Theta Alpha Kappa came into being through the good offices of the Religious Studies faculty (with special reference to its chairman at the time, Professor Albert Clark, F.S.C.) at Manhattan College in Riverdale (the Bronx), New York in 1976 for the purposes of honoring particularly excellent students in the fields of theology and/or religious studies. [A fuller account of these origins can be found on pp.1-3 of Vol.20/No.1 (Spring, 1996) of the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa.]
TAK was more formally constituted as a national honor society when, in February 1976, ten institutions (all connected through the College Theology Society) adopted a constitution and later that year chartered the first 15 chapters. In part reflecting the nature of these institutions and their interests within religious studies, the Greek letters theta, alpha and kappa were chosen to reflect theos, anthropos, and koinonia as their understanding of the primary foci of studies in religion and theology. [This understanding of the society’s name is a part of its history, but is no longer encoded into its defining documents.]
Within the next few years TAK had quickly grown into an independent National Honor Society with – by the mid 1980’s- fifty chapters, status as a non-profit corporation in New York State (1983), and status as a fully approved member of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS, 1985) – the first and only one of its kind within that organization. The latter action clearly established TAK as an academic, educational organization devoted to encouraging and rewarding excellence in the study of religion and theology.
Within the early 1990’s TAK took another large step by becoming a “Related Scholarly Organization” of the American Academy of Religion (AAR, 1994), and – by the year of its 20th anniversary (1996) – had grown to include over 115 chapter representing a full range of diverse institutions offering both undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in these fields of study. By 1998 it had over 130 chapters, and had been granted “affiliate society” status on the Council of Societies for the Study of Religion (CSSR, 1998). By the end of 1999 it had over 140 chapters, had amended its incorporation papers in preparation for an IRS 501(c) 3 application, and had become tax-exempt (7/23/99). As of Fall 2003 it had over 190 chapters and as of Fall 2011 it has chartered over 290 chapters.
As indicated in the new constitution of 1998, Theta Alpha Kappa exists to encourage, recognize and help maintain excellence within the academic study of religion and theology. It does this primarily by recruiting and chartering local chapters in appropriate, qualified institutions of higher learning – which chapters, in turn, exist to pursue these same purposes in a local context through their various activities and the induction of qualified students. Secondly, through its Journal and other programs, TAK seeks to pursue these purposes within a national and (hopefully in future) an international context.
TAK is held to high standards in supporting and recognizing these scholarly pursuits by its status as a member society in the ACHS, as a related scholarly organization of the AAR, an affiliated society of The Council of Societies for the Study of Religion, and as a non-profit, educational corporation in the State of New York. In each case TAK has committed itself – through its incorporation papers and constitution – to these purposes and high standards.
Theta Alpha Kappa is governed by a national Board of Directors and – in turn – by a member-approved constitution which establishes and legitimizes its most fundamental policies and procedures. While the size of this Board is flexible, it currently consists of four officers (President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer), three at-large representatives (of local chapters), and a Board-appointed editor of the Journal of TAK. Officers and representatives are elected from among candidates nominated by the continuing individual members of TAK. The Board regularly solicits nominations to fill these positions from this active membership and from the members’ chapters.
The Board of Directors is further organized around its two standing committees – the Executive Committee (officers and editor) and the Nominating Committee (appointed by the Board) – and its other ad hoc committees as determined necessary by the Board (e.g. a new chapter application/admission committee, a publications committee, a finance committee, etc.). The rights and duties of the two standing committees are found in Article V, Section 3 of the Constitution; and further reference to the Nominating Committee is found in Article V, Section 2 of the Constitution and in the “Time-Line” on pp.5-7 of this document. However, the operations of the Nominating Committee are sufficiently unique and important to warrant special mention here.
Nominating Committee: Four Board-appointed members make up the Nominating Committee, at least two of whom must be current members of the Board of Directors. The terms of these members (collectively or individually) are determined by the Board, but how the Committee organizes itself is left to its own members. (It is highly recommended, however, that the Committee select a Chairperson whose job it should be to see that the Committee does its work.) Very briefly, the Committee’s duties are as follows: 1) with the Board’s help, to facilitate the solicitation of nominations for upcoming vacancies on the Board (a process needing completion before the time of the annual spring Board meeting), 2) to review nominees for eligibility and 3) to make recommendations concerning potential candidates (in ranked order or not), the Committee needs to 4) check candidate availability and create a final slate of nominees, 5) see that the TAK membership is notified of its recommendations and that proxy votes are invited, and 6) see that the recommendations are brought to the Annual Meeting for its action.
Insofar as possible, Nominating Committees charged to bring nominations to any given (fall) Annual Meeting should be appointed ca 18 months prior (Spring Board meeting of the previous year) in order to give them ample time and opportunity to carry out their duties.
Awards and Recognitions Committee: While not a constitutionally created committee, this committee’s work is sufficiently important to be described here:
This committee will comprise the three Representatives at Large, who will elect a chair annually. The task of the Awards and Recognitions Committee is to oversee all current awards and prizes, and to recommend future awards, changes to existing awards, and new initiatives to recognize the work and service of members and chapter representatives. In particular, the Awards and Recognitions Committee will bring a nomination for the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Award to the Fall Board Meeting and will select the winners of the Graduate Fellowship Award.
Annual Meeting: While information and input into the Board’s activities is regularly solicited from chapters and individual members, the one formal occasion for members to vote on Board recommendations or discuss Board policies and procedures is the Annual Meeting of the TAK membership – currently being held annually in conjunction with the national meetings of AAR/SBL in late November. All individual members, and especially those members representing local chapters, are encouraged to attend and to take an active role in this governance opportunity. Notification concerning the place, time, and agenda of such meetings goes out to all members in September or October.
TAK works within a relatively modest annual budget of $50,000. The vast bulk of the income is from new chapter charter fees, annual chapter dues, individual member induction fees and annual active member dues (fees and dues structures are described below). Expenses are primarily incurred in the publication and mailing of the Journal (JTAK), office-related expenses related to the work of the officers of the Board, travel expenses to Board members on TAK business, and miscellaneous prizes and awards. TAK is a non-profit organization, and all Board positions are unpaid and monetarily uncompensated. (A treasurer’s report is offered at the Annual Meeting for members’ information.) Having recently (1999) become a tax-exempt, 501(c)3 organization, tax-deductible contributions will increasingly be important.
Chapter Fees and Dues: a one-time only charter fee of $150 is required of new chapters seeking a charter to induct members in the TAK name as a member chapter of Theta Alpha Kappa. Subsequently, and starting with the next fiscal year after such chartering has taken place, all chapters are required to pay an annual chapter dues of (according to institution size category) $50 (small, total institution enrollments of fewer than 1,700), $75 (medium, enrollments between 1,700 and 4,000), and $100 (large, enrollments over 4,000). As indicated in the revised 1998 constitution of TAK, and in the section below, chapters that fail to pay annual dues may be subject to inactivation.
Payment notices for chapter dues will be sent to Chapter Representatives in the Fall of any given fiscal year (July 1 to June 30) for payment in that fiscal year. Both the amount and the procedures for collecting such payments are subject to change as determined by the Board.
Individual Member Fees and Dues: As of September 1, 1998, all new, individual members being inducted into TAK via the local chapter are required to pay Theta Alpha Kappa an induction fee of $25 – a fee which, while payable to TAK, may be paid through the good offices of the local chapter or directly to TAK as determined by the local chapter. Such an induction fee must be understood as distinct and separate from any induction fee charged by the local chapter for its own purposes (if such a local induction fee is charged at all). Induction fees provide one full year (the year subsequent to induction) of full “active” status. (See below for an explanation of “active” membership, and its relationship to “permanent” membership.) This fee may be waived at the discretion of the President of TAK.
Once inducted, and after the year subsequent to induction, members may continue their active status by payment of an annual dues of $20. This payment, and the active status it brings, allows members to receive a free subscription to the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa, and financially support the work of TAK on behalf of education and scholarship related to Religious and/or Theological Studies. (“Lifetime members,” as defined by the Board of Directors, are considered active members without payment of annual dues. See #4 in the next section below.)
The voluntary payment or not of annual dues does not affect a member’s original and permanent membership in TAK, but rather signals the member’s on-going interest in and willingness to actively support the work of TAK. Members who may not have previously paid any annual dues, or have discontinued such payments, may start (or restart) in any given year by notifying the Secretary indicated at the end of this document.
Endowment Fund: TAK is working on the development of an Endowment Fund – the earnings of which will be devoted further to encouraging and rewarding student work in these academic disciplines.
Board Member Travel Expenses: Within the following limitations or exceptions, Board members will normally be reimbursed in full for travel related to TAK and/or Board of Directors’ business. Exceptions/limitations include but are not necessarily limited to: 1) personal automobile use will be reimbursed at the current IRS mileage reimbursement rate; 2) fall meeting (AAR/SBL-related) trips will be limited to a one-day per diem of $200, and 1/2 of travel expenses if the member’s institution will fund the other half. (All travel expenses will be covered if not funded by the home institution or other source). The treasurer may make decisions about and exceptions for this policy as need arises, but all such decisions and exceptions are subject to Executive Committee or Board approval as any Board member may request.
The programs or activities of the Board that most directly relate to fulfilling the purposes of TAK include the following:
- Chartering Chapters: It is TAK’s primary job, in the pursuit of its purposes, to recruit, charter, and maintain local chapters who, in turn, work directly with students and others in encouraging and recognizing excellence in these studies. By its own constitution, and by its membership in ACHS, TAK is authorized to charter chapters and induct – through those chapters – individual members in its own name and that of ACHS. (See below for further information on chapters.)
- Communications/Publications: The Board communicates with the chapter and individual membership in a number of ways, including but not limited to a) the regular publication and dissemination (to active individual members and selected libraries) of theJournal of Theta Alpha Kappa, b) the semi-annual “President’s Newsletter” sent to chapters via Chapter Representatives, c) dues notices to chapters and individuals, and d) periodic requests to chapters and/or individual members for information updates, nominations for positions on the Board, nominations for a variety of awards and prizes (see below), and for help in generating the submission of articles to JTAK for possible publication.
Among these communications, the Journal of Theta Alpha Kappa is an important and substantive link between the Board and the active membership (chapters and individuals) since it both disseminates information about Board activities and the scholarly work of members, and receives information about chapter activities and submissions of scholarly work for publication and/or prizes.
- Annual Meeting/Reception: TAK holds an Annual Meeting of the membership, together with a reception, normally in conjunction with the annual meetings of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). As suggested under “governance” above, this is an opportunity for the membership to take an active role in Board matters, and to offer votes and opinions about the operations of TAK. Mechanisms are also in place, if attendance at the Annual Meeting is not possible, to submit proxy votes on certain matters to come before the Meeting. Voting on matters before this meeting is the privilege of all permanent individual members of TAK.
- Award and Prizes: The Board sponsors a number of awards and prizes honoring excellence in work related to the purposes of TAK. These awards and prizes include a) the Albert Clark prizes (established in 1996 to honor our founding president) for an outstanding undergraduate and graduate essay/paper (a cash prize plus promise of publication in JTAK), b) the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Leader-of-the-Year award (established in 1990 to honor a former Board member who met an untimely death), and c) lifetime membership for those who have served at least one full term on the Board of Directors, and/or have been selected as a Leader-of-the-Year by the Board, d) the annual undergraduate achievement award given to eligible students as nominated by their chapters, e) the annual graduate fellowship award, and f) see #7 in this section. Separate procedures are in place, outside the purview of this document, for the implementation of these awards and prizes. (Cf. Awards and Recognitions Committee above.)
Additionally, and to chapters as well as new inductees, TAK offers certificates of membership and, for a small price, miscellaneous honorific regalia such as TAK pins and honor cords. (Further information about orderingTAK pins and honor cords can be found at the TAK website.)
- 5.The Board manages a website athttp://www.ThetaAlphaKappa.net which houses this and other documents, as well as information and forms useful in the operations of the National Society and its local chapters.
- Theta Alpha Kappa seeks to sponsor or co-sponsor undergraduate panels at the regional meetings of the AAR (and SBL when it meets in conjunction with the AAR regions). A first-year start-up incentive of $200 is offered to the region, and an annual best-paper prize of $100 is offered to a deserving participating student.
New Board terms begin July 1.
The Board and Nominating Committee are in the final processes of soliciting the names of possible candidates for Board positions starting July 1 after-next, and the Board is similarly in the process of soliciting names of possible candidates for the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert Leader-of-the-Year Award.
The Board President attends the annual meetings of the Association of College Honor Societies.
The “President’s Newsletter,” together with other relevant notices of interest, goes out to Chapter Representatives. Among other attachments, nominations/applications are solicited for the annual graduate fellowship award.
Chapter- and student- eligibility for receipt of the annual Undergraduate Achievement Award is determined, and nominations are gathered for awards to be made.
A spring Board (or Executive Committee) meeting is held, with special concern for the Nominating Committee’s report and identifying candidates for Board positions (to be elected at the fall Annual Meeting), and for creating any subsequent (future) Nominating Committee that may be needed.
The Editor solicits submissions of student work for the Albert Clark prizes and for potential publication. The Spring issue of JTAK goes out to all active individual members.
The Awards/Recognitions Committee conducts and carries out the annual competition for the Graduate Fellowship award.
The Nominating Committee finishes its work in preparation for proposing a slate of candidates to the membership for voting purposes at the Annual Meeting. (Voting on this matter may include soliciting proxy votes from the membership to be voted at the Meeting by the designated holder of proxies.) The subsequent Nominating Committee for the following year begins its work.
The Fiscal Year ends June 30 and the new one begins July 1.
New Board-member terms start July 1. (Regular terms run three years)
The “President’s Newsletter,” together with any other relevant notices of interest, goes out, and it includes information about the fall Annual Meeting/Reception, the slate of candidates being recommended for Board positions, and (if need be) a call for proxy votes. The Newsletter goes to Chapter Representatives, who, in turn, are asked to pass on such news as it contains to the local membership.
The chapter dues payment notices, as well as the chapter information forms, go out to Chapter Representatives for payment of the current fiscal year’s dues.
The fall issue of JTAK goes out, and it includes news from TAK about the fall Annual Meeting (see 4.a above). The Journal is always sent to current, active individual members, as well as selected libraries.
The fall Board meeting is held, and the Board – together with the Nominating Committee – initiates the processes referred to in 1.b above. In addition, nominations are received and decisions made about the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert award winner for the next year. (That person is asked to name a student for the Moderator’s Award.)
The Annual Meeting/Reception is held (normally in late November in conjunction with the national meetings of the AAR and SBL), with special reference to voting on Board recommendations and honoring the Kathleen Connolly-Weinert award winner.
The annual report to ACHS is submitted thereto by the President.
Theta Alpha Kappa chapters are found at a wide variety of colleges and universities offering a broad range of courses in the fields of religious studies and theology. Some chapters are hosted by public or nonsectarian private institutions while others are housed in religiously-affiliated institutions (including seminaries) for which ministry training may be an important focus. Theta Alpha Kappa heartily welcomes and encourages the formation of chapters in all these settings. While the society recognizes that courses with a vocational ministry focus need not be any less rigorous than others in our fields of study, it is also our commitment that courses with strong textual, historical, and/or theoretical foci lie at the heart of academic studies in religion and theology and should be the basis on which students gain entry into Theta Alpha Kappa. The society’s board carefully considers the presence and centrality of these courses when evaluating applications for new chapters and expects that chapter representatives only count such courses when determining student eligibility for induction.
New and continuing local chapters must conform to the policies and procedures articulated in the TAK constitution and in this TAK Board of Directors’ statement of procedures and policies. Beyond that, there is considerable latitude in how they are organized, what activities they sponsor, and how they go about their business. However, it might be useful to highlight the following issues and procedures, and to remind chapters that TAK has a “Chapter Handbook” (under separate cover) which expands on these issues.
- New Chapter Application: Persons at eligible institutions who are interested in forming a chapter should contact the Vice President listed on the TAK website in order to receive further information and/or chapter application instructions. Key questions related to applications include the nature of the institution and its willingness to support/approve this action, the adequacy of the program in religion or theology, the willingness to develop an approved set of by-laws (or to affirm the national constitution), and the payment of a charter fee and subsequent chapter dues. Applications are approved by a 2/3 majority of voting members of the Board of Directors.
- Chapter Organization/Leadership: The broad outlines of TAK’s expectations in this area are found in the “Chapter Handbook” and in Article IV of the national constitution, with particular attention to Section 2. Perhaps most important to the Board is the identification of a Chapter Representative who is to be the primary liaison between the local chapter and the national Board. This person, in addition to fulfilling the responsibilities described in IV.2.B of the constitution, is important to the Board in responding to its requests for information, chapter dues, and nominations to fill Board positions, or for other honors, awards, or prizes. Otherwise, the Board expects – but offers some latitude in – the identification/appointment of local chapter officers.
While TAK expects the Chapter Representative to be a faculty member who is also a member of the Society, this does not preclude the designation by this person of someone else who will carry out these duties. Similarly, the Board does not necessarily assume that this Representative (or Chapter Contact) is an officer or moderator/advisor for the chapter (though he/she may well be). The actual “leadership” of the chapter is left to the decision of the local chapter, as is the decision about who may be officers (e.g., faculty or students) or whether there is a “moderator” or “advisor,” or not. These are issues that may well be decided upon and written up for preservation and continuity in a local set of by-laws.
- Chapter Activities: Again, the national constitution and the “Chapter Handbook” indicate – in both specific and general terms – those activities that are appropriate for chapters to sponsor, most importantly to include the selection and induction of individual members. (See Article IV, Section 1; and cf. Article III, Section 1.B for information on types of membership available, and the criteria established for each.)
Beyond the annual induction ceremony (together, perhaps, with a business meeting) chapters are free to sponsor (and raise/spend funds relevant to) any number of activities which they may determine as important to the underlying purposes of TAK for supporting and encouraging scholarly, academic studies in these disciplines. Broadly speaking, these activities might be categorized in terms of scholarly/academic (guest lectures, student papers read and discussed, panel discussions, essay contests, etc.); social (student clubs, receptions for relevant students, special trips or other basically social gatherings as they encourage or reward such students in or for their work); and community relations (sponsoring programs to bridge the gap between “town and gown,” and to promote an understanding of and appreciation for the academic study of religion or theology and its value for the larger community).
- Chapters in “Good Standing”:The constitution of 1998, in Article III Section 2.B, lists the general criteria chapters must meet in order to remain “active” and/or “in good standing,” and indicates that only those chapters meeting these criteria may continue to induct new members. Beyond that, however, it also leaves to the Board the responsibility for determining if and when chapters have failed to meet these criteria, and how it will respond to such failures. What follows, therefore, is the Board’s policy and procedure for responding to these failures.
Chapters that fail to pay annual dues will no longer be considered active and in good standing. They will be not be able to induct new members nor order TAK paraphernailia. Such a chapter may return to good standing by payment of past dues.
Chapters that fail to pay annual dues for three consecutive years | and/or fail to live up to any other obligations under the 1998 constitution, are subject – by Board action – to “deactivation” by which they are no| longer able to |call themselves a chapter of TAK. Such chapters may “reactivate” only by a new application to the Board for reinstatement – including but not limited to the payment of a new charter fee. The chapter’s Greek letters, once assigned, will not be reassigned to another chapter.
Chapters concerned about their status may contact the Vice President indicated at the end of this document, and that officer will have the authority to “negotiate” with – and inform chapters about – these matters. When formal action has been taken by the Board for |deactivation or reactivation, the Secretary will provide formal notification to the chapter.
Theta Alpha Kappa, the National Honor Society for Religious Studies and Theology, is a national, not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to serving the interests of our chapters and their membership, the public, and higher education in our country through our several activities, which include gathering and dissemination of relevant data and information in furtherance of our purposes.
It is the long-standing policy of Theta Alpha Kappa to comply fully with all laws and regulations applicable to our activities, including the federal and state antitrust laws, which are intended to protect competition. The antitrust laws prohibit hard-core anticompetitive practices such as price-fixing, market division, and group boycotts, as well as certain other arrangements and transactions that may possibly harm the competitive process. Although our Society’s activities and programs generally do not present antitrust issues, we and our members must be informed about the antitrust laws and be sensitive to any possible antitrust issue or question.
In support of the Theta Alpha Kappa antitrust compliance policy, the following procedures and principles are applicable to the Society and our members: Theta Alpha Kappa meetings are to follow a pre-approved agenda, and meeting minutes will subsequently be prepared and distributed; any antitrust issue or question pertaining to Theta Alpha Kappa or our activities should be directed to the President, for review by counsel if necessary; and Theta Alpha Kappa chapters are encouraged to adopt antitrust guidelines of their own consistent with this Society policy statement.
Although Theta Alpha Kappa serves as a forum for the free and open discussion of diverse opinions, certain topics are inconsistent with our antitrust compliance policy. With respect to membership in ACHS and the related admission requirements, our Constitution sets forth the governing standards and procedures; any actions, understandings, or statements inconsistent with the Constitution are prohibited. More generally, any actions, understandings, or statements arising in the context of Theta Alpha Kappa, which appear to be anti-competitive in purpose or potential effect are inconsistent with Society policy, can be harmful to Theta Alpha Kappa and our members, and are prohibited. Under the antitrust laws relating to “group boycotts,” each member chapter must make its own, unilateral decisions as to the vendors or other entities with which it will do business, and on what terms. Any actions, understandings, or statements inconsistent with this antitrust principle should be avoided. (Adopted April 16, 2011.)
This document is the policy and procedures statement of the Board of Directors referenced in the national constitution (V.3.C2;V.4A;VIII.3). It is a document designed to describe in greater detail the de facto operations and procedures of the Board as currently in force (and thereby regularly updated).
These policies and procedures are the purview of the Board, and not subject to membership approval. The edition you are currently reading is dated April 20, 2013.
The original version of this document was created and approved by the Board in the Fall 1997 for implementation in January 1998.