How-To's

How-To Instructions for Common Events

Student organizations come up with new and dynamic events every day, and we encourage you to be creative in planning and implementing new activities to enrich the campus environment. There are, however, many events that are regularly hosted by student organizations, and in this section we will provide basic guidance for successfully managing the risks associated with these standard or common activities. Please remember to always submit an Event Planning Form after structuring your event in accordance with these procedures; we look forward to helping your group plan the most safe and successful events possible!

For more information, refer to the Event Planning guidelines and consult with additional resources. Contact us at (979) 458-4371 or risk@stuact.tamu.edu with any further questions about these or other events you are planning!

Blood Drive

First, ensure that all proper procedures are followed by reserving space for the blood drive facilities through the Scheduling Office, submitting a Concessions permit request to the Department of Student Activities, submitting your Event Planning Form, and coordinating with representatives from the University Center Complex and Student Activities to sign the Blood Drive Guidelines and set up parking permits, collection sites, etc. for the blood collection agency. Please note the following staffing policies:

  • The sponsoring student organization must provide staffing at each of the blood collection locations during the entire duration of the drive;
  • While blood collection agency representatives are encouraged to recruit potential donors, they are asked to respect any initial decline to donate made by students, faculty, staff, or others; and
  • When more than one agency is on campus at the same time, agency representatives should not coerce donors away from another agency.

Blood collection agencies will be responsible for collecting and disposing of all utensils used by their workers, and Texas A&M University's facilities may not be used to dispose of these items.

Car Bash

First, ensure that all proper procedures are followed by reserving space for the car bash through the Scheduling Office, submitting a Concessions permit request to the Department of Student Activities, submitting your Event Planning Form, and coordinating with representatives from the University Center Complex about the delivery and removal of the vehicle on the day of your event. Additional safety requirements include the following:

  • Any vehicle used for a car bash must be "stripped," meaning that there may be no glass anywhere on or in the vehicle, and the vehicle must have its engine and all gasoline/other automotive fluids removed;
  • The area around the vehicle must be sufficiently cordoned off to prevent debris or a sledgehammer from striking spectators;
  • All participants must wear safety goggles and gloves at all times;
  • At no time may participants stand on or in any part of the vehicle; and
  • Participants must sign liability waivers indicating their voluntary assumption of the risks associated with the car bash.

Date Auctions

The Departments of Student Life, Residence Life, Multicultural Services, and Student Activities have had many discussions over the years about whether or not "date auctions" are appropriate activities for student organizations at Texas A&M University. This statement will address three specific concerns about date auction events; please be aware of these concerns and potential problems/liabilities.

  1. Racial Insensitivity:  Date auctions are similar in structure to slave auctions, a tragic part of the history of the United States. Slave auctions devalued the dignity of human beings to the level of merchandise, and date auctions similarly involve one person "bidding" for the services of another and a comparison of the relative "value" of each person being auctioned. On a campus where equality and sensitivity are highly valued, any activity that suggests the auctioning of one human being's services to another bears an inappropriate resemblance to the slave auctions of the past.
  2. Gender Insensitivity:  An extension of the issues explained in #1 is the need for everyone to respect the rights of others and realize that another person cannot be bought. A dangerous attitude that continues to exist between people of different genders is a concept of entitlement based on whoever pays; indeed, many date rape incidents result from an assumption on the part of one person that whoever pays for the "date" is entitled to more than the other may assume. Date auctions may create an environment where such expectations could be used to the disadvantage of one or both participants.  The environment of a date auction may also be insensitive to the diversity of participants related to their gender expression and/or sexual orientation.  An event like this puts gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) students in an uncomfortable position due to the inherent gender stereotypes and heterosexism of date auctions.
  3. Personal Safety:  An organization sponsoring a date auction has no way of knowing the motivations of the person(s) bidding on others. A date auction may become a convenient means by which a person has the opportunity to "buy" some time with the person to whom s/he is attracted; though this possibility may seem remote, the implications of liability for the sponsoring organization are severe and worthy of careful consideration.

Date auctions are usually held to raise money for good causes, and sponsored by organizations with good intentions. However, the concerns listed above expose the potential for persons to be physically and/or emotionally hurt or offended, and therefore date auctions may be an ill-conceived manner to raise money. As an alternative, we suggest auctioning items (tickets, services, etc.) rather than individuals. Please consider selecting a positive alternative to date auctions for raising your funds.

Dunking Booth

First, ensure that all proper procedures are followed by reserving space for the booth through the Scheduling Office, submitting a Concessions permit request to the Department of Student Activities, submitting your Event Planning Form, and coordinating with representatives from the University Center Complex about the delivery and removal of dunking booth equipment on the day of your event. Additional safety considerations include:

 

  • Having a group representative available to assist the person(s) dunked into and out of the booth/water;
  • Having towels available to wipe the ground and stairs dry between dunks;
  • Cordoning off the dunking area sufficiently;
  • Having all persons being dunked sign a waiver form indicating their voluntary assumption of the risks associated with entering a dunking booth; and
  • Being prepared to postpone or cancel the event in case of inclement weather, especially storms or lightning in the area.

Eating Contest

If your event involves an eating contest, be aware that there are serious physical risks associated with these types of activities. Consuming food at a rapid pace greatly increases the risk of choking, so you should have a medic or person trained in the Heimlich maneuver available or consider eliminating the timed part of the activity. Consuming large amounts of food or beverages in a short period of time is also very dangerous to a person's health, and can lead to short-term or long-term illnesses. Remember that your organization is responsible for the safety of the participants at your event, and could be held liable for any injuries or illnesses.

The key consideration for eating contests is ensuring that all proper risk management procedures are in place for the activity. Another important point to consider is how the activity pertains to the mission of your organization and the objectives of the event. Consult with your fellow student leaders, advisor, and Department of Student Activities staff to develop ideas about the safest ways to achieve a fun or competitive environment at your event, and consider alternatives to help you successfully accomplish your goals in a manner that places your organization at lesser risk.

Food at an Event

Any event involving the sale of food requires a concessions permit from the Department of Student Activities. If no transaction is taking place and you are just distributing the food, no concessions permit is necessary.

If your event is only serving food (whether catered or personally prepared) internally, to members of your organization, no forms or permits are required. However, if the event is serving food to anyone outside your membership, you will have to abide by the following rules.

A Food Distribution Form must be submitted to the TAMU Office of Environmental Health & Safety anytime a potentially hazardous food (PHF) is served on campus.  Potentially hazardous foods can cause a foodborne illness if handled or prepared improperly.  Examples include:

  • Meat products
  • Dairy products
  • Fruits and vegetables

If you are hiring a caterer to bring and/or serve PHF on campus  or you are picking up PHF from a food establishment which you then serve at your campus event, you must ensure that the vendor has all necessary health permits and follow proper food handling procedures to distribute the items. You must also complete the Food Distribution Using Caterers Form, https://ehsd.tamu.edu/Safety/foodsafety/Food%20Safety%20Documents/Food%20Distribution%20Form%20-%20Caterers.pdf, and submit it to Environmental Health & Safety no later than 7 working days prior to your event.

If you are preparing and/or serving PHF yourself, you must complete the Food Distribution Form, https://ehsd.tamu.edu/Safety/foodsafety/Food%20Safety%20Documents/Food%20Distribution%20Form.pdf, and submit it to Environmental Health & Safety no later than 7 working days prior to your event. Please note that it may also be necessary to obtain a Temporary Food Service Permit from the Brazos County Health Department. Environmental Health & Safety will help you determine if a Temporary Health Permit is required.  More information regarding Temporary Food Service Permits can be found here: http://www.brazoshealth.org/EHS/tempevent.php.

The information provided here, https://ehsd.tamu.edu/Safety/foodsafety/Food%20Safety%20Documents/Temporatry%20Food%20Guidelines.doc, covers food preparation and handling guidelines and requirements.

Gambling Activities at an Event

Your organization may wish to host a social or fundraising event involving gambling-related activities. It is important to ensure that these activities fall within legal boundaries to protect your organization and the university.The state of Texas has stringent laws about gambling. We encourage you to consult with a list of legal opinions set forth by the Attorney General of Texas over the last two decades.

Here are some tips on planning an event involving gambling:

  • Participants cannot be awarded anything of value based on their playing ability or skill.  Auctions or door prizes are good suggestions in place of cash prizes.
  • Everyone has to have the same odds of winning games.  Therefore, chips/vouchers/etc. cannot be sold; everyone must receive the same amount when entering.
  • No real money can be on any table at any time.
  • Entrance fees cannot be solely for casino activities.  Events should be marketed as an evening of entertainment, with entrance fees covering several things (such as dinner, music, dancing, etc.).
  • An event with all proceeds being donated to charity is subject to the same laws and procedures related to financial transactions and marketing.
  • Several companies provide casino services and entertainment through a formal license with the state of Texas, such as Party Time Rentals in College Station (979-696-5555) and Southwest Casino Productions in Houston (713-972-1113).

When considering whether to sponsor an event that involves some type of gambling, it is important for student organizations to understand the ethical factors and to assure that state and federal laws are followed. 

Ethical Considerations 
Events that involve gambling can project a negative image about the student organization and, to some extent, the university�even when these events are tied to raising money for charitable organizations.  This is because gambling has long since been associated with organized crime, theft, alcoholism, drug abuse, irresponsible behavior and delinquency.  Moreover, recent studies have shown that gambling is becoming more prevalent on college campuses throughout the country.  As a result, gambling addiction is increasing at an alarming rate for adults 18 to 23 years of age.  There are three phases to the addiction cycle:  building a foundation through the thrill of winning; chasing eventual and certain losses; and participating in negative behaviors to compensate for past losses.  Endorsing or allowing gambling may promote this addiction cycle for participating students and could lead to health risks and psychological problems.  This is why even the best intentions for sponsoring an event where a legal form of gambling occurs can be overshadowed by negative overtones for the student organization and the reinforcement of destructive behaviors for the participants.

Legal Considerations
Pursuant to Chapter 47.02.a.3 of the State of Texas Penal Code, a person commits an offense if he plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.  For a complete copy of Chapter 47 of the Texas Penal Code please see http://www.gambling-law-us.com/State-Laws/Texas/.

Student organization leaders and/or members are urged to contact the Department of Student Activities prior to planning an event where gambling is to occur. This contact can be made by phone: 458-4371 or email: risk@stuact.tamu.edu.

Inflatables at an Event

Inflatable games, such as moonwalks, giant slides, climbing walls, human foosball, etc., are commonly rented by student organizations for carnivals and fundraisers. Though they may seem harmless, inflatables actually carry a great deal of risk, and it is important to ensure that your contract with the inflatables rental company sufficiently protects your organization and that your event is properly set up and supervised to keep participants safe. In "Deflating the Risks of Inflatables," D. Dickerson and P. Lake urge university entities to select a rental company with experienced and reputable operators, review the company's licenses and safety record, and ensure that the equipment rented meetings safety requirements for manufacturers (NASPA Leadership Exchange, Winter 2005, p. 22). Additional safety considerations include:

  • Selecting a safe location on campus and closing off the area;
  • Maintaining trained supervisors to monitor the inflatables and participants;
  • Verbally and visually explaining the safety rules and warnings; and
  • Having pre-established plans for crowd control, weather contingency plans, and medical emergency response.

The Texas Department of Insurance's Amusement Ride Inspection List provides information regarding inspections and certifications by vendors of their respective amusement rides.

The Risk Management team will review your contract for legal language that best protects your organization and clearly defines the responsibilities of the student group and the rental company for equipment maintenance and supervision, and will review your Event Planning Form for additional safety suggestions during your event. Please submit these documents well in advance of your event!

Race or "Fun Run"

To host a race or other walk/run on the Texas A&M campus, begin by consulting with the Fun Run website from Transportation Services. Here you will find options for various routes, dates and times for scheduling, and links to important paperwork. As you meet with Transportation Services and submit your Event Planning Form to the Department of Student Activities, staff members from both offices will help you line up all training and security plans for your event. Pay special attention to the physical risks associated with such events, such as injury, heat exhaustion, dehydration, crossing traffic, inclement weather, etc.

Raffles

Your organization may wish to hold a raffle as a means for fundraising. It is very important to note that only two types of student organizations may conduct raffles:

  1. A nonprofit association organized primarily for religious purposes that has been in existence in Texas for at least 10 years
  2. A nonprofit organization that has existed for at least three preceding years and is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c), Internal Revenue Code; does not distribute any of its income to its members, officers or governing body; does not devote a substantial part of its activities to attempting to influence legislation; and does not participate in any political campaign.

The language of the law is very technical, and an unauthorized raffle is considered gambling under the Texas Penal Code. If your organization is considering holding a raffle you should check the statute to be sure it qualifies.

If your organization does qualify to host a raffle, details and restrictions can be found at https://www.oag.state.tx.us/consumer/raffle.shtml#restrictions

River Trip/Tubing

 When planning your trip, please take note of the following considerations:

  • Read the Travel Planning Page for rules and tips on how to plan a responsible trip.  It also includes rental vehicle information, safety precautions, emergency situations, and more.
  • Discuss travel details with your advisor and a Student Organization Development Consultant in Student Activities during the planning process!
  • No alcohol is permitted on a Student Organization river trip.
  • Items to bring:
    • Water shoes, sunblock, WATER, nalgenes, sunglasses, hat, first aid kit, aloe, towel, bug spray, and swimwear.
    • Make sure the first aid kit on site has a snake bite kit included and be sure to know how to use the kit prior to the event.
    • Be careful when taking valuables on the river.  Car keys and Aggie Rings do not float!  Make sure any valuable item taken on the river is carefully secured to your person using waterproof necklaces, carabiners, etc.  If allowed to take an ice chest on the river, a dry bag to hold valuables can be purchased and kept in the ice chest.  Be wary of the risks associated with leaving valuables in your vehicle.
    • Be sure to communicate this information to your participants and designate a member to bring extra supplies.
    • All of the items listed above can be found and purchased at the Bryan/College Station Walmart.
  • Outfitting companies are available at the most popular tubing rivers in Texas. They will rent you tubes, provide access to the river, and transport you back to your car. Outfitters charge around $15-$20 for tubes, but call ahead of time for group rates. Parking may or may not be included. To find a reputable company, we recommend you thoroughly research online and by telephone.
  • Park only in designated areas. Cars in undesignated areas will be towed.  Keep in mind the financial burden of a towed car, the possible emotional distress, and the considerable amount of time it will take from your desired event.
  • Glass containers and Styrofoam coolers are not allowed on the river by law.  It is good practice to check River Laws for more specific information.
  • While on the river, drink plenty of water and continually apply sunscreen (the recommended amount is a palmful every hour).  The average float on the river can be from an hour and a half to two and a half hours and the sun exposure can be potentially dangerous.  Please see the Red Cross page for symptoms and treatments for heat exhaustion and dehydration.
  • Rafting speed is determined by the flow rate of the river.  It is also important to check the river level before departing on the trip.  Check river levels and flow rates here.
  • Keep in mind: All behavior of attendees on the trip represents your organization and Texas A&M University as a whole.  Consider drafting and distributing a Behavior Contract, outlining what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

Things to think about:

  • If an emergency happens on the river:
    • How do you contact somebody?
    • Will someone have a cell phone on them?  What if there is no cell phone service?
    • How do you prevent the cell phone from getting wet?
    • Do you have any certified lifeguards attending the trip?
  • Is there a meet up place and time?  Has the meet up plan been communicated to participants?  Keep in mind it is easy to get separated on the river and where you parked can be different than where the river ends.
  • Will you use a buddy system?
  • Are you aware of where the nearest hospital is and how to get there?
  • Have maps been distributed?  GPS and satellite signals are not always reliable.
  • Do you plan to drive back immediately following your float?  Drivers will be drained from the sun exposure.  Consider alternative options such as staying the night.

If you wish to continue with the event after having read these points, ensure you have submitted your Event Planning Form to the Department of Student Activities, including the Travel Information Form.

Please note: River tubing has both inherent and unknown risks and dangers.  These include but are not limited to injury or loss of life.  The river has no life guards and you will be on your own, use caution, think safety first!

Silent Auction

Planning a Silent Auction can involve many details in the planning and execution of the event.  Before you start on yours, here are some tips and advice to consider:

  • Why a Silent Auction?  Is a Silent Auction the best option for your fundraiser?  Consider the nature of the event, the purpose of the fundraiser, the number of people attending the event, the cost to attend, etc.
  • Start early!  Start the donation acquisition process at least 8 weeks in advance.  For an example donation acquisition letter, click here.
  • When making business visits to acquire donation items, have a method for keeping track of the places that have been visited.  That way, you will make sure no business is being asked for donations more than once.
  • Once you know the date, time, and location of the auction; start publicizing for the event right away!
  • Table Rentals are available through Hospitality and Event Services (979-845-8904) and the Rudder Theatre Complex (979-845-8903).  Make sure to specifically ask about tablecloths and any other specific rentals you may need.
  • The Student Organization Finance Center has a service called Marketplace that allows student organizations to receive credit card payments.  For more information, contact the Student Organization Finance Center.
  • Tip: items unique to Texas A&M tend to be popular items to bid on.  The Athletics Department, Aggie Athletics, can donate signed memorabilia through their charity request.  The Benjamin Knox gallery also takes donation requests.
  • Make sure each item has its own description card that not only explains what the item is, but also entices people to bid on it!
  • When setting up the event, ensure all items are properly displayed with a description card and a bid sheet.  Don't forget the little things such as paper, pens, tape, or other supplies that can be overlooked.
  • Each item needs to have a bid sheet in front of it.  Write an opening bid on the bid sheet to give a starting point and direction for the bidders.
  • Have bidders provide their cell phone number and email address.  When contacting winners, alternate forms of contact may be needed.  Hold on to this list for transition materials and invite those people back next year!
  • Send thank you cards to donors, businesses that participated, and bidders after the event.
  • If the event is not held during business hours, the Student Organization Finance Center has a drop box for the money collected at the auction.  Please refer to the Dropbox Guidelines.
  • Please think about the safety involved with the amount of money you will be collecting.  The Student Organization Finance Center rents out lock boxes for free and a security guard can be provided through the University Police Department at a charge.

Things to think about:

  • Do you want to include a "buy it now" price on the bid sheet?  This is a price that the bidder can pay on the spot if they do not wish to go through the auction process and would rather have the item immediately.  Tip: make the "buy it now" price HIGH!
  • Is there a plan in place for leftover items?
  • Does the bidder have to be present to win?
  • What if the winner does not claim their item?
    • Did the winner already pay?
    • Is there any kind of agreement in place with the businesses about where the donated items end up?
    • Was there a second bidder?

To execute the Silent Auction, first ensure that all proper procedures are followed by submitting an Event Planning Form and consulting with the Trademark and Licensing Office before collecting items or working with vendors.  If holding the auction on campus, reserve a space for the auction through the specific building's scheduling office and submit a Concessions Permit Request to the Department of Student Activities at least 48 hours prior to the event. If holding the auction off campus, make sure you assess your needs when choosing a location.  Visit the facility, meet with an event manager, and have all agreements in writing.  Please look over the Contract Guidelines and note when you are required to have the contract approved by Student Activities before signing a contract with your event facility.

Tailgating

Tailgating events take place on campus for various purposes, including fellowship, fundraising, and sharing the Aggie Spirit. When your organization is planning a tailgate there are several key resources to consider and utilize:

While tailgates can be fun and successful without it, should your organization decide to have alcohol at your tailgate, you will want to review and be familiar with the student rule on alcohol (linked above), particularly the section on recognized student organization events. This rule outlines several requirements of events involving alcohol, including but not limited to having a closed event, and the use of either BYOB or Third Party Vendor guidelines (more information can be found in the rule and in our alcohol at events guidelines, both linked above). It is also important to always remember that organization money (from any of your SOFC accounts) can never be used to purchase alcohol.

It is important to note that some components of the student rule cannot be fully satisfied due to certain tailgating regulations (found in tailgating website linked above). For example, a tailgate may not be a fully closed event, in that you cannot rope off or fully control entrance into your tailgating area. However, you are expected to maintain reasonable control over access and egress to and from your tailgate. In situations such as this, you will want to consider the spirit or purpose of the rule, or component thereof. The reasoning for requiring a closed event is to have control over who is present with the alcohol and who is consuming the alcohol. The navigation of these regulations may seem difficult, but the utilization of a pre-event planning form is an excellent resource to aid in your tailgate planning process.

The submission and completion of a pre-event planning form and process is required of any event involving alcohol. These forms are due at least two weeks prior to your event. Given the high-risk nature of a tailgate involving alcohol, the earlier you are able to fully complete and submit your form, the better of your tailgate will be. This pre-event planning form review process will allow you to work with a professional in the department of Student Activities to effectively comply with university rules and mitigate serious risks inherent in any tailgate.

 

Flash Mob

In order to have a successful, safe, and effective Flash Mob there are several things to know and consider before you plan. Please be mindful of university policies throughout the planning process.

Know

  • Flash Mobs are considered an expressive activity, which is defined as:
    •  “The university will protect the rights of freedom of speech, expression, petition, and peaceful assembly as set forth in the U.S. Constitution.  Texas A&M University maintains its right to regulate reasonable time, place and manner restrictions concerning acts of expression and dissent."  Ideas or expressions put forth in expressive activities are not necessarily the views of Texas A&M University, its officers, administrators, or leaders, unless otherwise noted.”
    • For more information about expressive activities and the guidelines that surround it please see Student Appendix 11
    • Space Reservation:
      • Advanced Reservations
        • Advanced reservations are needed if any of the following apply:
          • Event is publically promoted/marketed in advance
          • Expected crowd to be larger than 25 people
          • Sponsored/performed by an organization
          • Occurs near intersections and/or academic buildings (on campus)
      • Rudder Fountain, Sul Ross Statue Area, and West Mall Area are able to be reserved for expressive activities.
        • Other spaces may be used, but note the following when deciding location:
          • Distance from building requirements
          • Security Concerns
          • Crowd Placement
          • All of this information is available through the building proctor
      • The Hospitality and Event Services [2ndFloor Rudder] is where any space reservations will be processed in person
        • Forms must be competed at least 5 business days prior to the event
          • In person is preferred as to move the process along
        • Additional collaboration with the Department of Student Life may be needed and the Hospitality and Event Services will determine this
  • Current Events and Other Programs:
    • Please be aware of current events and programs that may affect the availability of space
    • Programs may be accessed via the University Calendar
    • Sound:
      • Lawrence Sullivan Ross statue and West Mall Area:  sound equipment or any kind of amplified sound is prohibited at all times
      • Rudder Fountain Area: Volume of any sound equipment used must be kept at a level that would not interfere with any academic or other program taking place in nearby buildings only from Noon-1pm.
      • Risk Management:
        • Because this event is considered an expressive activity, the Department of Student Activities recommends that a Pre-Event Planning Form to be filled out no less than 10 days prior to the event.
        • Risk:
          • Physical: How will the safety of participants and on lookers be ensured?
          • Reputational: What message are you sending with the Flash Mob [actions, sound, costumes/appearance, etc] and how could they impact your organization, Texas A&M?
            • What if the event is not well received, how can this affect the organization?
      • Emotional: if the group is heckled or a member makes a mistake, how will you mitigate this?
      • Financial: if equipment [costumes, etc] is needed, how will it be funded?
      • Facilities: what is needed to guarantee a successful performance, how will the location and equipment used be properly maintained?
      • What is not permitted:
        • “Any acts that are disruptive to the normal operations of the university, including classes and university business, or that invade the rights of others will not be tolerated.”
        • Flash mobs may occur in public spaces only [see space reservations].
        • They cannot occur in spaces not intended for public forums, these include but are not limited to:
          • Residence Halls
          • Classrooms
          • Faculty/Staff Offices
          • Medical facilities
          • Inside academic buildings   [Appendix XI, Sect 1]

Consider

  • Purpose: what do you want to convey?
  • Involvement:
    • Who will be leading the flash mob?
    • How can people get involved in the process (planning, performing, etc)?
    • How will organizing practices be handled?
      • Many have videotaped their performance and distributed it out to members prior to the event.
      • Performance:
        • We suggest running through the performance at the location to ensure that everything has been accounted for, such as space.
        • Will there be props or costumes needed? If so, how will they be distributed?
        • Equipment: will you need amplified sound, will this be recorded?
        • Audience: 
          • Ensuring a safe distance between the audience and performance.
          • If the performance brings hecklers, how will the group react in a way that maintains a positive reputation for the organization?

Examples of Flash Mobs:

Frozen Flash Mob

Singing Flash Mob

Dancing Flash Mob

Additional Resources

Links to additional resources and other campus offices that may assist the planning of your events can be found in the Student Organization Manual.