Finance Office

Expense Guidelines - Departments


Purchases of alcoholic beverages are not reimbursable. For University sponsored or co-sponsored events where alcohol is served, University policies regulating the sale and/or distribution of alcoholic beverages apply.

Business Meals

A business meal is defined as a meal that includes more than one person, includes at least one University employee, and has a substantive and bona fide business purpose deemed essential to the University's mission. The cost of the business meal must be reasonable and the documentation must include itemized receipt(s), business purpose, date, location, and  the names of persons involved and their business relationship with the University. As a general guideline, University funds should not be used to pay for business meals if the only persons involved in these meals are University employees. Exceptions to this guideline apply to meals provided at an awards ceremony recognizing an employee or employees for a specific achievement or as part of a working lunch. (There must be a written agenda, and the meal must be served during normal meal times.) Such exceptions should be pre-approved by the appropriate Vice-President.

Conferences, Seminars, Workshops, Committee Meetings, Training Sessions and Retreats  

Departmental funds may be used for professional business activities that are considered conferences, seminars, workshops, committee meetings, training sessions, or retreats. Departmental funds may be used for guest speakers or other individuals related to the events but not for non-employees who are otherwise unnecessary for the event. Extra expenses for departmental meetings or team-building exercise are discouraged but up to the discretion of the appropriate Vice President.


Entertainment includes tickets to concerts, plays, athletic events, golf tournaments, theme parks, etc. In all such instances, clear benefit to the University must be demonstrated. When traveling, an employee may have the option to participate in "optional" events, like a city tour or a golf tournament. These optional events are considered personal expenses and will not be reimbursed by the University unless the traveler can establish a valid business purpose for participating in the event.


Travel reimbursements are subject to the University's travel policies. (Please see the separate travel policies for Academic Affairs and Faculty and Staff Travel for more details.) Departmental funds may not be used to reimburse employees for mileage in excess of the travel limits set by the University policies. Reasonable expenses are reimbursed for completed travel voucher forms with appropriate receipts. Reimbursement rates for mileage are set annually.

Advertising, Marketing, and Promotional items

Departmental budgets may be used for advertising, marketing, and promotional items, as long as they are not excessive in nature. This includes items such as pens, pencils, erasers, water bottles, coffee mugs, key chains, and t-shirts purchased as promotional items.

Awards and Gifts to University Employees

Gifts of cash, including gift cards and gift certificates to employees, are not allowed. Gifts other than cash, gift cards or gift certificates to employees are allowed when such gifts have a business purpose and are approved in advance by the President or Vice President. These gifts to employees are subject to IRS guidelines and the University's gifting policies. For any gift greater than $50 in value, the department must report the following information to the Payroll Office for tax purposes: recipient name, social security number, address, and purpose and value of the gift. Monetary awards may be given to employees for meritorious performance or other reasons connected with employment, but only as part of an established campus-wide program. Non-cash awards given to employees, such as length of service awards, are acceptable as long as they are valued at less than $400 per year per employee. These awards may only be administered by the Department of Human Resources or in a ceremony approved by Department of Human Resources.

Awards and Gifts to University Students

See Payments to Students and Their Taxability.  

Cards, Cakes, Flowers, Donuts, Christmas Gifts

Generally, cards, cakes flowers, donuts, and Christmas gifts sent or given to staff persons within a department are considered personal expenses and should not be purchased with University funds, but should instead be purchased by the staff giving the card, cake, flowers, gifts, or donuts. This includes birthday cakes and cards, holiday cards, get-well cards, retirement cards, and sympathy cards. Exceptions to this policy can be approved by the President or appropriate Vice President.

Cell Phones/Smart Phones/Tablets/Computers/ Audio-Visual Equipment/Software

University funds should only be used to purchase cell phones, smart phones, tablets, software, computers or computer-related equipment when a bona fide need specific to a position's function exists. All such purchases must be approved in advance by the Department of Information Technology. The I.T. department generally will not have funds available for such purchases other than for new positions. Most purchases of cell phones/Smart Phones/tablets or computers beyond those as standard issue for a position must be purchased from departmental funds after I.T. department approval. If a department anticipates an upcoming need, funds should be requested from the respective Vice President or requested through the annual budget request process.


All furniture purchases must be approved in advance by the Physical Plant Director. The Physical Plant will generally not have funds available for purchases other than for new positions. If a department anticipates an upcoming need, funds should be requested from the respective Vice President or requested through the annual budget request process. See Capitalization of Fixed Assets.  

Equipment Related to Food Preparation or Storage

Departmental funds generally may not be used to purchase equipment and supplies related to the preparation or storage of food except when a bona fide need to service the public exists.  Examples of such items include mini-refrigerators, microwaves, coffeemakers, sinks, soap, and dish towels. Requests for departmental equipment such as replacement refrigerators or microwaves must be made through the Physical Plant Director. Such purchases will be subject to the Physical Plant Director's discretion and available funding.

Charitable and Political Contributions

University funds cannot be used for political contributions due to its 501 (c)3 status. Charitable gifts or sponsorships are not allowed except as authorized by the President or Vice President for University Advancement.

Clothing and Uniforms (Including T-Shirts, etc.)  

Clothing purchases for employees are allowed from departmental funds when a bona fide University business purpose exists for the purchase. Examples are for uniforms or apparel required to be worn by certain employees (residence life staff, athletic staff, admissions recruiters, public safety, custodial) or employees with regular public interaction. These purchases are generally restricted to clothing with the Rivier logo and should be kept reasonable.

Food and Beverages  

Convenience items for the benefit of employees and visitors such as coffee, candy dish items, and bottled water can be purchased from departmental funds provided they are easily available for both employees outside the department and visitors of the University. Employees should generally plan to purchase their own coffee, soft drinks, etc.  Departmental funds should generally may not be used for other food and beverages, except for food purchased  for travel, athletic events, educational research, laboratory purposes, off campus retreats or if a bona fide need exists for departmental  operations. Exceptions should be approved by a Vice President. Food purchased from personal funds including catering are subject to the University's contract with Sodexo and any such purchases with other than minor value must be approved in advance by the Director of Dining Services.


Departmental funds may not be used to purchase, lease, or maintain a live or artificial indoor plant unless the plant is to be used for educational or research purposes. Exceptions must be approved by a Vice President.

Student-Oriented Activities

Departmental budgets may be used for instructional and non­-instructional, student-oriented activities. Student-oriented activities are academic and student-life related events such as new student receptions, scholarship presentations, and student government activities. The purchase of food or beverage for on-campus student events must be pre-approved  by the Director of Dining Services. 

Compliance Review and Training

The Accounts Payable department will conduct training for cardholders on an as-needed basis. Periodic review of individual statements and receipts will be conducted to insure that cardholders are complying with procedures.



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