Bylaws & Biplanes

The discovery of the AIAA Constitution. But will it pass?

The club delved too greedily and too deep. You know what they awoke in the darkness of the Activities Board at Columbia… a terror of shadow and flame. We found our club constitution! Apparently  we have been operating for the last several years while totally unaware of the rules governing our own existence.

Naturally, they are full of amusing typos and exploitable loopholes. It will be an instructive exercise to highlight these issues, in preparation for our club’s drafting of a new constitution next week (with a top-notch spell checker). Formatting and errors are preserved in the excerpts below, with the addition of angry red text comments for the reader’s amusement.

Article I – Section 1.  The name of this organization shall be Columbia Chapter of the American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics hereafter referred to as AIAA. (I like to believe that the full name of the organization actually includes “hereafter referred to as AIAA” because there are no quotation marks to indicate otherwise.)

Top: Frodo Baggins
Bottom: Club Treasure

Article I – Section 2.  The officers of President, Vice President, and Treasure (Treasure? TREASURE?!?) shall make up the executive board of AIAA, hereafter referred to as the ‘Board’.  A secretary may also serve when such interest exists.

The President has this to say about the Treasure position:  It has been drawn to my attention that we currently have NO CLUB TREASURE, which is in violation of our current club articles. The club Treasure has no actual duties or powers mentioned in this constitution, but is apparently vital. 

Since the only other mention of requirements for Club Treasure is that they must 1. be a member and 2. be an undergraduate student in CC or SEAS, I will award until such time as the position is abolished or elections are held the position of Treasure to the first person meeting those requirements who calls dibs.

I called dibs. I am now the club Treasure.

Article II – Section 2.  The Board shall be charged with the responsibility of defining the annual goals of the organization (We’ve never actually done this.) and with acting responsibly (LOL) in pursuit of these goals.

Article IV – Section 2.  The President has the ultimate authority over the meetings.  However, as the group is really a team, that aspect must be honored.

This is the sort of ambiguity that leads to common law, and lawyers having to memorize previous cases to know how future disputes will be ruled by judges. I like it!

Article V – Section 1. Officers shall be nominated by the outgoing members molding the [positions on the Board.  Nominees must be confirmed by a majority of the current members. (This bracket is never closed. Therefore, the entire rest of the constitution is technically part of Article V, Section 1.)

Article V – Section 2.  Only members who are undergraduate students in Columbia College or the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science may hold the position of President or Treasure. (Sorry Barnard and GS students. And maybe Treasure isn’t a typo after all…?)  No single member may be BOTH the president and the treasure (GAH!) simultaneously.

Notice there is no restriction on being President and Vice President simultaneously. If the President is impeached, he can simply replace himself and then re-appoint himself as Vice President.

Article VI – Section 1.  By-Laws of the organization shall be established and altered by unanimous decisions by the Board and a 3-5 vote by the upperclassmen.



Until this evening, our President was the entire Board, and thus wielded dictatorial power. However, after I called dibs (see above) I, in my official though poorly defined capacity as Treasure of the team, have the chance to veto all of his decisions before they come to a general vote. Truly, the Treasure wields considerable power.

Article VI – Section 2.  By-Laws of the Board shall be established and altered by unanimous decision of the upperclassmen in the club.

Yes, the upperclassmen of the club can make the rules the board has to follow without the board having any say in the matter.

The Upperclassmen