Student Unions & Activities : University of Minnesota

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Constitution Writing Guide and Requirements

Student Activities Advisors can help you through the process of creating or changing your group's constitution. Stop by 126 Coffman Union, 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.

Constitution and By-Laws Instructions

By registering with Student Unions & Activities, your group is agreeing to abide by all University of Minnesota policies, including policies governing activities, events and other operations on the Twin Cities Campus. View additional policies regarding student group registration.

There are seven required topics for your group’s constitution. There are several recommended topics. 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.

Student Unions & Activities will approve constitutions that contain, at a minimum, the following 7 items.

Official name of the group
This needs to be stated in your constitution as you will want it to appear on all directories, lists and promotional material used on campus. Student Group Names must be in accordance with the policies listed here.

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

Nonprofit Group
You will need to state that your group will operate as a nonprofit. 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).

Example language: “The organization will act as a non-profit group. No individual members will profit as a result of any revenue the group generates”

University of Minnesota Policy
Student groups must comply with all University policies and procedures, as well as local, state, and federal laws and regulations. This includes, but is not limited to, the Board of Regents Policy on Diversity, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action as they relate 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 needs to include a statement about your group’s responsibility to operate in accordance with these policies.

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

Membership
Your constitution must define whom your membership is open to. Your rules regarding membership must be consistent with the provisions of Student Unions & Activities policy. 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.

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 (?) of the voting membership shall consist of those who are not currently registered students at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus.”

Officers
Your constitution needs to state that all officers must be currently enrolled students at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and registered for at least six credits, as defined by student group policy. Officers should also be 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. 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. Your constitution should also define any officer’s roles and responsibilities as well as qualifications and election procedures, as covered later in this document.

Example language: “All officers must be current enrolled students at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and registered for at least six (6) credits. 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."

Dissolution of Group
Your constitution must state any procedures to be followed if the group is to be dissolved. 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. An individual or for-profit organization cannot be the recipient of any remaining funds. Because Campus Life Programs are part of the University, your constitution must state that any funds remaining at the time of dissolution shall be returned to the University department that sponsored your group.

Example language: “Unless otherwise specified by the membership at the time of dissolution of the organization, residual assets shall be distributed to the following organizations according to the proportions below…”

Ratification
The constitution must include the date it was ratified (adopted by the group). With this, must be the printed names and handwritten signatures of at least five (5) officers of the group at the time it was ratified or amended. Electronic signatures are not accepted.

In addition to the above items, the following topics are recommended to be covered in your group’s constitution and by-laws.

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.

Affiliation
Groups that are directly affiliated with national, regional or other organizations outside the University should outline that relationship in your constitution. This would also be an appropriate time to mention how your chapter, or specific local group, adheres to, or differs from, your parent organization’s constitution and by-laws.

Group Leadership
The group will want to state in the constitution or by-laws; how to become an officer, the various titles to be held, the selection process for these positions and the duties of these leaders. Include information about pre-requisites for each position – “the positions of President and Vice-President shall be selected from a pool of officers who have at least one year of previous board experience with [this] student group.” Each group must have at least five officers registered with Student Unions & Activities who perform the major operations of your group, from reserving space on campus to communicating with University staff. These do not need to be the only leadership positions within your group. For this reason you may want to elaborate on each position’s roles and responsibilities.

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

Voting Procedures
Your constitution could 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. Example language, “Decisions of the club shall be enacted by a majority vote, consisting of 50% of the voting membership plus one,” or “A vote of member impeachment will be enacted by a 2/3 majority vote of the voting membership.” Your constitution should also consider what voting methods will be used. For example, voting for the organization shall be conducted by an objective third party, such as, but not limited to, Student Unions & Activities. Voting for student group officers will take place during the eleventh week of Spring Semester and last for at least 5 business days.

Committees
Similar to officers, you could 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.

Meetings of the Group
The group could 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 quorum shall be present in order to conduct official business of the group. A quorum shall consist of 50% of the voting membership plus one.”

Method of Amending the Constitution and By-laws
The constitution could 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 simple majority vote.”

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