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Full text of "SDS Constitution"

Constitution 

(Adopted by the National Convention, June 1962, with major later 
additions and deletions noted.) 
Preamble : 

Students for a Democratic Society is an association of young people on 
the left. It seeks to create a sustained community of educational and 
political concern: one bringing together liberals and radicals, 
activists and scholars, students and faculty. 

It maintains a vision of a democratic society, where at all levels the 
people have control of the decisions which affect them and the 
resources on which they are dependent. It seeks a relevance through the 
continual focus on realities and on the programs necessary to effect 
change at the most basic levels of economic, political, and social 
organization. It feels the urgency to put forth a radical, democratic 
program counterposed to authoritarian movements both of Communism and 
the domestic Right. [From 1955, "program whose methods embody the 
democratic vision."] 
Article I : Name 

The name of the organization shall be Students for a Democratic 
Society . 

[Article II: Affiliation (Dropped, 1966) 

The Students for a Democratic Society shall be affiliated with the 
League for Industrial Democracy, Inc., a tax-exempt educational 
foundation concerned with the extension of democracy into all areas of 
social, political, and economic life.] 
Article III: Membership 

Section 1. Membership is open to students, faculty and others who share 
the commitment of the organization to democracy as a means and as a 
social goal. 

Section 2. SDS is an organization of democrats. It is civil libertarian 
in its treatment of those with whom it disagrees, but clear in its 
opposition to any totalitarian principle as a basis for government or 
social organization. Advocates or apologists for such a principle are 
not eligible for membership. [From 1965, "to any anti-democratic 
principle as a basis for governmental, social, or political 
organization . " } 

Section 3. Dues. There shall be a national initiation of one dollar, 
supplemented by periodic dues, the amount and period of which shall be 
determined by the National Council. [From 1965, amount not specified.] 
Section 4. Associates. Individuals who do not wish to join the SDS, but 
who share the major concerns of the organization, may become associates 
with rights and responsibilities as denned by the National Council. 
Article IV: Chapters and Affiliates 

Section I. Any group of five or more members may apply to the National 
Executive Committee [from 1963, "National Office"} for a charter as a 
chapter . 

Section 2. A chapter may be chartered at any meeting of the National 
Council on recommendation of the National Executive Committee. It must 
be considered for chartering at the first meeting of the National 
Council after it has submitted a membership list, a constitution or 
statement of principles, and notification of elected National Council 
representative to the National Executive Committee. In the period 
between submission of the reguired information to the national office 
and the next National Council meeting, the chapter may be given a 
provisional charter at the discretion of the President. [From 1966, "A 
chapter may be chartered by the regional council of the area in which 
it is organized, or by the National Council. The chapter shall submit a 



membership list, a constitution or statement of principles, and 
notification of officers or regional representatives. Chapters may be 
provisionally recognized by the President or appropriate regional 
officer pending the meeting of the National Council or regional council 
respectively . " ] 

Section 3. Chapters are expected to operate within the broad terms of 
policy set by the National Convention and the National Council. Points 
of conflict should be referred to the National Council and a procedure 
established to make the issue public to the organization. In matters 
judged to be detrimental to the interests of the organization, the 
National Council shall have the power to cease whatever activity that 
has been brought into guestion. The matter shall be finally resolved by 
the National Council in meeting or referendum. 

Section 4. Associated Groups. Independent groups can affiliate as 
associates of SDS by vote of their membership and designation of a 
liaison representative to sit on the National Council with consultative 
vote. The representative shall be a member of SDS. Such association is 
provisional until the approval of the National Council. The form of the 
relationship shall be worked out in each case between the group and the 
National Council. 

Section 5. Fraternal Organizations. National or regional organizations 
whose programs and purposes are consistent with the broad aims and 
principles of SDS can be invited by the National Council to be 
fraternal with the SDS and have a fraternal vote on the National 
Council. Such organizations shall appoint a liaison representative who 
shall be a member of SDS. 

Section 6. SDS welcomes the opportunity to cooperate with other 
individuals and organizations in jointly sponsoring specific action 
programs and joint stands on specific issues. The National Council 
shall be empowered to determine specific cooperative activity. 
(Cooperation does not imply endorsement.) 
[From 1966, Regional Organization 

Section 1: All or some of the chapters and/or members in a given 
geographical area may constitute themselves a region of SDS. New 
regions shall submit their constitutions and be recognized 
provisionally by the President pending the next regular National 
Council meeting. All disputes over regional boundaries shall be 
resolved by the National Council. 

Section 2: Regions of SDS shall hold at least one membership convention 
each year and may establish regional officers as deemed necessary. 
Regional programs, staff, and offices shall be responsible to decisions 
arrived at by a democratically constituted regional council. 
Section 3: While fundamentally responsible to their regional 
constituency, regions are expected to operate within the broad terms of 
policy set by the National Convention and National Council. Any points 
of conflict shall be finally resolved by the National Council. 
Section 4: If one-third of the duly chartered chapters in the 
geographical area of a region so petition, the National Council shall 
immediately consider whether to declare the regional organization 
defunct and to prohibit it from speaking or acting on behalf of SDS.] 
Article V: Convention 

Section 1. The SDS shall meet in convention annually, at a time and a 
place fixed by the National Council, with at least three months prior 
notice being given to all members. 

Section 2. The Convention shall serve to debate major issues and 
orientation of the organization, to set program mandates to the 



national staff, and to elect national officers. The Convention shall 
not be the policy-making body on specific resolutions. 

Section 3. Representation. Chapters shall elect Convention delegates on 
the basis of one delegate for every five SDS members in the chapter, 
each delegate to have two [from 1966, "five"} votes at the Convention. 
Individual SDS members shall have the right to attend the Convention 
with one vote each. [Dropped, 1966.] Delegates from associated and 
fraternal groups shall be elected by a procedure determined by the 
National Council. The National Council shall draft Convention rules, 
accreditation procedures, and other reguirements . 
Article VI : National Council 

Section 1. The National Council shall be composed of (1) one 
representative elected from each chapter with five to twenty-five 
members, and one additional representative for each additional twenty- 
five members [from 1968, "five members"} or fraction thereof, in that 
chapter; (2) the seventeen National Officers; (3) elected liaison 
representatives from associated groups (with consultative vote); (4) 
liaison representatives from fraternal organizations (with fraternal 
vote); and (5) national staff (without vote) . In all cases, NC members 
and liaison representatives must be members of SDS. [From 1964, "No 
more than three members from one chapter or associated group may serve 
concurrently as National Officers."] 

Section 2. The National Council shall be the major policy ma]<;ing and 
program body of the organization. It shall determine policy in the form 
of resolutions on specific issues within the broad orientation of the 
organization; determine program priorities and action undertalcen by the 
organization consonant with the orientation and mandates set by the 
convention; advise the National Executive Committee on financial 
matters; confirm committee chairmen, staff representatives to the LID 
board; charter chapters, associated groups, and fraternal 
organizations. [From 1963, NEC dropped and additional budget 
responsibilities added.] 

Section 3. The National Council shall meet at least two times [from 
1963, "four"} a year. A guorum shall be 40 percent of the voting 
members. Chapter and liaison representatives may be represented by a 
designated alternate from that group. 

[Article VII: The National Executive Committee (Dropped, 1963.) 
Section 1. The National Executive Committee shall be composed of the 
seventeen officers elected by the convention with the chapter 
representatives on the National Council serving as alternates. No more 
than three members from one chapter or associated group can serve 
concurrently on the NEC . . . . ] 

[Article VIII: Administrative Committee (Dropped, 1963.) 
Section 1. The Administrative Committee shall be located at the place 
of the national office and shall have as members all NEC members in the 
vicinity of the national office plus such other people as are approved 
by the NEC . . . . ] 

[From 1963, National Interim Committee 

The President shall have the power to call a meeting of a temporary 
National Interim Committee, to be composed of the seventeen National 
Officers (from 1967, also "on a regular basis"), for emergencies only. 
Decisions of this body shall be subject to National Council approval.] 
Article IX: National Officers and Staff 

Section 1. The National Officers shall be the President, the Vice 
President, and fifteen other Officers, all to be elected at the 
Convention and to serve as members of the National Council. [From 1967, 
"National Secretary, Education Secretary, and Inter-organizational 



Secretary" and "eight other officers."] The Convention may on a year- 
to-year basis create other officers as seem necessary and shall 
designate their voting rights in the various bodies of SDS. 
Section 2. The National Officers must have been members of the SDS at 
least two months prior to elections. 

Section 3. The National President is the spokesman of SDS. He shall be 
responsible for carrying out organizational policy and shall convene 
the National Council. He shall be assisted by the Vice President, and 
in case of vacancy the Vice President shall assume his functions. 
Section 4. The National Secretary shall be the chief administrative 
official of the organization, responsible to the President and the 
National Council. He shall be appointed by the NC for a stated period 
of time. The National Council may also create and fill additional 
positions of Assistant National Secretary to work under direction of 
the President and National Secretary. Other staff positions shall be 
created and filled by the National Secretary. 

[From 1967, "Section 3: The eleven National Officers are the spokesmen 
of SDS. They shall be responsible/or seeing that organizational and 
political policies are carried out and shall convene the National 
Council. Political responsibility lies with the three Secretaries in 
consultation with the other officers. The three Secretaries shall work 
out of the national office. Important decisions in any one area which 
are made between meetings of the National Interim Council are to be 
made by the three national officers together. The officers shall be 
responsible to the Convention and the National Council. 

Section 4: The National Secretary shall have primary responsibility for 
the implementation of national programs approved by the Convention or 
National Council. 

Section 5: The Inter-organizational Secretary shall have primary 
responsibility for liaison with other organizations, both national and 
international, and for informing the membership about these groups. 
He/she shall not attend congresses, accept money, or establish formal 
relationships with organizations without the approval of the 
convention, the National Council, or, in emergency, the National 
Interim Council. 

Section 6: The Education Secretary shall have the primary 
responsibility for the functioning of the internal education program."] 
[Article X: Relationship With the League for Industrial Democracy 
(Dropped, 1966 . ) 

Section 1. The SDS shall be autonomously constituted, though its policy 
and functioning shall be within the broad aims and principles of the 
LID . . . . ] 

Article XI: Parliamentary Authority 

In all cases not covered by this Constitution, Robert's Rules of Order, 
Revised Edition shall be the authority governing SDS business. 
Article XII: Policy and Discipline 

Section 1. Any member of the organization, including the Officers, may 
be expelled or relieved of duties by a two-thirds vote of the National 
Council. Due process shall be followed in all cases. 

Section 2. Any two chapters, or one-third of the National Council, can 
initiate a national referendum on any question. 

Section 3. All material sent out in the name of the organization shall 
have the approval of a majority of the National Council and shall have 
been submitted to all of the NC members. 
Article XIII: Amendments 
This constitution may be amended by one of three procedures: 



a. by a two-thirds vote of the Convention in session on amendments 
introduced at the Convention, in which case the amendment will take 
effect at the following Convention; 

b. by a two-thirds vote of the Convention in session on amendments 
introduced by distribution to the membership at least a month before 
the Convention, in which case the amendment will take effect 
immediately upon adoption; 

c. by a two-thirds vote of the membership in referendum in which case 
the amendment will take effect immediately upon adoption.