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Sample Constitution

Why Have a Constitution?

Constitutions/Bi-Laws serve many purposes for student organizations by helping student groups determine various student organizational practices, providing guidance to student officers when making changes, outlining election processes and community standards and even educating its members on other.  This document serves as guide to build organizational culture within a community but also provides transparency to current and prospective members.  All Vanderbilt RSO must have a constitution that is open and available for viewing in Anchor Link.

Important Language To Use In Constitution

In light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the SFFA case regarding race conscious admissions, The University wants to ensure that all programs and organizations are operating consistently with the Court’s ruling and interpretation of the law. As part of that effort, we are providing guidance to student organizations so that they can continue to carry out their stated purposes, while also being consistent with the Court’s ruling.

As such, it is essential that governing documents, policies, practices, and organization descriptions make it clear that membership and participation are not contingent upon any prohibited characteristic. The University would like to reiterate that we are committed to diversity, inclusion, and belonging and will continue to support these efforts and our student organizations. We have provided some examples of language and practices that align with diversity-oriented missions and the new legal landscape.

Examples of permitted descriptions, purposes, and membership policies:


  • To promote awareness of [Insert Issue] within the University, the local community, and beyond, to foster a campus community more inclusive to [Insert Group(s)]. [Insert Organization] strives to [Insert Goal(s)] regarding [Insert Issue(s)], [Insert how Organization will accomplish this]
  • To foster a community between [Insert Group(s)] members of the Vanderbilt community and others who share an interest in the [Insert Descriptor(s)] culture and identity.
  • The goals of the [Insert Organization] are to promote [Insert Issue(s)] of the [Insert Group(s)] amongst its members and the Vanderbilt Community at large; to provide strong links among the [Insert Group(s)] and the Faculty at Vanderbilt; and to keep the Vanderbilt Community informed on events and issues that affect the [Insert Descriptor(s)]. All these goals shall be accomplished through [Insert how Organization will accomplish this].


  • Membership shall be open to all those whose interests coincide and reflect those of this Association.
  • [Insert Org. Name] will be open to anyone within the Vanderbilt community (students, faculty, staff, and Alumni) who wishes to advance and share the purposes of this organization.
  • Membership is open to all Vanderbilt students with at least a [Insert GPA] GPA and who are interested in the goals of the [Insert Organization] upon approval of membership requirements.

Other Notes:

  • Please do not describe your organization as “group of [race, ethnicity, sex, or religion] who…” This language suggests that membership is exclusive to those who identify as being a member of the previously mentioned categories. Instead, you may describe membership as “students who are committed to/have demonstrated commitment to the purpose/community of the organization.”
  • Be explicit that application or membership is open to all who support the organization’s mission.
  • Clearly articulate membership requirements and how potential members will be selected.
  • Ensure that selectivity is not based on racial, ethnic, sex, or religion but rather clear, unbiased, and objective criteria.

Accessibility Inclusivity Clause

RSOs must include the Accessibility Inclusivity Clause in the membership section of their constitution:

Student organizations are responsible for promoting inclusivity and accessibility for all events and meetings on campus. For accommodation requests for an event, members of the organization will alert the appropriate board members or advisors of necessary accommodations at least two weeks (recommended) before the event. Student organization officers are never allowed to ask students for medical documentation.

Never discriminate against other people based on perceived or actual disability, as is outlined in the university’s “Equal Opportunity” policy. Ensure that event and meeting circumstances don’t exclude students merely based on a lack of access. If there is a continuous or significant accommodation need at events/meetings, please consult with your advisor to discuss partnering with Student Access. 

All extracurriculars at this university must ensure that there are efforts made to acknowledge all reasonable accommodations from students. Violations of this clause can be filed with Student Access.

Failure to include this language will delay RSO Registration approval.

Basic Constitution Structure

Constitution and By-laws
Any organization must have some procedures by which to conduct its business. A Constitution
and By-laws are effective ways of establishing those procedures. The Constitution and By-laws
traditionally are two separate documents. The Constitution sets forth the general principles
creating the organization, and membership and officer responsibility. The By-laws contain in
more detail the procedures to be followed for meetings, decision making, officer selection, and
financial transactions.

Generally, recognized student organizations are of a size that calls only for a Constitution. The
following is a suggested outline for information to be included in a Constitution:

Article I: The name of the organization.

Article II: The purpose of the organization.

Article III: The membership of the organization including (1) categories of membership such as
“active” or “associate,” with rights and privileges of each; (2) qualifications and eligibility
including provisions for application, acceptance, and termination, and (3) membership dues and
collection procedures.

Article IV: The officers of the organization (specifying each office, including the adviser), their
responsibilities and authority, term of office and procedures for election, removal, and filling of

Article V: The meetings of the organization including (1) the time for regularly scheduled
meetings, (2) procedures for calling special meetings, (3) required notice of meetings, and (4)
quorum, order of business, and disposition of minutes.

Article VI: The administrative board, cabinet, or executive council of the organization which
may be entrusted with any administrative authority and responsibilities.

Article VII: The committees of the organization including the process of appointment,
responsibilities, and reporting.

Article VIII: The parliamentary practice to which questions will be referred.

Article IX: The procedure for amendments including advance notifications, number of readings,
and required vote for adoption.