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Working with Guest Speakers, Performers, and Other Service Providers

This section provides important information on how to work with vendors to ensure your event is successful. We recommend you discuss with your adviser some strategies to appropriately communicate with vendors during the early stages of the event planning processes.

Students may not commit to paying an individual or organization or arrange payment to a performer or vendor, either verbally or in writing, until the activity has been approved by the University, and you complete all necessary steps as described below.

Partisan Events and Activities

The University is prohibited by law from engaging in partisan political campaign activity. Accordingly, student groups are prohibited from utilizing the University name or any of its facilities or property in support of or in opposition to any political candidate. Moreover, federal and state laws that govern the University as an educational trust and tax-exempt institution, as well as concern for the proper role the University plays in society, limit the partisan political activities that can take place in Columbia facilities and/or with Columbia support.

Because the laws relating to political activities are complex, all groups wishing to bring political candidates (those that are currently running for an elected office) to campus must work closely with adviser and be as transparent as possible in planning these events. Your adviser should know all event details.

Please keep in mind these guidelines:

  • Columbia funds (allocation funds or co-sponsorships) cannot be used for partisan activities
  • You may fundraise for partisan activities; however, fundraising on behalf of any political candidate is not permitted
  • Sales tax exemption for goods and/or services will not apply to partisan activities (in other words, tax should be included on related purchases)
  • Communication sent from Columbia email addresses must include a clear statement that the communication represents the personal position of the author/student and not the views of Columbia University

Paying a Performer

If your group would like to hire a performer for your event, please note that there are three distinct categories of performers:

  1. Individual performer (e.g. singer, dancer, comedian, musician, model, actor, artist)

  2. Individual performer that requires props (e.g. a DJ who needs electric equipment to perform)

  3. Performance groups or troupes

Once you identify the type of performer you wish to hire, you may complete a performance agreement per our professional services payment guide. You may not use a performance agreement for any of the following: speakers, trainers/coaches, facilitators, consultants, graphic/web designers, photographers, video/audio producers, consultants. If you have questions about performers, please reach out to your adviser.

Paying a Guest Speaker

If your group would like to have an individual speak at an event or program, we offer a streamlined speaker agreement form to simplify the payment process. See all required documentation to hire a speaker.

A speaker agreement cannot be used for competition judges or professional services that offer seminars, workshops, classes, coaching, presentation or any type of facilitation. Moreover, an individual only qualifies as a speaker if there will be no handouts or original materials, training or workshop components to the speech. If you are uncertain as to whether an individual qualifies as speaker, please see your adviser for guidance.

In some cases, an honorarium may be a more suitable option instead of an agreement or contract. Learn more about honoraria.

Paying for Education, Training and Workshop Services

Individuals who come to campus with handouts or original education materials, as well as individuals who offer coaching or classroom components, act as a judge for a competition or facilitate any type of workshop or training are distinct from speakers and have a separate process for payment. You may not use a speaker agreement for these individuals. If you are uncertain as to whether an individual qualifies as speaker, please see your adviser for guidance.

To ensure you have all required documentation for these types of services, please be sure to refer to our payment guide.

Paying for Media-Related Services

You may hire external photographers, videographers, and other media-related professionals, such as graphic designers, web designer and others. Refer to our payment guide to learn about the documentation required for all media-related services.

Contracts and Agreements for Services or Venues

Many services require a contract or agreement between Columbia and the invited guest(s). University policy prohibits students from signing contracts and agreements. This restriction applies even if your organization pays through a separately incorporated account or if your event is held off campus.

If at any point a vendor or individual asks you to sign a contract or agreement, please speak to your adviser before you proceed. Contracts between student organizations and outside vendors can only be signed by Columbia’s designated officials after a thorough review. Please note that the review process takes a minimum of two weeks and may take up to several months based on the contract and the extent of the edits needed. Once the University has approved your contract, Administration and Planning will return it to your adviser.

Any contract signed on behalf of your student group is a legally binding document between Columbia University and a vendor. As such, all contracts should be made out to "The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York."

See our payment guide to learn about the documentation required for contracts.

Off-Campus Event Venues

Many groups hold events at off-campus venues. Most of these venues will require an agreement or contract. Master service agreements exist between Columbia and venues that have been previously vetted and approved by the University. Because these vendors have already agreed to Columbia's terms and conditions, Administration and Planning can expedite the contract process for your student group. Discuss with your adviser how to do business with one of these vendors for any large student group events.

If you would like an alternative off-campus organization to host your event, you should be in conversation with your adviser at least two and a half months prior to your event date.

Note: For gatherings of over 30 people, Columbia requires that off-campus venues enter into a standard contract with the University, even if the organization does not present a contract. 

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