For the past several years, the American Chemical Society Committee on Constitution & Bylaws (C&B) has worked diligently to demystify the process of amending bylaws. If you have not updated your bylaws recently, we urge you to do so because your bylaws are the rules and regulations about your officers and executive committee and how your unit conducts its business, including elections.
I have been a member of C&B since 2007 and have been honored to be its chair since 2014. I am happy to report that in late 2016, C&B modified the options to update bylaws for divisions, local sections, and international chemical sciences chapters, all known as units. These options are fast and easy, unless you prefer to customize your unit bylaws with special provisions.
In the past six years, C&B certified between 16 and 29 unit bylaws each year. Previously, the average number of bylaws certified per year was 13. The turnaround time from when we received proposed bylaws used to be three to four months; it now takes two to three weeks.
Options to update bylaws are available at www.acs.org/bulletin5; under Unit BYLAWS, click on OPTIONS to AMEND your bylaws. Choose whether you want to respond to the questions document, which gives default answers, or use the model bylaws, which are populated with the default answers from the questions document.
Officers of many of the units feel more comfortable starting with the model bylaws, wherein you have flexibility because you can modify the optional text, but the most common options are suggested. We recommend that you refer to the questions document for available options. Also, if there are any provisions in the unit’s current bylaws that you would like to include in the proposed bylaws, let us know and we will check to see if the wording is consistent with the ACS governing documents.
If you wish, we will still do in-depth bylaw reviews for those units that want to fully customize their bylaws by using their existing bylaws as the basis for changes; required text from the model bylaws must be included. While this approach may require more work for the units and will likely take much longer for C&B to review, we do not want to prevent any unit from tailoring its bylaws as it sees fit. Our goal is to make sure the unit bylaws are internally consistent and consistent with the ACS governing documents and that the text is consistent with how the units wish to conduct their business.
If you use either of the two easy options mentioned above and don’t have any substantive changes other than optional text that is available, see “Next steps” below. If you’d like to discuss your proposed bylaws or any of the documents and/or options, C&B is available and happy to assist you.
Next steps: Send your proposed bylaws or the completed questions document to C&B. The committee will let you know when your bylaws are ready for a vote. Your members must vote on the proposed amendments in accordance with the unit’s current bylaws, for which the certified version is available online as a PDF; contact C&B if you would like a Word document of your current bylaws.
After your members vote, the unit’s chair or secretary will need to e-mail C&B the following required information so C&B can prepare its final report and certify the unit’s bylaws: a) the date the announcement was sent to members to vote on the bylaw amendments; b) the results of the vote, including a statement that the vote passed in accordance with your current bylaws (for example, by two-thirds of the members voting); and c) a statement that all requirements for voting on the proposed bylaws have been followed in accordance with the current bylaws.
Depending on the number of bylaws in the queue for reviewing or certifying, we try to certify bylaws within two to three weeks from the date that your chair or secretary sends the vote results and other required information and documents.
Ten divisions have not updated their bylaws since 2010, and 89 local sections have not updated their bylaws since 2010; of these, 27 sections have bylaws certified in the 1970s. If your elections were conducted using electronic balloting and if this is not permitted by your bylaws, your elections might be invalid. It’s now easier than ever to update your bylaws.
C&B is a standing committee of the ACS Council , for which only councilors may serve. If you are a councilor and interested in learning about and helping shape the governance of the society and giving input to bylaws, 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, normally held Sunday afternoon during ACS national meetings.
Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.