The following content is essentially based on material from the Cornell University Student Activities Office web page (www.activities.cornell.edu). Thanks to our colleagues for publicly sharing these materials.
The Constitution of an organization contains the fundamental principles which govern its operation. The Bylaws establish the specific rules of guidance by which the group is to function. All but the most informal groups should have their basic structure and methods of operation in writing. To qualify for formal recognition all student clubs and organizations at the University of Maine at Augusta must submit either a Constitution OR a Constitution with separate Bylaws. If a club or organization opts to submit a Constitution without Bylaws, that single document must address the relevant issues noted below under the discussion of Bylaws.
Why have a Constitution?
By definition an organization is a “body of persons organized for some specific purpose, as a club, union, or society.” The process of writing a constitution will serve to:
- Clarify your purpose
- Delineate your basic structure
- Provide the cornerstone for building an effective group
- Allow members and potential members to have a better understanding of what the organization is all about and how it functions.
If you keep in mind the value of having a written document that clearly describes the basic framework of your organization, the drafting of the Constitution will be much easier and more rewarding experience.
What should be covered by a Constitution?
The following is an outline of the standard information to be included in a Constitution. The objective is to draft a document that covers these topics in a simple, clear and concise manner.
Article I – The name of the organization
Article II – Affiliation with other groups (local, state, national, etc.)
Article III – Purpose, aims, functions of the organization
Article IV – Membership requirements and limitations
Article V – Officers (titles, terms of service, how and when elected)
Article VI – Advisor (term of service, how selected)
Article VII – Meetings (frequency, special meetings, and who calls them)
Article VIII – Quorum (number of members required to transact business)
Article IX – Vacancies and Dismissals (procedures and handling)
Article X – Amendments (means of proposal, notice required, voting requirements)
Article XI – Ratification (requirements for adopting this constitution)
Why have Bylaws?
The Constitution covers the fundamental principles but does not prescribe specific procedures for operating your organization. Bylaws set forth in detail the procedures your group must follow to conduct business in an orderly manner. They provide further definition to the Articles of the Constitution and can be changed more easily as the needs of the organization change.
What should be included in the Bylaws?
Bylaws must not contradict provisions in the Constitution. They generally contain specific information on the following topics.
- Membership (selection requirements, resignations, expulsion, rights and duties)
- Dues (amount and collection procedures, any special fees, when payable)
- Duties of Officers (powers, responsibilities, specific job descriptions, procedures for filling unexpired terms of office, removal from office)
- Executive Board (structure, composition, powers)
- Committees (standing, special, how formed, chairperson’s roles, meetings, duties, powers)
- Order of Business (standard agenda for conducting meetings)
- Parliamentary Authority (provisions for rules of order, generally Roberts Rules of Order – Newly Revised)
- Amendment Procedures (means of proposals, notice required, voting requirements)
- Other specific policies and procedures unique to your organization for its operation
Putting your Constitution to use
Remember the reasons for having a Constitution and Bylaws. They articulate the purpose of your organization and spell out the procedures to be followed for its orderly function. Constitutions usually require a 2/3 vote of the membership for adoption. Bylaws only require a simple majority for passage. Once you have developed your Constitution and Bylaws review them often. The needs of your group will change over time and it is important that the Constitution and Bylaws are kept up to date to reflect the current state of affairs.
Make sure every new member of the organization has a copy of the constitution and bylaws. This will help to unify your members by informing them about the opportunities that exist for participation and the procedures they should follow to be an active, contributing member. A thorough study of the Constitution and Bylaws should be part of officer training and transition.
Student Organization Constitution Format
Article I : Name
The name of the organization shall be ____________________________
Article II: Affiliation (with other groups)
(The organization) is affiliated with_________________________________
Article III: Mission (purpose, aims, and functions of the organization)
It shall be the purpose of (name) to ___________________________________________
Article IV: Membership (membership requirements and limitations)
Membership is open to any enrolled University student who:
Article V: Officers (titles, terms of service, how and when elected)
The (name of organization) shall have a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, etc. (these titles may vary for your organization). All officers must be members of (name of organization/qualification) in good academic standing. Good academic standing is defined as having completed at least 80% of all courses attempted and maintaining a minimum GPA of 2.0. Those members that hold the offices of (please specify) comprise the Executive Committee or Board.
Section B: Term of Office
The term of the office shall be from (month/date) to (month/date).
Article VI: Advisor (term of service, how selected, responsibilities)
1. The advisor will serve from (month/date) to (month/date)
2. The advisor must be a regular appointed employee of the University of Maine at Augusta.
3. The advisor will be responsible for the duties listed in the Club/Organization Advisors job description.
Article VII: Meetings (frequency, special meetings, and who calls them)
Section A: Scheduling
The times for regularly scheduled meetings shall be scheduled at the discretion of the (leadership office).
Section B: Notice
All meetings must be posted to the general membership and student body at least (number) days prior to each regular meeting.
Section C: Special/Urgent Meetings
Special or emergency meetings may be called by (leadership office) with a lesser period of notice. These meetings must be used only in urgent circumstances when business needs cannot be delayed to the next regularly scheduled meeting.
Section D: Voting
Each member of (name), in good academic standing, has the right to vote on all business
matters on the table for discussion. Proxy voting is not allowed.
Article VIII: Quorum (number of members required to transact business)
A minimum of (number or percentage) members must be present in order for (name) to conduct business. No business may be conducted if at any point in the meeting the attendance falls below the number required to meet quorum.
Article IX Vacancy and Dismissal (procedures and handling)
Section A: Vacancies
Vacancies within the officers shall be filled within (time period). Solicitation of members to fill those positions must begin immediately. Any party nominated for the vacant office must be voted into the office by a majority vote of the membership.
Section B: Dismissal
Any member, within reason, may be removed from membership by a two-thirds vote of the membership. If a vote to remove an inpidual from office occurs, that inpidual shall have the right to appear before the membership to appeal their decision and also has the right to participate in the debate over their removal from office. The officer may then be reinstated by a two-thirds vote of approval by the members.
Article X: Amendments (means of proposal to change policy, notice required, voting requirements)
The constitution may be amended through a proposal by an approved (name of) committee. The vote to adopt such changes may occur after (number) days notice to the membership of (name of organization) and posting for public comment at (location). The amendment needs a (number/percentage) majority vote in order to be officially passed.
Article XI: Ratification
The requirements for adopting this constitution are as follows:
Article XII: Hazing (REQUIRED IN ALL BYLAWS)
In accordance with the policies of the State of Maine and the Board of Trustees of the University of Maine system the injurious hazing of any student enrolled at the University of Maine at Augusta is prohibited. This organization or its members shall not create, or permit to exist, any situation that recklessly or intentionally endangers the mental or physical health of a student enrolled at UMA. If this organization violates these rules it shall lose all right to conduct activities at UMA and all benefits of affiliation with UMA. Any student member, whose conduct violates these rules, shall be subject to suspension, expulsion, or other appropriate disciplinary action through the UMS Student Conduct Code.