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Petition On Membership Categories & Requirements

by D. Richard Cobb, Chair, Membership Affairs Committee
September 22, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 38

On the election ballots, scheduled to be mailed on Sept. 29, ACS members will have the opportunity to ratify the constitutional amendments brought about by the Petition on Membership Categories & Requirements (, click “Petitions”). As the chair of the Membership Affairs Committee, I occasionally get questions about the petition. For example, I am asked that if the petition is ratified ...

» Can anyone be a member of ACS?

» Will student members pay higher dues?

» Will student chapters be eliminated?

» Can student members become councilors?

» Will graduate students pay higher dues?

The answer to all of these questions is no. The petition does welcome undergraduate students, now known as student affiliates, to be student members. The petition also helps to bring the society’s membership admissions policies into this multidisciplinary age of chemistry. However, there are still admissions guidelines in place, and not just anyone can be a member.

For several years now, the ACS Task Forces on Governance Review and Multidisciplinarity have taken up the issue of the inclusion into ACS membership of chemists or scientists who have overlapping skills, interests, experience, and education in other disciplines. These task forces correctly identified that current ACS membership admissions policies do not recognize the growing number of academic degrees in new, multidisciplinary sciences. The petition aims to remove membership barriers for this group of scientists.

Also on the advice of the task forces, the petition, if ratified, would elevate associate members to regular membership. This means that chemical technicians, precollege teachers, and others who do not yet have the required number of years of work experience under the current constitution and bylaws could be regular ACS members.

If the amendments are ratified, the new regular membership requirements would admit to ACS membership those with an associate’s, bachelor’s, or higher degree in chemistry or a related field of natural science, engineering, technology, or science education. Current society documents now require additional work experience and/or supplementary application documentation from scientists without a chemistry degree.

Currently, undergraduate students are not members, but rather affiliates. If ratified, the petition will allow a person actively working toward a degree in chemistry to be counted as a member of the society, thus increasing membership and recognizing students as members, just as many boutique associations and ACS sister societies do now. This provides a seamless transition to full membership. Most student affiliates already think of themselves as members, only to realize later that the years that they belonged to ACS as a student affiliate do not count in their years of service toward retired or emeritus membership status.

The petition would also change the student affiliate category label to student member for individuals working toward an undergraduate degree in chemistry or related field. Student members would be eligible for a five-sixths discount on member dues. Currently, based on 2008 dues, this would mean that student members would pay $23 with access to C&EN Online and $38 with the print version of C&EN. The petition does not make any other change in dues structure. The petition grants student members all the rights of membership except those of holding national office. Student members would have the right to vote in national ACS elections. Student members would not serve as councilor or alternate councilor.

Divisions and local sections would have the option of allowing, but would not be required to allow, student members to serve as officers in the division or local section. Divisions and local sections would themselves decide whether or not to waive or discount their dues for student members.

There will continue to be student chapters and their associated activities on college and university campuses led by faculty advisers. The members of these groups will be ACS student members rather than student affiliates.

Graduate students are now, and will continue to be, regular members of the society and receive a 50% student discount on their membership dues. The petition will have no impact on the dues discounts.

Because of the complexity around this petition, the Membership Affairs Committee has offered many sessions to answer all questions posed by members. I urge you to pay very close attention to the facts leading to this important vote. If you have further questions, please contact me at This vote is extremely important as it can pave the way for a more expansive, inclusive, and sustainable society.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.



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