Hosting Guidelines

Fundamental Principles

Hosting may be used to serve the following primary purposes:

  • Social courtesy/business discussion with a visitor/donor
  • Recruitment
  • Business transaction with a group of non-University personnel
  • Business transaction with only University personnel when necessary
  • University personnel social activities

The use of University funds for hosting can be a sensitive issue and should be considered carefully. Hosting always should serve a valid business purpose; the facts that University personnel are involved and University business may be a point of discussion are not sufficient in and of themselves to justify the cost of meals and related expenses. In particular, hosting expenses should be carefully limited when only University personnel are involved.

Note that a visitor’s meals while on travel status constitute travel reimbursement; the host’s meal is a hosting expense. When a traveling University employee covers meals or lodging for other traveling UM employees, all expenses constitute travel reimbursement.

This page addresses those situations for which reimbursement is allowed. Other events (e.g., potlucks, one-on-one restaurant meal) or events with higher costs (e.g., more “hosts”, higher meal expense) may occur and not be reimbursed. The guidelines apply to all University funds.

Social courtesy/business transaction with a visitor/donor

Individuals or small groups may be invited to the University to present a seminar, participate in a class, discuss research, or because they have a donor relationship with the College. Generally these hosted meals are one-on-one, although a group of no more than three “hosts” may be reimbursed for an individual guest if the meal provides the best opportunity for business discussions. These events generally are not considered “special” and are limited to the basic reimbursement caps. Alcohol is a reimbursable expense only for dinner hosting.

Lunch may be provided for a visitor in a group setting on-site if this provides an opportunity to meet with a larger number of faculty and/or students. In this case, a reasonable estimate of attendees should be made and low cost lunch provided.

Some exceptions to the basic reimbursement cap and number of attendees may be appropriate with visitors of special interest. Examples of such situations would include hosting the Goff Smith lecturer or an academic department’s “alumni of the year” recipient.

If a visitor’s trip lasts more than a few days, it is not expected that a host will be reimbursed for every meal.

Faculty recruitment

Faculty candidates may be hosted for more meals than other visitors, as a recruitment trip provides a limited opportunity to meet the candidate. Typical reimbursable hosting includes:

  • Breakfast with the department chair or search committee chair.
  • Lunch in a group setting on-site to meet with faculty and/or students.
  • Dinner with up to three UM employees.

First visits are not considered “special” events and are limited to basic reimbursement. Second visits may have a more social component for dinner, and second visits sometimes include a reception to provide an opportunity for a wide group of faculty to meet the candidate in a relaxed atmosphere. Alcohol is a reimbursable expense only for dinner or reception hosting.

The candidate may additionally have some meals associated with his/her travel that are not hosted. If the candidate brings his/her spouse, a host’s spouse may be reimbursed for dinner if it is considered necessary to provide a comfortable situation.

The same guidelines will apply to department chair or other faculty administrative searches, whether the candidate is internal or external.

Student recruitment

Typical reimbursable hosting expenses for student recruitment include:

  • Breakfast with a small group (e.g., chair, grad program chair, staff coordinators) to introduce the visit logistics.
  • Lunch in a group setting on-site with faculty and/or current students.
  • Dinner in a group setting in a restaurant with faculty and/or current students.

A graduate student being specifically recruited by a faculty member also may be hosted by that faculty member in a small group setting that includes him/herself and two-three of his/her current graduate students.

Student hosting expenses may include some activities designed to introduce candidates to student life in Ann Arbor (e.g., tickets to a basketball game). Reasonable expense for these activities is allowable but should be carefully considered to ensure that the activities have wide appeal and are appropriate for the candidate population.

Alcoholic beverages may not be served at any student recruitment event. Similarly, alcohol purchased at a restaurant meal is not reimbursable and should be discouraged for University attendees.

All basic reimbursement guidelines are in effect for student recruitment hosting.

Candidates may additionally have meals associated with travel that are not hosted.

Business purpose with a group of non-University personnel

This differs from the first category in that it generally comprises a group rather than one or two individuals. Typical business purposes include a site visit, departmental review, or advisory committee meeting. In this case, most meals will be provided in a hosted environment due to the key personnel’s travel status and the business need to include University personnel.

  • Breakfast may be provided on-site for all participants, including University participants, if the business portion of the meeting begins no later than 8 a.m.
  • Lunch may be provided on-site for all participants, including University participants, if the business meeting continues past the lunch hour.
  • Dinner in most cases will be provided in a restaurant with a small sub-set of University participants serving as hosts.
  • Refreshments, consisting of beverages and cookies/fruit/other light refreshments, may be provided at breaks for sessions lasting at least four hours.

It is not uncommon to provide a dinner with a more social orientation on the first night of such events; the appropriateness of such a social event and University personnel representation should be carefully considered.

The ratio of University personnel to visitors is an important consideration in planning these events.

For most purposes, these meals are not considered “special” and basic reimbursement caps apply. The social dinner may be considered a special event, in which case the higher dinner cap (currently $55 food only and $20 alcohol) may apply.

Business purpose with only University personnel

The need for hosting when only University personnel are participants in the business activity must be carefully considered and limited to necessary situations.

  • Breakfast hosting is strongly discouraged when visitors are not present.
  • On-site lunch hosting when visitors are not present is allowable only if the business event lasts longer than four hours, with two exceptions, noted below. Restaurant luncheons for business purposes with only University personnel are not a reimbursable expense.
    • An exception to the on-site lunch hosting may be made for activities geared to students, such as a graduate student literature review session or an undergraduate research discussion. Such events are reimbursable for any specific group no more often than bi-weekly and must provide low cost food selections. An effort must be made to accurately estimate the number of attendees.
    • An exception to on-site lunch hosting may be made for faculty activities geared to a large audience, primarily College or departmental faculty meetings. Such events are reimbursable no more often than monthly and must provide low cost food selections. An effort must be made to accurately estimate the number of attendees.
  • On-site dinner hosting when visitors are not present is allowable only if the business purpose continues later than 7 p.m. Restaurant dinners with only University personnel are not a reimbursable expense for a business-related purpose.
    • An exception to on-site dinner hosting may be made for limited student-oriented activities. Typical examples include a “welcome” cook-out for new graduate students or pizza dinner for student town hall meetings.
  • Beverages only may be provided at a seminar or workshop.

Off-site retreats have become more common in recent years. While the opportunity to take time away from normal business activities to consider important initiatives is valuable, costs associated with these events should be carefully considered. In particular, the choice of venue (e.g., Palmer Commons versus Traverse City) may have a very significant impact on the total cost of the activity.

University personnel social activities

Social activities involving only University personnel provide an important opportunity to improve morale and build teamwork. However, such activities must be limited. Social events reimbursed by University resources generally should benefit a “unit” population; individual recognition is appropriate for reimbursement in only limited circumstances.

Examples of approved social activities include:

  • College-wide and unit-level holiday parties. Holiday celebrations at a level lower than the unit (e.g., academic department) may not be reimbursed from University sources. Holiday party expenses may not include individual gifts.
  • College-wide and unit-level summer picnic or related activity. Picnics at a level lower than the unit may not be reimbursed from University sources.
  • Once-a-year special faculty and/or staff appreciation events, open to all regular faculty and/or staff in a unit.
  • Alumni recognition events.
  • Student/faculty social event, open to all and occurring no more often than once/term.
  • Retirement reception for faculty or staff; no more than one reception, regardless of the level, may be reimbursed for any individual. No gift other than the College’s official retirement gift may be purchased on University funds.
  • “Stepping down/going away” receptions, which should be limited to long-term staff and faculty or faculty who have served in an administrative role. Individual gifts are not a reimbursable expense.
  • Light refreshment reception open to all for a dissertation defense.

Alcohol may be served at on-site events in some cases; prior approval is required. (See alcohol policy.) Alcohol may not be served at any activity that includes undergraduate students and generally is not an allowable expense at any event that takes place during working hours.

One-on-one or small group celebrations are not a reimbursable expense.

This page is not intended to address private events (i.e., no University funds involved).

A unit may have more restrictive guidelines.