Founding a Departmental Graduate Student Association

If your department has no graduate student association and you would like to start one, send an email to all graduate students in your department to see who else is interested in organizing one. Meet with this group to draft a constitution. A constitution is a document that defines an organization/association. Then, announce the first meeting to all students; include ratifying the constitution on the agenda. You should hold elections for officers at the first general meeting. After you are established as an official departmental association, the GSA can also help with hosting elections and promoting your events via the GSA’s social media platforms.

Required sections of your constitution for GSA recognition of your organization

Your constitution should state the date of its original ratification and the most recent date of the amendment. Note: as a guideline for “official recognition,” the GSA will be fairly flexible in determining whether your constitution meets these requirements. A constitution may be rejected.

Name (or Title, etc).

Goals (or Objectives, Purpose, Mandate, etc).

Affiliation: If your organization is affiliated with any external groups, state so here. Include the sentence “This association agrees to adhere to the stated regulations of the University of Waterloo Graduate Student Association.”

Membership: For departmental associations, this section should say “All full-time and part-time graduate students in the Department of <BLANK> are members.”  This section must also include a description of how the membership list is maintained. For GSA recognition, only graduate students of the University of Waterloo are allowed to be voting members. You may wish to explicitly specify which of undergraduate, staff, faculty, or alumni are allowed as resource members or non-voting members. Note: this section must accord with University Policy 33.

Officers (or Executive, etc): This section should consist of a list of all officers, with a description of the duties of that officer. You are required to have a leader of the association, usually called a President. Most associations include a Secretary, who takes minutes and keeps official documents. If your organization includes a collection of fees or raising of funds, then you are required to have someone in charge of maintaining and tracking these funds, usually called a Treasurer. You may optionally specify who runs meetings, e.g. “The person to preside over all meetings shall be the President, or the Vice-President if the President is not present; if neither is present, no official business can be conducted.” For GSA recognition, all officers of departmental associations must be graduate students, and this must be stated in the constitution.

Term of Office/Elections: State when elections take place, how long elected officers to maintain their positions, and the mechanism for determining a winner if there are more than two candidates.

Meetings: You must include the quorum for meetings (quorum is the minimum number of members who need to show up to a meeting for official business to take place). For example, you could state “Quorum shall be attained if at least 1/3 of the membership is present, at least 3 of which are Officers.” If there are regular meetings (e.g. the fourth Tuesday of every term), state them here. You may define also special kinds of meetings (an Annual Meeting, Officers’ Meetings, etc) if necessary, possibly with their own quorum requirements.

Some Optional Sections

Committees: Describe the purpose and membership of standing committees of the association.

Signing Authorities: Describe anyone other than the President who has authority to sign for the association.

Fees: Departmental associations’ fees can only be set or changed by a referendum hosted by the GSA.

Notice of Motion: As a rule of thumb, any motion which constitutes a major policy change should be announced on the agenda to all members at least one week before the meeting; but if you want a specific rule, state so here.

Amending the Constitution: By default, motions involving constitutional amendments pass only if (a) at least 1/2 of all members of the association vote in favour, or (b) the motion is distributed to members in accordance with your “notice of motion” section, and at least 2/3 of the members present at the meeting vote in favour. If you want a different mechanism (e.g. “The Constitution can be amended only by a 2/3 majority vote of all Officers”) state so here.

Removal of Officers: For departmental associations, include any rules for impeachment; if none are included, the GSA will interpret them the same as the voting requirements for amending the constitution.

And so on… Anything else which you intend to be a permanent rule in your association can be put into your constitution. E.g. special events, relationships with other organizations, procedures for storing equipment, etc.

If you have any questions, please contact

Last Updated: December 9, 2021

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