Palmer Commons

General Policies for All Groups Using Palmer Commons

All food, beverage and catering services must be obtained from one of the Palmer Commons Approved Catering Partners.

  • MCatering & Cafe To-Go

  • Katherine's Catering

  • Pizza House

  • Zingerman's

Decorations and/or displays must not compromise public safety or increase the risk of property damage.

  • Stay within posted fire capacities.

  • Maintain access to fire exits, no blocking of exit doors or needed egress areas.

  • Special Effects equipment such as smoke, haze, fog and fire machines, sparklers, etc. are not permitted.

  • Candles must be enclosed in glass.

Use of adhesives, hydrated beads, glitter, sand weights, confetti, rice, dance wax, powder, gel beads or similar materials is strictly prohibited.

The individual/group scheduling Palmer Commons facilities is financially responsible for the reservation, details and any special clean-up or damages resulting from the event or the activity.

Due to the nature of our facilities and proximity to other events, noise levels must be minimized.

A room may be put on tentative hold for up to 10 business days, pending no other requests. In the event of a competing request, the group tentatively holding the room must either confirm or release the room.

All groups wishing to claim a tax exemption must provide appropriate documentation prior to the event date.

Although we endeavor to honor all room reservations as made, Palmer Commons reserves the right to change rooms at any time to maximize usage for the University community.

All groups wishing to enter or exit our building after operating hours will be assessed a $40.00 exception hour charge.

In addition significant changes to a planned setup and or an initial equipment order within 10 days before your event, could result in a $25.00 late setup-fee and will be determined by the Event Manager.

Any on-site changes to your set and or audiovisual equipment order is subject to a $50.00 onsite setup charge and this will be determined by the manager on duty.

Please notify the Event Services Office staff in advance for any shipping arrangements. The address that should be used is Palmer Commons, Event Services, 100 Washtenaw Ave, Rm 3001, Ann Arbor MI 48109-2216.  The event name should be clearly listed. All shipments can be received up to 48 hrs before the scheduled event. The weight per box should not exceed 50 lbs. All groups should plan to arrange outgoing shipments and all shipping fees. No COD packages will be accepted.  Palmer Commons assumes no responsibility for the contents or security of packages.

Palmer Commons reserves the right to require fire, police or other security personnel for events in our facility.  Security personnel may also be requested by the group hosting an event in our facility. No outside agency security service can be provided without the Division of Public Safety and Security’s approval.

Palmer Commons supports sustainability activities on campus.  Recycling containers can be found in all of our spaces. If you would like to have a zero waste event, please let our event service staff know.  

Our facility has 1 wheelchair available for our guest’s use. The manager on duty can retrieve the wheelchair if needed.  Guests with special needs are welcome to bring trained service animals that meet ADA guidelines into our facility. Service animals must be supervised at all times.  Non ADA service animals or pets are not permitted in Palmer Commons.

Service Animal
The University recognizes “Service Animals” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAA).  Pursuant to that law, a service animal as defined as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. 

Service dogs in training are permitted in Palmer Commons on the same basis as working service animals (see above), provided the dog is being led or accompanied by a trainer for the purpose of training the dog and the trainer has documentation confirming the trainer is affiliated with a recognized or certified service dog training organization.

The care and supervision of a service animal is the responsibility of the individual who uses the animal’s service. The individual must maintain control of the animal at all times. The individual using the animal’s service is responsible for ensuring the cleanup of all animal waste and for any damage caused by the animal.

Emotional Support or Therapy Animals
Palmer Commons does not allow these animals in our facility. We understand these animals provide comfort and support in the form of affection and companionship for individuals with various conditions.  These animals are in contrast to service animals that provide specific tasks and has completed lengthy specific training.

Use of Trademarks
No use of the University of Michigan or Palmer Commons name or trademarks or trade names or service marks is permitted without prior approval from the University.  When publicizing a group’s event the group may use the facility name and address to identify the location of the event.

You must provide a complete scope of drone activity for approval from the facility where the drone will be used. Indoor use does not require an application to the IASC or written permission from the Vice President for Facilities provided that: 1) The operation occurs in a space or building that has established policies and procedures to permit the safe operation of UAS, 2) The operation is conducted in accordance with those policies and procedures, U-M Policy on the Operation of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. The building manager has to grant permission for the operation.

No person shall possess or discharge any firearm; possessing or using any explosive or any knife, sword or machete having a blade longer than four (4) inches or, in the case of a knife with a mechanism to lock the blade in place when open, longer than three (3) inches; or possessing, discharging or using any other dangerous weapon. No person shall possess any chemical or any other dangerous substance or compound with the intent of causing injury to another. The prohibitions in this Standard Practice Guide apply regardless of whether the visitor has a concealed weapon permit or is otherwise authorized by law to possess, discharge or use any such device.

Events canceled due to severe weather resulting in a campus closure will not incur a cancellation fee.

Disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment.

Smoking and Vaping
The University of Michigan is smoke free campus. Palmer Commons, does not permit the use of e-cigarettes and personal vaporizing devices.

Lost and Found
Palmer Commons is not responsible for any lost, stolen or damaged property belonging to users of our facility.  Any personal items found in our facility after an event will be logged and kept for 30 days after this time will be donated if appropriate to charity or turned over to our public safety office.

The Palmer parking structure has 180 visitor spots that are available to the Life Sciences complex. Here is a link to current rates and hours. Palmer Parking Structure

Terminology Glossary

  • BOOKING: a reservation for a space.

  • COMMERCIAL: any group or user that is not a University department or voluntary or sponsored student organization.

  • GENERAL USE AREAS: Windows Lounge, Atrium 4, Atrium 5, Atrium 6

  • PRIMARY ROOMS: Great Lakes Room, Forum Hall

  • SECONDARY ROOMS: Great Lakes North Central, Great Lakes South Central, Great Lakes North, Great Lakes Central, Great Lakes South

  • STANDARD MEETING ROOMS: Boardrooms 1-5, Plaza Room

  • STANDARD SET: The furniture in the room is set and not moveable.

  • STUDENT ORGANIZATION: a University recognized voluntary (VSO) or sponsored student organization (SSO). Non-affiliated student organizations (NSO’s) are considered as commercial users for the purpose of this policy.

Sales, Solicitations and Promotions
All sales and solicitations must be approved by Palmer Commons. For University Departments and Student Organizations, sales of event related products are permitted within contracted meeting rooms.  Requests for sales by non-University groups will be considered.

Gaming Events
For all gaming events, the group hosting the event must take full responsibility for gaming coordination, the license application procedure and qualification materials, any equipment vendors involved and enforcing all applicable state laws and directives. Additionally, all advertising must be pre-approved by Palmer Commons prior to distribution.

Bingo and Casino Events
If the event is charging an admission fee or prizes are awarded to competitors based on their performance, a state license must be secured from the Charitable Gaming Division of the Michigan State Lottery.  

Most “Casino Night” type events will require a “Millionaire Party” license.  Only those groups which are 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations are eligible. Allow a minimum of six weeks for the qualification process.  If the license is not received by the event date, all admission charges will need to be refunded to participants.

For additional guidelines, including the application and procedures, please visit the Michigan Charitable Gaming Division website

Card Tournaments
All card games are considered gambling under state law and require a casino-type license if prizes of financial value are awarded or admission charges are involved.  
Any prize awarded by chance, if entrants must pay an entry fee, participate in some event, or be present to win, are raffles which require a state license.
Other Games of Skill
It is acceptable to award prizes without the need for a state license for other types of "games of skill" (ex. trivia, chess, billiards).

Freedom of Speech
Palmer Commons follows the University of Michigan policy on freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech, for both invited speakers and community members, is a bedrock principle of our academic community.

We follow content-neutral procedures for speakers. These procedures include working to ensure the free speech rights and physical safety of the invited speaker(s) as well as all visitors and members of our community, regardless of whether they agree or disagree with the speaker.

There are instances where some or many members of our community may find a speaker or the content of their speech reprehensible or hateful. A speaker’s appearance on our campus does not imply any endorsement.

By protecting the constitutional right to free speech and expression for those we disagree with, we are protecting our own right to express that disagreement. If our laws and practices allowed us to prevent objectionable speech, the very groups that today are exercising their own speech rights to protest against such a speaker, might have those rights threatened in the future.

We support this right for both visitors to our campus and anyone who engages in peaceful protest. Under this fundamental right, we are able to test or reject ideas as members of an academic community living in a free society.

The University of Michigan’s policy on Freedom of Speech and Artistic Expression, notes that “Canceling, stopping an event, adjourning to another time or place, or allowing protracted interruption of a speech, meeting, or performance is inconsistent with full respect for the rights of free expression and communication of those present.”

Our policy further states that “expression of diverse points of view is of the highest importance, not only for those who espouse a cause or position and then defend it, but also for those who hear and pass judgment on that defense. The belief that an opinion is pernicious, false, or in any other way detestable cannot be grounds for its suppression.”

Obstructing or disrupting public speakers, activities, or programs of the university can be a violation of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities and such behavior will be handled through our established process noted in the Statement.

Education and research at U-M benefit from broad diversity of thought and experience. Our commitment to freedom of expression goes hand in hand with our academic excellence and our value to society.

Student Organizations
Scheduling Policies

Student organization reservations must be made by an authorized signer. To confirm facilities, student organizations must have an active SOAS account with adequate funds to cover the rental rate of the rooms. If the necessary funds are not deposited by the cancellation deadline for the rooms, the rooms will be released.

One week prior to the event date, funds adequate to cover the balance of all charges including catering and audio/visual services must be secured in the group's SOAS account. If the necessary funds are not deposited, the event will be subject to cancellation.

If a group changes the set of a standard set room and does not return it to its original configuration, they will be assessed a $25.00 reset fee.

For events determined to be of higher risk, VSO’s must provide to the University a certificate of insurance evidencing general liability insurance ($1 million per occurrence/$2 million annual aggregate) and naming the Regents of the University of Michigan as additional insured. Renters must give the University thirty (30) days prior written notice of any reduction in limits or cancellation of insurance.

We have adjusted student booking policies at the Palmer Commons to accommodate student organization needs. 

Student organizations can book recurring meetings 18 months in advance and a major event 2 years in advance. A major event requires greater coordination effort than a standard meeting. The classification of an event as “major” is at the sole discretion of Palmer Event Services.

Each registered student organization can schedule:

  • Up to 30 hours per semester in free meeting rooms (in 1-hour increments), Great Lakes (including sections, North, South, Central), Forum Hall, Plaza Room, Boardroom 1-5

  • Up to 50 hours per semester in charged meeting rooms. Great Lakes (including sections, North, South, Central), Forum Hall, Plaza Room, Boardroom 1-5

*If your event occurs after 6:00 pm Sunday through Thursday, you are limited to the specified setup in the following rooms. This eliminates prep time and helps us accommodate more student organization meetings.

  • Boardrooms 1 - 4 - Block Boardroom for 15

  • Boardroom 5 - Block Boardroom for 20

  • Plaza Room - Block Boardroom for 20

  • Forum Hall - Auditorium for 140 w/Podium

Although we will try and honor all room reservations as requested, Palmer Commosn reserves the right to change rooms at any time to maximize usage for the University community. 

Student Cancellation Policy
If a student organization fails to cancel a room reservation at least 7 days prior to their event (90 days for primary and secondary rooms such as Great Lakes Ballroom, sections of this room and Forum Hall), the group shall be assessed the applicable room rental fee as well as any costs incurred by the facility.

Changes to event date within the cancellation deadline will result in a cancellation fee.

If a student organization violates any part of this policy, they may be sanctioned up to and including loss of scheduling privileges.

Dance Party Events

An event is considered to be a dance/party if it includes all of the following:

  • The use of music (i.e. DJ, band, Ipod, computer) and an open area for active, non-seated attendees

  • Expected attendance of more than 125, with at least 2/3 of the attendees being U-M students

  • Scheduled ending time for the event is later than 10:00 p.m


Dance/Party events may be held on Fridays and Saturdays during fall and winter semesters with the following exceptions:

  • Study or Exam days

  • Home football game weekends unless specifically approved by the facility management in consultation with U-M DPSS


All dance parties must have DPSS coverage at no additional cost to the student organization.

Date Auctions
Date auctions may only occur under the following conditions:

  • A pre-event meeting with the host facility, in consultation with Palmer Commons Event Manager must be scheduled by the student organization event coordinator a minimum of two weeks prior to the event

  • The event must be conducted in a manner that is respectful to the participants as well as the audience

  • Advertising must be pre-approved by Palmer Commons prior to distribution

  • The auction must be for a specific item, event or lawful activity with a specific individual

Charity Drives
Palmer Commons does not allow money collections and will not assume liability for items stolen from drop boxes. Use of the drop sites is subject to the following requirements:

Drop boxes must be neat in appearance with their function and the sponsoring organization clearly stated.

Pick-ups occur regularly so as to minimize theft and prevent overflow.

Charity Drives may last a maximum of two weeks.


UM Department
Scheduling Policies

To confirm all services including facilities, catering and audio/visual services, University departments must provide the appropriate shortcode.

University departments may schedule events up to two years in advance.

UM Department Cancellation Policy
If a University Department fails to cancel a room reservation at least 10 days prior to their event (90 days for Secondary rooms, Great Lakes North, Central, South and combinations).  The group will be assessed the room rental fee and any costs incurred by the facility.  If a primary space is canceled (Great Lakes Ballroom and Forum Hall) notice must be received 180 days before the event date.


Commercial Groups/Users
All Groups wishing to claim tax exemption must provide appropriate documentation prior to the event date.

Scheduling Policies

As of July 2011, the entire University of Michigan campus is SMOKE FREE.

Commercial groups may schedule 18 months in advance.

Commercial reservations must be paid in full prior to your event.

A credit card is the preferred method of payment

  • Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover are accepted

  • A credit card payment link with be sent to you by our Event Services staff when you are booking the reservation

  • If there are any additional charges added during your event (i.e. AV equipment added, linen added), you will receive an invoice from our Central Billing department after your event takes place

A check or money order payable to "University of Michigan" is also acceptable and should be sent to your event coordinator

All refunds will be distributed in the same form as payment method after accounting is complete.

For events determined to be of higher risk, Non-University clients must provide to the University a certificate of insurance evidencing general liability insurance ($1 million per occurrence/$2 million annual aggregate) and naming the Regents of the University of Michigan as additional insured. Renters must give the University thirty (30) days prior written notice of any reduction in limits or cancellation of insurance.

Commercial Cancellation Policy
Cancellations for primary rooms (Great Lakes Ballroom and Forum Hall) are non-refundable. Secondary room cancellations must be received within 180 days’ notice for refunds (Great Lakes North, South and Central and combinations). Standard rooms cancellations must be received within 90 days’ notice for refunds. Cancellations or changes to an event date within the cancellation deadline will result in a cancellation fee.


Catering Policies

General Policies

Palmer Commons catering services are provided exclusively by a complement of Approved Catering Partners who offer a wide variety of menus and price points designed to accommodate your food and beverage needs. Only the Approved Catering Partners may provide food and beverage in Palmer Commons--outside catering/food is not permitted.

Due to health department regulations, leftover perishable foods may not be removed from any event by anyone except food service staff. This policy addresses public safety concerns and is non-negotiable.(Examples of acceptable items to remove: whole fruit, baked goods, canned or bottled beverages).  The catering partners who are authorized to provide food and beverage to groups using Palmer Commons are:

  • MCatering
  • Cafe To-Go-MDining
  • Katherine's Catering
  • Pizza House
  • Zingerman's

Guest Guarantees
Accurate counts and meal designations help to optimize service.  The final guaranteed count must be provided a minimum of five business days prior to the event.

Catering Cancellations
While reasonable effort will be made to minimize cancellation charges, groups will be held responsible for all charges incurred as a result of any commitments made to facilitate the event.  Events canceled within three business days may be charged up to 100% of the total estimated food and beverage charges.

Payment Policies
University Departments and student organizations may only pay with a University Shortcode.

Student organizations must deposit adequate funds to cover all charges in their S.O.A.S. accounts no later than one week prior to the scheduled function. Food and beverage is subject to the current State of Michigan sales tax. If your student organization is tax exempt, your tax identification number must be supplied prior to the event.

For commercial events, reservation must be paid in full prior to your event.

  • A credit card is the preferred method of payment

    • Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover are accepted

    • A credit card payment link with be sent to you by our Event Services staff when you are booking the reservation

    • If there are any additional charges added during your event (i.e. AV equipment added, linen added), you will receive an invoice from our Central Billing department after your event takes place

  • A check or money order payable to "University of Michigan" is also acceptable and should be sent to your event coordinator

All refunds will be distributed in the same form as payment method after accounting is complete.

Alcohol Policies
If you are requesting alcohol service for an event scheduled in Palmer Commons, you must know:

      Palmer Commons does not have a State of Michigan Liquor Licenses; the facility is ‘unlicensed’

     As an ‘unlicensed’ facility on the campus of UM, alcohol may be served using the guidelines below


●      All alcohol served to your guests must be purchased by the customer, transported to the facility, and then removed within 24 hours of the end of the event. Alcohol may be stored in Palmer Commons refrigerators up to 24 hours after the event.

●      All alcohol must be dispensed by staff employed or authorized (current catering partners) by Palmer Commons who have been trained and certified in alcohol management.

●      Alcohol can be served at events that are designated by ‘invitation only’.

●      Alcohol service has a maximum serving time of 5 hours.

●      Shots of liquor must be mixed with a drink mixer; straight shots are not permitted nor are ‘shots on ice’ permitted. The bar serves only a 1 ounce shot per customer.

●      Beer is supplied to the guests by the glass; no kegs, no pitchers. Guests are permitted one glass of beer each visit to the bar.

●      Palmer Commons authorized beverage service does not serve blended, ice cream drinks or milk/cream drinks; only drinks with a standard 1 ounce shot of liquor combined with a mixer.

●      The customer is required to provide ‘host liability insurance’ naming the ‘Regents of the University of Michigan’ as additional insured in the amount of $1M.

●      One Month prior to the alcohol service event (to be completed with your catering provider chosen from our list of Approved Catering Partners): the beverage service contract must be paid in full, the beverage service contract must be signed. Changes may be made to the contract after signing but only up until 3 weeks prior to the event. If the contract is signed less than 3 weeks prior to the event, then changes are not permitted.

●   One month prior to the alcohol service event (to be completed with Palmer Commons Event Services): host liability insurance must be provided

Host Liability Insurance: The same insurance company that provides your homeowners’ insurance does not normally provide host liability insurance. If they do not, please check for the required insurance; cost is approximately $250.


Guidelines for Serving Alcohol on University Property

The Associate Vice President for Facilities and Operations (AVPFO) is delegated authority to review and approve or deny requests for liquor-serving events on University property outside of a licensed facility. Depending on the circumstances, a 24hr special liquor license from the State Liquor Control Commission and special host liability insurance may be required. Units are strongly discouraged from holding events that involve alcohol in teaching and research venues. Alcohol is not permitted at outdoor student-sponsored events. In all instances, the most convenient and preferred approach to serving alcoholic beverages on University property is to do so in a licensed facility. University units are encouraged to utilize licensed facilities for their events at which alcohol is served. There are six licensed facilities on campus: Michigan League, Michigan Union, Pierpont Commons, Oxford Conference Center, Business Administration Executive Residence, and Inglis House.

For events not held in a licensed facility, the State of Michigan Liquor Control Commission allocates five special liquor licenses for University-wide activities to the University for its use in any one calendar year. Requests for approval to apply for special liquor licenses in the name of the Regents of the University of Michigan must be sent to AVPFO, 3040 Fleming Administration Building.

  • If the Unit is planning a cash bar, a special license will be required. An application to the Liquor Control Commission for a special license must be approved and signed by the AVPFO.

  • A special license is not required if all of the following conditions apply: the event is free of charge, the event is by invitation only (not open to the public), no regular liquor inventory is kept, the event must be monitored by a designated responsible individual, and all servers are trained in techniques of alcohol management (certified).

  • Be mindful that the individuals hosting or serving at an event where alcohol is served also may have personal liability—not just the University.

  • Non-University Organizations

  • If a non-University group rents/utilizes an unlicensed University facility for an event at which alcohol will be serve, it must provide to the AVPFO, in advance of the event, proof of liquor liability insurance in an amount determined by the University’s Risk Management Office and the Regents of the University of Michigan must be named as additional insured. The group may also be required by law to obtain a special liquor license. This is a decision for such group to make with its legal counsel. The contract with the outside group (for use of a University facility) should provide that it agrees to comply with all laws concerning the serving of alcohol. If the event requires a special license, a letter of approval from the chief of police and the AVPFO must accompany the license application to the Liquor Control Commission.

  • A University unit may not sponsor an outside group for a license.

A written request describing the activity including where held, date and time must be received by the AVPFO at least thirty days preceding the event. If you have any questions, please call the Office of the Associate Vice President for Facilities and Operations.