How to Write a Constitution

Student group constitutions do not have to be long-winded, Victorian-style proclamations. Groups get clearer direction from short, uncomplicated constitutions that give general guidelines than they do from constitutions cluttered with specific rules for every conceivable circumstance.

The following outline listed below is intended as a suggested format for a constitution, although the governing body and office under which you seek recognition may require additional terms or stipulations in your constitution.


The preamble should introduce the rest of the document in no more than two or three sentences. It should state the reasons for, and intent of, the group and the Constitution.

Article I - Name

Section 1. The name of this organization shall be (insert full name of organization), hereafter referred to as "(shortened name as it will appear in the Constitution)."
Section 2. The officers of (name) shall make up the Executive Board of (name), hereafter referred to as the ‘Board’.

Article II - Purpose

Section 1. The purpose of this organization shall be (short definition of group’s purpose).
Section 2. The Executive Board shall (purpose of the Executive Board).

Article III - Membership

Section 1. The general body of the organization must be comprised of at least two-thirds Columbia College and Columbia Engineering students. The specific requirements for membership are (list requirements).
Section 2. The privileges and responsibilities of membership are (insert).
Section 3. Membership may be revoked (by whom and by what procedure) due to (criteria).
Generally, membership is open to all full-time students from the three undergraduate schools. If there are restrictions based on classes, schools, or academic disciplines, they should be noted.

Note: Columbia University policy requires that there be no arbitrary exclusion from membership on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, or disability.

Article IV - Meetings and Procedures

Section 1. Indicate how often regularly scheduled meetings are held and who has authority to call meetings.
Section 2. Indicate how policy decisions are made and how formal votes are carried out.

Article IV - Officers

Section 1. The organization shall have the following officers... (Indicate methods of nomination and election, and who is eligible to hold office.)
Section 2. The duties of these officers shall be...
Section 3. Indicate lengths of terms of office and term limitations.
Section 4. Only members who are undergraduate students in Columbia College or Columbia Engineering may hold the position of president or treasurer. If an organization is also recognized by the Barnard Student Government Association, undergraduate students in Barnard College may hold the position of president or treasurer. No single member may be both the president and treasurer simultaneously.

Article VI - Electing, Appointing and Removing Officers

Section 1. Organizational elections must take place at least once per year. (Insert other general election rules. Specific election rules should be placed in the by-laws.)
Section 2. Insert general appointment procedures for appointing officers. Specific appointment procedures should be placed in the by-laws.
Section 3. The members of the Board may be impeached and removed by the membership. (List grounds for impeachment and removal. Insert impeachment and removal procedures.)
Section 4. In the event of a mid-term vacancy of an elected officer… (Insert procedure for temporary and/or permanent replacement).

Article VII - Committees

Section 1. The standing committees of this organization shall be… (List all standing committees).
Section 2. The duties of each of these standing committees shall be...
Section 3. Insert how committee members will be selected and removed.
Section 4. Additional committees may be formed and dissolved by the organization (State the procedures for adding and removing committees).

Article VIII - By-Laws

Section 1. By-laws of the organization shall be established and altered by… (Insert procedures for adding and altering organization’s by-laws).
Section 2. By-laws of the Board shall be established and altered by… (Insert procedures for adding and altering by-laws of the Board).

Article IX - Amendments to the Constitution

State how amendments are to be proposed and by whom, and what vote is required to adopt an amendment; two-thirds of the voting membership is the norm.

Article X - Ratification

This constitution shall be established by a vote of a (insert fraction; three-fourths is recommended) majority of the membership of the organization.

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