Published 21st September 2019
- Write a Constitution
- Sample Constitution
- Example Constitutions
- Getting a Faculty Advisor
- Utilising the Student Union
- More Information on Starting a Uni Group
Write a Constitution
Universities generally require student groups seeking recognition (in order to use the school name, receive funding, etc.) to submit a formal constitution. This is meant to give long-term structure to the group by formally specifying its purpose, leadership, scope, and decision-making process. However, it can be difficult to write a formal constitution if you’re just getting started because you don’t really know how your group will function yet. We recommend, when starting out, not to worry too much about a constitution that’s good—just submit something that fits the school’s requirements. It’s perfectly valid to come back and change it later.
You’ll need to find your school’s requirements. Most schools publish their own unique list of requirements that submitted constitutions must fulfil. This can generally be found online on the website of the Student Union, or whatever part of the university administers clubs. (The fastest way to find them is generally to Google “[university name] student group constitution”.) LEAN has written an example constitution below, which hopefully can be quickly edited to align it with your institution’s requirements.
The requirements list will generally specify some of these three things:
A required format – for example, Article 1: Name, Article 2: Statement of Purpose, etc.
Information that is required to be in these articles. We’ve tried to make our sample articles below fairly inclusive; however, there will inevitably be requirements our example does not cover. Go ahead and write these out yourself.
Required passages – for example, UC Berkeley requires all groups to state that “We will not haze according to California State Law.” Required passages can be copied and pasted from the requirements list onto the constitution in the appropriate place.
If your school doesn’t have any specific requirements for constitutions, that’s great news! You can just copy and paste the sample constitution, provided below, and submit it.
We’ve written a sample constitution as an example of the style and substance many universities desire. This will almost certainly not fulfil your institution’s requirements; but it is a good place to start. This is just an example; if you wish to write your own constitution, go for it!
EFFECTIVE ALTRUISM [Name of Uni] CONSTITUTION
Article 1: Name
The name of the Society shall be “Effective Altruism [Name of Uni]”.
Article 2: Statement of Purpose
Effective Altruism [Name of Uni] aims to promote effective altruism in all its forms, including encouraging increased charitable donations and the idea of cost-effectiveness in charitable giving, and the idea of using one’s career to improve the world. Effective Altruism [Name of Uni] will explain the ideas of effective altruism and provide support to our members on how to put those ideas into practice.
Article 3: Criteria for Membership
- Effective Altruism [Name of Uni] is open to all members of the University.
- Community members and students from other schools are always welcome at all Effective Altruism [Name of Uni] events, unless otherwise specified.
- Members of Effective Altruism [Name of Uni] will be considered for expulsion if they create a disruptive environment for other members. Prior to expulsion, the member will receive an explicit verbal warning and an additional explicit electronic or written warning. The individual in question will have one final opportunity to appeal to the Executive Committee before expulsion.
Article 4: Structure and Duties of the Executive Board
- The Executive Board shall consist of the following officers: President, Treasurer, and Secretary, which shall normally be elected at the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
- Any other officer positions may be created and removed at the discretion of the President.
- The President may represent the organisation, conduct Executive Board and general meetings, assign duties to and supervise officers, schedule and plan elections, and chart a vision for the organisation.
- The Treasurer may maintain the account of the organisation, work with the Board and membership to determine budgets, apply for available funding, pay bills of the organisation when receipts for expenditures are turned in, submit quarterly reports to the membership, coordinate fundraising, and disburse monies as the organisation may direct.
- The Secretary may maintain a yearly calendar of activities and goals, keep minutes of meetings, give written notice to all members of meetings and the agenda to be covered, issue press releases when deemed appropriate by the Board, maintain the Effective Altruism [Name of Uni] email list, and tally votes during any voting procedure.
Article 5: Election and Removal of Officers
- Any members of the organisation who show demonstrated commitment are eligible for candidacy.
- Officers may only hold one position at a time. There is no term limit.
- All officers shall serve for a term of one year. Elections for the officers of the forthcoming year will take place before the end of the academic year.
- The candidate for each office receiving a simple majority of votes cast at the election will be considered the victor. In the event that no candidate receives a simple majority, a run-off shall be held between the two candidates who obtained the most votes.
Article 6: Dissolution
- The Society may be dissolved at a General Meeting provided that written notice of at least 21 days of the intention to dissolve the Society has been given to the members. Dissolution of Effective Altruism [Name of Uni] shall be decided by consensus.
- In case of dissolution, all funds and property shall be transferred to another Registered University Society, or to the Office of Student Affairs.
Article 7: Amendment
- Amendments can be proposed by any member of the organisation.
- At least one week prior to any vote, the Secretary must distribute a copy of the proposed amendment to all members.
- A majority vote shall be required to amend this Constitution.
Getting a Faculty Advisor
Some universities require clubs to have a faculty member act as an advisor for groups. If you or your co-organisers have a good relationship with a professor, ask them first. Otherwise, try professors of related topics such as philosophy, global development, and economics. Start by emailing them, stating that you’d like to start an effective altruism club (with a brief description of what effective altruism is), and ask for an in-person meeting. At the meeting, make it clear what you want them to do (it might just be to sign some documents). Have your EA pitch sorted out and be ready to explain what your group will do. If possible, bring a brochure about EA.
Utilising the Student Union
- Get a copy of any booklet that the Student Union produces for clubs.
- Find out what resources are available to you, for instance:
- Rooms to meet in
- Tables and chairs for publicity events
- AV equipment
- Printing and copying
- Permanent email address for your group
- See if there are any events and/or awareness-raising weeks organised by Student Affairs, which you might be able to partner with (e.g. One World Week, RAG week). You may be able to get free publicity and resources through these.
- Find out if there is a contact list for other groups. Get in touch with like-minded groups and check their meeting and event times. You may want to attend events to meet people and casually recruit members, or you may want to team up with them for certain activities and events.
- Check what sources of funding/grants are available for student groups.
- Check if there are any committees on which it would be useful for your group to have input (e.g. campaigns, student activities, clubs and societies, or any that determine the distribution of funds). If so, consider encouraging members of your group to run for election to them.
More on Starting a Uni Group
For general tips on starting a uni group check out this guide from the Secular Students Alliance, which has good advice particularly for North American uni groups.
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