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Sample Constitution and Bylaws

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The following sample constitution includes some of the best suggestions from the constitutions of many different SSA groups and other organizations.

Feel free to use it for your SSA Affiliate group and to modify it as suits your needs. Your school may have specific requirements to include (an anti-hazing section, for example).

Keep copies of your constitution in several places. Use Google Docs, your Facebook group; you can even send a copy to us so we can help out if you've lost yours. Have the date of the last update of the constitution in the file name so it's easier to tell the difference between new and old copies (example: SSAConst12.25.2017). 

What is the difference between a constitution and bylaws?

Constitution

  1. Concise
  2. Is rarely revised/remains stable
  3. A statement of the group's purpose and mission
  4. May provide a historical perspective of the group for future leaders

Bylaws

  1. Outline specific procedures
  2. Are easily revised and are revised regularly as procedures and needs change
  3. Help the group conduct business in an orderly manner
  4. Contain detailed policies that are in line with the constitution

Skip to Bylaws


Constitution Sample - Download Editable Docx

Article I: Name and Purpose

Section 1.
This organization shall be known as [NAME OF GROUP HERE], also known as [ACRONYM OF GROUP HERE], and referred to as "the organization" within this document.

Section 2.
The purposes of the organization shall be to

  1. Foster safe, welcoming, and supportive spaces for secular students on campus
  2. Promote skepticism, innovative thinking, and the questioning of all personal and cultural beliefs using the tools of evidence and reason
  3. Embrace human and civil rights, social justice, and other ideals informed by the philosophy of humanism
  4. Cooperate with individuals and groups who share our values
  5. Organize activities, such as forums for discussion, guest speakers, and outreach that educate the [SCHOOL NAME] and surrounding community
  6. Advocate for the separation of church and state.

Article II: Membership

Section 1.
Membership shall be open to all [SCHOOL NAME] students, faculty and staff, alumni, and community members. Only students may be voting members. All may be non-voting members.

Section 2.
To become a member, one need only inform the Secretary. Membership runs from the day of informing the Secretary to the day after the end of the spring academic term. At any time during the spring academic term a standing member may express their desire to renew their membership for the following year.

Section 3.
Membership ends upon

  1. End of the normal membership cycle without a prior request to renew
  2. The member's request
  3. The member no longer being a student, faculty, staff or community member
  4. A majority vote of the membership at a properly announced meeting with quorum to revoke that person's membership. Voting membership becomes non-voting membership when a voting member is no longer a student at [SCHOOL NAME].

Section 4.
Members who are removed by a vote may not join the organization again until the next academic year. Members who are removed lose any officer positions they may have held within the organization. 

Section 5.
In certain cases, honorary membership can be granted to those who cannot qualify as members. Honorary membership is a symbolic way to show affiliation with the organization for interested parties and to give organizational acknowledgment of the honorary member's support for the organization. Honorary members do not have the privilege of voting. Honorary membership may be extended to anyone via a majority vote of the elected officers.

Alumni membership can be granted to members of the group that have graduated from or are no longer students at [SCHOOL NAME]. Those students will be given the option to be Alumni members at their discretion. Alumni members do not have the privilege of voting.

Section 6.
The organization has the power to collect annual dues from the membership. The dues must be approved by a majority vote of the membership at a normal business meeting.

Article III: Officers

Section 1.
The elected officers of this organization shall be President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. These elected officers will appoint via majority vote additional officer positions as necessary. These include, but are not limited to: a special events coordinator, public relations director, and online promotions director. Additional positions may be created via a majority vote of the elected officers.

Section 2.
Officers shall be elected at least four weeks before the end of each spring term; more time than four weeks is preferred to allow for full transitions. Members shall be notified of a pending election at least one month in advance. The elected officers shall appoint a nominating committee to recruit a slate of officers before the election, though nominations can also be taken from the floor at the time of voting. Only voting members that plan to remain voting members during the next year are eligible to run. Election shall occur by secret ballot of voting members at a meeting with quorum. The candidate with the most votes wins; uncontested candidates win by default. Terms shall begin after a two-week shadowing period with outgoing officers, and shall last until the terms of the officers succeeding these officers begin. There is no limit on the number of terms an individual may hold office. [Make sure this does not conflict with school policy]

Section 3.
If for any reason an officer is unable or unwilling to fulfill their commitments, they may resign and the remaining elected officers may appoint, via majority vote, replacement(s) who will serve until the next election period.

Section 4.

Elected Officers:

The President shall

  1. Organize and preside over meetings, activities and events
  2. Be the official representative for the organization
  3. Maintain contact with related outside organizations
  4. Ensure this Constitution is followed
  5. Have the final word in all decisions where a vote is not specifically called for in this document
  6. Break any tie vote
  7. Serves as a primary contact between the organization and the national Secular Student Alliance

The Vice President shall

  1. Assume leadership for the organization if the current President is either unable or unwilling to continue their role, or is removed from their position, until such time that a new president is determined
  2. Serves as a secondary contact between the organization and the national Secular Student Alliance
  3. Plan, organize, and coordinate events for the organization that require signer power
  4. Be responsible for reserving appropriate spaces for events

The Secretary shall

  1. Record the results of all votes taken
  2. Record briefly what occurred at each meeting
  3. Collect attendance at each meeting
  4. Process membership requests
  5. Keep a current roster of all members
  6. Work with Treasurer to keep the organization current with all paperwork that needs to be filed with [SCHOOL NAME].

The Treasurer shall

  1. Be responsible for all financial matters
  2. Be responsible for keeping records and possession (on behalf of the group) of all merchandise
  3. Work with the Secretary to keep the organization current with all paperwork that needs to be filed with [SCHOOL NAME]
  4. Prepare a budget for the following academic term by the last meeting of the current academic term
  5. Fully transfer accounting information and permissions to newly elected treasurers
  6. Keep records of all organizations and individuals who have given money to the organization
  7. Organize fundraising efforts

Appointed Officers:

The events coordinator shall

  1. Plan, organize, and coordinate events for the organization that do not require signer power

The public relations director shall

  1. Coordinate the advertising and publicity of the group and its events
  2. Maintain contact with local media outlets
  3. Create and maintain a list of students who have expressed interest in the organization

The online promotions director shall

  1. Maintain website, social media, university, or other web presences for the organization
  2. Coordinate with other officers to make sure that information on the web presences is up to date
  3. Moderate all listservs for the organization

Section 5.
An appointed officer may be removed by a majority vote of the elected officers. Officers and members shall have the opportunity to present their sides at the meeting, before the vote. If the officer is removed, a new officer shall be appointed as quickly as possible per Article III Section 3.

Section 6.
An elected officer may be removed by a majority vote of the membership as a whole. Officers and members shall have the opportunity to present their sides at the meeting, before the vote. If the elected officer is removed, a new officer shall be appointed as quickly as possible by majority vote of the remaining elected officers.

Article IV: Meetings

Section 1.
General meetings shall occur at the discretion of the elected officers; however, a schedule of meetings for an academic term must be created prior to the beginning of said term.

Section 2.
Business meetings shall occur at the discretion of the elected officers. Prior notice of at least one week should be given to all members.

Section 3.
Officers may call special meetings at any time for important matters. Prior notice should be given to all members as soon as possible.

Section 4.
Voting may only take place at a meeting.

Section 5.
A quorum is 1/10 of the voting membership. If a quorum is not present, voting shall be postponed until the next meeting. The number constituting 1/10 of the membership shall be determined by the officer in charge of keeping the membership roster.

Section 6.
Meeting minutes shall be posted to the web presence.

Article V: Committees

Section 1.
Possible purposes of committees will be to

  1. Take care of distributing work equally on any given issue that the committee is created to address
  2. Brainstorm and create new ideas to present at organization business meetings
  3. Work through different ideas and issues and summarize them so that they can be presented to the general membership in order to be voted on

Section 2.
Any member or officer may propose the formation of a committee. The elected officers may create, structure and dissolve committees through a majority vote.

Article VI: Amendments to the Constitution

Section 1.
Any member may propose a constitutional amendment. Members shall be notified at least two weeks in advance of a pending vote on an amendment. The amendment shall be read aloud and discussed at a meeting two weeks before the day of the vote and on the day of the vote. An amendment can be adopted only with the approval of a two-thirds majority of voting membership at a meeting with quorum

Article VII: Statements of affirmation or condemnation

Section 1.
Statements of affirmation are official declarations made by the organization in support a certain issue or action being taken by another group or individual. Statements of condemnation are official declarations made by the organization in denunciation or condemnation of an issue or action being taken by another group or individual.

Section 2.
Statements of affirmation or condemnation do not have governing power over the organization. They only serve to let future generations of leaders and the public know where the organization stands on various issues.

Section 3.
Any member of the organization can propose an official statement of affirmation or condemnation at a meeting. For discussion on the issue, another member of the organization must second the statement. If there is sufficient support for releasing a comment on the issue among the group, it will be put to a vote at the next meeting, and every member present will be allowed up to but no more than 90 seconds to state officially why they are for or against the statement of affirmation or condemnation. The President shall be responsible for keeping time. After all members are given the opportunity to speak, members may vote to allow another round of discussion, with discussion continuing only if a majority of members present feels it is necessary. When discussion is finally done, a general secret ballot vote of the general membership will be taken.

Section 4.
A statement of affirmation or condemnation can pass only with the approval of a two-thirds majority of voting membership at a meeting with quorum.

Section 5.
A statement of affirmation or condemnation can be retracted through a process identical to the process for issuing one.

Article VIII: Advisor

Section 1.
The organization's advisor must be a full-time [SCHOOL NAME] faculty or administrative staff member. If the elected officers deem it appropriate, they may appoint two full-time faculty or administrative staff members as co-advisors.

Section 2.
The nature of the advisor's role shall be determined by the advisor. However, the authority of the President and the general membership of the organization takes precedence over the authority of the advisor.

Section 3.
The advisor may be removed by a vote of the elected officers. The advisor can voluntarily step down. Prospective replacements for the advisor would then be contacted and a new advisor would be decided upon by the elected officers.

Article IX: Non-Discrimination

Section 1.
This organization and its members shall not discriminate against any individuals for reasons of creed or worldview, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, citizenship, age, disability, veteran status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. [Check school requirements, they may be a required wording on a non-discrimination statement]

Article X: Dissolution

Section 1.
The organization may be dissolved by a unanimous vote of members present at a meeting at which such a vote is taken. Dissolution may occur only at a general or business meeting, not a special meeting.

Section 2.
A quorum consisting of 3/10 of the current membership must be present at any meeting for a dissolution vote.

Section 3.
The organization may not dissolve while in debt or with a balance in the bank. If a balance exists, it may be liquidated via donation to the national Secular Student Alliance.


Bylaws

Bylaws are the working procedures and processes of an organization. They are usually easier to change, requiring only a simple majority rather than the 2/3 vote often required to amend a constitution. Some topics may be mentioned in the constitution, and then covered in greater detail in the bylaws. Remember that both your bylaws and your constitution must be in line with the policies and requirements of your school (especially if you are trying to become a recognized student group!).

Dues & Funding

  • How is this group funded? By the school? Through local partnerships with other groups?
  • Dues amount (if any), how and when are they collected?
  • Are there requirements for how your group‘s money is spent/allocated?

Officers / Advisors / etc.

  • Appointed positions (these often change, or are revised as needed)
  • Detailed lists of all position-specific responsibilities (e.g. the president is the liaison to the school, speakers, and other groups)
  • Description of how to train your replacement/plan for succession (e.g., after elections, what responsibilities must the next year‘s officers pick up before the school year ends?)
    • NOTE: The SSA officially recommends all officers terms end the semester before graduation/leaving the school AT MAXIMUM. Furthermore, we recommend that current group leaders approach qualified candidates directly about assuming a position rather than hold open calls among members.
  • What is the procedure if officers leave positions before their term ends?
  • Is there a required number of business meetings per term? Is there required attendance by officers of a certain number at meetings? Are your business meetings open to anyone?

Initiatives

  • Has your group made commitments to other groups or the community?

Other

  • Specific policies and procedures unique to your organization
  • Procedures for dealing with special situations (e.g., policy on dealing with a disruptive member, safety plan/guidelines, etc.)
  • Amendments
  • How to/who can propose amendments (officers vs. anyone)?
  • Can amendments only be proposed at business meetings?
  • Voting procedures, quorum, majority

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