Department Bylaws

Last updated and approved by majority vote of the department faculty April 2019.

The purpose of the department bylaws is to provide a transparent, mutually agreed upon structure for conducting department business and shared decision-making. 

1. The Department Chair (Unit Head)

The GVSU Faculty Handbook describes the responsibilities of the Department Chair (or Unit Head) as follows:

Areas the unit heads deal with include but are not limited to the following: fiscal matters; personnel matters; teaching, scholarly, & research activities; professional conduct matters; faculty absences; office assignments; meetings & communications; secretarial & technical services; faculty assignments; part-time faculty; curriculum; library resources; course scheduling; student relations & advising; student help; equipment, facilities, & records.

Department Chairs serve a 3-year, renewable term. Responsibilities of the Department Chair span the full year. Department chairs must be tenured and should be members of the Integrative, Religious, and Intercultural Studies Department (hereafter referred to as IRIS).


1.a. Fiscal Responsibilities

The unit head manages the department budget and allocates resources over the fiscal year. This includes: reviewing proposals for requests from faculty for travel, grant applications (CSCE and FTLC as well as external), providing approval when necessary, providing Cayuse/Streamlyne approvals, and requesting new or replacement positions for the unit.

1.b. Personnel Responsibilities

The unit head is responsible for implementing guidelines for matters of tenure, reappointment, sabbatical and salary increments.They are also responsible for the coordination of absences by unit faculty for professional and personal reasons and other expectations outlined in the Brooks College Faculty and Department Expectations (implemented Fall 2018). The unit head must notify dean in these instances.

The unit head is responsible for encouraging unit faculty to develop their teaching and to carry on scholarly work and creative/research activities and is responsible for convening and chairing unit meetings and apprising faculty members of announcements from the dean’s office.

The unit head, after consultation with each faculty member, is responsible for cooperating with the dean in arranging office assignments for the faculty in the unit.

The unit head is also responsible for working with the unit faculty, the dean, and the Human Resource Office in arranging secretarial and technical services. The dean’s office must be informed of all extended absences. It is understood that unit heads will have the necessary secretarial and/or technical assistance to carry out their responsibilities.

1.c. Teaching/Scheduling Responsibilities

The unit head is responsible for making sure the unit offers the appropriate courses and for the staffing of these courses. The importance of the teaching responsibility should be emphasized. Teaching assignments should be made on the basis of an individual’s competencies and experience.

The unit head is responsible for recruiting qualified part-time teachers within established guidelines of the college and making sure that they have the necessary orientation to the course(s) they will teach, to the unit, and to the college. When necessary, the unit head should assist part-time faculty in the completion of proper employment forms and in preparing syllabi and examinations, ordering textbooks, and turning in final grades.

The unit head is responsible for approving all waivers in the requirements for the major(s), minor(s), certificate, or badge, notification of which must be sent to the dean. The general guidelines applied in granting such waivers should be established by the unit faculty.

They are responsible for evaluating transfer equivalencies for  their unit’s courses, evaluating course prerequisites and making sure that students meet course prerequisites. The unit head is also responsible for assessment, and for initiating or revising appropriate curriculum degree changes, and catalog copy revision for all undergraduate programs within the unit. These actions shall be carried out within the college and university guidelines.

The unit head is responsible for determining and preparing the schedules of courses to be offered by the unit. These schedules shall be consistent with the following considerations: a) fit the overall guidelines and needs of the college and university; b) available faculty (full-time, part-time and adjunct); c) proper sequential and efficient offering of courses for the approved programs within the unit; d) effective cooperative scheduling with other units to ensure that students who must normally take courses during the same semester in various units are able to do so; e) use of all approved time slots during the day and week (including evenings where appropriate) to ensure the best possible use of classroom, laboratory and studio facilities and the widest possible flexibility for student enrollment; and f) student needs and demands not already addressed above.

1.d. Human Relations

The unit head is responsible for fostering positive student/faculty relations in that unit. Further, the unit head is to deal with student concerns and take appropriate action. The unit head is also responsible for coordinating the unit’s participation in new student recruitment, student orientation, and general advising.

2. Assistant Department Chair

The purpose of this position is to more fully support the work of the Department as a whole, while also growing the Religious Studies major/minor. The Assistant Chair will be appointed by the Dean of Brooks College at the recommendation of the unit head and confirmed by a department vote. Term of appointment is three years. The Assistant Chair should be a tenured, tenure-track faculty member with their primary appointment in department. This position is compensated with a 3-credit course release in fall and winter semesters. Specific duties will include:

  • Assist unit head (chair) with recruiting and advising students into the department, including INT/LIB and REL majors & REL minor
  • Assist unit head with scheduling and staffing of INT/LIB and REL courses
  • Assist unit head with data collection for unit- and program-specific reporting
  • Assist unit head with additional student registration duties such as permit overrides and transfer equivalencies
  • Working collaboratively with unit head, other department program coordinators (ALP and ITC), and the graduate director to support department efforts as a whole
  • Oversee the REL program expenditures with approval of the unit head
  • Coordinate curriculum development for the REL major and minor
  • Oversee strategic planning and assessment of the REL program
  • Convene and lead the REL program Advisory Council and the REL Program Faculty Committee 
  • Develop common practices across the REL program
  • Connect with faculty across campus with expertise in the academic study of religion who may teach courses in or related to the REL program
  • Maintain connections with the Kaufman Institute and campus initiatives related to the academic study of religion
  • Engage in community outreach and programming to help build student learning opportunities for the REL program
  • Attend Liberal Studies unit meetings and report to the Liberal Studies Department on activities of the REL Program
  • Represent the REL program at Unit Heads and Leadership Council meetings

3. Program Coordinators and Graduate Program Director (GPD)

Within IRIS there are two Program Coordinators, one for the Intercultural Training Certificate and one for the Liberal Studies Major Accelerated Leadership Program. There is also a Graduate Program Director (GPD) who oversees the department’s Professional Master of Arts in Social Innovation (SI). The Program Coordinators each report to the IRIS Department Chair.

Normally a three-year commitment that can be renewed, the coordinatorships may come with a stipend, negotiable in consultation with the Dean of Brooks College. The GPD is compensated with a 3-credit teaching release in fall and winter semesters. Faculty members appointed to be Program Coordinators or Graduate Director should be tenured or tenure-track faculty who have scholarly and/or teaching experience relevant to the program. The GPD will have graduate faculty status, or have the academic credentials to be awarded faculty status, with the associated responsibilities of faculty rank. The GPD should also be a senior faculty, with tenure, chosen on the basis of their leadership and organizational ability (per the BoT Policy on GPDs, approved February 2019). Responsibilities of the Program Coordinators and Graduate Director are listed below.


3.a. Graduate Program Director (SI)

The Graduate Program Director is responsible for overseeing the Professional Master of Arts in Social Innovation (PMASI) Program in consultation with the department chair and the Graduate School, in keeping with the role outlined in the Board of Trustees Policies (approved February 2019). Per the BoT Politics, the authority to appoint the GPD is vested in the Dean of Brooks College. The dean will normally appoint the new GPD from nominations/recommendations received from the unit head. Should the dean make an alternative appointment for GPD, the dean will provide a rationale to the unit head. If the unit head is not able to make a nomination, the dean will make an appointment. The director also works closely with the Graduate School on admissions, funding, and related initiatives to support graduate education. The GPD is evaluated annually as part of the Faculty Activity Planning (FAP) and Faculty Activity Report (FAR) process. The unit head and/or Dean will provide a written performance summary of the GPD based on duties and responsibilities of the GPD on a three-year rotation or more frequently if requested by the GPD, academic unit head, or academic dean.

Specific duties of the Graduate Director include:

  • Recruit and advise students into the Social Innovation (SI) Program
  • Direct marketing and recruitment materials for the SI Program
  • Assist unit head with scheduling of SI courses
  • Manage SI curriculum in consultation with the unit head
  • Supervise/mentor graduate student research
  • Supervise/mentor graduate faculty in consultation with the unit head
  • Conduct graduation audits
  • Consult with SI Advisory Council, including convening and leading meetings of the Advisory Council
  • Develop and place students in internship/practicum opportunities
  • Develop fundraising/funding efforts to support graduate students through graduate assistantships
  • Maintain connections with community-based organizations to support graduate and post-graduate placements
  • Attend Liberal Studies unit meetings and report to the IRIS Department on activities of the SI Program
  • Lead assessment of student learning outcomes and reporting for the SI Program

3.b. Intercultural Competence Certificate and Badge (ITC)

The Intercultural Competence Certificate and Badge Program (ITC) is housed within Liberal Studies. The certificate is overseen by a Program Coordinator with guidance from an ITC Advisory Council. Specific duties of ITC Coordinator include:

  • Recruit and advise students into the certificate and badge programs
  • Assist unit head with scheduling of ITC courses based on program demand
  • Conduct graduation and badge audits and ensure student eligibility for practicum and capstone (ITC 490 and ITC 495)
  • Oversee the ITC program expenditures with approval of the unit head
  • Coordinate curriculum development for the certificate and badge programs
  • Oversee strategic planning and assessment of the program
  • Convene and lead the program Advisory Council
  • Develop common practices across the program
  • Connect with faculty across campus with expertise in the academic study and practice of intercultural competence who may teach courses in or related to the program
  • Maintain connections with on and off campus entities to further intercultural competence efforts within and on behalf of the university
  • Attend Liberal Studies unit meetings and report to the IRIS Department on activities of the ITC Program

3.c. Accelerated Leadership Program (ALP)

Specific duties of the Integrative Studies Major Accelerated Leadership Program Coordinator include:

  • Assist with recruiting and advising students into program, in collaboration with Adult and Continuing Studies (ACS) and the IRIS Department Chair
  • Participate in regular, monthly meetings with ACS and Instructional Design for eLearning (IDeL), to be organized by ACS
  • Oversee ALP expenditures with approval of the Department Chair and Dean’s Office
  • Coordinate scheduled course offerings and curriculum planning in collaboration with ACS and Department Chair
  • Coordinate assessment of the Leadership Emphasis in collaboration with IRIS Assessment Committee
  • Develop common practices across the program, including accelerated formats for INT/LIB core courses and INT/LIB electives that are a part of the Leadership Emphasis
  • Serve as a liaison among faculty teaching in the ALP and between IRIS, the Integrative Studies Program, and ACS
  • Coordinate training for new faculty teaching in the ALP in consultation with Department Chair (unit head), ACS, and IDeL. This may include: adult education pedagogy, accelerated teaching, curriculum mapping, community-based learning, and general orientation to the Integrative Studies major (for non-IRIS faculty)
  • Support ALP faculty by convening at least one annual meeting to solicit feedback, foster community, and share ideas/experiences
  • Coordinate and oversee community-based learning and co-curricular activities at cohort sites, where applicable

4. Standing Committees

Except as noted, standing committees are charged with establishing and maintaining their own policies as they pertain to internal procedures and timetables, including naming a committee chair. Unless specified in Items Requiring Department Approval, department approval of internal policies is not required. An ex officio member of a committee may only vote in the event of a tie.

4.a. Assessment Committee

Membership: Three to five full-time, regular faculty members will be elected by the Department to serve staggered two-year terms, with a limit of two consecutive terms on the same committee.

Charge: The Assessment Committee collaborates with the Department Chair to facilitate assessment and strategic planning efforts, including the preparation of required assessment reviews and reports.

4.b. Curriculum Committee

Membership: Three to five full-time, regular faculty members will be elected by the Department to serve staggered two-year terms, with a limit of two consecutive terms on the same committee.

Charge: The Curriculum Committee provides leadership in the area of curriculum and oversees formal curriculum proposals that require a change in the university catalog.  (See Procedures below.) In consultation with the Department Chair and (if applicable) the Program Coordinator, the Curriculum Committee is authorized to make minor catalog changes that do not require the approval of the College Curriculum Committee.

Procedures for Curriculum Proposals: Any full-time, regular faculty member(s) may initiate a curriculum proposal. The initiator(s) of a formal proposal will first bring a summary of the proposal to the Curriculum Committee. The Curriculum Committee will review the proposal and make a recommendation to the department. If the department approves the proposal, the Curriculum Committee is charged with working with the initiator(s) to prepare the formal documents for submission to the College Curriculum Committee. Included in the charge will be whether or not the formal proposal needs to return to the department for approval before being sent to the College Curriculum Committee.

4.c. Awards Committee

Membership: Three to five regular faculty members elected by the Department to serve staggered, two-year terms, with a limit of two consecutive terms on the same committee.

Charge: The Awards Committee provides leadership to work with faculty across the Department to share information about relevant awards, assist with recruiting and submitting nominations, as well as reviewing submissions and making the final selection for departmental awards, including the Wendy J. Wenner, Stanley Krohmer, and Religious Studies senior thesis/project awards.

4.d. Personnel Committee

Membership: The Personnel Committee is comprised of all tenured and tenure track faculty with majority appointments in IRIS and is chaired by the Department Chair (unit head). To be eligible to vote, faculty must have completed two (2) years of full-time, uninterrupted service as a unit regular faculty member, per the requirements outlines in the Administrative Manual.

Charge: The Personnel Committee facilitates the procedures for contract renewal, promotion, and tenure decisions as outlined in the Administrative Manual.

4.e. Search Committee

Membership: At least four full-time, regular faculty members, including at least one Inclusion Advocate, appointed by the Department Chair (ex officio). The Department Chair will make reasonable efforts to appoint committee members with relevant field expertise and to balance committee responsibilities among junior and senior members of the department.

Charge: The Search Committee handles all administrative details of the search for new, tenure-track faculty members, including making recommendations to the department.  Before searches are initiated, the department decides what positions are to be filled. The department also makes the final recommendations to the Dean of Brooks College (the appointing officer).

4.f. Religious Studies Program Committee

Membership: The Religious Studies Program Committee is convened and chaired by the Assistant Department Chair. Its members include full-time, regular GVSU faculty who teach in the REL Program, a majority of who are members of IRIS.

Charge: The REL Program Committee provides leadership in the area of curriculum and oversees formal curriculum proposals with REL designation that require a change in the university catalog. In consultation with the Department Chair and Assistant Chair, the REL Program Committee is authorized to make catalog changes and submit new courses with REL designation. These changes do not need to be approved by the IRIS Curriculum Committee and may be submitted directly to the College Curriculum Committee, pending approval by the IRIS Department Chair. The REL Program Committee is also responsible for assessment within the REL major and minor and strategic planning on behalf of REL Program.

5. Course Coordinators and Other Positions

5.a. Course Coordinators

The Department Chair will appoint course coordinators, on two-year terms, for multiple-section courses as deemed appropriate. Course coordinators may be full-time, regular faculty members in the department who have experience teaching the course and academic expertise in the subject matter. It is expected that the course coordinator actively teaches at least one section of the course they are coordinating.

The primary role of the course coordinator is to maintain high quality and consistency of instruction in multi-section courses. Course coordinators schedule regular meetings with adjunct, visiting, and full-time faculty and provide resources to support teaching and learning in the courses they coordinate.  This may include the development of service learning and co-curricular components for the department.

5.b. Library Representative

One regular, full-time faculty member shall be appointed by the Department Chair to serve as the Department’s Library Representative. This is a one-year, renewable appointment. The Library Representative is charged with working with members of the department, including the Program Coordinators, to identify needs for texts, journals, databases, and multimedia materials and to convey those needs to the Department’s subject librarian(s). The Library Representative shall also serve as a liaison between University Libraries and the Department, making faculty aware of resources provided by University Libraries’ and encouraging faculty to make use of those resources.

5.c. Faculty Mentors

All non-tenured, full-time faculty members shall be assigned a faculty mentor within the Department. It is the responsibility of the unit head to make those assignments and to review those assignments with junior and senior faculty members on an annual basis. Where possible, faculty mentors should be tenured members of the department.


6. Voting and Election Procedures

6.a. Voting Eligibility and Beginning of Terms for Committee Members

Only majority appointed, tenure-line and affiliate members in the department may vote in elections and department affairs. Terms for elected positions begin January 1. The beginning of terms for appointed or interim replacement positions are at the discretion of the Department Chair.

6.b. Election Procedures for the Appointment of a New Department Chair (per Brooks College guidelines)

Terms of appointment are normally for three years, renewable after an evaluation for another three-year term. Assuming there are no unanticipated vacancies, the appointment process would normally begin in the fall semester of the academic year of the current Department Chair’s (unit head) term.

A. The Associate Dean or Dean’s designee meets with the unit faculty to discuss departmental trajectory and goals and desired qualifications of the chair. Feedback from this discussion is used in crafting the position description. The feedback is summarized and provided to the unit’s faculty and staff. The department’s faculty and staff will determine the desired venue(s) for the discussion, which may include individual meetings, meetings of the whole, etc.

B. The department determines:

  1. Who may be nominated or self-nominated as a candidate
  2. Who may nominate candidates, that is, what population will be invited to nominate candidates
  3. Who may vote on the candidates
  4. Who will be invited to provide feedback to the Dean
  5. The documents that should be provided by candidates. Examples may include a current vision statement for the department or program, statement of leadership philosophy, philosophy of teaching and scholarly/creative activity, and so forth
  6. Venues and audiences for interaction with the candidate(s) qua candidate. Examples include a brief presentation of vision and philosophy followed by Q&A to which those providing feedback will be invited
  7. The nature of the feedback to be solicited from unit faculty and staff and other parties

NOTE: Since Brooks College programs vary in structure and mission, they may also vary in how they answer these questions.

C. The Dean’s Office, together with the department, craft a position description and a statement of required and preferred qualities.

D. The Associate Dean solicits nominations and self-nominations. The position description and required and preferred qualifications for candidates accompany the invitation.

E. Nominees are asked by the Associate Dean about their willingness to serve.

F. The Dean’s Office staff works with the department in scheduling venues for faculty, staff, and other interested parties to interact with the candidate(s) as candidate(s) and assists with the dissemination of the candidate’s documents.

G. The Dean’s Office staff solicits anonymous feedback from faculty, staff, and interested parties. All feedback is regarded as confidential and will not be shared with the candidates or department faculty and staff. In the past, the Dean’s Office has used survey monkey or some other web-based tool for obtaining feedback. Only those eligible to vote will be able to vote. Those eligible to vote will have the opportunity to state whether they find a candidate acceptable, not acceptable, or to abstain. In the case of multiple candidates there will be an opportunity express a preference.

H. The Associate Dean or designee collates and summarizes the anonymous feedback in a confidential document for the Dean.

I. Normally the Dean will meet with the candidate(s) before making a decision. The unit head is appointed by the Dean based on feedback from the department or program faculty, staff, and other relevant individuals. To be appointed, a candidate must be acceptable to both the department and the Dean.

6.d. Sabbatical Eligibility for Chair, Assistant Chair, Graduate Director, and Program Coordinators

The Department Chair, Assistant Chair, Graduate Director, and Program Coordinators maintain their eligibility for sabbaticals as indicated in the Faculty Handbook. However, faculty in these roles will coordinate with each other and the Dean to schedule sabbaticals in a way that minimizes disruption due to discontinuity in leadership. While the Department Chair, Assistant Chair, Graduate Director, or Program Coordinator is on sabbatical, the Dean will appoint a faculty member to serve on an interim basis in that role.

6.e. Decision-making within the Department

Questions regarding activities, other items, or questions that are brought to the Department for consideration, will be decided by a vote. Unless otherwise specified in the bylaws, items pass by a majority vote when at least two-thirds of the full-time, regular members in the department are present. Unless otherwise specified in the bylaws, voting will take place via a show of hands or verbal “aye” or “nay.”

From time-to-time, it may be necessary to bring urgent items for a departmental vote through means other than a regular department meeting. In those cases, the unit head will make the final determination about how best to address these issues, whether through electronic means or via a special department meeting.

7. Procedures for Amending the Bylaws

These bylaws were written with the idea that they would rarely be amended. For that reason, procedures for specific committees, which may change from year to year, have not been included. In the case where amendment is needed to sections 1 through 6, the following process will be observed.

Any full-time, regular member of the department may propose to amend the bylaws. To begin the process, a specific proposal must be drafted and presented to the Department, along with the signatures of one-fourth of the full-time members of the department. Proposals must be submitted by April 30, and then must be considered, with a vote, in a department meeting before the end of the following fall semester. A vote of two-thirds of the members present at the meeting is necessary to approve the proposal.

For situations not anticipated by these Bylaws, the Department Chair in consultations with the Department, Assistant Chair, Graduate Program Director and/or Program Coordinator(s) if applicable, and, if applicable, the Dean’s Office will make any necessary decisions.

Appendix: Items Requiring Department Approval

The following is a complete list of items that require a department vote:

  • Approve assessment report
  • Approve change to department structure
  • Approve charge to search committee
  • Approve charge to standing committees
  • Approve significant curriculum changes to LIB, REL, ITC, or SI courses
  • Approve election procedures
  • Approve personnel process
  • Approve program changes
  • Approve salary process
  • Elect committee members for standing committees, with the exception of REL Program Committee
  • Elect department chair
  • Modification of this list

Page last modified June 13, 2019