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Home > Local Connection > Tools for SPJ Leaders > Start a Chapter > Expansion Policy Guidelines for Student Chapters

Start an SPJ Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists Expansion Policy Guidelines for Student Chapters

Expansion Policy | Requirements [updated 9/27/11]

The Society of Professional Journalists is a professional organization. It is not honorary in nature, nor is it any longer a fraternity.

In function and membership requirements it is concerned only with the field of journalism and the free flow of information to the public at large.

SPJ’s campus chapter expansion policy establishes requirements which embrace the highest standards of professionalism. The campus chapter encourages and assists members in carrying out common objectives. It is through the chapter that individual members join in freedom of the press issues, learn of ethical problems, and professional standards and enjoy fellowship of common purpose.

Before the Society’s board of directors will consider chartering a new campus chapter of the Society, several requirements must be met and several steps taken.


Who Can Form a chapter?

If you and other journalists in your school or metropolitan area are interested in starting a new campus chapter of the Society, under no circumstances should you take any steps or actions as a chapter of the Society until you have notified SPJ’s national headquarters and your appropriate regional director of your interest. The national office will provide you with the regional director’s name, address, and telephone number.

The national office and your regional director will be of invaluable assistance as you plan from the start. You must keep them closely informed of your activities.

Before you act at all as a chapter, you will have to determine whether your group meets the requirements to form a chapter.

Under SPJ’s bylaws, a group or organization of students may be granted a charter by the board of directors as a campus chapter upon presentation of a formal petition and completion of the requirements of this expansion policy.

Charters to campus and satellite chapters are granted by majority vote of the board of directors or by majority vote of the delegates to a national convention.

Campus chapters may be established at two-year or four-year universities or colleges that have a school or department of journalism or that offer courses in journalism. At least ten students expressing a serious interest in journalism are required to start a campus chapter.

Schools seeking a charter will have one confirmed faculty adviser who teaches or works in the field of journalism and one back-up adviser also teaching or working in the field of journalism, in the event the primary adviser takes a leave of absence, changes jobs, or has other conflicting issues that no longer allows him or her to serve. The primary adviser must by an active member of SPJ; should the back-up adviser need to step into the primary adviser position, he/she would be required to join SPJ within an appropriate time frame not to exceed 30 days from acceptance of that position.

City- or area-wide campus chapter also may be established by several two- or four-year colleges or universities within radius of 75 miles provided that at least one college or university involved has a school or department of journalism or offers courses in journalism.

Once the chapter is established, the faculty adviser of city-wide or area-wide chapters must be from the same school as the chapter’s proposed president. This ensures both a rotation of responsibility and oversight of the student chapter’s activities.

If you meet these requirements, you should consider whether your group would best be served by its own chapter or by functioning as satellite of a nearby existing professional or campus chapter. Again, the national headquarters and your regional director can assist you in making that decision.


Getting Started

The national office will not recognize your group as a chapter of the Society until a petition has been filed with the office asking that your chapter be granted a charter.

You may file a petition asking to be recognized as campus or satellite campus chapter at any time during the year.

To be recognized as a campus chapter of the Society, you must provide the national office with the following:

1. A chapter application fee of $25.
2. The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of at least 10 student journalists who are members of the Society, including five who are willing to serve as acting officers and directors of your provisional chapter.
3. A list of schools to be served in the event of a city-wide chapter, along with addresses. If another campus chapter is near your area, the geographical area your chapter may serve is limited to half the distance to the next chapter.
4. Names, qualifications, and professional memberships of faculty members who have indicated a willingness to serve as your chapter’s adviser. Your adviser must be a member in good standing of the Society.
5. A description of the colleges and universities involved and a statement as to the curriculum offered at each school which meets the requirements outlined above.
6. A description of petitioning group, identifying the petitioning students by major subject, class rank (year) and journalistic experience.
7. A description of journalistic endeavors and activities at each school, such as a campus newspaper or broadcast outlet.
8. Charter petition. The national office will provide a copy of this form upon request.
9. Proposed chapter bylaws. (You can reference these model bylaws [PDF, 38 KB] for guidance.)
10. A written plan for development of the chapter.
11. A description of all journalistic activities conducted by the petitioning group (awards programs, professional meetings, cooperation with the journalism school or department, workshops, etc.)

Now You're Ready

Once the national headquarters has received the above information, you will be notified whether your group meets the requirements for a chapter of the Society. If you do, the national headquarters will supply you with the items to help you organize your chapter, including a chapter leader handbook, membership applications, and suggested program and fund raising ideas.

Read the chapter leader handbook thoroughly. It provides guidance on how to select your board of directors, conduct elections, promote the chapter and set up programs and projects.

Share the handbook with your chapter officers and directors. Always keep a copy handy, keep your handbook up-to-date by filing inserts or changes distributed by the national office.


Activities of a Provisional Chapter

After you have submitted materials to the national headquarters office, you may function much like a recognized chapter of the Society, although your charter will not be official until approved by the board of directors. You may hold meetings, elect officers, conduct service projects, and fight Freedom of Information battles in the Society’s name.

Again, you must keep your regional director informed of your activities.

Your first major goal should be to recruit an organizing committee. Student members and officers can be chosen from students in good standing in the college or university. Graduate students still in school are eligible. But, consider the interests of the student body and the student diversity so that students interested in newspaper, radio, televisions, magazines, wire services, and journalism education will be represented.

Then, schedule an organizational meeting, and ask your regional director to attend.

Your acting president or regional director should explain the purposes and aspirations of the chapter and conduct a general discussion leading toward development of a “statement of purposes” or “programs.”

You should conduct an election to formally constitute the organizing committee as a temporary board of directors and formally elect officers at this time. It is a good idea to also recruit chapter committee chairmen at this time.

In the case of city-wide or area-wide chapters, each school involved must be represented by an officer to ensure cooperation between schools and a rotation of responsibility for the chapter’s long-term success. Keep in mind that all your chapter officers must be national members in good standing. SPJ suggests you elect the following officers:

— President: Responsible for calling board meetings, arranging for chapter meetings and the general welfare of the chapter.
— Vice President or President-Elect: Responsible for ensuring the continuity of the chapter, typically will be responsible for programs and chapter events. The vice president should be a likely candidate for the presidency the subsequent year. A president-elect would automatically ascend to the presidency, ensuring chapter continuity from year to year.
— Secretary or Secretary-Treasurer: Responsible for meeting minutes, filing all required reports, keeping membership records, mailing notices and handling reservations for meetings. Should have access to duplicating facilities.
— Treasurer: Responsible for chapter finances and bookkeeping.

Once you have organized a board of directors, you must provide the national office with the following:

1. The amount of dues you anticipate charging for your chapter and the name, address, telephone number, and account number of the financial institution at which your funds will be deposited.
2. A list of your directors and committee chairmen, including names, addresses, and telephone numbers.
3. A copy of your bylaws. (You can reference these model bylaws [PDF, 38 KB] for guidance.)

Then, you may begin planning your general activities.

— Set a time and place that will be most convenient for the largest number of possible members. If a meal event is planned, keep costs low and ask for RSVP’s to control costs on guaranteed meals. You should have a main speaker of sufficient caliber to discuss the merits of membership in SPJ and its activities. Send meeting notices to all media outlets in your area informing them of your interest in starting a chapter and asking them to attend. If your group has the time and resources, a survey asking for input on what prospective members would like the chapter to accomplish can be of invaluable assistance.
— Appoint a program committee (two or three members of the temporary board) to arrange for subsequent speakers or programs. You should begin planning meetings two to three months in advance to allow time for adequate publicity. Your initial programs should be on subjects of wide interest, to draw as many prospective members as possible.
— Determine how the chapter will be financed. Don’t forget to include the costs each year of sending a delegate to the SPJ National Convention and to your regional conference when establishing a budget.

Suggested methods include:

1. Establishing nominal annual local dues. Local dues are in addition to national dues. Local members may not join the local chapter unless they are dues-paying members of the national organization.
2. Adding a nominal amount to each dinner charge.
3. Sponsoring an awards banquet or other event with a charge sufficient to raise necessary funds.

Each year, chapters must meet the minimum requirements for campus chapters and submit an annual report to meet SPJ’s chapter standards. Schedule your requirement programs and activities for the coming year to make certain your chapter will meet the minimum requirements of the Society, as detailed below.


Once You’re Official

Charters to campus chapters will be granted by majority vote of the national board of directors.

Your first need will be to schedule and arrange for an installation ceremony at which your charter will be presented. This ceremony can consist of an initiation, dinner or program, presentation of a charter certificate and installation of officers and members.

A campus chapter will be granted authority by the national board of directors to initiate candidates for membership providing the chapter meets all the requirements of the bylaws of the Society, and other specific requirements established by the board. Installation guidelines will be provided by the national office following approval of the charter petition.

Your regional director can help you coordinate your charter installation ceremony.


Satellite chapters

If you opt to organize a satellite chapter instead of seeking your own formally chartered campus chapter, you must still supply the national office with certain information and meet some basic requirements. You may want to consider a satellite chapter for several reasons:

— You might not be able to find enough members to support a full chapter and believe you will need considerable support to keep the chapter going.
— For whatever reason, you do not believe your group can meet all the minimum requirements of active chapters, but can meet most.

If you wish to be recognized as a satellite, you must contact a nearby “parent” chapter and ask if it would be interested in sponsoring your group.

After you have located a sponsoring professional or campus chapter nearby, you must notify the national office in writing of your intention to begin a satellite chapter by providing:

1. A petition asking to be recognized as a formal satellite of an existing professional or campus chapter
2. A $25 satellite chapter processing fee
3. A copy of your written agreement with the existing chapter
4. Names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all chapter officers
5. A copy of your chapter’s bylaws
6. A written plan for development of your chapter
7. A letter from your regional director acknowledging and endorsing your efforts.
8. Names, qualifications, and professional memberships of faculty members who have indicated a willingness to serve as your chapter’s adviser. Your adviser must be a member in good standing of the Society.
9. A description of the colleges and universities involved and a statement as to the curriculum offered at each school which meets the requirements outlined above.
10. A description of the petitioning group, identifying the petitioning students by major subject, class rank (year), and journalistic experience.
11. A description of journalistic endeavors and activities at each school, such as a campus newspaper or broadcast outlet.

When the above information is received, the national office will provide you with additional information to assist you in developing the program in your area.

Satellite chapters must file annual reports as required of active chapters and must show efforts to meet most minimum requirements of active chapters.

Satellite chapters will be approved only in affiliation with active chapters in good standing with the Society.

Expansion Policy | Requirements


Minimum chapter requirements
Updated Sept. 27, 2011

In addition to the provisions of Article 5 of the Society’s bylaws, which establish standards for professional and campus chapters, all chapters must also meet the following criteria in order to be considered chapters in good standing under the bylaws:

At a minimum, professional and campus chapters must:
— File an annual report, including a review of chapter finances, by the annual deadline.
— Conduct at least three programs in the year covered by the annual report that further the Society’s mission — including freedom of information, ethics, diversity, professional development and locally important issues.
— Programs must involve a number of chapter members and engage the broader journalism community in the chapter’s geographic territory. A board meeting does not qualify as one of the three programs.
— Send representatives to the regional conference or the national convention. A chapter must seek a waiver from the regional director if it cannot send a representative to either the regional conference or the national convention.

A chapter will be considered not in good standing and subject to sanctions by the Board of Directors if it fails to file an annual report, conduct a minimum of three programs in a reporting year or obtain a waiver if it cannot send a representative to either the regional conference or the national convention.

Chapters are strongly encouraged to exceed these criteria in order to qualify for annual awards that recognize outstanding chapter performance as well as engage the journalism community.

Implementation

The annual report is the primary evidence of chapter activity or inactivity and is required by the Society’s bylaws.

Regional directors shall, within 30 days of the deadline for filing annual reports, evaluate all chapters in their respective regions based on the criteria outlined above and determine whether they are in good standing or not in good standing.

In addition, the president of the Society may appoint at least two chapter evaluators to review the professional chapter reports and the regional directors’ evaluations of those reports to further verify the standing of individual chapters and to determine which chapters should be considered for awards for outstanding performance.

The vice president of campus chapter affairs will review campus chapter reports and the regional directors’ evaluations of those reports to further verify the standing of individual chapters and to determine which chapters should receive awards for outstanding performance.

In the event that national chapter evaluators disagree with the regional director’s determination of whether a chapter is in good standing, the staff membership director, in consultation with the executive director, shall make a final determination of a chapter’s status.

Chapters may submit additional evidence of their activities no later than 30 days after the deadline for submission of the annual report.

Chapters also may appeal a determination of not in good standing no later than 15 business days before the date of the annual convention. In the event of an appeal, the Society’s president will appoint an independent arbiter to review all of the relevant information. The arbiter’s decision will be final.

Restoring Chapters to Good Standing

Chapters determined to be not in good standing shall receive the following attention, in accord with Article Five, Sections 13 and 14 of the Society’s bylaws.

Step One: Assistance
Once a chapter is determined to be not in good standing, it has until the deadline for submitting its next annual report to regain its good standing. During that year, the chapter shall receive advice and counsel from the regional director and the chapter doctor, in consultation with headquarters staff, with the goal of bringing the chapter into compliance with the good-standing criteria.

Step Two: Probation
If after a year, a chapter receiving assistance again fails to achieve good-standing status, staff will forward the matter to the Board of Directors. The board shall decide at its annual convention meeting whether to extend the Step One Assistance by one year or to place the chapter on probation.

A chapter on probation will continue to receive help from the regional director and the chapter doctor, in consultation with headquarters staff, to try to return to good standing. But the chapter president and the chapter’s regional director shall receive written notice of the chapter’s probationary status.

Probation can last no more than one calendar year. If a chapter fails to regain good-standing status at the end of that year, it will be declared inactive.

Step Three: Inactive/Revocation
If a chapter fails to return to good-standing status after passage of a third annual report deadline, headquarters staff shall forward the matter to the Board of Directors at its annual convention meeting.

The board may choose one of these options:
1. Declare the chapter inactive for another year and require the chapter to forfeit any local dues collected by the national organization on the chapter’s behalf to the national Society. Should the chapter return to active status within another year, the Board of Directors or the Executive Committee can decide to return those dues to the chapter.
2. Revoke the chapter’s charter, thereby ending its existence and the terms of its officers. Members in good standing with the Society shall have the option of affiliating with an active chapter and paying local dues to that chapter.

At any time after the revocation, members in the geographic area of the former chapter may apply to form a new chapter under Article Five, Sections 1 through 4 of the Society’s bylaws.

Failure to file annual report
Notwithstanding any of the above, a chapter that fails to file an annual report for three consecutive years may be declared inactive by the Board of Directors or the Executive Committee.

The board or the committee may further decide to revoke said chapter’s charter.

Expansion Policy | Requirements


Contact Tara Puckey via email or at 317-920-4784 if you have questions or need more information.

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