Developing a Constitution
Why Have a Constitution?
The process of writing a constitution will clarify your purpose, delineate your basic structure and provide the cornerstone for building an effective group. It will allow members and potential members to have a better understanding of what the club/organization is all about and how it functions. It will provide a structure to aid future leaders of your club/organization to ensure that the group continues on a sound course. If you keep in mind the value of having a written document that clearly describes the framework of your club or organization, the drafting of the constitution will be a much easier and more rewarding experience.
What Should be Covered by a Constitution?
The following list includes the required information to be included in a constitution in order to be consistent with University guidelines. In addition to these requirements, it is important to think through what is written so it reflects your club/organization's purposes and needs and includes University requirements. The primary objective is to draft a document that covers these topics in a clear and concise manner.
- The date of adoption
- A clear statement of objectives which are consistent with the mission and educational goals of the University
- Identification as a campus-based and student-led group, with active membership limited to students of California State University Channel Islands (see information under “Membership” in this guide)
- Democratic procedures for nominations, elections and removal of officers
- Democratic provisions for policy making, including amendment of constitution
- A clear statement of reasonable dues or other financial obligations of members (when applicable)
- The following statements of open membership and nondiscrimination must be included
exactly as it is printed here:
Membership in the organization shall be open to all those regularly-enrolled [name of campus] students who are interested in membership. There shall be no other requirements for admission to regular membership. Each regular member has equal rights and privileges.
Eligibility for membership or appointed or elected student officer positions shall not be limited on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, gender identity, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability. The organization shall have no rules or policies that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, gender identity, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability.
- A statement of not-for-profit status
- Statement of financial responsibility for any debts accumulated at CSU CHANNEL ISLANDS by the organization not covered by funds on deposit. Sample: "A specific member or members designated by this club/organization shall be responsible for payment in full of all debts accumulated by the student organization not covered by funds on deposit."
- Statement of non-hazing must be included exactly as printed below in accordance with CSU Executive Order 1043: "This student organization will not engage in hazing or conspire to haze. Hazing is defined as any method of initiation or pre-initiation into a student organization or study body, whether or not the organization or body is officially recognized by an educational institution, which is likely to cause bodily injury to any former, current, or prospective student of any school, community college, college, university or other educational institution in this state (Penal Code 245.6), and in addition, any act likely to cause physical harm, personal delegation or disgrace resulting in physical or mental harm, to any former, current, or prospective student of any school, community college, college, university or other educational institution. The term “hazing” does not include customary athletic events or school sanctioned events. Neither the expressed or implied consent of a victim of hazing, nor the lack of active participation in a particular hazing incident is a defense. Apathy or acquiescence in the presence of hazing is not a neutral act, and is also a violation of this section.”
- Statement of compliance with campus regulations must be included exactly as stated below: "This student organization shall comply with all University and campus policies and regulations, in addition to all local, state, and federal laws."
- Meetings: Student organizations shall indicate what is necessary to achieve a quorum, the necessary voting percentages to conduct business, and the frequency of meetings.
- Officers: State how the officers are selected and replaced, the qualifications for office, officer duties, method of election, type of vote, term limits, and methods for filling vacancies.
- Assurance that the petitioning student organization is willing to work in a democratic manner within the framework of University policies and procedures. If the petitioning group is a member of a national or regional organization, the University reserves the right to examine the record of the parent organization or of affiliates on other campuses.
There are articles, sections and clauses in the constitution. This is a brief example of the structure of a constitution that you can use for reference. It is not necessary to follow the structure exactly, but it is important to include all areas that apply. The student organization may include other areas that members deem necessary. The constitution may include disciplinary action, behavior, absence from student organization meetings, and so on. In order to have a well-written constitution, you must include anything of importance to your student organization.
ARTICLE I. NAME AND PURPOSE
ARTICLE II. MEMBERSHIP
ARTICLE III. EXECUTIVE BOARD (OFFICERS)
ARTICLE IV. COMMITTEES
ARTICLE V. ELECTION AND VOTING
ARTICLE VI. MEETINGS
ARTICLE VII. ADVISORS
ARTICLE VIII. AFFILIATIONS
ARTICLE IX. IMPEACHMENT
ARTICLE X. APPROVAL/RATIFICATION
ARTICLE XI. RULES OF ORDER
ARTICLE XII. AMENDMENTS
ARTICLE XIII. BYLAWS
ARTICLE XIV. FUNDS
ARTICLE XV. HAZING
ARTICLE XVI. ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS
Constitution of a “Sample” Student Organization
The sample constitution is given to provide guidelines; it is not a form to be filled in or submitted. The constitution must be typed.
Model Constitution & Bylaws for Student Organizations
California State University
CONSTITUTION AND BYLAWS
[Name of Organization] at [Name of Campus]
ARTICLE I NAME
Section 1 The name of this organization shall be the [name of organization] at [name of campus].
[Optional: Include chapter designation, if part of a national organization, including the national organization’s founding date.]
ARTICE II PURPOSE
Section 1 The purposes of this organization are [describe organization’s mission or purpose statement].
Section 2 [Campuses may wish to include other model provisions promoting ethical leadership, academic achievement, civic responsibility, etc.]
ARTICLE III AUTHORITY
Section 1 This organization is a recognized student organization at [name of campus] and adheres to all campus policies as set forth in the [name of campus publication setting forth policies/procedures for student recognition process].
Section 2 [If applicable: This organization is affiliated with [name of national or affiliated organization.]
Section 3 This organization may establish Standing Rules to govern administrative and procedural matters (such as time and location of meetings, etc.). Standing Rules shall not conflict with these bylaws. Standing Rules may be adopted, amended, or temporarily suspended by a majority vote present at an organization meeting where a quorum is present (advance notice is not required).
Section 4 The rules contained in the most recent version of Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised shall be the parliamentary authority for this organization and shall govern in all cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these bylaws and any special rules of order the organization may adopt.
ARTICLE IV MEMBERSHIP
Section 1 Membership in the organization shall be open to all those regularly-enrolled [name of campus] students who are interested in membership. There shall be no other requirements for admission to regular membership. Each regular member has equal rights and privileges.
Section 2 Eligibility for membership or appointed or elected student officer positions shall not be limited on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, gender identity, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability. The organization shall have no rules or policies that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, gender identity, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability.
Alternate Section 3 (only to be used by social fraternities or sororities or other university living groups, which may permit gender membership limitations)
Eligibility for membership or appointed or elected student officer positions shall not be limited on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability. The organization shall have no rules or policies that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability.
Section 4 This organization shall prohibit all members and officers from engaging in hazing or committing any act that injures, degrades or disgraces any fellow student.
Section 5 This organization shall comply with Title 5, Section 41301, Standards for Student Conduct.
Section 6 Members [shall/shall not] be required to pay dues.
Section 7 Members shall be required to attend at least [# %] of the organization’s regularly scheduled meetings.
Section 8 [Optional: Some organizations have additional categories of membership, such as honorary membership. If this applies, include the categories of membership along with associated privileges.]
ARTICLE V OFFICERS
Section 1 The officers of the organization shall be the [titles of officers].
Section 2 Powers and Duties of Officers:
a. The President shall serve as the chief executive officer of the organization, shall preside at all meetings of the organization and shall prepare the agenda for meetings. The President shall be the official spokesperson of the organization, representing the policies, views, and opinions of the organization in its relations with the campus and community at large. The President shall appoint all committees and committee chairs. [Optional: The President shall be an ex officio member of all committees.] The President shall have such further powers and duties as may be prescribed by the organization.
b. The Vice President shall preside at organization meetings in the absence of the President. The Vice President shall perform all legal duties assigned by the President. The Vice President shall assume the office of President if the office becomes vacant.
c. The Treasurer shall handle all financial affairs and budgeting of the organization, maintain all necessary accounting records, and prepare monthly financial reports for the membership. These records shall be maintained in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. The Treasurer shall collect and deposit all dues and fees. The Treasurer shall maintain bank accounts in the organization’s name, requiring signatures of both the Treasurer and President for authorized disbursements.
d. The Secretary shall take minutes at all meetings of the organization, keep these on file, and submit required copies to all organization members. The Secretary shall be responsible for all organization correspondence and shall keep copies thereof on file. The Secretary shall maintain membership records for the organization.
e. [List duties of any additional elected or appointed officers.]
Section 3 Qualifications necessary to hold office in this organization are as follows:
- To be eligible for and to hold office, candidates must meet the requirements of CSU’s policy on minimum academic qualifications for student office holders for major and minor student officers or representatives that is found at http://www.calstate.edu/SAS/stdsrvc.shtml.
- Additionally, [list other additional qualifications, such as academic requirements, length of time one has been a member, length of time one can hold office, etc.].
ARTICLE VI SELECTION OF OFFICERS
Section 1 The [list of elected officers] are elected [annually or each semester/quarter]. Elections are held [at the end of each fall/spring semester/quarter] and shall take place at a regularly scheduled meeting of the organization at which a quorum is present. At least one week’s notice shall be provided for any meeting at which an election is to be held.
Section 2 Nominations for officers shall be made at the regular meeting immediately preceding the election. Nominations may also be made from the floor immediately prior to the election for each office. Members may nominate themselves for an office.
Section 3 The officers shall be elected in this order: [List order, usually starting with the President].
Section 4 Officers shall be elected by majority vote. [Optional: If no candidate receives a majority vote, a runoff election shall be held between the two candidates receiving the highest number of votes. In the event of a tie, there shall be a revote. If the result of the revote is still a tie, the election shall be decided by the flip of a coin.]
Section 5 Votes shall be cast by secret ballot; however, when there is only one candidate for an office, a motion may be made to elect the candidate by acclamation.
Section 6 [Optional] The following officers shall be appointed by the [President or Executive Committee]. [Indicate if ratification by a majority vote of the membership is required.]
Section 7 Officers shall assume office on [the first day of the semester/quarter following the election] and shall serve for [length of term of office].
Section 8 [Optional] Officers may be recalled from office for cause. To initiate a recall election, a petition signed by [specify number, such as one-third of the total number of voting members] must be submitted at a regular meeting and a recall vote shall be taken at the next regular meeting. The officer subject to recall shall be given written notice of the recall at least 72 hours prior to the meeting at which the recall vote will be held and shall be given an opportunity to provide a defense. A two-thirds vote is required to remove an officer.
Section 9 If the position of President becomes vacant as the result of resignation, ineligibility or recall, the Vice President shall assume the office of President. Vacancies in any other elected office shall be filled by an election held at the next regular meeting where the vacancy was announced. Nominations may be made at the meeting where the vacancy is announced, and nominations may also be made from the floor at the time of the election. The President may appoint an interim officer to fill the vacancy until the election is held.
ARTICLE VII MEETINGS
Section 1 Regular meetings shall be scheduled [weekly, bi-weekly, monthly] during the academic year.
Section 2 Special meetings may be called by the President or a majority of the Executive Committee. All members must be given a minimum of 24 hours notice prior to the meeting time.
Section 3 Business cannot be conducted unless a quorum of the membership is present. A quorum for this organization is defined as a majority of the voting membership. [Note: Organizations may choose have a lower quorum, such as one-third, or a specific number of members.]
Section 4 Members must be present to vote. Absentee or proxy voting is not permitted.
Section 5 In order to vote a member must be in good standing. [State what constitutes “good standing.” This may include payment of dues or meeting attendance requirement. If there is an attendance requirement, specify the number of excused and/or unexcused absences that results in loss of voting privileges, and define what constitutes an excused absence, if applicable.]
ARTICLE VIII ADVISOR(S)
Section 1 The organization shall [elect/appoint] an individual employed as a faculty or staff member by [name of campus] to serve as the university advisor to this organization. Auxiliary staff and student assistants are not eligible to serve as advisors. The advisor shall fulfill the responsibilities specified in the [name of campus handbook governing student organizations]. Advisors shall serve on an academic year basis or until their successor has been selected.
Section 2 [Optional] The organization shall also appoint a community advisor. [Specify qualifications, such as being an alumni member, a representative of the affiliated organization, etc.]
ARTICLE IX EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
Section 1 The Executive Committee shall consist of the elected and appointed officers, with the advisor(s) serving as non-voting member(s).
Section 2 The Executive Committee shall meet weekly during the academic year. Special meetings may be called by the President or a majority of the Executive Committee. All members must be given 24 hours’ notice of the meeting. A quorum shall consist of a majority of the Executive Committee members.
Section 3 [Optional] When necessary, Executive Committee business can be conducted via email or via online meetings.
Section 4 The Executive Committee shall have general supervision of the affairs of the organization between meetings and is authorized to take action when action must be taken prior to the next meeting.
Section 5 The Executive Committee shall report to the membership all actions taken between meetings. Except when it is too late to do so (such as when a contract has been executed), any actions taken by the Executive Committee may be rescinded or modified by the membership by a majority vote.
ARTICLE X STANDING AND AD HOC COMMITTEES
Section 1 The organization shall have the following standing committees: [List all standing committees, such as Membership, Fund Raising, Program, Social, Bylaws, Nominations, Finance, Public Relations, etc.]
Section 2 The duties of each of Standing Committees are as follows:
[List the duties for each of the committees listed above.]
Section 3 The President shall have the authority to establish ad hoc committees as may be necessary from time to time to carry out the work of the organization.
Section 4 The President shall appoint the chairpersons and members of all committees [Optional: subject to ratification of the membership].
ARTICLE XI FINANCES
Section 1 Membership dues shall be [$XX per semester/quarter/academic year].
Section 2 Dues shall be paid by [specify due date, such as “second week of each semester/quarter/academic year.”] [Optional: There shall be a late fee of [$XX/$XX per week].
Section 3 This organization has the ability to assess the membership for special purposes. Assessments shall be determined by a quorum of the membership at a regularly scheduled meeting
Section 4 Members who have not paid their dues or special assessments by the due date shall be considered as not being in good standing and shall lose all membership privileges, including voting, until the dues are paid.
Section 5 The Executive Committee shall propose an annual budget to be voted upon no later than the second regular meeting of the academic year. Any unbudgeted expenditures shall be approved in advance by the membership. When financial decisions must be made between meetings, the Executive Committee is authorized to approve expenditures not exceeding [$XXX].
Section 6 Organization funds shall not be used to purchase or reimburse members for alcoholic beverages.
ARTICE XII DISCIPLINE OF MEMBERS
Section 1 All complaints alleging violations of the Student Conduct Code, Title 5, section 41301, et seq., shall be investigated pursuant to Executive Order 1073 and/or 1074 (in cases involving allegations of unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation based on protected status). Investigations and other proceedings under Executive Orders 1073 and 1074 shall be conducted by campus administration, not student organizations, and this organization shall refer any complaints alleging subject matters covered by Executive Orders 1073 and 1074 to the campus Vice President for Student Affairs or other designee for investigation and resolution.
Section 2 Complaints may also be brought to the attention of the Executive Committee or a campus review board [identify the title of the campus review board, i.e., Judicial Affairs Board]. A written charge may be filed with the [Executive Committee or [name of campus review board]]. That [Committee/Board] shall review the charges and may conduct a preliminary investigation if deemed appropriate. If the preliminary investigation concludes that misconduct appears to have occurred, the [Executive Committee or [name of campus review board]] shall conduct a hearing on the matter. The member alleged to have engaged in the misconduct shall be given at least 72 hours notice of the hearing and be given an opportunity to present a defense. By a majority vote, the [Executive Committee or [name of campus review board]] shall determine whether misconduct occurred. If it determines that misconduct did occur, the [Executive Committee or [name of campus review board]] shall prepare a report to the membership of its findings and recommended sanctions, which may include expulsion, suspension, or lesser sanction(s) including, but not limited to, a reprimand, removal from office, a fine or corrective remedies.
Section 3 The membership shall review the hearing report in executive session, and the member accused of misconduct shall have an opportunity to rebut the information in the report. After providing a statement to the membership, the member accused of misconduct shall leave the room for the remainder of the deliberations.
Section 4 The membership shall vote first on whether the member has engaged in misconduct. If by a two-thirds vote, the membership determines that misconduct has occurred, the membership shall then by a two-thirds vote, determine appropriate sanction(s). The accused member shall be immediately notified of the outcome.
Section 5 By a two-thirds vote, the membership may reinstate a member who has been suspended or expelled.
ARTICLE XIII AMENDMENTS
Section 1 Proposed amendments to these bylaws shall be presented to the membership, in writing, one meeting prior to the meeting where the amendment will be voted upon. [Optional: The Executive Committee and/or Bylaws Committee shall review and make recommendations on all bylaw revisions prior to consideration by the membership.]
Section 2 Bylaw amendments require approval by two-thirds of the voting members present at a regular meeting. The amendment shall be effective immediately unless otherwise stipulated in the amendment.
Section 3 A copy of any amendments to these bylaws must be submitted to the [name of campus office handling recognition of student organizations] at [name of campus] within two weeks after adoption.
These bylaws were adopted on [date] and most recently revised on [date].
[Insert signature blocks.]