Constitutions / Bylaws

All Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) on campus must have their basic structure and method of operation in writing, as this is one of the primary requirements to becoming registered. Whether you call it a constitution, bylaws or something else, the operating document you submit with your registration materials will be reviewed by the Center for Leadership and Involvement to ensure that it meets the minimum requirements of the University (listed below). This information must also be provided to all current and potential members of your organization.

RSOs are required to submit a constitution/operating document every 3 years, unless the organization makes changes to the document within those 3 years.  If the changes are made, then the new document must be submitted to the Center for Leadership & Involvement using our "Change Request Form" in WIN.  The office has developed a constitution/operating document review rotation which is listed below.  Please note that ALL new student organizations registering with the office for the first time must submit this document when filling out the RSO application.  

Academic Year   Organizations Reviewed 
2016-2017  Dual Registration Organizations 
2017-2018 Organizations with names that start with A-L
2018-2019 Organizations with names that start with M-Z


 

Basic Information

Your Constitution/Bylaws must contain the following information:

  • The purpose/mission of your organization
  • Who can be a member and how to become a member
    • At least 75% of your organization must be made up of UW-Madison students
    • Note: when listing the Membership Requirements in your registration application, they must match what you state in your constitution
  • How do you make decisions in your student organization?
    • The organization must be controlled and directed by UW-Madison students
  • How are leaders selected?
  • What are the duties of the officers?
  • How often do you hold meetings?

 

Why Have a Constitution?

By definition an organization is a “body of persons organized for some specific purpose, as a club, union or society.” The process of writing a constitution will serve to clarify your purpose, delineate your basic structure, and provide the cornerstone for building an effective group. It will also allow members and potential members to have a better understanding of what the organization is all about and how it functions.
If you keep in mind the value of having a written document that clearly describes the basic framework of your organization, the drafting of the Constitution will be a much easier and more rewarding experience.

 

What Are Bylaws?

The Constitution covers the fundamental principles but does not prescribe specific procedures for operating your organization. Bylaws detail the procedures your group must follow to conduct business in an orderly manner. They provide further definition to the Articles of the Constitution and usually can be changed more easily as the needs of the organization change.

 


 

Example Constitution Format

The following is a recommended format to help organize your student organization’s Constitution/Bylaws. Examples are provided from various RSOs on campus. All Starred sections (*) are requirements!

1. (*)Purpose/Mission:

A brief description of your organization’s fundamental purpose. A mission statement answers the question, "Why do we exist?" For Purpose/Mission examples, click here.

 

2. (*)Membership Criteria:

What are the requirements for students to join your organization? For Membership Criteria examples, click here.

  • (*)At least 75% of your members have to be UW-Madison students.
  • Possible criteria could include:
    • Financial commitment (dues)
    • Interest in a specific area
    • GPA
    • Year in school
    • Major
  • (*)If you choose to include a Non-Discrimination clause, it must match with the UW-System policy.

 

3. (*)Leadership/Elections:

For Leadership/Elections examples, click here.

  • (*)Officers must be UW-Madison students
  • (*)The four student contacts you provide must be enrolled at least ½ time (6 credits for undergraduates and 3 for graduate students)
  • (*)Must include information regarding leadership selection process (How will you pick your leaders/positions? By election, by appointment?)
  • It is also a good idea to include information regarding:
    • What are the requirements to become an officer?
    • Roles and duties of each officer (i.e. President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary)

 

4. (*)Decision Making:

For Decision Making examples, click here.

  • (*)How will you make decisions?
    • Based on a quorum? (a number of members present in order to vote or make decisions, usually 2/3 of present members)
    • Simple majority?
  • (*)Must state that all decisions are made by students.
  • It is also a good idea to include information regarding:
    • Will you use the Election feature on your group’s WIN page?
    • Will you hold your elections in person?
    • Do the members have to be in good standing in order to vote?

 

5. Additional Sections:

For Additional Sections examples, click here.

  • What is your dissolution policy? (What will happen to the organization’s funds if the group decides to disperse?) For a sample, click here.
  • Process of removing officers or members
  • It is also a good idea to include information regarding:
    • How will you handle money, fundraising, fines, etc.?
    • What will be the attendance requirements?
    • Process for determining meeting structure in your organization
    • What will the amendment process look like for the constitution/bylaws?

 


 

Sample RSO Constitutions/Bylaws

Aspiring Nurses Association
Public Relations Student Society of America
Badger Aviators
Ballroom Dance Association, UW-Madison
Student Leadership Program

 

If you would like assistance setting up your constitution, bylaws or operating procedures, please call or stop by CfLI (608) 263-0365 or cfli@studentlife.wisc.edu.