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Is C&B In Your Future?

by James C. Carver, Chair, Committee On Constitution & Bylaws
January 11, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 2

Credit: Gremillion Photography
Photo of a James Carver.
Credit: Gremillion Photography

As most of you know, the Committee on Constitution & Bylaws (C&B) is tasked with reviewing amendments to the American Chemical Society’s governing documents (Bulletin 5) and to unit bylaws. I joined C&B as an associate member in 2006 and have been a full committee member since 2007. I was honored to be appointed chair of C&B in 2014. Since 2006, there have been a lot of changes to the ACS governing documents ( C&B has reviewed and certified a number of unit bylaws as requested by divisions, local sections, and international chemical sciences chapters. In 2015, C&B certified 29 bylaws, the most certified in any year, of which five were certified under an expedited process.

C&B has attempted over the past several years to simplify amending unit bylaws. In 2014, we provided standardized, preapproved bylaws, for which the unit’s members must still vote in accordance with current bylaws. C&B can then quickly certify the bylaws. The committee also developed templates for units that want more flexibility to customize their bylaws, which is limited under the expedited process. Of course, we will still do in-depth bylaw reviews for those units that want to fully customize their bylaws or amend their existing bylaws. But that process is a lot more work for the units and takes much longer for C&B to review. Our goal is to make sure the unit bylaws are internally consistent, include required text for consistency with Bulletin 5, and are consistent with how the units wish to conduct their business. In other words, the bylaws should be worded how the unit wishes, except that they must include certain required text.

As I reported at the ACS Council meeting in Boston, certified bylaws and a status report are posted on the ACS website ( so that everyone can see how long it’s been since your local section or division has ­updated its bylaws. Seventy-three local sections and three divisions have not updated their ­bylaws since 2000. These and many ­other local sections and divisions should be concerned about the validity of their elections if they conduct electronic balloting, which may not be authorized in their bylaws. We urge you to contact us at to learn how easy it is to update your bylaws. Keep in mind that your bylaws are the rules and regulations for how your unit conducts its elections and other ­business.

During the past few years, C&B has been honing charter bylaws for new local sections and international chemical sciences chapters. In addition, we have formulated bylaws for divisions in probationary status. We hope to have these bylaws reviewed by the appropriate committees at the next ACS national meeting in San Diego and approved by council in Philadelphia.

C&B also reviews petitions that are submitted to propose changes to the society’s constitution and bylaws ( As necessary, the committee suggests revisions, mostly to ensure that the petitioners’ language is written in a way that meets their intent and that does not cause unintended issues with respect to Bulletin 5. We received one petition by the Nov. 25, 2015, deadline; a petition to extend the unemployed members’ dues waiver will be up for consideration by the ACS Council in San Diego.

C&B is a standing committee of the council, which means that only councilors are eligible to serve on it. Although C&B is neutral on issues in petitions, C&B gains firsthand knowledge of proposed changes and works with other ACS committees and members to clarify and improve Bulletin 5. Thus, C&B is a good committee for a new councilor who wishes to learn about the inner workings of the society, as well as for more seasoned councilors who want to put their experience and knowledge of governance to work for the society.

One misconception about C&B is that you need to be a lawyer to serve—you don’t. C&B is made up of different types of councilors: those who like to edit, those with good grammar skills, those who see the big picture, and those who have knowledge of the way ACS works. Our committee members function as a team. It helps if you have some knowledge and interest in the society’s governance structure.

If you’re a councilor and interested in learning about and helping shape the governance of the society, you should consider joining C&B, which meets on Sunday during ACS national meetings. Others are most welcome to attend the committee’s open meetings, which are typically held Sunday afternoon during ACS national meetings.

For more information about C&B and your bylaws, contact us at either or, or call (202) 872-4071.

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



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