Wheels in Motion Toward Possible Voting Rights for Student Members 

There will be more votes to count and boxes to check in the coming year, but the move toward allowing student members to vote in ASCE elections has begun.

The Board of Direction, at its quarterly meeting March 14-15 in Washington, D.C. (with some directors attending virtually because of the coronavirus), voted to approve a recommendation that the Governing Documents Committee prepare an amendment to the ASCE constitution and bylaws that would give student members the right to vote in the annual Society-wide election.

“I am very pleased that the Board voted to move forward with allowing the students to vote,” ASCE President K.N. Gunalan said. “I’m hoping the membership concurs. I believe it is the right thing and will be good for the sustainability of the organization and the profession.”

The Governing Documents Committee will bring a draft of the proposed constitutional amendment to the Board for first consideration in October. If two-thirds of the Board approves the amendment on second consideration in January then it will be placed on the 2021 ASCE election ballot, where it would require two-thirds approval from those voting members to go into effect.

The Board voted through a similar process just this past year to determine voting rights for affiliate members. That constitutional amendment will be put to a membership vote this spring on the 2020 ASCE election ballot.

The question of student voting was in discussion by the Board going back to last year, when it appointed a Task Committee on Student Voting to further study the situation.

“The question that I posed to the Board was ‘Do we want to be an inclusive organization, which is one of my visions for ASCE, or do we want to be an exclusive organization that entertains pay-to-play?’” Gunalan said. “We spend a lot of resources on precollege outreach and on student activities and competitions, along with handing out a lot of scholarships. If they are the future of the profession and society, why not trust them and give them a voice?”

More student news

In another show of investment in the Society’s student members, the Board voted in support of the Committee on Student Members’ recommendation to keep student chapter dues at the current level.

The Board also received an update on student competitions and voted to authorize further evaluation of a potential realignment of student conferences to better reflect ASCE’s Region boundaries.

Meanwhile, the new Student Presidential Group, composed of one ASCE student member from each region and each institute, is off to a good start, having shared a successful first phone call with President-Elect Jean-Louis Briaud, March 7.

The Board authorized Briaud to prepare a detailed strategy to increase ASCE’s student transition rate, and he will report back at the BOD meeting in July.

Coronavirus updates

The Board requested the formation of a special task group, comprising the Executive Committee, as well as directors David Odeh and Edward Stafford, to work on emergency guidelines to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic on ASCE operations.

Code of Ethics

The Task Committee on the Code of Ethics updated the Board on its progress, as it continues pursuing its charge to examine with fresh eyes and update the existing ASCE Code of Ethics.

The process has involved thousands of volunteer hours, with this winter’s call for member feedback, producing more than 1,300 comments. The Board voiced its appreciation of the Task Committee’s effort and looks forward to a draft for final consideration later in the year.

Other highlights

The Board received several updates on important Society topics, including public policy and infrastructure, strategic planning, membership, Future World Vision and the ongoing digital strategy project.

ASCE staff provided a progress report on the Society’s international activities and global programs. Gunalan also shared highlights from his recent presidential trip to India, along with Executive Director Tom Smith and Region 10 Director Elias Boutros Sayah, which included the India Section Conference, meetings with regional dignitaries, a massive press conference and a student rally that produced more than 150 new member signups. “I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to give something back to India,” said Gunalan of the place he was born and raised, “specifically to be viewed as a role model and an inspiration to the next generation of civil engineers.”


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  1. I think allowing student members to vote in ASCE elections is a great way to get students involved in the organization and paying more attention to the issues that are faced by the profession. But I do have some concerns:

    Are we allowing incoming freshmen to have voting rights or is it reserved for juniors and seniors?
    How do we verify that they are Civil Engineering students?
    Would we allow them to retain voting rights if they withdraw from the program?

  2. I believe this would make Affiliate Members the only membership category without voting rights. It seems that voting rights should also be expanded to include Affiliate Members. The criterion for this grade is to “have an interest in advancing the purpose and objectives of the Society AND not be eligible for the Student Member grade”.

    • Dear Kim;

      We have already voted to allow Affiliate Members to be able to vote. It will be on the ballot this year. So the only group left out was the Students.

      We will be a very inclusive organization if these two groups are afforded the opportunity to participate and have a voice.

      Thank you.

  3. Dear Ernie;

    Very good questions. We have requested the Governing Documents Committee to come back with the guidelines to make sure that the issues you have identified are all addressed.

    Thank you for raising the concerns.



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