve the effectiveness of an organization while also assisting in the positive development of the students. Any USC faculty or staff member can serve as an RSO advisor. All member clubs in the RCC are required to use the Club Sports Coordinator as their advisor.

We are affiliated with an off-campus group. Does this make any difference?

RSOs may be affiliated with other off-campus organizations. If this is the case, the RSO must submit a copy of the constitution, articles of incorporation or other governance document of the external organization for university approval during the on-campus recognition process. Policies are subject to change. Refer to the Campus Activities website for current policies and procedures. Where university policies or regulations conflict with student organization constitutions or bylaws, the university policies or regulations will govern.

Our group is religious/spiritual in nature. Is there anything different we have to do because of that?

There are specific processes for RSOs of this nature. Religious organizations seeking recognition must complete the guidelines outlined on the Office of Religious Life website prior to receiving university recognition. This must be uploaded to engageSC during the recognition process. More information can be found on the Office of Religious Life Student Organizations Recognition Page.

Can we get a mailbox on campus?

RSOs may receive mail for their organization at the following address:

Attn: Your RSO’s Full Name
University of Southern California
Office of Campus Activities SKS 410
3607 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3103

RCC clubs may receive mail at the Lyon Center at the following address:

Attn: Your RSO’s Full Name
University of Southern California
1026 W. 34th St.
Los Angeles, CA 90089

Can my RSO travel overseas? What do we need to do?

Yes, your RSO can travel overseas. You must notify the Division of Student Affairs and complete this planning process. Note: the first step must be completed six (6) weeks before travel.



Can we be selective in our membership?

All RSOs must limit participation to students, faculty, staff, alumni and alumnae of the university. All RSOs must limit voting members and officers to currently enrolled USC students . An RSO can be more selective in their requirements for voting members (i.e. currently enrolled business majors).

All RSOs must refrain from discriminating in membership decisions, elections and all other matters on the basis of race, creed or religion, sex*, age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, medical condition and national origin. A statement to this effect should appear in the constitution of all RSOs.

*Except those exempted from Title IX compliance. For more information on those exempt organizations, click here.

Can anyone be an officer or vote in our organization?

An RSOs must limit its voting members and officers to currently enrolled USC students. Any additional requirements are at the discretion of the RSO.

Are there any leadership resources to help our RSO leaders develop their skills?

Yes, Campus Activities hosts Leadership, Education and Development (L.E.A.D). programs geared towards helping students become more effective leaders in their RSOs. L.E.A.D. offers a variety of programs tailored to leaders of all types of clubs and year of academic standing; visit their website to learn more.

What exactly is hazing?

Students and student organizations shall not engage in any activity that is considered hazing by university standards, or as defined in California Penal Code 245.6, which defines hazing as, “any method of initiation or preinitiation into a student organization or student body, whether or not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational institution, which is likely to cause serious bodily injury to any former, current, or prospective student of any school community college, college, university, or other educational institution in this state.  The term hazing does not include customary athletic events or school-sanctioned events.”

  • Hazing is a felony in the State of California
  • Hazing is against the rules and regulations of the Student Conduct Code of the University of Southern California. If individuals are found guilty of violating these rules, they may be expelled permanently from the University.
  • RSOs that participate in hazing functions are subject to permanent disassociation from the University. The future of the RSO is in jeopardy if members of the RSO participate in hazing.
  • Hazing is a threat to life and personal safety and is a violation of the rules of common decency.
  • Hazing is outmoded, antiquated and thoroughly unacceptable. It is a custom that has no place in today’s University.

More information about hazing can be found in SCampus, Part G, Section 8.

How do I report an incident of hazing?

Anyone with information about a possible hazing incident has a responsibility to report it to the Department of Public Safety at (213) 740-6000 or dps.usc.edu. Additional opportunities for reporting hazing include the LiveSafe smartphone app, Trojans Care for Trojans, organization advisor, or university representative.

Students and/or student organizations engaging in activity which is considered hazing as defined by California law may be reported to the Los Angeles Police Department.



How can my RSO get money for its programs?

Visit this link for a list of resources. Most of the financial assistance granted for RSOs focuses on programming needs (money to help fund a program). If an RSO needs money for other expenditures, they can charge dues from their members, seek donations from departments, charge for programs, or try fundraising activities.

For new RSOs, Discretionary Board offers money as “start-up funds” for up to several hundred dollars for basic office supplies and equipment such as banners.

Can we charge dues?

Yes. Dues must be used to off-set the costs of programs, travel and RSO-related expenses. Dues may not be used for individual gain and/or purchase of substances.

Can my RSO open a bank account?

RSOs may only open a bank account with the USC Credit Union.  These accounts CANNOT accept any University money.  Please go to the Credit Union to establish the account.  You will need:

  1. A completed Account Authorization Form from the USC Credit Union (available here).
  2. A copy of your recognition letter (available to RSO Group Admins on engageSC)
  3. A completed signature card with at least two students and the advisor (provided by the USC Credit Union)
  4. A completed Tax Identification Form (provided by the USC Credit Union)

For more details, please click here.

Can we make a profit on our RSO?

RSOs (or individual members while acting in any capacity for the RSO) may not conduct for-profit or commercial activities (or facilitate the for-profit or commercial activities of others).

All recognized student organizations are permitted to fundraise on their own behalf. However, student organizations may only fundraise or pursue activities to benefit their organization, another student organization or an outside philanthropic agency or relief effort. No individual student(s) may receive any type of payment either in the form of money, discounts and/or goods and services.

Can RSOs use USC’s Tax ID number?

RSOs can accept tax-deductible donations if they are given through a University Gift Account. USC student organizations are not permitted to use USC’s tax ID number. You will only need your organization’s tax ID number on a few occasions (for instance, if you need to open a new bank account, or if a company sponsor for an event needs it for financial records).

If your RSO is affiliated with an outside (off campus) organization which has a tax number, that organization may receive tax-deductible donations on your RSO’s behalf.

Can RSOs apply for a new federal tax ID  (also known as a Employee Identification Number-EIN?

Student organization can apply for a new federal tax ID number through the IRS website. This is the same as an EIN number used to open a USC Credit Union account. If you need your organization’s tax ID number and cannot locate it you will need to apply for a new tax ID number through the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=102767,00.html.

When you apply for a tax ID number (also known as an Employer Identification Number or EIN), you will be required to enter your Social Security Number. This is an extra security measure taken by the IRS to ensure the person requesting the number has a legitimate request. Your SSN will not be saved or linked to your organization’s EIN in any way.

If I spend money for my RSO, can I get reimbursed?

Funding boards through USG and GSG will not reimburse an RSO; they will only make direct payments to vendors. Some academic departments may distribute reimbursements, but that is up to their individual discretion. Those RSOs with University accounts may be eligible for reimbursement – please contact the Peer Leadership Team (or the RCC Executive Board for member RSOs) for more information.

Can we use RSO money for alcohol, tobacco, or other substances?

No. Membership dues, fundraising revenue, or University funding (etc.) may not be used to purchase any sort of substances.

What vendors can we purchase from? Why is this a good thing?

RSOs can purchase goods or services directly from vendors and make a payment with university money. Visit this link for a list of Authorized Vendors for RSOs and guidelines on trademarks.

Can I sign a contract with an outside vendor?

No student or RSO may enter into direct contractual agreement in USC’s name with outside vendors (travel agencies, tour operators, etc.). Check with the appropriate administrative unit (Vice President for Student Affairs or specific dean’s offices) for clarification of required procedures.


Reserving Space and Hosting Events

How can my RSO reserve space on campus?

All RSOs may reserve space for meetings or events.

  • To request classroom space: fill out this form through Campus Activities.
  • To request space in the Tutor Campus Center, Bovard Auditorium, Ballroom, Outdoor Venue, Tommy’s Place, or Ground Zero: visit the website for Trojan Event Services.
  • To request Cromwell Field, Brittingham Field, McAlister Field, the Uytengsu Aquatics Center, a room in the PED Building, or another sporting facility: fill out this form through Recreational Sports.

How can my RSO reserve a table?

RSOs may rent tables and chairs through Trojan Event Services. They are rented on a first come, first serve basis. Please visit the Trojan Event Services website for more information on guidelines and instructions.

Can we hold a protest event on campus?

Yes, you can have a protest event on campus. They must be registered through Trojan Events Services (form available here) and abide by all other event policies.

Can we sell food on campus?

USC is governed by the same food policies as local restaurants. Therefore, RSOs must receive prior approval from both Hospitality Services and the Office of Safety and Risk Management to sell food on campus for any reason. The Food and Beverage Service Approval Form can be found here through Trojan Event Services.

Can we have alcohol at our events?

The possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages on the University of Southern California campus is governed by appropriate state and municipal laws and is further governed by University regulations. The University Policy concerning alcohol, applicable University regulations, procedure for dealing with an alcohol violation by an RSO, and a definition of possible sanctions for RSOs are discussed in the complete policy, is available at the Responsible Hosting website.

More information about USC Drug-Free can be found here.

Can we hold events off-campus?

Yes, events may be held off-campus. However, the University’s Alcohol and Drug Policy still applies. Off-campus events may not be eligible for program fee funding.

If we hold an event off-campus, who is liable if something goes wrong?

Student organizations may be held responsible for the acts of individual members. Acts include but are not limited to the following types of circumstances:

  • when a member of an organization is violating state law or university standards and other members present fail to indicate their disapproval, or by their continued presence without objection implicitly condone the behavior;
  • when the acts grow out of or are directly related to the student organization’s activities or an environment created by the organization;
  • when the acts are those of guests of an organization, or by persons authorized or permitted to represent themselves as connected with the organization;
  • when an organization places prospective members in a subordinate status prior to achieving full membership, or imposes any kind of probationary period prior to full membership, and hazing occurs.

Liability on the part of the student organization may be mitigated if members of the organization take reasonable steps to prevent infractions of university regulations by their fellow members. Such steps will usually include clear establishment of standards (preferably in writing), documented education of members as to the standards established and documented enforcement of standards when violations occur. The specific steps necessary to avoid this liability (or to mitigate consequences) will vary according to the circumstances of the situation, the seriousness of the behavior, and the possible harms which could have arisen from the behavior. Where more serious behavior and harm is in question, the student organization has the duty to take clear and firm action that is reasonably calculated to prevent and/or cease the behavior in question.

The university accepts no financial, tort or other liability for the action of the RSO or its members .

Can we decide who can and cannot attend our events?

If you are receiving funding from the University for a program or event, the program or event must be open to all USC students or have approval to limit attendance. If your RSO is paying for an event just for its members, then you may limit the people invited to the event.

Can we have amplification at an event?

To maintain the academic environment at the university, the use of amplified sound equipment in open areas must be approved by Trojan Event Services (form available here). Amplified sound is defined as any form of equipment (i.e., microphone, speakers, amplifiers, bullhorns, musical instruments) used to increase sound levels or any object that does not require equipment to project its sound. In some cases, large group singing is also considered amplified sound. Events involving high sound levels may not be scheduled during regular classroom instruction if the possibility of interference exists. Any recognized student organization or university department may reserve one of the designated open spaces for sound amplification.

The use of outdoor areas for amplified events is limited by the nature of the given area and the probability of interference with official university functions. In general, moderate amplification (not more than 90 decibels, “A” weighted, measured 45 feet from the front center of the stage) is allowed at Hahn Plaza (adjacent to Tommy Trojan) from noon to 1 p.m. Monday – Friday. A sound check will be permitted from 11:50 a.m. to noon. All other requests for amplified sounds will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by Trojan Event Services. All outdoor venues and events after 5 p.m. will be considered for approval by Trojan Event Services.

Can we host social events at any time?

Social events where alcohol is NOT provided by the host student organization are permitted Sunday through Thursday until midnight and Friday through Saturday until 2 a.m. Alcohol is prohibited at university dances sponsored by recognized student organizations.

Social events where alcohol is served by the host student organization are ONLY permitted Thursday until midnight and Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m. Alcohol service must end by 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.

Activities governed by this policy have the following characteristics:

  1.  alcohol is present or
  2.  there is amplified sound (either live or recorded)

This policy is not designed to discourage events which:

  1.  directly support the academic mission of the university;
  2.  expand the cultural awareness of USC students; or
  3.  are primarily intellectual or educational in nature

Can we conduct a lottery, raffle, or silent auction?

In the state of California, raffles and lotteries are illegal if a person is required to purchase a ticket or make a donation in order to be eligible to win the contest.

Free drawings are legal when rules conforming to the California State Law are followed exactly. These rules are:

  1.  The drawing must be in connection with an event or a recognized student organization.
  2.  The ticket must have the following information printed on it:
  3.  Date, time and location of drawing
  4.  Name of sponsors and beneficiary of fund-raising

iii.  Donation or purchase of ticket is not required to be eligible to win

  1.  Winner need not be present at drawing (not required but advised)
  2.  Free tickets (a minimum of one per person) must be available.
  3.  Each solicitor must know that free tickets can be obtained and how to obtain them.
  4.  The word “drawing” or “free drawing” is required; do not use the word “raffle” on the ticket or in advertisements.

The same rules apply for coordinating a silent auction as would apply for a free drawing. <a