Department of Biological Sciences Constitution

Current Constitution, adopted November 9, 2021

1 Preamble

This constitution is the governing document for the Department of Biological Sciences (“Department”).  By clearly delineating the decision-making process of the Department, this constitution is designed to promote consensus and transparency in governance. Where there is a discrepancy between this document and University policy, SFU policy shall prevail. Article numbers refer to the Collective Agreement between the Simon Fraser University Faculty Association and Simon Fraser University.

Proposed changes to this constitution must be formulated by the Department Chair in consultation with the Associate Chair and Chairs of Departmental standing committees. The Chair will then circulate the proposed changes to faculty members for discussion at a departmental meeting along with an extraordinary motion to accept the proposed changes, to be voted via web ballot.

2 Department Staff

2.1       Faculty

2.1.1    Professors Emeriti are defined by Article 49.30.  University Lecturer Emeriti are defined by Article 49.35.  Both are retired Faculty from the Department.

2.1.2    “Tenure-Track” or “Research” Faculty are defined in Article 27 and are continuing members of the Department or are jointly appointed with another department or school at Simon Fraser University.

2.1.3    “Teaching” Faculty are continuing faculty members defined by  Article 35. They may serve on all departmental committees except the Department Graduate Studies Committee.  In some cases Term Appointments may be made of Teaching Faculty members.  According to Article 35.65, Term Appointment faculty members may participate in all departmental activities if their term is for more than one year except they cannot serve on either the Department Graduate Studies Committee or the Tenure and Promotion Committee.

2.3       Staff

2.3.1    Technical Staff includes those persons who provide technical support for teaching, research, and administration in the Department.

2.3.2    Office Staff includes those persons who provide clerical support for teaching, research, and administration in the Department.

2.3.3    Other Non-Teaching staff include the Manager of Laboratory Operations, Manager of Administrative Services, and the Undergraduate Advisor.

2.4       Affiliated Members

2.4.1    Adjunct Professors are defined by SFU A12.08.  Adjunct Professors are members of the biological research community who contribute significantly to the functioning of the Department, especially its graduate programs.

2.4.2    Associate Members are defined by SFU A12.07.  Associate Members are members of other departments at SFU who wish to have a formal connection to the Department.

3 Departmental Governance

3.1       Departmental Officers

3.1.1    Department Chair

Department Chair responsibilities and procedures for appointment are in Article 51. The Department Chair has overall responsibility for ensuring that Departmental policies are formulated and executed, that SFU and Departmental regulations are followed, and that members of the Department fulfill their assigned duties. The Department Chair is responsible for representing the Department at the Faculty and University levels, for obtaining resources for the Department, and for facilitating a good working environment for all members of the Department. Specific responsibilities related to the academic content and operation of the various Department programs will be discharged by committees, including Standing Committees and Ad Hoc Committees.

The Department Chair shall present a financial report of the previous year’s operating expenses at the Departmental meeting following the close of the fiscal year.

3.1.2  Department Associate Chair

The appointment of the Department Associate Chair is governed by Article 51. The Department Chair will normally appoint the Associate Chair to serve as Acting Chair in the Department Chair's absence.

3.1.3    Program Directors

The appointment of Program Directors is governed by Article 51 Section D.  Program Directors are responsible for developing and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Program.

3.2        Departmental Meetings

3.2.1    Departmental Meetings shall provide a forum for sharing information among members of the Department, discussing and developing Departmental policies, raising questions, and addressing other matters facing the Department. Given the central role that Departmental meetings play in developing policy and governing the Department, all Faculty are expected to attend Departmental Meetings, and Departmental Meetings are to be scheduled when as many Faculty as possible are able to attend. Faculty Members who are on study leave or other leaves are not expected to attend Departmental Meetings. Unless specifically superseded by the procedures of this Constitution, all Departmental meetings and meetings of the Departmental Standing Committees shall be conducted according to Robert’s Rules of Order.

3.2.2    A minimum of one Departmental Meeting every eight weeks will be held during the fall and spring semesters, and as required in the summer semester.

3.2.3    Notice of Departmental Meetings must be provided at least two weeks prior to the meeting date. Notices of Motions to be acted upon at Departmental meetings, accompanied by supporting documentation, must be distributed to voting members three (3) working days prior to the scheduled Departmental meeting, except in the case of faculty searches where an Extraordinary Meeting may be called to consider a recommendation for hire, with only one (1) working day’s notice. Motions that routinely arise from Departmental Committees are not subject to the Notices of Motions provisions, but information about such motions should be distributed to voting members prior to Departmental Meetings whenever possible. Any motions that arise in a Departmental meeting without appropriate notice should not be voted upon until appropriate notice can be given.

3.2.4    The Department Chair is responsible for maintaining minutes of the meetings. The minutes must be made available to members of the Department.

3.2.5    Departmental Meetings shall normally refer all new business that is within the jurisdiction of Departmental Committees to the relevant committee for consideration and appropriate action.

3.2.6    Departmental Committee recommendations pertaining to changes to Departmental or Committee policy must be passed at a Departmental Meeting prior to being adopted as policy. Matters of routine administrative procedures that fall within the jurisdiction of a Departmental Standing Committee need not be ratified at Departmental Meetings (see 4.2.1).

3.2.7    A Departmental Meeting quorum shall consist of the person chairing the meeting plus 50% of eligible voting members of the Department.  Motions at Departmental Meetings, except those concerning hiring (see 3.3.7), will be passed by a simple majority vote of those voting yes or no.

3.2.8    All continuing Faculty members have voice and vote at Departmental Meetings, as do Term Appointments of greater than 1 year. 

3.2.9    Faculty Emeriti, Manager – Administrative Services, Manager – Laboratory Operations, Undergraduate Advisor, a representative from Co-operative Education, and one Graduate Student representative elected by the Graduate Student Caucus may attend Departmental meetings with voice but no vote. 

3.2.10   Other Graduate Student representatives elected by Graduate Student Caucus to Departmental Committees may attend Departmental Meetings on matters arising from the committee on which they serve with voice but no vote.

3.2.11  Other individuals associated with the Department or the broader SFU community may attend Departmental Meetings at the discretion of the Chair, with voice but no vote.

3.3       Voting Procedures

3.3.1    Normal Motions include motions relating to the teaching, research, and administrative matters of the Department. To be passed, normal motions require a simple majority of yes votes.

3.3.2    Extraordinary Motions include motions relating to changes in the governance of the Department, including changes to the Constitution and established Departmental Policies on Faculty Searches and Tenure and Promotion.  To be passed, extraordinary motions require that at least 50% of eligible voters vote either yes or no (abstentions do not count), and that the motion receive a two-thirds majority of yes votes.

3.3.3    Faculty that are absent from Departmental meetings may submit absentee votes to the Chair regarding motions on the published agenda.  Such votes must be received by the Chair one business day before the meeting. The names of absentee voters will be recorded in the Minutes and their votes included in the vote tally. Documentation of absentee votes will be retained as part of the Departmental records.

3.3.4    Voting is conducted by a show of hands at Departmental meetings. Requests to hold a secret ballot will be honoured, unless a motion to deny the request is passed by an ordinary motion.  Secret ballots will be held using a web survey.

3.3.5    Tally of all votes except those related to hiring decisions and elections to Departmental Offices and Committees shall be available to eligible voters upon request.

3.3.6    Elections to Departmental Offices and Committees will be conducted and ratified by secret ballot.  Faculty may only vote on the composition of committees when they are eligible to serve on the committee.

3.3.7    Decisions concerning the hiring of Faculty appointments will be conducted by secret ballot.

4 Departmental Committees

4.1       Departmental Committee Formation

4.1.1    Annually, Faculty will be asked to nominate committee members from among Department Faculty. Individuals may nominate themselves. Nomination forms must be signed by at least two Faculty members.  Once nominations have been received, the Department Chair shall conduct voting and ratification via secret ballot. Whenever possible, committee members will serve staggered two-year terms, different research specialties will be represented, and there will be representation from among the academic ranks and gender diversity. Each committee shall elect a Committee Chair from among the members.

4.1.2   Unless there are insufficient nominees or when a longer tenure is needed by a Committee Chair for the completion of long-term initiatives, Faculty members may normally serve no more than three consecutive terms on Departmental standing committees (excepting the Tenure and Promotion Committee), and members may normally not serve two consecutive terms on the TPC, to ensure that all departmental members have an opportunity to serve.

4.1.3    Annually, the Graduate Student Caucus will elect graduate students in good standing to committees.  Two students may be elected as representatives to the Department Graduate Studies Committee, one may be elected as a representative on the Department Scholarship Committee, one or two may be elected to the Department Outreach and Engagement Committee, and three or more may be elected to the Department Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.   

4.1.4    One graduate student in good standing will be appointed to Department Search Committee(s) by the Department Chair in consultation with the Graduate Student Caucus.

4.1.5    Annually, the Department Chair or Designate, normally in consultation with the Biology Student Union, will elect undergraduate students in good standing to committees. Two students may be appointed to the Department Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, two may be appointed to the Department Outreach and Engagement Committee, and two or more may be appointed to the Department Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

4.1.6    Annually, the Department Chair or Designate, normally in consultation with the Managers of Administrative Services and of Laboratory Operations, will elect Staff members to committees. One Staff member may be appointed to the Department Outreach and Engagement Committee, and one or more Staff members may be appointed to the Department Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

4.1.7    A serving committee member against whom a formal complaint is being investigated should recuse themselves when serving on a committee with a mandate related to the complaint. The member can rejoin the committee or resign upon conclusion of the investigation, depending on the outcome.

4.2        Departmental Standing Committees

4.2.1    The Departmental Standing Committees are Appointments Committee, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Tenure and Promotion Committee, Graduate Studies Committee, Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, Scholarship Committee, and Outreach and Engagement Committee.  These committees shall recommend and implement Departmental policy in their areas of responsibility. Matters of routine administrative procedures that fall within the jurisdiction of a Departmental Standing Committee need not be ratified at Departmental Meetings. However, any members of the Department may request appeal of any decision made by a Departmental Committee. Requests for appeal will be made by Normal Motion at a Departmental Meeting. Any matters pertaining to changes to Departmental or Committee policy must be ratified at Departmental Meetings.

4.2.2    Matters not falling within the jurisdiction of established Departmental Committees shall be referred to the Department Chair or Designate, who will act on behalf of the Department to address the matter.

4.3       General Terms of Reference for Departmental Standing Committees

4.3.1    Committee members shall include two types: regular and ex-officio. Regular members are elected in accordance with Departmental procedures (4.1). Ex-officio members are appointed to the committees by the nature of their employment (e.g., staff members) or administrative duties (e.g., Department Chair). Both regular and ex-officio members are entitled to vote.

4.3.2    Terms of office for regular members of committees shall be for two years starting on May 1 of the year of appointment, with the exception of members of the Appointments Committee chosen by the Department Chair and ratified by the Department which are for one year starting on September 1 (elected members of the Appointments Committee serve 2 years), and the Department Tenure and Promotion Committee  which is for one year starting on April 15 of the year of appointment. The Department shall fill any vacancy in the regular membership of a committee according to departmental policy.

4.3.3    Quorum for Departmental Committee Meetings shall consist of Committee Chair plus 50% of regular committee members. Voting shall be by show of hands, and the Committee Chair will be a voting member. In the event of a tie vote, the Committee Chair will not have a second vote in addition to the vote to which the Committee Chair is entitled as a member of the committee, and the motion shall not pass.

4.3.4    The Chairs of standing committees have the responsibility to ensure that minutes of the meetings are kept, and that committee recommendations are made in the form of motions at Departmental Meetings. Minutes of open sessions of committee meetings are available to all members of the Department. Minutes of closed sessions of committee meetings are available to Faculty.

4.4.      Membership and Terms of Reference for Departmental Standing Committees

4.4.1    Appointments Committee

Membership:  4 elected Faculty members (1 must be Teaching Faculty), and three members chosen by the Department Chair to represent research breadth and ratified by the Department.

Chair:  Department Chair or Designate

Terms of Reference: The Appointments Committee will propose a set of Departmental hiring priorities that will be ratified by the Department. In formulating hiring priorities, the Appointments Committee considers long-range strategic direction for the Department and special opportunities, such as Industrial Chairs, NSERC University Faculty Awards, etc.  Normally, the recruitment process for a specific position will include the formation of an ad hoc recruitment committee of Faculty to serve as the “Search Committee” as described in Articles 23.8-23.13. Searches will be conducted according to the Departmental Policy for Search Committee Procedures.

4.4.2    Department Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Membership: At least: 3 Faculty members (including both Teaching and Research), 1 Post-Doctoral Fellow Representative, 3 Graduate Student Representatives, 2 Undergraduate Student Representatives, 1 Staff Representative, 1 Student Advisor (graduate or undergraduate).

Chair:  Shared leadership model

Terms of Reference: The Department Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee promotes changes that make the Department more inclusive, equitable and diverse. The Committee analyzes and proposes revisions to existing departmental policies and processes to reflect fundamental EDI principles, and develops initiatives to promote awareness about EDI principles and best practices. The Committee liaises with the Graduate Student Caucus EDI Committee and the Associate Dean of EDI in the Faculty of Science.

4.4.3    Department Tenure and Promotion Committee

Membership: 5 Faculty members from the Department, one from outside the Department, and the Department Chair, as specified in Articles 29.5 and 29.8.  The five elected faculty members of the Tenure and Promotion Committee will normally comprise:

a. At least one Professor;

b. At least one Associate Professor;

c. One Assistant Professor;

d. One Teaching Faculty.

These are elected from within the Department. According to Article 29.10, the composition of TPCs should follow membership guidelines provided by the Dean that are intended to demonstrate diversity, appropriate disciplinary representation, and equitable participation by all members of the unit over time. A faculty member whose case will be considered by the committee for promotion, tenure, or contract renewal may not be elected to it. A member on leave is normally not eligible to serve.

The faculty member from outside the Department must be Research Faculty with the rank of Associate Professor or Professor.  This individual is recommended by the Chair, and is ratified by the Department.

Chair: Department Chair

Terms of Reference:  The composition of the committee, its method of election, responsibilities and procedures, are governed by Articles 28-33 and Article 35.  Additional guidelines for tenure and promotion have been adopted as Departmental Policy on Tenure and Promotion.

4.4.4    Department Graduate Studies Committee

Membership: 5 Research Faculty members, Department Chair (Ex-Officio), 2 Graduate Student Representatives (see 4.1.2).

Chair: Elected by the Committee from the Faculty members

Terms of Reference: The Graduate Studies Committee develops and operates the Departmental graduate programs. The Committee oversees graduate student admission and progress. Appointments of adjunct faculty positions are evaluated by the DGSC and brought forward to the Department for approval. 

4.4.5    Department Undergraduate Curriculum Committee

Members: 5 Faculty, at least 1 of which shall be Teaching Faculty and at least 1 of which will be Research Faculty, Department Associate Chair (Ex-Officio), Undergraduate Advisor (Ex-Officio), 2 Undergraduate Student Representatives

Chair: Elected by the Committee from the Faculty members

Terms of Reference: The Undergraduate Curriculum Committee develops and operates the Departmental undergraduate program.

4.4.6    Department Scholarship Committee

Membership: 2 Faculty, one Graduate Student Representative (see 4.1.3), and three Ex-Officio members - Department Graduate Studies Committee Chair or designate, Department Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Chair or designate, and Department Chair or designate. One back-up Graduate Student Representative may also attend meetings, but only one Graduate Student will have a vote.

Chair: Elected by the Committee from the Faculty members

Terms of Reference: The Department Scholarship Committee accepts and evaluates applications for scholarships and awards and either ranks the applications or makes the award(s) as applicable to the specific scholarship involved.  The committee may also be asked to develop terms for Department awards, if available.

4.4.7    Department Outreach and Engagement Committee

Membership: 3 Faculty including both Research and Teaching Faculty, 1 Postdoctoral Fellow or Graduate Student Representative, 1 Graduate Student Representative, 2 Undergraduate Student Representatives, and a Staff member. Ideally, both field and lab approaches to science should be represented on the committee.

Chair:  Elected by the Committee from the Faculty members.

Terms of Reference:  The Department Outreach and Engagement Committee ensures representation of Biological Sciences at University or Faculty of Science outreach events, organizes activities for high school students/recruiting events, and promotes science communication. The goal is to highlight the excellent undergraduate programs and research strengths of Biological Sciences. The Committee should liaise with relevant outreach and communications units at SFU.

4.4.8    Other Standing Departmental Assignments

Additional standing Departmental assignments to other Faculty and University Committees will be made by the Department Chair or Designate, and may include appointments to organize the Seminar series, Library Liaison, the University Animal Care Committee, Fieldwork Safety, the University Biosafety Committee, Academic Integrity Advisor, and Research Grants Liaison, among others. The Department Chair may consult the Appointments Committee in making such appointments.