Ad Hoc Committee on Constitutional Revision

In 2019, President Cameron Thies constituted an Ad Hoc Committee on Constitutional Revision with the following charge: “This committee is charged with updating the ISA Constitution to reflect current practice and deal with previously unanticipated eventualities.” Since the ISA constitution was written, we have seen significant changes in the association; it has become considerably larger and considerably more diverse. As a result, it has many more component units (sections, caucuses, and regions), more journals, more meetings, and a much larger budget. It seemed prudent to consider whether governance changes were appropriate. Our committee met monthly on zoom calls, and most importantly, in a full day retreat in December, 2019. We examined considerable data from peer associations, especially regarding leadership selection procedures. Based on our discussions, we have developed a draft of a new constitution that we presented to the Governing Council at its virtual meeting in April. We wish now to seek membership feedback on this proposed draft. Once we take into account that feedback, we intend to propose a draft for a vote at the Governing Council meeting in Las Vegas. If the GC approves the new draft, the membership would then vote on the new constitution.

General Principles:

The committee started with the following goals:

  1. Create a constitution that allows for efficient governance that is also representative and accountable.
  2. Modernize the constitution to reflect current practice and norms.

The most consequential proposed changes do three things:

  1. Require competitive elections for leadership positions.
  2. Change procedures for selecting members of the Executive Committee and the Nominating Committee to allow the Governing Council (composed of representatives of the Sections, Caucuses, and Regions) a greater role.
  3. Better specify the roles of the Executive Committee and the Governing Council, charging the Executive Committee with “primary responsibility for oversight on financial, personnel, and contractual matters for the Association” and the Governing Council with “responsibility for setting long term strategic goals for the association and providing oversight”.

Constitutional Revision Webinar

You are invited to a Zoom webinar.
When: September 22, 2020 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: Constitutional Revision Q&A

Register in advance for this webinar:

Click to Register

Frequently Asked Questions

We may add to this list as we receive additional questions from members.

Since the ISA constitution was written, we have seen significant changes in the association; it has become considerably larger and considerably more diverse. As a result, it has many more component units (sections, caucuses, and regions), more journals, more meetings, and a much larger budget. It seemed prudent to consider whether governance changes were appropriate. Our goal was to create a constitution that allows for efficient governance that is also representative and accountable and to modernize the constitution to reflect current practice and norms.

We view the following as the most consequential changes: (a) requiring competitive elections for president and vice-presidents; (b) changing the way that members of the nominating committee and Executive Committee are chosen to give more influence to the Governing Council; (c) defining the roles of the Executive Committee and Governing Council to charge the Executive Committee with “primary responsibility for oversight on financial, personnel, and contractual matters for the Association” and the Governing Council with “responsibility for setting long term strategic goals for the association and providing oversight”.

The nominating committee will put forward a set of nominees for president, vice presidents, and at large Governing Council members. The nominating committee is required to nominate a minimum of twice the number of nominees as positions, guaranteeing competitive elections for all positions. The nominating committee is not limited to the minimum number of nominees and could include more candidates on the ballot. Alternative candidates can also be placed on the ballot by petition.

At least one of the vice presidents and all of the at large members of the Governing Council must come from “institutions in countries that are or have historically been underrepresented in the Association membership or leadership.”

Every member is entitled to vote in the election. The candidate who receives the most votes among those cast for president will be elected. The three candidates who receive the most votes for vice president will be elected, as long as at least one of these three candidates is from an institution in a country that is or has historically been underrepresented in the Association membership or leadership. Otherwise, the two candidates who receive the most votes and the candidate from an institution in a historically underrepresented country who receives the most votes will be elected. The three candidates for at-large Governing Council seats who receive the most votes will be elected.

The nominating committee will consist of nine members serving staggered three year terms. Each year, the President-Elect will appoint one member of the nominating committee, and the Governing Council will elect two of its own members to serve on the nominating committee. Thus at any one time, six of the nine members will have been elected by the Governing Council from their own membership, and three of the nine members will have been appointed by presidents.

In addition, the Executive Committee will elect a Convenor for a three-year term. This position is held by a past President of the association and is not a voting member. The Convenor is responsible for soliciting nominations, communicating with the Executive Office, and overseeing committee procedures.

Yes. Any petition for alternative candidates with the documented support of five percent or more of the ISA's membership that is received by the Executive Director by October 15 will be given the same publicity within the organization as accorded the nominees of the nominating committee.

The Governing Council shall consist of the following: The President, three Vice Presidents, the immediate Past-President, the Executive Director, the President-Elect, three Vice Presidents-Elect, the Treasurer, the head of each component unit of ISA, and six at-large representatives from institutions in countries that are or have historically been underrepresented in the Association membership or leadership.

Component units of ISA are sections, caucuses, and regions. Thus, the great majority of members of the Governing Council are those elected to serve as heads of sections, regions, and caucuses.

The Executive Committee shall consist of the President, the Vice Presidents, the President-Elect, the immediate Past-President, the Treasurer, the Executive Director and five at-large members elected by the Governing Council. At-large members serve for one year and should reflect the diversity of perspectives of the Association. At-large members must be members of the Governing Council throughout their time on the Executive Committee.

Thus, of the thirteen members of the Governing Council, six are elected directly by the membership (three presidents and three vice presidents), and six are elected by the Governing Council (five at-large members and the Executive Director). The remaining member, the Treasurer, is nominated by the President-Elect and confirmed by the Governing Council.

The Governing Council is designed to be broadly representative of the constituencies within ISA, and it should be the body that makes decisions about the broad directions that ISA should take—for example, approving new programs, journals, convention rules, committees, constituent units, etc. Given the complexity and size of the association, however, implementing the details of all of these programs is unwieldy to manage in such a large body that meets so infrequently. Thus, the Executive Committee will have primary responsibility for financial, personnel, and contractual matters that often need to be handled quickly and with confidentiality. Executive Committee members will receive a broader and deeper orientation to the legal, contractual, and financial aspects of the organization and will be available to meet, either virtually or in person, approximately four times per year, and more often in unusual circumstances.

The President and the Executive Director will collaboratively develop the agenda for Governing Council meetings. Additional agenda items may be proposed by any member of the Governing Council, or by a petition of two percent of the membership. Governing Council members will vote on all proposed additional agenda items and those that are approved will be added to the agenda as new business.

Members can propose new sections, regions, and caucuses through petition of the Governing Council. New regions or sections can be proposed by petition of at least four percent of the membership, and new caucuses can be proposed by petition of at least one percent of the membership. The Governing Council makes the final decisions regarding recognition of new component units.

The revised constitution will be subject to a vote of the Governing Council. If at least 2/3 of the Governing Council approve, the revised constitution will be submitted to the membership for vote. If a majority of the members who vote approve of the revised constitution, it will be adopted.

Yes, there are other changes, and we encourage those who are interested to review the full draft of the new constitution and the old constitution. We have, for example, removed the annual business meeting (replacing it with the ability for members to place items on the Governing Council agenda by petition), referenced the Code of Conduct, and adopted gender-neutral language throughout.

We presented this draft to the Governing Council in April, 2020. We propose to collect feedback from May, 2020 through October, 2020, after which the committee will consider whether further revisions to the draft are appropriate. We expect to submit a proposed revision of the constitution to the Governing Council for a vote in April, 2021.

We welcome member feedback and questions at any time at Constitution@isanet.org. In addition, we are planning multiple online forums to collect feedback and answer questions.

Committee Members

Brett Ashley Leeds | Chair
Rice University

Paul Diehl | Member
University of Texas - Dallas

Craig N. Murphy | Member
Wellesley College

Beth Ann Simmons | Member
University of Pennsylvania

Rorden Wilkinson | Member
University of New South Wales

Cameron G. Thies | Ex-Officio
Arizona State University

Helen Milner | Ex-Officio
Princeton University

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch | Ex-Officio
University of Essex

Mark A. Boyer | Ex-Officio
International Studies Association

Jennifer Fontanella | Ex-Officio
International Studies Association

2020 Committee Report

The 2020 Ad Hoc Committee on Constitutional Revision Report can be viewed here:

2020 Committee Report

About the Committee

The Committee on Constitutional Revision is an ad hoc committee, created by President Cameron G. Thies shortly after the 2019 Governing Council meeting in Toronto, and was renewed by President Helen Milner in April 2020. Committee members are appointed by the ISA President.

Membership and Terms

  • The committee members serve an unlimited term while the committee is on an ad hoc basis
  • The committee includes five ex-officio members (President, Past President, President-Elect, Executive Director, Director of Operations)