Department ByLaws

History Department Bylaws


I. Department Structure

The History Department is a self-governing body operating within Rice University. The department makes decisions on curriculum, bylaws, promotion, and tenure in department meetings. All tenure-track faculty members are entitled to full participation and voting privileges, except in special cases such as promotion and tenure decisions, outlined below. No proxy votes may be cast in department meetings.

The chair of the department is considered by the department members by confidential poll. The polling is announced at a department meeting several weeks in advance. It is the expectation that chairs typically serve at the rank of full professor given the responsibilities and commitments required at that position. The polling works as follows: every faculty member ranks all tenured faculty members in order of preference for the position of chair. The ballots are organized and counted by the department administrator, who provides the list to the dean. The dean makes the final appointment, normally for a three-year term, and announces the chair to the faculty members.

The chair appoints the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), each of whom serves at the discretion of the chair, generally for a three year term. The DGS is the point person for the graduate program, and convenes the Graduate Studies Committee. The DUS is the point person for the undergraduate program, and convenes the Undergraduate Committee.

II. Department Meetings

The department meets at least once a month during the normal school year. All tenure-track faculty members who are not on sabbatical are expected to attend. (Teaching releases do not exclude a faculty member from service duties like attending departmental meetings.) Post-docs, adjunct faculty, and lecturers are not entitled to attend department meetings, but they may be occasionally invited to attend department meetings, such as the first one of the academic year. Meeting dates are set in the summer, and will usually take place at noon on the first Monday of each month during the academic year.

A week in advance of the meeting, the chair will distribute an agenda. The role of secretary will rotate in alphabetical order. If a vote is to be taken, a faculty member must be present to vote. If a faculty member must miss a meeting where a vote is to be taken, he or she may request that the chair read a statement in advance of the vote. Any voting that involves hiring, promotion, or tenure will be taken by a confidential, paper ballot (unless extenuating circumstances make a confidential electronic vote necessary). Other routine voting will be done by a simple majority, either by the show of hands or a voice vote. All bylaw amendments must be proposed in writing and sent to the Chair and the Executive Committee before they have set the agenda for the next meeting, at least one week prior to the department meeting at which they are to be discussed. The submitted, written proposal must be placed on the agenda for the upcoming meeting. Voting on bylaw amendments requires that at least 50% of the department members are present.

Unless otherwise stipulated in the bylaws, department meetings follow Robert's Rules of Order. The chair, as a faculty member, is permitted to vote on any matter coming before the department.

Department meeting agendas and minutes are posted in the History Department’s Box folder and are accessible to all tenure-track members of the department.

III. Standing Committees

Executive Committee
Graduate Committee
Undergraduate Committee

The Executive Committee consists of the chair, the DGS, the DUS, and a member elected by the department in a confidential vote who serves a two year term. The executive committee meets as necessary, to consult with and advise the chair. All members of the department are encouraged to bring issues to the chair or to any member of the executive committee.

The Graduate Committee is chaired by the DGS and meets monthly. The chair appoints the members of the Graduate Committee. The chair is also ex officio member of the Graduate Committee. The committee is charged with all issues that pertain to the graduate program, such as admission, evaluation of students, allocation of research funding, curriculum, and awards. Any curricular changes that pertain to the graduate program must be presented to the department for discussion and a final vote.

The Undergraduate Committee is chaired by the DUS and meets monthly. The chair appoints the Undergraduate Committee. The chair is also ex officio member of the Undergraduate Committee. The committee is charged with all issues that pertain to the undergraduate program, such as curriculum, undergraduate majors, assessment, awards, and the Honors Program. Any curricular changes that pertain to the undergraduate program must be presented to the department for discussion and a final vote.

The chair is entitled to release from two courses per year. Both the DUS and the DGS are entitled to a release from one course per year.

IV. Ad Hoc Committees

Search Committees are appointed as needed by the chair. The committee will consist of a chair, at least two members of the department, and at least one faculty member from outside the department, following School guidelines. The chair should not serve on a search committee, since he or she is managing and commenting on the hiring process as a whole. The search committee is free to consult any other faculty member, including the chair, as part of its deliberations.

Internal Review Committees for promotion cases are appointed by the chair, and have the duties laid out in Policy 201 and Rice University’s Guidelines for Promotion and Tenure. The chair should not serve on an internal review committee, since he or she manages and comments on the review process as a whole.

Additional service positions include:

  • Library Liaison (named by the chair)
  • Brown Bag Event Coordinator (named by the chair)
  • Women’s History Lecture Coordinator (named by the chair)
  • Kalb lecture coordinator (named by the Kalb Lecture panel, which is made up of the chair (ex officio) and the primary organizers of the Kalb Lecture from the current and previous year (or their proxies).


The chair appoints other ad hoc committees as required.

V. Teaching Duties of Tenure-Track Faculty

Curriculum and course scheduling

The chair oversees the curriculum and approves courses. Faculty members design and propose their courses. In deciding which courses to offer, faculty should consult with their colleagues in their specific concentrations as well as with the DUS, the DGS, and the chair. The chair makes the final decision on when a course is scheduled.

The following departmental rules apply to every faculty member:

  • Only first year seminars, undergrad seminars (4XX), and grad seminars can be taught in single blocks of 3 hours.
  • In any one year, faculty may teach at most two such seminars.
  • Faculty must alternate between semesters with a three day and semesters with a two day teaching schedule (e.g. a TTh schedule in the fall and a MWF schedule in the spring).
  • Faculty members may not teach more than one graduate seminar per year unless there are special reasons for doing so.
  • The chair approves any exceptions to these rules, and must explain them to the executive committee.
  • The teaching load in the School of Humanities is officially two courses per semester, or four courses per year. It is presumed that tenured and tenure-track faculty members are engaged not only in teaching but also in research and service.


According to the Dean's Office, if an undergraduate course enrolls fewer than five students, or a graduate seminar fewer than two, the instructor must submit a memorandum justifying why that class should still be offered. The chair reviews requests and, if in agreement, forwards them to the Dean of Humanities. The Dean reserves the right to cancel all classes with low enrollments. In the event that a course is canceled due to low enrollment, the faculty member will be expected to make up the course by teaching an additional course in the following year (teaching a 3/2 schedule rather than a 2/2 schedule, for example).

Teaching releases
Some teaching releases, in addition to those noted above for chair, DUS, and DGS, may be granted for administrative or other reasons. These special releases must be approved by the chair and the dean.

Rules on teaching
The following University rules apply to all faculty members:

  • All courses are required to have a syllabus posted to the ESTHER site by its first day of class.
  • Syllabi must include a statement of learning outcomes. This is a SACS requirement, and carries with it the implication that courses may be evaluated for whether they have met their teaching goals. Keep the goals short, clear, and doable!
  • University Policy 206 states that professors are expected to be in residence from the start of Orientation Week to the day of Commencement, excluding university holidays.
  • Travel: University Policy 216 requires that faculty members be responsible for ensuring that their professional travel does not become a conflict of commitment with respect to their duties at the university, including teaching, advising students, and committee work. Faculty members are responsible for finding qualified instructors for their classes or scheduling make-up classes. When travel does produce significant conflicts, in particular when more than two successive classes will be missed, faculty members must report and resolve these conflicts with their department chairs prior to traveling. Any use of teaching assistants during this period of absence must follow department guidelines. If a TA is asked to cover for his/her instructor for a length exceeding two consecutive class sessions, a special arrangement must be made between the instructor and the TA in consultation with the DGS.
  • Faculty members engaged in teaching are required to hold scheduled office hours each week.

The department has developed further guidelines describing the content of 100, 200, 300, and 400 level courses. A 400 level seminar may not enroll more than 15 students; in it students will be expected to write a paper totaling not fewer than 20 pages. These guidelines, along with other specific documents related to teaching, such as independent study rules, grading standards, and rules governing reimbursement for desk copies, are available in the History Department’s Box Folder.



VI. Staff

The Department Administrator is primarily responsible for work involving human resources and finances. He or she works directly with the chair, supervises the office staff, and ensures that all faculty and staff are aware of university rules and procedures. The administrator has primary responsibility, among other things, for the following tasks:

  • Manage and track financial and budgetary matters
  • Process all financial documents
    • Approve Concur requests from faculty members
    • Prepare materials related to gifts and development on the departmental level
  • Process faculty appointments, reappointments, terminations, contract renewals, promotion and tenure dossiers
  • Process all HR paperwork
  • Process Professional Services Agreements
  • Assist in processing visitors (foreign and domestic)
  • Manage faculty hires and academic searches
  • Prepare materials for chair for all faculty evaluations
  • Manage staff
    • Organize and carry out staff hires
    • Conduct staff evaluations
  • Manage space assignments, including keys and building access
  • Submit all award information to Development for documentation in graduation program
  • Review faculty section of General Announcements


The Department Coordinator is primarily responsible for the office and the undergraduate program. The coordinator works under the supervision of the Department Administrator. The coordinator has primary responsibility, among other things, for the following tasks:

  • Support the undergraduate program in conjunction with DUS, the Undergraduate Committee, and the undergraduate majors.
    • manage the master list of History Courses and help faculty with procedures for creating, modifying, and deleting courses
    • help students with declaration of their majors and their graduation audits.
  • Handle logistics for visitors, including
    • travel, hotel and airport pickup arrangements
    • receipts and reimbursements
    • honoraria
  • Support Department events, such as lectures or seminars
    • schedule rooms
    • order refreshments
    • manage publicity
  • Manage day to day office activities
    • order office supplies
    • maintain machines
    • handle outgoing and incoming mail
  • Review undergraduate section of the General Announcements


The Graduate Administrator works in conjunction with the Department Administrator and is under the School of Humanities Manager of Student Programs. The Graduate Program coordinator has primary responsibility, among other things, for supporting the graduate program in conjunction with the DGS, the Graduate Committee, and the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

VII. Promotion and Tenure

The History Department follows the rules and guidelines for promotion and tenure described in University Policy 201 and the university-wide Guidelines for Promotion and Tenure. These rules and guidelines are broad and designed for all tenure-track academic appointments across the university. The History Department therefore spells out its specific expectations for promotion in a separate document, available in the History Box folder or on request from the Chair.

VIII. Grievance Procedure

The History Department follows the grievance procedure approved by the Faculty Senate. A formal grievance should first be brought before the chair. If the grievant does not believe that the matter has been addressed, he or she should next take the grievance to the Dean of Humanities. Formal steps may be taken beyond that point, including the convocation of a grievance committee or an appeals committee by the Faculty Senate. See the Faculty Senate Rules for Appeals and Grievances on the Senate website.

These bylaws supersede any previous departmental rules or decisions. Written 2/5/2018. Clerical Changes 10/5/2020.