Constitution and By-Laws of the Alpha of Pennsylvania Chapter

Constitution (rev. 11/2002)


I. Name

This Chapter is a constituent member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an unincorporated organization (hereinafter, “Phi Beta Kappa Society”), or its successor-in-interest, and shall be known as the Alpha of Pennsylvania Chapter.

II. Object

This Chapter is under the general supervision and control of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. The purpose of Phi Beta Kappa is to recognize and encourage scholarship, friendship, and cultural interests, and to support excellence and integrity in the pursuit of the arts and sciences.

III. Membership

The membership of the Chapter shall be elected primarily from the best scholars of the graduating classes of the College; secondly from the best scholars of said College whose work subsequent to graduation entitles them to such honor; and thirdly from persons distinguished in letters, science, art, or education. In addition to scholarship, good moral character shall be a qualification of membership, and any member may be expelled from the Society by a four-fifths vote of the members present at any regular annual meeting of the Society.

IV. By-Laws

The Chapter shall by the enactment of suitable by-laws provide for the election of officers, the initiation of members, and the proper conduct of its meetings; provided, however, that such by-laws shall contain nothing inconsistent with this constitution.

V. Amendment

This constitution may be amended by a two-thirds vote of the members present at any regular annual meeting; provided that the proposed amendment shall have been submitted in writing at the annual meeting preceding that at which action is asked thereon.  

VI. Tax-Exempt Status

This Chapter is organized and is to be operated exclusively for charitable and educational purposes within the meaning of Internal Revenue Code §501(c)(3) (references herein to the Internal Revenue Code, hereinafter “IRC,” include the corresponding section(s) of any future United States Tax Code).

No part of the net earnings of this Chapter shall inure to the benefit of, or be distributable to, its directors, officers, members, trustees, or other private persons, except that the Chapter shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for services rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of the purposes set forth herein. No substantial part of the activities of the Chapter shall be the carrying on of propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation, and the Chapter shall not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distribution of statements), any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. Notwithstanding any other provision herein, the Chapter shall not carry on any activities not permitted to be carried on (a) by an organization exempt from federal income tax under IRC §501(c)(3), or (b) by an organization, contributions to which are deductible under IRC §§170(c)(2), 2055(a)(2), or 2522(a)(2).

Upon the dissolution of this Chapter, after paying or making provision for the payment of all the lawful debts and liabilities of the Chapter, the assets shall be distributed to one or more of the following categories of recipients, as the Chapter shall determine:

1. A nonprofit organization or organizations which may have been created to succeed the Chapter, as long as such organization or each such organization shall qualify as an organization described in §501(c)(3); and/or

2. The Phi Beta Kappa Society, provided that it shall qualify at the time of distribution as an organization described in IRC §501(c)(3); and/or

3. A nonprofit organization or organizations having similar aims and objectives as the Chapter and which may be selected as an appropriate recipient of such assets, as long as such organization or each such organization shall qualify as an organization described in IRC §501(c)(3); and/or

4. The Federal government, or to a State or local government, but only if such assets will be used for a public purpose.

By-Laws (rev. 08/2010)


I. Officers


A. The Officers of this Chapter shall be a president, a vice president, a secretary, an assistant secretary, a treasurer, and a historian, whose duties shall be those usually pertaining to their respective offices, as well as those herein prescribed.

B. All elections of officers shall take place at the annual meeting, and shall be by ballot. Nominees shall be Associate Members of the Chapter (III. B.). Officers shall continue in office for one year, and the term of office of each officer, except that of the secretary, assistant secretary, and historian, shall not continue for a period of more than three years consecutively.

II. Committees

A. The officers of the Chapter, plus the chairman of the Committees on Scholarships, on Alumni and Honorary Membership, and on Nominations, shall constitute a permanent Executive Committee. This committee shall have power to fill vacancies among the officers and committees until the next regular meeting of the chapter, to appoint any committees it may deem proper, and to direct matters generally between annual meetings of the Chapter.

B. The Committee on Alumni and Honorary Membership shall consist of three members elected to serve for three years, one member of the committee being elected at each annual meeting. It shall be the duty of this committee to consider the qualifications for membership of graduates of the College in classes at least fifteen years prior to said annual meeting, and to canvass the qualifications of any others suggested. Having considered the records and qualifications of all such, the Committee shall report to the annual meeting the names and qualifications of all whom it deems worthy of consideration.

C. There shall be a permanent Committee on Scholarship composed of at least three members plus the Secretary, ex officio. They shall make nominations for membership in course and review criteria for eligibility.

D. A Nominating Committee of three shall be elected by the chapter from nominations made from the floor. The term of office on this committee shall be three years, one member to be elected at each annual meeting. This committee shall present its slate of officers at the annual meeting.

E. Other committees may be appointed as herein provided (II. A.), or elected as circumstances may warrant.

III. Membership

A. This Chapter may elect and receive into its membership three classes, designated as follows:

1. Members in course, elected from among the undergraduate students of the College.

2. Alumni members elected from graduates of the College whose achievements subsequent to graduation shall be deemed such as to entitle them to election. Except in cases of unusual distinction no graduate shall be elected within fourteen years after receiving his/her bachelor's degree.

3. Honorary members, elected because of distinction in art, science, education, or letters.

B. Members of Phi Beta Kappa who become members of the Faculty or Officers of the Administration of Dickinson College shall be Associate members of the Chapter (I. B.).

C. Associate Members of the Chapter, together with undergraduate members in course on campus, shall be the resident members.  However, only Associate Members may hold office (I. B.) and participate in the election of new members (V.) or officers (I.B.).  Non-resident members of the Chapter shall  have the same membership privileges as the members in couse on campus.

IV. Meetings

A. The annual meeting shall be held at such time during commencement week as may be fixed by the Executive Committee. Notice of the time and place of the meeting shall be mailed at least one week in advance to all resident members (III. C.), together with a brief statement of matters of prime importance to be presented.

B. Special meetings may be called by the president at any time and place designated by the president. In the president's absence, the vice-president or the secretary may issue the call. Further, at the written request of eight members a call for a special meeting must be issued by the Secretary. Notice of the time and place shall be sent by mail no less than one week in advance to all resident members. At the special meeting no business shall be transacted other than that stated in the notice of the meeting.

C. Ten resident members shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business, except the election of undergraduate members, where one half of the associate members shall constitute a quorum. Members of other chapters who do not qualify for Associate Membership as defined in these by-laws (III. B.) may be invited to any meeting with voice but not with vote.

D. At the annual meeting the suggested order of Business shall be:

1. Call to order
2. Reading of minutes
3. Report of Committee on Alumni and Honorary Membership Election
4. Initiation of New Members
5. Reports:
a. Treasurer
b. Secretary
c. Executive Committee
d. Committee on Nominations: Election of Officers
e. Committee on Scholarship
f. Special Committees (e.g. Audit Committee)
g. Delegates

6. Communications
a. District Conference
b. Phi Beta Kappa Society

7. Deferred Business
8. New Business
9. Welfare of the Society
10. Adjournment

E. The Chapter shall, whenever possible and convenient, be represented at all meetings of the Triennial National Council of the Phi Beta Kappa Society; also at meetings called within the Middle Atlantic District. Delegates shall be selected by the Executive Committee.

V. Nominations and Election of Members

A. Members in course shall be elected primarily on the basis of scholarly achievement, broad cultural interests, and good character. Seniors who are enrolled in the College and are candidates for the bachelor’s degree shall be eligible for consideration, if their undergraduate record fulfills the following minimum requirements:

1. For election at the beginning of the senior year, the candidate shall have completed at least 24 courses of college work. The caliber of student work should be of exceptional distinction, and the candidate shall have a Dickinson grade point average in the top 5% of the class. The grade point average must be based on at least 20 courses bearing the grades of A, B, C, D, and F and their + or – variants. The grade point average shall be defined as in the Dickinson College Bulletin. Students with one, but not more than one, W, will be eligible for election and no students with P/F grades will be elected unless the P/F grade was taken in a 5-course semester and the P/F grade was not in a distribution requirement. Students are precluded from consideration when a significant disparity appears between a student's grades received at Dickinson and grades received in study abroad programs (or elsewhere off-campus).

2. For election at the end of the senior year, the candidate shall have satisfied the requirements for graduation, including residency requirements. The candidate’s Dickinson grade point average shall be in the top 10% of the class.

B. Students who complete their college course after the close of an academic year and become eligible under Article V.A.2, above, shall be considered with the appropriate eligible group of the next academic year.

C. All candidates will be “screened” for social and disciplinary infractions through a non-intrusive and legally acceptable review of their official college record. This will be facilitated by the appropriate Associate Dean of the College, who will alert the Chapter only about the worst violations of civil law or school policy. This screening is meant only to discover gross breaches of conduct that may bring into question the “good moral character” of candidates. It will be a minimalist system for exclusion; only those students who seriously violated college policy will be dropped from the eligible list at this point.

D. Election to membership in Phi Beta Kappa is wholly within the discretion of the Associate members of this chapter, subject only to the limitations imposed by the Constitution and By-laws of the chapter and the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Phi Beta Kappa, and no right to election shall adhere to any student solely by reason of fulfillment of the minimum grade point average for election to membership in course.

E. Nominations for membership in course shall be made by the Committee on Scholarship from a list of all students who meet the formal requirements for election. This list, once approved by the Associate members of the Chapter, shall be the basis for any further nominations from the floor. All elections shall be by separate secret ballot. Whenever balloting on any candidate shall result in not more than one negative vote, the candidate shall be declared elected. Whenever fewer than a majority of votes are positive, the candidate shall be declared defeated. Whenever two or more but less than a majority of negative votes result, it shall be the duty of the members casting such votes to state the grounds of their action. In case they fail to do so, the person shall be declared elected, notwithstanding; but if at least one makes the required explanation, another ballot shall be taken, and in the second balloting a two-thirds majority of those present and voting shall be sufficient for election.

F. Nominations for election to alumni memberships shall be referred to the Committee on Alumni and Honorary Membership. No nomination for such a membership shall be brought before the Associate members of the chapter for action unless favorably reported by the committee. The committee shall be guided by criteria defined in Article III.A.2, of the Chapter By-laws, and committee recommendations shall include a written statement of the qualifications of each nominee. Election shall be by separate secret ballot; in case of one negative vote the candidate is elected; two negative votes shall serve to reject. No more than two alumni members may be elected in any year, not more than four in any Triennium of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

G. Procedures for the nomination and election of honorary members shall be the same as for alumni members, except that one negative vote shall serve to reject. A statement of the qualifications of each candidate elected to honorary membership shall be sent to the Secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. No graduate of another institution having a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa shall be recommended for election without the consent of that chapter. No more than two honorary members may be elected in any Triennium of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

VI. Initiation

A. The form of initiation shall be according to "A Ritual of Phi Beta Kappa" suggested to the chapters by the National Council of 1928, or subsequent revisions.

B. Provision shall normally be made for initiating new members. In extraordinary circumstances, the Executive Committee may waive initiation.

C. The initiation fee for members in course, alumni and honorary members shall be as designated by the Executive Committee, payable before initiation.

VII. Procedure

Chapter proceedings, in all cases not provided for in the constitution or By-laws, shall conform to the rules laid down in Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, and subsequent revisions.

VIII. Amendments

Amendments to these By-laws, not inconsistent with the Constitution and other lawful regulations of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, may be adopted by a two-thirds vote of the members present at an annual meeting, either upon motion presented and tabled at a preceding annual meeting, or upon condition that written notice of the proposed changes has been sent to all resident members at least three weeks in advance of the meeting. All amendments shall be subject to the review of the Senate of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.