Sociology Department Bylaws

Adopted May 17, 2002 (revised October 16, 2005)

The Department of Sociology, referred to herein as the Department, shall operate according to these bylaws, which set forth its organization and the procedures by which the Department shall conduct its internal affairs.

1.     PURPOSE

  • Department by-laws are intended to:
    • foster and encourage the widest possible degree of faculty participation in the governance of the Department.
    • create an atmosphere of open and collegial discussion of all major issues affecting the daily operation and future development of the Department.
    • provide for professional growth in teaching, research and service within the spectrum of the Department’s activities for every faculty member in a fair and equitable way.
  • This document, together with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the University of San Francisco Faculty Association (USFFA) and the University of San Francisco (USF), is the official statement of the rights and privileges enjoyed by, and the obligations imposed on, the faculty of the Department of Sociology by the system of faculty governance in effect at the University of San Francisco.

2.     MISSION

  • Sociology examines stability and change in social life. It addresses the underlying patterns that maintain stability in social institutions and social structures while also assessing the dynamics of change in these institutions and structures over time and space. It looks at both changing people and structures in a globalized world with a view toward enriching our understanding of how such change occurs and with what effects.
  • The substantive focus of sociology at the University of San Francisco is to clarify the implications of both stability and change within a framework of social justice and social action. In accordance with the University’s Mission and Core Values, the Department is committed to high quality scholarship and academic rigor but at the same time is mindful of its role in creating a socially responsible learning community that is fully committed to social justice and critical citizenship. The Department’s core values are in full alignment with the University’s commitment to academic freedom and free inquiry, learning as a humanizing social activity, respect for the diversity of peoples and perspectives, the pursuit of social justice, moral engagement and promoting a culture of service.

3.     FACULTY

  • The faculty of the Department of Sociology of the University of San Francisco consists of all tenured and tenure-track professors, associate professors, and assistant professors having full time appointments in the Department.
  • Tenured and tenure-track faculty members with full-time appointments constitute the eligible voting faculty (for simple majority or consensus decision-making).
  • Emeritus, adjunct (term), and part-time faculty together with research professionals and others with formal affiliation with the Department (e.g. Ethnic Minority Fellows) can attend meetings and may speak to any matter being discussed but may not vote.


  • The Department Chair is the chief administrative officer of the Department and is responsible for the equitable and effective use of the Department’s resources and for providing leadership and focus for the Department.
  • Department Chairs shall fulfill their responsibilities in a manner they deem commensurate with the provisions of Article 27 of the CBA.
  • In addition, the Department Chair shall:
    • recommend for appointment Departmental Program Assistants and other staff in accordance with criteria established and agreed upon by the Department.
    • organize and facilitate Department meetings.
    • plan or oversee the planning of teaching schedules (including summer school) with due regard to Department needs and individual faculty preferences.
    • oversee the Department’s budget in consultation with and on behalf of the faculty.
    • circulate all budget statements and financial documents to the faculty in a timely manner.
    • represent the Department by regular attendance at monthly meetings of the College Council and Arts Council and all other College and University meetings and activities as required.
    • ordinarily chair faculty search committees and co-ordinate all activities associated with the search. If there are multiple searches or in extenuating circumstances, the Department may select other faculty members to chair search committees.
    • recruit and recommend term, adjunct and part-time faculty as needed.
    • represent the Department in correspondence and communication with the American Sociological Association (ASA) and any other professional bodies or associations recognized by the Department.
  • The term of office for the Department Chair is three years but may be amended by the Department in extenuating circumstances.
  • The position of Department Chair shall be rotated through all full-time Department members on the basis of seniority as determined by time of appointment.
  • The Department’s agreement on the Chair rotation shall constitute unanimous election for the purposes of Article 27.3 of the CBA.
  • While it is expected that all Department members will take their turn as Chair, in the event that a Department member declines to serve in the position or wishes to postpone their turn, the next faculty member in the rotation shall be asked to be Chair.
  • The Chair serves at the pleasure of the Department and can be removed from office if two-thirds of the faculty vote in favor of a motion of no-confidence that has been tabled two weeks before a special meeting to discuss the issue.


  1. The Department, in its meetings, shall determine all questions of policy.
  2. Any substantive program involving significant Departmental resources and operating under the aegis of the Sociology Department shall be subject to approval by the Department.
  3. Meetings shall be conducted according to consensus decision-making. The principles and procedures associated with this decision-making method are outlined in the Appendix.
  4. Regular meetings of the faculty will be scheduled before the beginning of each semester and held monthly during the academic year.
  5. Whenever possible, meetings shall be held at times when no lectures are scheduled for full-time faculty members.
  6. Special meetings may be called by the Chair as deemed necessary or may be called upon petition by not less than one-third of the eligible voting faculty. In all special meetings, discussions and actions shall be limited to specific items enumerated on the agenda.
  7. Agendas for meetings of the Department shall be circulated, in advance, whenever possible.
  8. For all meetings, quorum shall consist of two-thirds of the tenured and tenure-track faculty.
  9. Items deemed confidential at the conclusion of Department meetings should not be discussed with non-Department members and such items should be designated as confidential in the minutes. This particularly applies to personnel matters.
  10. The Program Assistant is responsible for providing minutes of each meeting. Eligible voting faculty should receive a copy of the minutes before the next regularly scheduled faculty meeting, where minutes will be submitted for approval.
  11. Faculty who cannot attend Department meetings are strongly encouraged to submit their views on agenda items in writing to the Chair who will then convey them to the faculty at the meeting.


The Chair may request that ad hoc committees be formed as needed for specific purposes (e.g. faculty search committees). All members of the faculty (as defined in Article 3.2) are eligible for committee service with full voting privileges.


  • The faculty of the Department shall have the power to alter, amend, or abolish these Bylaws or to adopt new By-laws by majority vote at any regular or special faculty meeting.
  • All proposed changes must be distributed to the faculty a minimum of two weeks prior to the faculty meeting at which the vote will occur.




  • Consensus is a process for group decision-making, one that works creatively to include all faculty members in making decisions.
  • Instead of simply voting for an item and having the majority of the Department get their way, consensus decision-making assumes that faculty can and should work through differences and reach a mutually satisfactory position. Consensus is based on compromise, as the input and ideas of all participants are gathered and synthesized to arrive at a final decision based on common ground.
  • Consensus is not only about working to achieve better solutions but also aims to promoting the growth of collegiality and trust by taking into account and validating each participant, giving everyone the opportunity to voice their opinion or block a proposal if they feel strongly enough about a decision.
  • Consensus takes more time and member skill, but uses lots of resources before a decision is made, creates commitment to the decision and often facilitates creative decision. For consensus to be a positive experience, it is best if the group has common values, a commitment and responsibility to the Department by the faculty and sufficient time for everyone to participate in the process.
  • The Department may utilize other forms of decision-making (individual compromise, majority rule) when appropriate but recognizes the necessity of trying to reach consensus especially on issues that touch areas of deep personal investment, i.e. politics, morals or ethics.


Forming the consensus proposals

  • During discussion a proposal for resolution is put forward.
  • The proposal is discussed and debated. Possible amendments to the proposal are made at this time. The author(s) always reserves the right to alter the proposal as s/(t)he(y) see fit.
  • Questions are asked by anyone about the proposal to make sure that everyone understands it.
  • During this discussion period it is important to articulate differences clearly. It is the responsibility of those who are having trouble with a proposal to put forward alternative suggestions.
  • If the proposal seems to be a dead end, it is withdrawn.
  • All faculty should express themselves in their own words and of their own will and all faculty respect the right of others to speak and be heard.
  • The Chair should test the feelings of the group. These can be registered through a straw poll, by a round robin or once-round all members. This can be used to modify the original proposal, consider going forward with a vote, or scrapping it altogether.
  • When a proposal seems to be well understood by everyone, and there are no new changes asked for, the Chair can ask if there are any objections or reservations to it. If there are no objections, there can be a call for consensus. If there are still no objections, it can be assumed a decision has been reached.
  • Once consensus appears to have been reached, the Chair should repeat the decision to the group so everyone is clear on what has been decided.

Difficulties in reaching consensus

  • A single “Major Objection” blocks the proposal from passing.
  • If you have a major objection it means that you cannot live with the proposal if it passes. It is so objective to you/those you represent that you will stop the proposal from passing. A major objection isn’t an “I don’t really like it” or an “I liked the other idea better.” It is an “I cannot live with this proposal if it passes, and here’s why...!”
  • A “Strong Concern” does not block the passing of a proposal, but it is a public statement of why you dislike it (so you can say ‘I told you so!’ later..). All strong concerns are written in the minutes of the meeting or otherwise recorded by the group note-taker.
  • If the feelings of the group are generally positive and there are no major objections, then the proposal passes.
  • If general feelings are positive, but someone has a major objection to the proposal, the proposal doesn’t pass. The proposal needs to be withdrawn and reworked, to be represented at a later date.
  • If the group feelings are generally negative, the proposal doesn’t pass.
  • If the group feelings are mixed, not generally positive or negative, discussion continues, or the proposal is tabled until the next meeting, or until more information is available.
  • If discussion seems to be going on forever without the possibility of resolution, the group can decide to:
    • drop the proposal;
    • move onto approval voting of specific options within the proposal, or;
    • send the proposal back to the original author for rewriting to work out the objections.
  • If consensus is blocked and no new consensus can be reached the group stays with whatever the previous decision was on the subject, or does nothing if that is applicable. Objections will have to be worked through once again.
  • Major objections must be taken seriously but if, after a number of attempts at consensus have been made, there is still no resolution, then the Department has the right to vote by majority rule.


  • The role of the facilitator can help consensus decision making run smoothly.
  • The facilitator(s) aids the group in defining decisions that need to be made, helps them through the stages of reaching an agreement, keeps the meeting moving, focuses discussion to the point-at hand; makes sure everyone has the opportunity to participate, and formulates and tests to see if consensus has been reached.
  • Facilitators help to direct the process of the meeting, not its content. They never make decisions for the group. If a facilitator feels too emotionally involved in an issue or discussion and cannot remain neutral in behavior, if not in attitude, then s/he should ask someone to take over the task of facilitation for that agenda item.
  • Even though individuals take on these roles, all participants in a meeting should be aware of and involved in the issues, process, and feelings of the group, and should share their individual expertise in helping the group run smoothly and reach a decision. This is especially true when it comes to finding compromise agreements to seemingly contradictory positions.


  • Present your position as lucidly and logically as possible, but listen to other members’ reactions and consider them carefully before you press your point. Avoid arguing solely for your own ideas.
  • Do not assume that someone must win and someone must lose when discussion reaches stalemate. Instead look for the next-most-acceptable alternative for all parties.
  • Distinguish between major objections and discomfiture or amendments. A major objection is a fundamental disagreement with the core of the proposal.
  • Do not change your mind simply to avoid conflict and to reach agreement and harmony. When agreement seems to come too quickly and easily, be suspicious, explore the reasons and be sure that everyone accepts the solution for basically similar or complementary reasons. Yield only to the positions that have objective and logically sound foundations.
  • Avoid conflict-reducing techniques such as majority vote, averages, and bargaining. When a dissenting member finally agrees, don’t feel that s/he must be rewarded by having his or her own way on some later point.
  • Differences of opinion are natural and expected. Seek them out and try to involve everyone in the decision process. Disagreements can help the group’s decision because with a wide range of information and opinions, there is a greater chance the group will hit on more adequate solutions.
  • Decision making through consensus involves discussion and accountability of viewpoints as opposed to power struggles. Postponement of decisions to give time to reconsider and recognize that all people participating are able to accept and work with the decision is vital to the consensus process.