Department Bylaws

LAST REVISED, November 2021

On this page:

I. Definitions

“Voting member(s)” shall include all tenured and tenure-track faculty members of the History Department of the University at Buffalo. Also eligible for such privileges shall be those faculty whose service is deemed the equivalent of full-time involvement in the department, as indicated by a two-thirds vote of the voting members.

An “unranked vote” is one in which professorial rank is not indicated.

II. The Chair and Departmental Officers

1. The Chair is the department’s chief representative in departmental relations with other university units and with the general public. S/he is the department’s chief executive and administrative officer, and as such, is fully responsible at all times to the voting members of the department.

2. When the Chair is to be selected or reappointed, the voting members may make their preference known as follows. After the advisory ballot is distributed by the Dean to the voting membership and before the date it must be returned, a meeting of the voting membership may be convened by written petition to the Chair of one-fifth of the voting members or of a majority of the Executive Committee. Prospective candidates may address the voting membership and respond to questions. A secret, unranked vote will be taken to determine the voting members’ preferences and the results will be made known to the voting members and the Dean.

3. The Chair, with the advice and consent of the Executive Committee, shall initiate nominations of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS). All such nominations require acceptance by majority vote of the voting members. In the event of a negative vote, the process shall be repeated until the majority of the voting members approves a candidate.

4. The Chair shall be an ex officio member of the standing committees, but will not vote.

5. The DGS and DUS shall ordinarily be appointed for three consecutive academic years.

III. Departmental Committees

1. All committee reports must be submitted to the voting members and the voting members must ratify any committee recommendations for policy changes, bylaw amendment or other business which require departmental approval as prescribed by these bylaws (e.g., a hiring recommendation.) Decisions made in the normal course of committee business do not require ratification by the voting members, but may be debated and overturned by the voting members.

2. The Standing Committees of the department are:
The Executive Committee
The Graduate Program Committee
The Undergraduate Program Committee
The Speakers Committee
The Scheduling Committee
The Diversity Committee
The Prizes and Awards Committee

3. There are two ways to create ad hoc committees. If the chair creates an ad hoc committee, s/he must inform the Executive Committee of its composition, with the exception of ad hoc committees to determine discretionary salary increases. If the Executive Committee creates an ad hoc committee, it does so by majority vote.

4. The Executive Committee shall serve as an advisory body to the Chair and shall perform such assignments as are stipulated in these bylaws and as directed by the voting members. It shall also function as the Committee on Committees and may from time to time create ad hoc committees.

5. The Executive Committee shall serve as an oversight committee for all formal grievances which are brought to the department. In that capacity it shall appoint an ad hoc grievance committee to consider the grievance.

6. The Executive Committee shall consist of the Chair, ex officio and without vote, the DGS and DUS, ex officio with a vote, and three other voting members including at least one untenured voting member. To facilitate the selection of the next year’s Executive Committee, the Chair in concert with the extant Executive Committee shall nominate three voting members, including at least one untenured member, for the approval of the voting membership in the Spring semester. Nominations may also rise from the floor of the department. Voting shall be by secret and unranked ballot. Elected members will only be eligible to sit on the Executive Committee a maximum of two years consecutively.

7. Committees shall organize their own business consistent with their charges to them by the Executive Committee and/or the voting members. Motions shall be carried by majority vote. Reports from committees to the voting members shall include minority and majority reports if the minority so desire.

8. The Scheduling Committee shall consist of the Chair, Assistant to the Chair, DGS and DUS.

9. The Graduate Committee shall include two doctoral students or one doctoral student and one masters student. The Speakers Committee shall have one doctoral student member.

10. In the Graduate Committee, the graduate representatives shall be excluded from discussions and decisions regarding financial aid and the academic progress of individual students. Masters students serving as graduate representatives on the Committee shall be excluded from discussions and decisions regarding graduate admissions.  

11. Upon the advice of the Executive Committee or by petition of one-fifth of the voting membership, financial aid decisions by the Graduate Committee may be brought to full voting membership for debate and approval.

12. Discretionary salary increases shall be recommended to the Chair by an ad hoc committee.

IV. Voting and Meetings

1. The Chair shall call at least two department meetings per semester. Attendance at department meetings by voting members shall be considered a professional obligation. With the consent of the Executive Committee, the chair may conduct routine business by paper ballot without calling a department meeting. In such cases, if one-fifth of the voting members petition in writing, a department meeting will be called to discuss the issue at hand.

2. A department meeting may be called by written petition to the Chair of one-fifth of the voting members or of a majority of the Executive Committee.

3. The time of department meetings, along with the agenda, shall be widely published at least 48 hours before the meeting. Voting members may place an item on the agenda by written notification to the Chair more than 48 hours before the meeting. Only items on the agenda shall be voted on.

4. Votes shall be considered binding only when a quorum is present. A quorum is defined as a majority of the voting members.

5. Votes are ordinarily carried by simple majority, except where these by-laws stipulate a supermajority is required.

6. Department meetings are open to voting members, one Ph.D. student observer selected by the Graduate History Association, and such individuals as the Chair or a majority of the Executive Committee shall choose to invite. The Executive Committee may stipulate in advance those agenda items for which the meeting is closed to all but voting members and other specifically designated individuals. During a meeting, the meeting may be closed to all but voting members by a two-thirds vote of voting members present. Department meetings to consider voting on job candidates shall automatically be closed to all but voting members and search committee members.

7. Only voting members shall cast votes in department meetings. It shall be understood that a ballot shall be cast only if the voting member is fully informed on the issue at hand, especially in personnel matters. Ballots shall be open (by voice or hand) except where these by-laws call for secret ballot. In addition, one-fifth of the voting members present may request that any vote be by secret ballot.

8. Voting members may cast votes by absentee ballot. It shall be understood that an absentee ballot shall be cast only if the voting member is fully informed on the issue at hand, especially in personnel matters. Voting members not in attendance at a department meeting may instruct the Chair to read a statement to the department assembled. Individuals voting by absentee ballot or instructing a statement to be read shall not count toward meeting quorum.

9. Minutes shall be kept of all department meetings and votes and will be available for review to voting members and elected Graduate History Association officers.

10. Questions of parliamentary procedure shall be resolved according to Robert’s rules.

11. Department meetings shall normally run no longer than two hours. After two hours have passed, a meeting may be extended by the vote of a majority of voting members present in the room at the time.

V. Appointments

1. The hiring of tenure-track and tenured faculty will entail a national search, with positions advertised in job listings most commonly used by the historical profession such as the American Historical Association’s Perspectives and H-NET. A Search Committee will screen applicants for the position, recommend a short list of candidates to be invited for on-campus interviews, and make final recommendations to the voting members.

2. The Search Committee will include at least four voting members, at least one of whom ordinarily is nontenured, and one of whom will serve as chair, as well as a graduate student in the Department’s doctoral program. Faculty composition of the committee, including designation of the chair, must be approved by vote of the voting members. The student member will be appointed by mutual agreement of the chair of the Search Committee and the Graduate History Association. All members of the committee are entitled to one vote in search committee proceedings.

3. Following screening of the applicants, the Search Committee will recommend to the department Chair a short list of candidates to be invited for on-campus interviews. On-campus interviews will include, at a minimum, an oral presentation to the department open to faculty and students; a meeting of the candidate with graduate students; and a meeting of the candidate with members of the Search Committee. Following the interviews, the Search Committee in its deliberations will consider any written comments submitted by faculty or graduate students. The Search Committee will determine by vote which candidates are considered acceptable, and will rank order those candidates deemed acceptable.

4. The Search Committee will present these recommendations at a meeting of the voting members. The doctoral student member of the Search Committee may attend and participate in this meeting but may not vote. Any member(s) of the Search Committee who dissent(s) from one or more of the Committee’s recommendations may present a minority report. The voting members will normally vote on the recommendations regarding each candidate in turn, beginning with the first-ranked candidate, and continuing through the entire short list. The Chair will present the resulting rank-ordered list of acceptable candidates to the Dean.

5. When the Dean requests the department to consider hiring a specific individual apart from a national search, as in spousal hiring, the Executive Committee will conduct an initial review of the individual’s credentials and vote on whether or not to proceed further. If the Executive Committee votes to proceed, a Review Committee will be appointed and the potential hire will be invited for an on-campus interview, to be conducted in the same manner as in the case of national searches. The Review Committee will be composed of not fewer than three voting members, one of whom will serve as chair, as approved by the voting members. The Review Committee will present its recommendation at a meeting of the voting members. The subsequent vote will determine the Chair’s recommendation to the Dean.

6. In the case of nontenure-track appointments of more than two consecutive semesters, the Chair will make every effort to advertise the position nationally.

7. Graduate students will have access to non-confidential portions of applicant dossiers.

VI. Promotions and Tenure

1. Once per year the Chair shall meet individually with each tenure-track faculty member to discuss progress toward promotion and tenure. The department shall have a mentoring program for junior faculty, including but not limited to this annual meeting.

2. Faculty members may present themselves for promotion, consistent with CAS regulations.

3. Dossiers for promotion and tenure shall be assembled per CAS guidelines. Candidates for promotion and tenure should select an advocate as stipulated in the faculty handbook.

4. The Chair, with the advice of the advocate and other appropriate voting members consulted by the Chair, shall determine whom to contact outside the University for letters of evaluation for the dossier.

5. Promotion and tenure cases shall be voted on by the voting members at and above the rank to which candidates are prospectively to be promoted. Secret ballots shall be cast, indicating the rank of the voting member.

VII. Departmental Information

1. The general rule shall be that all department information shall be available to the department assembled; that information pertaining to any individual of a professional nature shall be available to that individual upon request, whether that information be held by a departmental officer or by a departmental committee, except where the originator of that material understands that it be kept confidential.

2. Neither the Chair, departmental officers, or committees shall act on negative professional information concerning an individual member without offering an opportunity for that individual to respond to the information in question.

3. On an annual basis, the Chair will provide a report to the Executive Committee detailing the disbursement of department funds, including but not limited to the general departmental budget, the Lockwood Chair, the Plesur Fund, and travel funds.

4. These by-laws shall be posted on the departmental website.

5. Information regarding the department’s policies and activities shall be circulated in timely fashion via appropriate media, including faculty and graduate student listservs.

6. The department’s student and faculty grievance procedures shall be those set by the University.

VIII. Ratification and Amendment Procedures

1. Ratification of these by-laws will require a two-thirds vote of the voting members, provided the new by-laws are made available at least a week in advance. If ratified, these by-laws will go into effect 1 July.

2. All alterations and additions to the by-laws will require a two-thirds vote of the voting members, provided a week’s notice is given in writing of the proposed changes.

3. The Chair shall appoint an ad hoc committee to review the by-laws at least once every five years.

IX. Separability and Compatibility

1. If any portion of these by-laws is adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not invalidate the remainder of these by-laws.

2. These by-laws are compatible with and subordinate to the College of Arts and Sciences By-laws, the University at Buffalo’s By-laws of the Voting Faculty, and the authority and policies of the Trustees of the State University of New York.