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Committee reviews petition and bylaw changes

by V. Dean Adams, Chair, ACS Committee on Constitution and Bylaws
March 23, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 12


Photo of V. Dean Adams.
Credit: Utah State University
V. Dean Adams

At the spring American Chemical Society national meeting in Orlando, Florida, the ACS Council will vote on a petition to revise the society’s governing documents. If enacted after additional approvals by the board of directors and ACS members, the proposed revision would be the most significant change to the society’s constitution, bylaws, and other governing documents since 1948.

Although the petition, if passed, would have little or no effect on the governance of local sections, divisions, and international chemical sciences chapters, it would streamline the governance of ACS at the national level.

Many ACS members are understandably curious about this petition. While the Committee on Constitution and Bylaws (C&B), a standing committee of the council, takes no position on the pending petition, it has played a significant role in reviewing the petition.

The petition has been in the making for more than two years. Seeing a need to reexamine the society’s governing documents, the board of directors and the Council Policy Committee created a joint Task Force on Governance Design in the fall of 2016. The task force collected input from across ACS, gathering suggestions from many constituencies within the society. Members of the task force, including a smaller working group, met with many committees, including C&B, throughout 2017 and 2018 and sought input from all ACS committees and many ACS members.

Petitioners submitted the “Petition to Streamline the ACS Governing Documents” in the spring of 2018. Accordingly, the petition was up for consideration by the council at the 2018 ACS fall national meeting in Boston. The petition makes no substantive changes to ACS governance but strives to improve governance’s agility by simplifying the governing documents. The petition would move provisions from the constitution to the bylaws and from the bylaws to standing rules. Any subsequent changes to the constitution and bylaws would follow the current process. Changes to the standing rules will need to be approved by the council and confirmed by the board of directors, as is done for the bylaws.

Each petition is usually assigned to a C&B subcommittee for review and comments. In this case, however, because of the complexity of this petition, all subcommittees of C&B were assigned to review this enormous petition. C&B painstakingly reviewed the petition to ensure consistency, clarity, and form. After this effort, C&B met with representatives of the petitioners, who agreed to C&B’s suggested changes. The final version of the petition, and the version with changes made by C&B, can be found at

If enacted . . . the proposed revision would be the most significant change to the society’s constitution, bylaws, and other governing documents since 1948.

In addition to reviewing petitions, C&B (1) reviews proposed bylaw changes from ACS’s units: local sections, divisions, and international chemical sciences chapters, (2) certifies the unit’s bylaws if they are consistent with the ACS Governing Documents (Bulletin 5) and if the necessary information is sent to C&B before the required deadline, (3) ensures that C&B’s model bylaws for these units are consistent with the ACS Governing Documents, and (4) as necessary, works with appropriate committees to make changes to the model bylaws.

Last year, C&B notified 70 units (63 local sections and seven divisions), urging them to update their bylaws, many of which have not been updated in decades. These bylaws are important; they are the rules and regulations governing the units’ officers and executive committees, and they dictate how the units conduct their business, including elections. According to some of these out-of-date bylaws, local sections and divisions must still conduct their elections by US mail.

The certified versions of all bylaws, along with their dates of certification, can be found at under “Unit Bylaws.”


If you are interested in petitioning to change the ACS Governing Documents, you must do so in compliance with requirements and also the deadlines that are prescribed in the society’s bylaws. All petitions must be submitted at least 16 weeks before the council meeting. The next deadline is May 9 for petitions to be considered by the council at the fall national meeting. Any such petitions would then be up for action and voted on by the council at the spring 2020 ACS national meeting.

C&B recommends that before petitioners formally submit a petition, they send a draft to C&B, which will check that the proposed petition is consistent with the ACS Governing Documents and meets the intent of the petitioners.

If you are a councilor and interested in learning about and helping shape the governance of the society and giving input to petitions to modify the ACS Governing Documents and unit bylaws, you should consider joining C&B. This committee meets all day Sunday and also holds an open meeting Sunday afternoon during ACS national meetings. If you would like to meet with C&B or contact us with your questions, email or, or call 202-872-4071.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.


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