Guidelines for Writing a Constitution

Guidelines for Writing a Constitution
The constitution of an organization contains the fundamental principles that govern its operation. At minimum, the constitution for an organization should include the organization’s purpose, membership & leadership selection process, and the provision for at least one faculty or administration advisor. Some organizations also create by-laws to outline specific rules of governance by which the group is to function.

The constitution should be written in a language that is easy to interpret by all members of the organization and should be consistent with the needs of the group. If writing by-laws, make sure that they are carefully formulated, clearly worded, and contain a process by which they can be easily amended.

The following outline should be of great help when preparing a constitution and, if needed, by-laws.

ConstitutionArticle I
Name of organization and any affiliations.

Article II
Purpose of the organization. Organizations should take care to include a complete statement of purpose. Programs sponsored by the organization will be expected to be consistent with the organization’s stated objective.

Article III
Membership (qualifications, types). Voting membership should be defined as limited to currently enrolled Albion College students. No student organization which categorically denies membership because of sexual orientation, race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability will be registered. (Exemption: social fraternities and sororities are exempt by law from the discrimination based gender requirement.)

Article IV
Officers (titles of officers, terms of office, how officers are selected, and duties). Organizations should have necessary officers to conduct their activities. Be cautious not to create unnecessary officers.

Article V
Meetings (regular, special, quorum). It is best to establish only the minimum number required and the approximate time of year in order to avoid creating requirements impossible tofulfill. Additional meetings can always be held. The quorum necessary to conduct official business should be defined.

Article VI
Advisor (term of service/selection). Each organization must have an advisor from the College faculty or administration/professional staff.

Article VII
Standing committees (if needed). List names and general duties of standing committees.

Article VIII
Executive Board (if needed). Provide for such a board, how it is selected, and its responsibilities.

Article IX
Parliamentary authority. The usual statement reads: “The rules contained in Roberts’ Rules of Order revised shall govern this organization in all cases to which they are applicable unless they are inconsistent with the constitution, by-laws and special rules of the organization.

Article X
Method of amending constitution (methods of proposal, notice, voting requirements. Generally, proposed amendments are not acted upon immediately and require a majority of 2/3 or 3/4 of those voting or of total membership to be adopted.

An organization need not have by-laws separate from the constitution. Items covered in by-laws by the organization might be covered in the constitution of the organization. On the other hand, by-laws are sometimes desirable since by-laws usually contain more details and are more easily amended than the constitution. They are, however, more permanent than passing a motion at a meeting.

By-laws cannot run contrary to the constitution. Possible topics for by-laws include:

  • Membership (selection requirements, resignation, replacement,dropping members)
  • Dues (amount and collection procedures, special fees, when payable)
  • Duties of officers (power, responsibilities, rules for election, procedures for filling un-expired terms, removal from office)
  • Election rules and procedures
  • Duties of advisor
  • Executive Board (composition, powers)
  • Committees (standing, special, formation, chairpersons, meetings, function)
  • Order of business and rules about conducting business
  • Amendment (means of proposals, notice required, voting requirements)

Albion College Statement of Non-Discrimination
Albion College is committed to a policy of equal opportunity and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability, as protected by law, in all educational programs and activities, admission of students, and conditions of employment.

Organizational & Personal Liability
Advisors and organizational officers occasionally express concern about personal liability for organization related activities. There are few hard and fast rules concerning liability, but the following may be helpful as a general guideline.

Organization members, officers and advisors are subject to the same criminal statutes that govern behavior generally in society. Violation of these laws may result in criminal liability.

Organizational officers, members, and advisors may be civilly liable for harm resulting from either dangerous organizational activities or those that create an unreasonable risk of injury. All persons involved in organizations are advised to plan activities carefully, comply with all laws (including those related to the sale or consumption of alcohol and the use of vehicles and other equipment) and to neither endorse nor participate in activities that could result in injury to participants, bystanders, or property. Participants safety is the number one concern when planning activities.

Organization officers and advisors may to some degree limit their liability and protect themselves by the use of “Waiver of Liability” statements signed by activity participants. (forms are available in CPO)

Additional information is available in the student handbook and the Office of Campus Programs and Organizations.

Conflict of Interest
If you are the treasurer of a group that reports to a second organization/group that oversees the financial operations of the initial group, you may not simultaneously hold the position of President, Treasurer, or Chief Financial Officer in the second monitoring group.

What NOT to Do
Okay, so you have recruited some new members into your organization, now the task is to make them want to stay. Having new members do meaningless, and sometimes humiliating stunts or projects does nothing to build the ties of friendship and commitment. Acts such as these are considered hazing and can lead to a lot of trouble for your organization. Albion College explicitly prohibits hazing of any form and outlines specific guidelines about hazing in the student handbook.

Overnight Travel Policy
All organizations planning overnight off-campus trips are required to provide the information listed below to the Campus Safety Office before leaving campus.

  1. A detailed travel itinerary.
  2. Travel roster with emergency contacts.
  3. Signed activity statement of responsibility and release form for each person traveling.

The necessary forms are available in the Office of Campus Programs and Organizations and here.

All individual participants must travel with proof of personal health insurance.

At least one person on the trip must have a cell phone available in the event of an emergency.

Note: Non-College sanctioned trips for extra-curricular activities should be planned on weekends instead of class days. Students traveling with groups in organizations that schedule trips while classes are in session are not automatically excused from classes. Each student on a trip may request prior approval from his/her faculty members to be excused from class and to be allowed to make up any missed assignments or work. This approval may or may not be granted.

International Travel
The Student Affairs staff member, office, or student organization advisor must check with the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory prior to organizing or scheduling student group international travel. If travel is restricted by the State Department, the Student Affairs staff member, office, or student organization advisor must check other appropriate country travel advisories, check "on-the-ground" contacts, and then consult with the vice president for student affairs for approval. Approval is subject to cancellation at a later date if travel is deemed inadvisable.

All Albion students traveling outside of the United States on an overnight trip must purchase Study Abroad Medical Insurance through Albion College. To purchase this insurance, contact the Business Office.

Negotiating Contracts
A contract in its simplest form is a promise. The legal requirements of a valid contract include the offer, the acceptance, and the money or mutual promises between the parties.

Recognized student organizations are encouraged to use contracts when purchasing goods and services. A contract is a legally binding document, therefore, you should use extreme care in negotiating. Always review carefully the entire written document prior to signing to ensure that the terms are what you agreed upon. Until a contract is signed, all items remain negotiable. The contract should be in the organization’s name and a signature should be required from a representative of the organization. As a general rule, student organizations are not authorized to enter contracts in the name of or on behalf of Albion College; it’s faculty, staff, or employees. Exceptions to that rule exist for organizations that receive direct advisement from the Campus Programs and Organizations office (i.e. Union Board, IFC, SVB) and some Liberal Arts at Play Programs. If you are unsure if your organization is included in this category, contact the Campus Programs and Organizations Office. Regardless, members of the Campus Programs and Organizations staff are available to help provide advice and assistance to all registered student groups. Contracts entered into in the name of Albion College and that also involve excessively large financial commitments may require the signature of the Vice President for Finance and Management.

Contracts should be utilized for:

  • Speakers, entertainment and movies.
  • Purchase of goods and services.
  • Exchange of services for goods (i.e., advertising by organization in exchange for a prize to give away).
  • Purchases for resale (i.e., buying plants to sell during a campus plant sale).

A basic contract should include:

  • Names of both parties involved.
  • Place where contract is made (usually Albion).
  • Specific statement of agreements of both parties involved.
  • Agreed upon exchange or consideration (usually the purchase price) and when payable.
  • Statement indicating what will happen should either party fail to do as agreed.
  • Statement explaining how the contract may be modified or cancelled.
  • Signature of both parties and date.

Contracts do not have to be notarized to be valid.

Non-legal assistance in creating contracts, or in reviewing contacts which your organization is asked to sign, may be obtained in the Office of Campus Programs and Organizations.