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Pillars of the Forty Acres - Frequently Asked Questions

General Program Questions | Student Activities Specific Criteria | Special Criteria Guidelines

General Program Questions

Q: How do I get my organization involved in the Pillars of the Forty Acres?
A: Visit our Pillars Instruction page to learn how to get involved.

Q: Is there a deadline for enrollment in the Pillars of the Forty Acres?
A: Yes. To enroll, an officer must attend a Pillars Information Session by February 12, 2021.

Q; When is the deadline to complete the Pillars of the Forty Acres program?
A: The deadline to complete the Pillars of the Forty Acres program and submit all criteria is Sunday, February 28, 2020 at 11:59 PM CST. All programs and activities must be completed by then.

Q; How long does the Pillars of the Forty Acres program last?
A: The 2020-2021 cycle of the Pillars of the Forty Acres program runs from March 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021.

Q; Can my organization backlog completed criteria?
A: Yes, the organization can count all criteria completed during the 2020-2021cycle as long as it was completed following criteria specific guidelines outlined on the Pillars site and/or via the campus partners.

Q; Is the organization expected to complete all six pillars in order to receive recognition?
A: No, you must earn six points in at least one category to receive Distinguished Status, but you may complete additional categories and receive Distinguished Status for multiple Core Value categories. If your organization achieves Distinguished Status in five of the six categories, you will receive Exemplary Status.

Q: Do all of my organization's members need to be listed in HornsLink?
A: Yes, all active members should be listed in HornsLink. Each organization defines what an active member is. Note, if your website, social media or HornsLink page description indicates that you have 100 members but your roster only has 31 members, then your HornsLink roster is not up to date.

Q; Will I be able to alter the roster for my student organizations from semester to semester (since the program is year-long)?
A: When confirming attendance and awarding points, Student Activities will refer to the roster you have listed in HornsLink. When logging points, you will often be required to list the names of members who participated in completing the criteria. These members must be listed in your organizations HornsLink roster or the criteria will be null. HornsLink rosters can be updated by the officers of your organization at any time.

Q; My student organization is very large, and it will be difficult to achieve the required 75% membership at each meeting. How can we participate in the program?
A: If membership attendance is an issue, your student organization can focus on a category requiring criterion that involve more individual efforts (such as workshops and trainings) rather than the larger presentation criteria. We would also encourage you to utilize the "submit your own criteria" option available in every category.  If you have any concerns, contact Student Activities at awards@austin.utexas.edu.

Q; There are several criteria that require a consultation with Student Activities. Can I discuss multiple criteria in one meeting and count it for two separate criteria?
A: No, because consultations are only scheduled for 30 minutes there is not enough time to discuss multiple criteria in one meeting. However, you may schedule separate meetings in back-to-back timeslots. For more information on completing these criteria, see the "Student Activities Specific Criteria" link above for more details.

Q; I am the Pillars Contact for my organization. Am I required to attend all meetings and consultations for the Pillars program?
A: No, any officer can complete a consultation for program criteria with Student Activities, but we will communicate directly with the Pillars Contact for any updates or concerns regarding your organization completing the program.

Q; My organization applied for a Swing Out Award last semester and won. How many points do we receive?
A: Points for applying and/or winning a Swing Out Award are applied to the appropriate Pillars timeframe. Any awards applied to and/or won between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2020 will be applied to the 2020-2021Pillars cycle. If your organization won a Swing Out Award in April 2019, it will receive two points.

Q; Can we receive multiple points for the same criterion?
A: No, an organization may only win points for each criterion once. For example, if your organization won two Swing Out Awards in the previous year, only one of the Swing Out Awards could be used by your organization to receive. Similarly, the same event or program cannot be used to receive multiple criteria points in the same category or separate categories.

For FAQs regarding Student Activities specific criteria or special criteria guidelines, please see the links at the top of this page. If you have any other questions regarding the Pillars of the Forty Acres recognition program, please contact awards@austin.utexas.edu.

Student Activities Specific Criteria

There are several criteria that require a consultation with Student Activities. Each consultation must be scheduled for 30 minutes (i.e. if you have two different criteria you wish to discuss, you must schedule two separate 30-minute consultations).  You may schedule up to two back to back meetings and as many individual meetings as needed. Virtual consultations can be scheduled Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. by calling 512-471-3065.  The deadline for completing a consultation with Student Activities is 4 p.m. on Friday, February 26, 2020.

Below you'll find general guidelines to help prepare for each consultation. For criteria listed with an "*", you must provide copy of your plan/program/guidelines at the start of the consultation. The plan/program/guidelines should include written well thought out details and should not be limited to any examples listed below. Student organizations without pre-written plan will not receive credit for the consultation and must reschedule once a plan has been created.

Jump Links

Academic Plan/Program
Advisor Meeting
Advisor Seminar
Alumni Events
Awareness Rally
Goals Discussion
HornsLink Official
New Member Education Program
Officer Transition Program
Organization Event
Risk Management Plan
Social Media Guidelines

*Academic Plan/Program (Discovery):  Student organization leaders are encouraged to think critically on how their organization can support and encourage the academic success of its members. The plan could include events, activities such as study halls, recognition of individual and group success, and utilization of campus resources that promote academic success such as workshops, guest speakers, and tutors. Student organization leaders are also encouraged to think outside the box on how other activities conducted by the organization may contribute to academic success of members.

Advisor Meeting (Individual Opportunity): The advisor meeting is a 30-minute one-on-one virtual session between the UT faculty or staff advisor off the student organization and a Student Activities staff member. Advisors are encouraged to reflect on their experience and come prepared to discuss the benefits, challenges and resources to better support them in their role. To schedule an appointment to meet with the Student Activities staff member, Advisors can contact our office at 512-471-3065.

Advisor must meet requirements in Sec. 6-101 15 and 16 of the Institutional Rules AND be listed in the organization's HornsLink roster as a 'University Advisor.'

Advisor Seminar (Discovery): The advisor seminar is an all-day event that takes place in the late fall. UT faculty and staff advisors must be in attendance for at least half the program and listed on the student organizations HornsLink roster as a "University Adviser" in order to earn Pillars credit.  To learn more about the seminar, advisors can visit  http://deanofstudents.utexas.edu/sa/wkspstraining.php

Advisor must meet requirements in Sec. 6-101 15 and 16 of the Institutional Rules AND be listed in the organization's HornsLink roster as a 'University Advisor.'

Alumni Event (Individual Opportunity): The purpose of hosting an Alumni Event is to 1) recognize and honor several alumni of the student organization and 2) provide an opportunity for new and current members to network with alumni in attendance. Keep the following in mind as you plan your alumni event:

  • The event must take place by February 28, 2020
  • The event should be held on-campus either indoors or outdoors and must include a formal program that recognize alum in attendance.
  • Events can recognize a single alumni member, but multiple alum must be in attendance. Inviting 1-2 alumni to a general body meeting or to an event already scheduled by the organization will not fulfil the needs of the requirement. 
  • A consultation with Student Activities prior to the event is required to discuss event planning best practices, Institutional Rules, and ensure that requirements for this criterion will be met. Only consultations with Student Activities staff members will count.

*Awareness Rally (Freedom): The student organization is required to host an on-campus awareness rally about a topic that is important to the organization (social justice, environmental justice, health or disease awareness, etc.). See below for requirements.

  • The awareness rally must take place on or before by February 28, 2021
  • The awareness rally must be held in an outdoor reservable space through the Virtual EMS portal.
  • Required Event Consultation
    • An event consultation with Student Activities is required to review Institutional Rules, policies, schedule follow up meetings as appropriate and approve the proposed awareness rally.
    • A request for the proposed outdoor event location must be submitted through the Virtual EMS portal prior to the event consultation.
    • The event consultation must be completed at least 7 days before the proposed evet but no later than February 21, 2021.
    • Retroactive event consultations are not allowed.
    • To schedule an appointment, call 512-471-3065 and indicate that you'd like to complete an "event consultation for the Pillars Awareness Rally".
  • Student Activities staff is happy to complete a general consultation on your ideas and give feedback before you officially move forward with planning your awareness rally but this general consultation does not take place of the required event consultation described above.

*Goals Discussion (Leadership):  Student organization leaders are encouraged to discuss amongst each other and think critically about the goals that they have for their organizations. Leaders are encouraged to view the Goal Setting guide and adopt SMART Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Other aspects to consider include:

  • Are the goals meaningful?
  • Are there clear actions steps for each goal?
  • Do the goals provide a challenge and opportunity for growth for all members?
  • Is there a recognition system in place for when goals are met?

HornsLink Official (Leadership): Become HornsLink official by completing the following tasks to boost your organizations profile.

  • Roster Update - Update student organizations official HornsLink roster with at least 75% of your active membership. Please note, active members must have a HornsLink profile to join a student organizations roster. It is recommended that active members request to "join" the student organization and an officer approve their request in the "pending" section of the student organizations HornsLink roster.
  • Create an Event: Create an event for your organizationin HornsLink. It can be a virtual event open to the UT community, a general body meeting or an information session.
  • Upload Constitution – Upload the organizations Constitution to the documents section of its HornsLink Profile.
  • Update Profile Photo – Add a profile photo to your organizations page.
  • Add Group Photos – Add at least two photos of members to the organizations photo gallery.
  • Publish a Public News Article – Utilize the News tool to publish a public news article highlighting your organization.

*New Member Education Program (Individual Opportunity): Student organization leaders are encouraged to think critically on how their organization supports its new members. The plan should include ongoing education and cover topics including but not limited to:

  • Learning about the history and values of the organization
  • Developing relationships amongst new members
  • Developing relationships between new and current members
  • Include a system to evaluate the New Member Education program
  • Learning about campus resources that are beneficial to students
  • Ongoing education about important topics related to the organization

*Officer Transition Program (Leadership): Student organization leaders are encouraged to think critically about their officer transition process to ensure that leadership transition is a smooth and efficient process. Student leaders should refer to the online Officer Transition Module for guidance on creating and implementing an officer transition program on how their organization can help develop and train future leaders of their organization while supporting the success and sustainability of the organization.

Organization Event (Individual Opportunity): The student organization is required to host a virtual or campus event that is open to all students and promote it on HornsLink. Keep the following in mind as you plan your on-campus event:

  • A consultation with Student Activities prior to the event is required to discuss event planning best practices, Institutional Rules, and ensure that requirements for this criterion will be met. Only consultations with Student Activities staff members will count for Pillars credit.
  • The event must take place by February 28, 2021.
  • Virtual events via UTexas Zoom or another platform are highly recommended as opposed to a campus event. See our Tips for Virtual Event Planning guide.
  • A request for the proposed event location must be submitted prior to the event consultation (however, Student Activities is happy to discuss your ideas and give feedback before you officially move forward with planning your event).   
  • Events can be open to the UT Community or limited to the student organization members/closed to the public (i.e. ticketed). Event must be separate from previously scheduled general body meeting.
  • Event must be listed in HornsLink. Learn how to create an event for your organizationin HornsLink.
    • Submit request at least three business days before the scheduled event through the event form located in the organizations HornsLink profile
    • If virtual, include "virtual" in the event title and the correct link to the online platform
    • Include a detailed description, cover photo and any information or guidelines that attendees should know prior to attending the event.
    • Attendance must be tracked using the participant tracking feature in HornsLink. All members must be listed in the organizations HornsLink roster. 

*Risk Management Plan (Responsibility): Student organizations are encouraged to think critically about risk management for the organization and its programs. No matter how big an event or how small an activity, risk (or an undesirable outcome) will be present at some level. The plan should outline efforts to reduce individual liability and ensure a fun, safe environment for participants. Some types of risk to consider include but are not limited to:

  • Physical Risk - involve harm or injuries to the physical body.
  • Financial Risk - involve both the budget for the specific event and the overall financial health of the student organization.
  • Reputational Risk - apply to the reputation of the individual officers and members present, the reputation of the student organization, and the reputation of the university as a whole.
  • Emotional Risk - pertain to the thoughts and feelings of the organization's members, participants or attendees, and any other constituents of the event or activity.
  • Facilities Risk - include both the safety of the facilities used for your members/participants and the maintenance of the facilities used by your members/participants.

*Social Media Guidelines (Responsibility): Student organizations are encouraged to think critically about the use of social media and research best practices in the creation of their guidelines. Guidelines should outline the policies, goals, and purposes regarding student organization owned social media only. Questions and/or topics to address could include but are not limited to:

  • What platforms does the organization utilize? Why?
  • What are the goals of each platform (internal communication, recruiting, promote the organization and its events etc.)? Leaders are encouraged to view the Goal Setting guide.
  • How does the organization measure the success of the platforms/achievement of goals?
  • Who has access to the organization's social media?
  • Is there a written policy for guiding its use? Is it listed in the organization's constitution?

If you have any other questions regarding the Pillars of the Forty Acres recognition program, please contact awards@austin.utexas.edu.

Special Criteria Guidelines

For each Core Value category, student organizations are able to submit special criteria to be considered for points. The special criteria should be something that sets your organization apart from others, something in which your organization takes pride and would like to showcase. You can submit special projects that are not already listed under any of the criterion listed in the category. You are required to provide rationale for how your special criterion connects to the Core Value category for which it is submitted. Please see below for additional guidelines.

Q: When is the deadline to submit special criteria?
A: The deadline to complete the Pillars of the Forty Acres program and submit all criteria is Sunday, February 28th at 11:59 PM CST. Special criteria should be submitted as soon as possible as possible to ensure that there is time to provide feedback per the guidelines on this page.

Q: Can we submit multiple special criteria?
A: Yes, an organization may submit two special criteria per Core Value category to be considered for points.

Q: How many points are available for special criteria?
A: For the 2020 – 2021 Pillars cycle, only one special criteria point will be awarded per category.

Q: Can I have my special criteria reviewed and approved via email or in person?
A: No, you must submit it via the Pillars Submission portal for review.

Q: When will Student Activities review special criteria submissions?
A: Student Activities will review special criteria submissions throughout the program cycle. All special criteria submitted by 11:59 PM CST on Thursday, February 18, 2021 will be reviewed by Student Activities to determine if it's been approved or denied. Special criteria submitted after this date is not guaranteed to be reviewed by the program deadline. Organizations that submit special criteria by this date will be notified by 5:00 PM CST on Wednesday, February 24, 2021 of their submission status. Denied submissions may be resubmitted by the program deadline.

Q: How will my organization be updated regarding its special criteria submission?
A: Student Activities will notify the organizations Pillars contact by email regarding the status of special criteria submissions.

Q: If my special criteria is not approved, can I resubmit?
A: Yes, after receiving a notification from Student Activities, you may resubmit special criteria through the Pillars submission portal by the 11:59 PM CST deadline on February 28, 2021. Common reasons for special criteria being denied include too few or unclear details regarding the description or rationale/connections of the rubric.

Q: How will my organization know if our special criteria submission has been accepted or denied?
A: Student Activities will notify the organizations Pillars contact regarding the status of the submission.

Q: Is there a rubric to help guide us on how specific criteria will be scored?
A: Yes, the rubric is outlined below. Student Activities will utilize this rubric to evaluate the submission.

  Meets Criteria Does Not Meet Criteria
Points 1 0
Description of Criteria Criteria is detailed. Provides name of program, general overview, purpose, goals and steps taken to complete the criteria. Criteria has few or no details.
Rationale and Making Connections Connection between special criteria and Core Value category are clearly articulated. Adequately reflects on criteria, impact on org and/or members, and connection to the Core Value category. Provides data on program achievement and impact. Connection between criteria and Core Value category is vague, unclear or not provided; or clearly fits in a different category.

For FAQs regarding the general program or Student Activities specific criteria, please see the links at the top of this page. If you have any other questions regarding the Pillars of the Forty Acres recognition program, please contact Student Activities at awards@austin.utexas.edu.