Women's Studies (WOMS) Governance

The Women's Studies Program: Governance


Women's Studies is an interdisciplinary academic program that, in the analysis of human culture, focuses on women's experience, examines the contributions and status of women, and explores the dynamics of sex roles and gender ideals, past and present.  Concerned to enrich and re-conceptualize knowledge of how gender is constructed in culture and the impact it has on social relations, women's studies encourages reexamination of assumptions about society and the methodologies and paradigms through which our understanding of women and men are constructed.  The program seeks to accomplish this reexamination through interdisciplinary courses that explore topics such as the experience of women and gender relations in various periods of history and cultures; women and artistic expression; the impact of race, ethnicity, class, age, and sexual orientation on women's lives; sex roles and differences in political, economic, legal, and social status; and biological, sociological, and psychological influences on women and gender.  In its curriculum, the program seeks to encourage critical inquiry, reflection, and self-expression through classroom practices that promote tolerance for diverse views and sources of knowledge, and provide students ample opportunity for synthesis and expression of ideas in discussion and writing.

Accordingly, the governance structure of Women's Studies is designed to ensure the effective administration of the program and the on-going pursuit of its mission. The governance structure seeks to institutionalize and systematize, through its committee framework, the administration and evaluation of the program and the participation, oversight, and contributions of faculty and students from a range of disciplines and colleges.


The governance structure of the Women's Studies program includes 1) the Director of Women's Studies, 2) faculty with joint appointments in Women's Studies and another discipline, 3) teaching assistants, 4) Faculty Associates (defined below), 5) the Women’s Studies Executive Committee (WSEC) with its subcommittees, 6) graduate students with declared concentrations in Women's Studies, and 7) undergraduate students with declared minors or contract majors in Women's Studies (as described below).  In addition to its affinity with the university's other interdisciplinary programs such as the Center for Latino and Latin American Studies, the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, and the Center for Black Studies, the Women's Studies program is particularly allied with University Resources for Women and the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

I.The Program Director:

When a vacancy occurs in the director's position, the chair of the Women’s Studies Executive Committee (WSEC) shall call a meeting to establish a search procedure and appoint a search committee, in keeping with the college and university bylaws and constitution and federal law in effect at the time.  Directors will also serve in accordance with the above referenced documents and policies.  The director shall be responsible for the administration of the program parallel to the duties assigned to the chairs of departments in the university constitution; for leadership of the program, its policy, evolution, and improvement; and for the implementation of the decisions of the governing body of the program, the Women’s Studies Executive Committee. The Director of Women's Studies shall call a minimum of two meetings per semester of the Women’s Studies Executive Committee and publish an agenda prepared in consultation with the chair of the WSEC.

II.Joint Appointment Faculty

Beyond the director, the only other faculty in the Women's Studies Program are shared with other departments. Beyond the fact that each is jointly appointed in two academic units, Women's Studies and a department within the University, each has unique terms and conditions of employment. The primary responsibility for recruitment and hiring of each of the current joint appointments was exercised by the Women's Studies Executive Committee, which, in each case, elected a personnel subcommittee for this task. Candidates were initially screened for their fitness for a joint appointment, and finalists were chosen only with the advice and consent of the tenuring department of the College or Division in which rests the candidates= major substantive area of expertise and research.

Faculty on joint appointment in Women's Studies hold teaching, research, and service responsibilities in the Program, although their tenure resides in other departments.  Their rights and responsibilities are outlined in their individual Memoranda of Understanding attached hereto and made part of this document. The joint appointment faculty teach the majority of the WOMS courses offered by the Program on a rotating basis, forming the core of the Program's faculty. They participate in Program governance through their representative on the WSEC, and in curriculum development through their representative on the curriculum subcommittee of the WSEC (see below). It is the responsibility of these representatives to keep other joint appointment faculty apprised of issues before these groups and to consult with them when necessary concerning decisions to be made. Additionally, joint appointment faculty participate in Program governance and decision-making through regular meetings of the Program staff with the director, to be held at least twice a semester.

III.The Women's Studies Executive Committee


The Women's Studies Executive Committee is the governing body of the Women's Studies program. The Committee of the whole and its subcommittees advise the Director of Women's Studies. The committee votes on policy and procedural matters such as the curriculum and its development, the selection of Faculty Associates and Affiliates of Women's Studies, faculty personnel needs, and the development of the program. When a quorum of 2/3 of the voting members of the WSEC is present, proposals may be passed by a simple majority vote. If a quorum is absent, the committee may be balloted on paper or electronically. The Committee may make recommendations to the Director on other major issues, such as other personnel needs, budget, and financing.


The Women's Studies Executive Committee shall consist of the Director of Women's Studies and ten voting members: five faculty associates; one faculty member on joint appointment; Women's Studies Program Coordinator; one Women's Studies teaching assistant; one graduate student representative; and one undergraduate student representative. The Director of Women's Studies shall vote only to break a tie. The WSEC shall include, ex officio and non-voting, the director of University Resources for Women and the Coordinator of the LGBT Studies Program or their designees. Former directors of the Women's Studies Program who are still employed by NIU will be asked to serve in a nonvoting capacity during the first year after they step down from the directorship. The committee shall elect a chair from among its members each fall, who will set agendas with input from the Director of Women's Studies.

C.Selection and term of service:

1. Faculty Associates: Of the five Faculty Associate representatives to the committee, four shall be elected by the Faculty Associates from among themselves in the spring semester preceding service on the committee. To ensure disciplinary and/or cross-college balance, the fifth Faculty Associate representative shall be appointed by the Director of Women's Studies. Because the Women's Studies program is housed in and primarily supported by CLAS, at least one Faculty Associate on the Executive Committee must be a member of that college. The term of service shall be two years, staggered.

2. Faculty on joint appointment with Women's Studies: faculty on joint appointment will rotate two year terms on the Executive Committee, and select an alternate to attend meetings in the absence of the regular member.

3. Teaching assistants: TAs will elect, at the beginning of the fall semester of the academic year in which they hold an appointment, one of their number to serve on the Executive Committee and an alternate to attend meetings in the absence of the regular member.

4. Graduate students: Each fall semester, graduate students with a declared concentration in Women's Studies shall be supplied with a list of their colleagues and be invited to nominate one of them as their representative to the committee in the academic year. After nominations are closed and ranked according to number of nominations received, the nominees with the greatest number of votes, starting with the first and continuing downward, shall be contacted in the fall and asked to serve, until the position is filled.  If a representative cannot be found, the Director of Women's Studies may appoint a representative.

5. Undergraduate students: Each spring semester undergraduate members of Women's Alliance, the Women's Studies program's student support organization, with a declared minor in Women's Studies shall be supplied with a list of minors and invited to nominate one of them as their representative to the committee in the succeeding academic year. After nominations are closed and ranked according to the number of votes received, the list will be forwarded to the program director. In the fall, the director will contact the student ranked first on the list and ask her or him to serve on the WSEC for the year. If she or he is unable to serve, the director will continue down the list, inviting nominees to serve, until the position is filled.

6. Should issues requiring WSEC approval arise over the summer, the director may reconvene the committee from the previous academic year.

D. Subcommittees and Duties

The standing subcommittees of the WSEC shall be the curriculum and program development subcommittee, and the personnel subcommittee. Each of these subcommittees will be responsible for complying with any applicable college or university policies. Recommendations of each subcommittee must be presented for approval by the WSEC.

1. The curriculum and program development subcommittee of the WSEC shall consist of at least four members, including two Faculty Associates, at least one of whom must be a member of the WSEC, and one member of the joint appointment faculty. The curriculum and program development subcommittee shall also include a student representative selected by the Director in the fall semester for service that year. The committee shall propose and receive ideas for curricular expansion, revision, and assessment. Other interested students and faculty associates may volunteer to serve on the committee.

2. The personnel subcommittee of the WSEC shall consist of four Faculty Associates, who must be tenured. At least one of these members must also be a current member of the WSEC, and, whenever possible, one of these individuals shall come from each joint appointment faculty member's tenuring department. The subcommittee is charged with conducting the annual merit evaluation of the director of the program (for submission to the WSEC). In addition, the committee will prepare the annual merit evaluations of the faculty on joint appointment, the progress toward tenure reviews of probationary faculty on joint appointment and recommendations on promotion and tenure (see below). Personnel subcommittee actions will be advisory to the director of Women's Studies, who will attach them to her or his reports to the appropriate departments in order to produce a joint recommendation to the college. Service, teaching, and scholarship within Women's Studies are to be weighed according to the proportion of assignments in Women’s Studies and the terms of the individual Memorandum of Understanding.

3. Special projects subcommittees of the WSEC will be appointed by the Director whenever necessary; for instance, to draw up guidelines for research funds or to plan Women's History Month.

IV. Other Groups Supporting the Women's Studies Program:

A. Faculty Associates of Women's Studies:

The Faculty Associates of Women's Studies is a working committee of faculty formed to ensure the interdisciplinary nature, development, and continuity of the Women's Studies program. Faculty Associates are drawn from the various colleges of the university. They conduct meetings and pursue activities at their discretion.  Ordinarily, faculty associates are expected to support the program by attending at least two Women’s Studies events during an academic year.

1. Eligibility for appointment as a Faculty Associate: A faculty or SPS member who wishes to participate actively in the Women's Studies program may, upon the approval of his or her application, be designated as a Faculty Associate of Women's Studies. Evidence of active participation includes inter alia the following: teaching a core course in the program; teaching or proposing special topics courses in, or cross listed with, the program; engaging in significant research and publishing in gender studies; directing relevant independent studies in the applicant’s fields of expertise; participating in curriculum integration/interdisciplinary efforts related to women's studies; serving as a resource for other faculty and students interested in gender-related research in the applicant’s areas of expertise; presenting work related to women's studies in colloquia; participating regularly in women's studies discussion groups.

2. Selection procedures: In December of each academic year, the chair of the Women's Studies Executive Committee shall solicit from the current members of the Faculty Associates and Women's Studies Executive Committee as well as from others across the university the names of faculty to be invited to apply for designation as a Faculty Associate. Nominees shall be invited to present their credentials, if interested, to the Women’s Studies Executive Committee for its majority approval. Decisions will be made in the first meeting of the WSEC of the calendar year.

3. Review procedures: Ordinarily, Faculty Associates shall serve staggered three year terms. An associate who is completing her/his term may reapply for reappointment as an associate. Acceptance will be determined by the needs of the program.

B. Affiliates of Women's Studies:

Affiliates of Women's Studies designates those faculty, staff, former Faculty Associates and community members who support the Women's Studies program but are not directly involved, currently, in research and teaching relevant to Women's Studies, or who are currently unable to commit time to the duties of the Faculty Associates. Affiliates of Women's Studies are informed of activities in the program and invited to participate according to their interests and availability.

V. Procedures for Personnel Evaluation

A. Faculty on Joint Appointment:

Faculty in the interdisciplinary Women's Studies Program hold joint appointments in academic departments. A Memorandum of Understanding (attached) as to the expectations of both the Women's Studies Program and the academic department is reached at the time that each faculty member is hired, and the program director, the department chair, the dean of the college, and the faculty member all sign this Memorandum of Understanding. Changes to these memoranda may only be made with the consent of all original signatory parties or their successors. Evaluations of Women's Studies faculty members for annual merit recommendations and for tenure and promotion are based on the expectations articulated in the individual Memoranda of Agreement, but the following general procedures and the criteria established by the WSEC apply to joint appointments in Women's Studies as well.

The Women's Studies personnel subcommittee participates in faculty members' annual merit evaluations and makes recommendations for tenure and/or promotion at the appropriate times. The subcommittee's evaluations and recommendations are advisory to the program director. The program director will write evaluations and recommendations based on the personnel subcommittee's letters, to be transmitted with the personnel subcommittee's letters to the department in which the faculty member holds the joint appointment. These will be weighed in the overall evaluation according to the proportion of assignments in Women's Studies and the terms of the individual Memorandum of Understanding. If there are any significant differences in evaluations between the Women's Studies Program and the cooperating department, these will be discussed by the program and the department and resolved if possible. If the differences cannot be reconciled, the recommendations of both the program and the department will be forwarded to the dean and the College.

The Women's Studies Program's annual evaluation of each faculty member will be carried out by a review committee, as described above. The review committee will be initially convened by the director of the Women's Studies Program who will provide information on the program's standards and criteria for evaluation, which are available from the program director.

Based on classroom observations, review of shared scholarship activities and publications, and any supporting information provided by the candidate, the subcommittee will independently complete an annual merit evaluation for the faculty member. The program director may concur or disagree with the subcommittee's evaluation. Both the review subcommittee's and director's merit evaluations will be communicated in writing to the faculty member and discussed with her (or him). The faculty member may request reconsideration of both or either parts of the evaluation. The full evaluation report including the subcommittees and director's merit evaluations will be forwarded by the program director to the department in which the faculty member holds an appointment as described above. If requested by the department, the director, a member of the personnel subcommittee, or both will meet with the departmental personnel committee to discuss the evaluation.

During the probationary period, the Women's Studies Program will conduct annual merit reviews and advise the faculty member on its assessment of her (or his) progress toward tenure. In accordance with CLAS Policies, Procedures, and Criteria Concerning Personnel Recommendations, a thorough and formal evaluation will be conducted at the appropriate times for those on either seven-year or four-, five-, or six-year tenure tracks to evaluate the faculty member's progress toward tenure and also to specify the continuing need for the position held by the faculty member. At the time of tenure and/or promotion review, in order to facilitate the search for experts in the field of Women's Studies, and in accordance with provisions outlined in each joint appointment statement, the Women's Studies Program will identify appropriate external evaluators and forward their names to the faculty member's tenuring department. Only tenured faculty from the Women's Studies Executive Committee and personnel sub-committee will participate in tenure and promotion evaluations in Women's Studies.

All tenure and promotion reviews will be conducted in accordance with CLAS Policies and Procedures. It is expected that a candidate for tenure and/or promotion to associate or full professor shall have submitted one or more proposals to granting agencies for external funding of the candidate's scholarly program. After conducting a thorough review, the personnel subcommittee will forward a recommendation for promotion and/or tenure to the WSEC for approval. A simple majority will carry the motion. All members of the committee must be present when the vote is taken. Only tenured faculty from the Women's Studies Executive Committee and personnel subcommittee will participate in tenure and promotion evaluations in Women's Studies.

Particular criteria to be used in the evaluation of each of the areas of faculty responsibility include but are not limited to:

1. Teaching: Peer evaluation of teaching is central to the personnel process in women's studies. This will include classroom observations by the director of the program, colleagues on joint appointment, and/or members of the Women's Studies Executive Committee assigned to personnel evaluation duties. Women's studies faculty are also encouraged to present course materials, including syllabi, assignments, and examinations, for peer review as well as evidence of efforts to improve teaching.  Effectiveness in directing independent study projects and contributions to thesis and dissertation committees will also be considered in the evaluation of teaching. Student evaluations of classroom teaching will also play a part in the evaluation.

2. Research: In keeping with university policy on joint appointments, it is agreed that at least one third of the faculty member's total professional assignment be dedicated to scholarly research and publication. In this regard, there will be annual evaluation of the faculty member's research and shared scholarship. Members of the Women's Studies Executive Committee will review publications, work in progress, grants applied for and received, participation in scholarly conferences, and other scholarly activities. The Program stipulates that participation in conferences is especially valued because conferences provide a vital forum for the exchange of ideas crucial to the development of a new field, particularly one with an interdisciplinary perspective. The Women's Studies Program has adopted the policies for the evaluation of feminist scholarship issued by the National Women's Studies Association as guidelines, unless they conflict with College of Liberal Arts and Sciences of NIU personnel policies.

3. Service: Every effort will be made to keep program-related committee responsibilities and service obligations to a minimum during the probationary period. Because of the nature of the Women's Studies Program, some service functions must be performed, even by untenured faculty -- participating in regular staff meetings related to team-taught courses, rotation on the Women's Studies Executive Committee, and helping to plan co-curricular activities (e.g., Women's History Month events) are expected. Some student advising is also expected and will consequently be counted towards merit evaluation. The overall quality of service in these activities, along with any additional women's studies-related service to the university and professional community the faculty member is able to contribute, will annually be assessed.

B. Director:

The Women's Studies Executive Committee also is responsible for the annual evaluation of the director. The WSEC will appoint a personnel subcommittee to carry out this evaluation (see section III. The director will be asked to complete a service report utilizing the CLAS format for department chairs. This format asks for extensive information on leadership (administrative actions, program development activities, etc.) and other professional activities (including service to the institution and the profession, teaching, and scholarship). According to terms of appointment for the director, this evaluation will be transmitted by the WSEC to the dean of the college and will be the basis of the director's merit evaluation, proportional to the director's assignment in Women's Studies.

VI. Amendment of this Document:

This document may be amended at any time by a 2/3 vote of the Women’s Studies Executive Committee.

Last Changed: February 2013