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Eye on Psi Chi: Summer 2009

Why Are Chapter Bylaws Important?
Martha S. Zlokovich, PhD, Psi Chi Executive Director

Why should your chapter bother with writing or updating its Chapter Bylaws? All chapters must adhere to the Psi Chi Constitution, but as long as a chapter’s bylaws do not conflict with the Constitution, each chapter has some freedom to specify how it will govern itself.

It’s Easy to Get Started. Psi Chi provides model Chapter Bylaws as an example for chapters to use as they work on writing their own. It is a two-page document available at pdf. Just fill in the blanks, vote, and your chapter will have its own Chapter Bylaws.

Bylaws Could Be a Focus of Fall Meetings. There are, however, other issues not covered by the Constitution or model Chapter Bylaws that chapters should consider. These issues could be an important focus of the first meetings of the year, leading to a tangible outcome. Once the final version has been hammered out, the chapter must vote on its acceptance.

Not all Chapter Officers are Specified in the Constitution. According to the Constitution, every chapter must maintain a minimum of three officers on their Executive Committee (which consists of all officers and the faculty advisor) covering the duties of president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer. Most chapters also elect other officers as well. Chapter Bylaws are a good place to enhance chapter continuity by specifying not only your chapter’s officer positions, but also the timing of your chapter’s elections.

Electing the new slate of officers in time for them to overlap with outgoing officers supports smooth transitions. Your chapter will need to decide when during the academic year it should hold officer elections and when new officers begin their terms. If there is overlap between current and incoming officers, your chapter should specify whether some or all of the incoming officers are voting members of the Executive Committee.

Removal/Replacement of Chapter Officers May be Necessary. One question that the National Office receives each year is "How can our chapter remove an officer?” The answer is not specified in the Constitution, or in the model Chapter Bylaws. In the interest of fairness, chapters should seriously consider this uncomfortable topic when it is not an immediate, emotionally-charged issue. Chapters can add their own Bylaws section or article covering why and how officers can be removed. In addition, chapters should specify how an unexpected officer vacancy would be filled. One place to look for options on how to handle these situations is in the Psi Chi Constitution, Article IV, Sections 7 and 8, which addresses National Council officer replacement and removal. Other places include constitutions of other honor societies, and the Roberts Rules of Order.

Chapters May Increase Academic Requirements. Chapter Bylaws may increase Constitutional academic requirements for membership, but may not lower them. For example, if the university’s top 35% cumulative GPA cutoffs for the sophomore, junior, and senior classes are 2.97, 3.14, and 3.22 respectively, the chapter could choose to require a 3.35 cumulative GPA of all inductees. Chapters may not impose participation requirements, however, because that conflicts with the Constitution.

Chapters could also specify how many of the nine required psychology hours must be taken on their campus, or set the psychology GPA higher than 3.0 because those changes would increase academic requirements. Keep in mind that a bylaw regarding psychology hours could affect students who earned college credit during high school, took a course or two elsewhere, or entered as transfer students.

Chapters May Specify Eligibility of Other Majors. Some campuses have majors which are not in the psychology department, but are psychological in nature. Chapter bylaws could specify that these students (for example neuropsychology majors in the biology department, or interdisciplinary majors) are eligible. A good rule of thumb is that these students must take at least as many courses taught by the psychology department as psychology minors do.

Transfer Student Rules Recently Changed. The Psi Chi National Council recently voted to allow chapters to address transfer student requirements in their Chapter Bylaws. At least 12 of the 36 required college hours must be completed at the chapter’s campus—unless the chapter has a transfer student policy in its bylaws. All transfer students must meet national standards, but the chapter may specify how many of the 36 required college hours must be taken at their campus. For example, one chapter may choose to accept all transferred hours, while another chooses to require completion of only six hours on their campus. If chapter bylaws do not address transfer students, then transfer students must complete at least 12 college hours at their new institution.

All inductees must have established a GPA at the new campus, so before writing any bylaw addressing transfer student eligibility, psychology hours, or psychology or cumulative GPA requirements, the faculty advisor should check with the registrar to determine whether transfer students establish a GPA when they begin classes, or after completing their first semester. If your chapter votes to accept new Chapter Bylaws or update existing ones, please keep the National Office informed by emailing a copy to

A high school teacher in Pensacola, Florida, inspired Dr. Martha S. Potter Zlokovich to pursue psychology as a career. She completed her BA in psychology at UCLA, and MS and PhD in developmental psychology at the University of Florida.

Dr. Zlokovich joined Psi Chi in 2008 as its second Executive Director, leaving Southeast Missouri State University after teaching there for 17 years. This move, however, was not her first involvement with Psi Chi. She served as chapter advisor since 1993, as Midwestern Region Vice-President (1998-2000), and as National President of Psi Chi (2003-04). In 1996, Southeast’s chapter won the Ruth Hubbard Cousin’s National Chapter of the Year Award, and several chapter members have won Psi Chi Regional Research Awards at MPA and/or had their research published in Psi Chi's Journal.

At Southeast, Dr. Zlokovich taught Child Development, Adolescent Development, Lifespan Development, Advanced Child Psychology, and Introductory Psychology for Majors. She also served as chair of the department. Her research interests have focused on student study habits, study beliefs, and persistence to graduation as well as adolescent and young adult contraception and sexuality.

Dr. Zlokovich and her husband Neil have two sons and a daughter-in-law. Aaron (Truman State University, 2010) and Stephanie live in Lexington, KY and Matthew is a senior civil engineering major at the University of Alabama.

Copyright 2009 (Volume 13, Issue 4) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology


Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers, graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.

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