Constitution Requirements and Writing Guide

Student Activities Advisors can help you through the process of creating or changing your group's constitution. Stop by 126 Coffman, email sao@umn.edu, or call 612-626-6919.

A group's constitution defines the group's fundamental principles, purposes, and structure; by-laws outline specific rules of procedure by which a group is governed. The process of writing a constitution and by-laws clarifies the group's purpose and structure, and provides a cornerstone for an efficient organization.

Your group's constitution is a public document, posted on your group's GopherLink profile page. It can help potential new members and the campus community learn more about your organization.

Student Unions & Activities requires all student groups to have a constitution at the time of the group's creation. SUA also uses group constitutions as an advising tool. If you come to our office with a question about how certain situations can be handled by your group, we can use your constitution as a tool to find a solution with you.

You may use this Sample Constitution as an example for your student group. It is annotated with required and recommended topics for your group’s constitution.

The following outline is meant to guide you in creating or updating your constitution and by-laws, by informing you about the topics that need to be addressed as well as providing recommended topics that will help you successfully operate your group.

There are seven required topics and several recommended topics for your group’s constitution. Each topic (required or otherwise) contains example language from the sample constitution above. You may use this language directly in your own constitution, though you might need to tweak it to fit your group’s needs.

The 7 Required Topics for Student Group Constitutions

Official Name of the Group

Example language: “The official name of the organization shall be…”

The group’s constitution must state the official name of the group as it will appear in directories, promotional materials, and all official documents. Student Group Names must be in accordance with the policies listed here (Copyrighted Name and Logo Use).

Nonprofit Group

Example language: “The organization shall operate as a nonprofit organization.”

You must state that your group will operate as if it were a nonprofit organization. This does not mean that your group cannot conduct activities that bring in revenue that exceed your expenses. It does mean that no individuals will profit as a result of any revenue the group generates. However, this does not restrict the payment of wages, salaries or incentives by the group for services rendered. Registered Student Organizations are not automatically recognized by the State of Minnesota as Nonprofit entities. (For information on obtaining this status, see the Tax Information section).

University of Minnesota Policy

Example language: “The organization shall comply with all University policies and procedures, as well as local, state, and federal laws and regulation.”

Student groups must comply with all University policies and procedures, as well as local, state, and federal laws and regulations. Your constitution needs to include a statement about your group’s responsibility to operate in accordance with these policies and laws.

Membership

Example language: “Membership is open to [all undergraduate/graduate/professional students, staff, faculty, ect.] without regard to race, color, creed, religion, national origin, gender, age, marital status, disability, public assistance status, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Voting membership is defined as [definition of voting membership in the group]. No more than one-third (⅓) of the voting membership shall consist of those who are not currently registered students at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus.”

Your constitution must define to whom your membership is open. Your rules regarding membership must be consistent with the provisions of Student Unions & Activities policy. This includes, but is not limited to, the Board of Regents Policy on Diversity, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action as it relates to group membership and access to programs. Religious student groups may require their voting membership and officers to adhere to the group’s statement of faith and its rules of conduct.

Your constitution should also define the qualifications and categories of membership in your group. Specifically, it will need to state who the voting membership is open to in your group. The voting membership can be open to anyone, including; students, staff, faculty, or non-students. However, currently registered students at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus must comprise no less than 2/3 of the total voting membership.

Officers

Example language: “All officers must be currently registered, student services fee paying students at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Exceptions to this requirement are permitted for graduate students upon receipt of a letter from the Director of Graduate Studies of the student’s department certifying the student is actively pursuing a degree. Officers must also be in good standing with the University and free of any sanctions defined by the Board of Regents Policy - Student Conduct Code, administered by the Office for Community Standards."

There are three parts to the officer requirement. Your constitution needs to state that all officers must be

  • currently registered, student services fee paying students at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Exceptions to the requirement are permitted for graduate students upon receipt of a letter from the Director of Graduate Studies of the student’s department certifying that the student is actively pursuing a degree;
  • in good standing with the University; and
  • free of any sanctions defined within the Board of Regents Policy-Student Conduct Code administered by the Office for Community Standards.

Your constitution should also define any officer’s roles and responsibilities as well as qualifications and election procedures, as covered later in this outline.

Dissolution of Group

Example language: “At the time of dissolution of the organization, residual assets shall be distributed to the following organizations according to the proportions below…”

Your constitution must state any procedures to be followed if the group is to be dissolved. At a minimum, you must state which organization(s) will receive residual assets in the event of dissolution. An individual or for-profit organization cannot be the recipient of any remaining funds. Because Campus Life Programs are part of the University, CLP group constitutions must state that any funds remaining at the time of dissolution shall be returned to the University department that sponsored the group.

You should have specific stated instructions for the disbursement of the group’s funds, which includes listing one or more specific organizations or departments where you would like your group’s remaining funds to be distributed.

Ratification

The constitution must include the date it was ratified (i.e., adopted by the group). With this must be the printed names and signatures of at least five (5) current officers of the group at the time it was ratified or amended.

In addition to the above items, the following nine topics are recommended to be covered in your group’s constitution and by-laws. These topics, while not required, set your group up for success by providing a sustainable and comprehensive structure to your organization.

Statement of Purpose

Your group may provide a purpose statement that will inform non-members about the operations of your group. This can also serve as a mission statement that can guide the work your members do regularly.

Example language: “This organization shall exist for the following purposes:

  1. To provide a forum for speakers to make presentations of timely interest to members on contemporary aspects of computer science.
  2. To provide a support group for students majoring in computer science, including offering tutoring in various program languages.
  3. To schedule visits and field trips to companies in the computer industry.
  4. To provide social activities and events for the membership.”

Affiliation

Groups that are directly affiliated with another organization should outline that relationship in their constitution. Your group may operate as a chapter of a national organization, or your group may be an affiliate of a cultural center, or your group may have a special relationship with an existing group on campus. Your group may also have one or many affiliated groups, which may grant special benefits to your group’s resources within the bounds of student group policy. Regardless of the nature of the affiliation, your group’s constitution should specify the relationship between it and the other organization.

Example language: “This organization shall be affiliated from the [Parent Organization], and shall strive to uphold the Mission, Vision, and Values of the [Parent Organization]. This organization shall maintain jurisdiction of its members, and shall follow policies and procedures for affiliated groups as dictated by [Parent Organization].”

OR

“Any registered student group at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities may apply to become an official affiliated organization (OAO).

Upon completed application materials created by the Executive Committee and at two-thirds (⅔) approval from the voting membership during a meeting at which quorum is present, an organization shall gain OAO status. In order to maintain OAO status, an organization shall complete the following tasks:

  1. Maintain active registered status with the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities,
  2. At least one (1) officer of the OAO attends all meetings of the Club,
  3. Complete the OAO application form annually, and
  4. Co-host at least one (1) event during the academic year with either another OAO or with the Club.

At a minimum, the OAO shall have access to the following benefits:

  1. Access to utilize space and equipment rented or owned by the Club,
  2. Voting Membership in the Club for all OAO officers,
  3. Opportunity to co-host events and activities with the Club that exceed $500, and
  4. Other benefits approved by the Executive Committee and Affiliates Committee

Failure to complete required tasks for OAOs shall result in loss of OAO status. An OAO may also lose OAO status by a two-thirds (2/3) approval from the voting membership and two-thirds (2/3) approval from the Affiliates Committee. A group that losses OAO status may reapply for OAO status the following academic semester.”

Group Officers

Because Student Unions & Activities requires at least five officers to perform the major operations of the group (e.g., space reservation, communicating with University staff, completing requirements for student groups), the group will want to state in the constitution or bylaws how to become an officer, the various titles to be held, the selection process for these positions, any prerequisites for holding office, and the duties of these officers.

Example language: “Officers shall be selected during the May meetings. Any individual who is a voting member and who meets the criteria of the previous section [referring to the University’s requirement for student group officers] shall be eligible to hold office. Officers shall be elected by a plurality of the voting members present providing a quorum is present. Officers shall serve for one year.

The duties of the officers are as follows:

  1. President - Preside over all meetings of the club and serve as Chairperson of the Executive Committee. Act as official representative of the club at other meetings and events.
  2. Vice President - Preside at meetings of the club and the Executive Committee in the absence of the president. Succeed the president if the president were unable to complete the term of office. Oversee the activities of all club committees.
  3. Secretary-Treasurer - Record and produce minutes of all meetings. Coordinate the club's correspondence. Handle all financial transactions of the club. Maintain thorough and accurate records of all transactions. Produce financial reports as required by the club.
  4. Program Coordinator – Serve as chairperson for the Program Committee. Coordinate the educational and informational programming of the club.
  5. Social Events Coordinator –Serve as chairperson for the Social Committee. Coordinator the social events held by the club.”

Membership

Your constitution should explain the procedures for becoming a member (which may vary by membership category), amount of dues, and termination of membership.

Example language: “To become a member, an individual must submit a complete membership application to the Vice President.”

Membership Status

In the event that the group chooses to remove an officer or member, your constitution should have a removal process outlined. That process can begin with some basic language, like below.

Example language: “Any member/officer may be removed from office and/or the club for misconduct as defined by the group (for example - failure to perform duties, attendance, misuse of funds). The member/officer shall be given a seven (7) day notice and an opportunity to give a defense. This removal vote shall require a two-thirds (2/3) majority vote from the voting membership.”

Voting Procedures

Your constitution should state how various decisions are made in the group and what type of vote is required to enact decisions. The voting procedures can vary depending on different situations, as long as they are outlined in your constitution. Your constitution should also consider what voting methods will be used.

Example language: “Decisions of the club shall be enacted by a majority vote of the voting membership unless otherwise stated in this constitution.

A vote of member impeachment will be enacted by a 2/3 majority vote of the voting membership.

“Officers shall be elected by a plurality of the voting members present providing a quorum is present.”

Committees

Similar to officers, you should explain the committees of the group and their roles in the group. Setting standing committees will make it clear that there are certain committees that always exist within the group. You may also want to include a statement about the process for setting up committees, joining, and being a member of committees. This leaves the group the option to form special committees if something comes up that requires the work of a committee.

Example language: “The standing committees of this club shall be:

  1. Executive Committee - Consists of the elected officers and chairpersons of all committees. Provides strategic vision for the club. Sets meeting dates for the club. Sets membership dues with approval of the voting membership. Determines committee assignments. Acts on behalf of the club during the summer.
  2. Program Committee - Handles all planning and arrangements for educational and informational programming, including but not limited to guest speaker events and field trips.
  3. Social Committee - Handles all planning and arrangements for social events held by the club.

Special committees may be established to carry out special assignments.”

Meetings of the Group

The group should state when regular meetings are held and how to call special meetings. It should also be stated what is required for a meeting to be considered an official meeting of the group. You will want to define what will constitute a quorum for the group. Defining a quorum means to decide what critical mass of members need to be present in order to vote on, or enact a decision.

Example language: “A regular meeting shall be held at least once each month during the academic year. A special meeting may be called by the Executive Committee or by a petition of ten percent (10%) of the voting membership.”

“A quorum shall be required at a meeting of the club in order to conduct official business of the club. A quorum shall consist of two-thirds (2/3) of the Executive Committee and a majority of the voting membership.”

Method of Amending the Constitution and By-laws

The constitution should state how the group’s constitution and by-laws are to be proposed, voted on, enacted and amended. Student groups that are local chapters of national organizations may adopt by-laws specific to their chapter that differ from the parent organization. Your group should state who can make an amendment to its constitution and the process by which a member makes this amendment. This section can include how amendments are voted on and passed.

Example language: “By-laws may be amended by proposing in writing and reading the change at a general meeting of the membership and then bring the proposed change up for a vote at the next general meeting where quorum is present. By-laws may be amended by a majority vote.

Constitution Review

All registered student groups are required to have a constitution that meets the minimum requirements. All registered student groups are required to submit a constitution to the Student Activities Office for review once every three academic years.

Each academic year during the annual re-registration process, one-third of all re-registering groups must submit their constitution for review to the Student Activities Office. Groups who do not submit a constitution that meets requirements may not complete registration and will lose access to benefits.

To know when a group will be required to submit a constitution for review, an officer can visit the group’s About page under “Manage Organization” in GopherLink. The “Constitution Review Year” field indicates when a group will be required to submit a constitution for review:

  • Set A groups are required to submit in academic years 2021-22, 2024-25, 2027-28
  • Set B groups are required to submit in academic years 2019-20, 2022-23, 2025-26
  • Set C groups are required to submit in academic years 2020-21, 2023-24, 2026-27

As groups make changes to their constitutions outside of the re-registration process, student activities advisors are available to review a constitution for requirements and best practices.