Bylaws (and revising them)


Each SIG has its own bylaws, setting out the name and mission statement of the group, its leadership structure, the frequency of elections, and other organizational basics for the SIG, including how the Bylaws are amended.

It is important to realize the distinction between bylaws and operating rules. Operating rules or guidelines are the standard way a SIG operates, and gradually change over time. For example, while the bylaws may name the officers and the members at large elected by the SIG membership as the executive committee, leaders of the SIG may have found it useful to include the newsletter editor and the information director as participants in executive committee meetings, usually without vote. Or, it may be useful to a SIG Executive Committee to include in its considerations certain conference leaders. Operating guidelines can include expectations for participation in SIG leadership that may be updated as situations change, while changes in bylaws generally require a vote by SIG membership.

Current SIG Bylaws are available online.

A. Changes in Bylaws

Generally, making changes in SIG Bylaws is a serious undertaking that can take substantial time. Once a SIG Executive Committee (or Executive Board) decides on changes and exact language for the revised Bylaws, these changes require initial review and approval by the ACM Constitution and Bylaws Committee, the ACM COO, the SGB EC and the SGB. At that point, the proposed Bylaws changes are submitted to the full SIG membership for a vote. It takes a number of months to complete this process.

It makes sense for the SIG leaders to do a thorough review of the Bylaws for consistency and clarity if significant bylaws changes are being considered.

Sometimes bylaws language becomes obsolete because of changes in accounting practice, changes in ACM procedures, or other reasons. Some of these changes can be handled administratively. The SGB Chair should be consulted in these situations.

B. Major revision in SIG bylaws

Major revisions in SIG bylaws may be occasioned by the merger of two SIGs, or because a number of major changes in SIG governance are contemplated, or because a major revision of the SIG bylaws has not occurred in many years. The formation of a new SIG also means developing bylaws for the SIG; there is a template for SIG bylaws. Please see Starting a New SIG.

Distinctions have been made in recent years in handling different types of bylaw changes, For example, restructuring of the responsibilities and titles of the top leaders of the SIG may provide the occasion for a major revision. However, splitting the position of Secretary-Treasurer into positions of Secretary and Treasurer (or joining two positions into one) is not considered a major revision, and can be handled through the Streamlined Procedures (see below).

SIG leaders wishing to submit major revisions in SIG bylaws need to follow the following procedures:

For major revisions to SIG bylaws:
SIG submits to the SGB EC the following material:

  • List of changes being requested
  • Rationale for changes
  • Copy of former bylaws with changes clearly indicated, both deletions and insertions
  • Copy of proposed bylaws.
  • Additional editorial changes can be noted generally, such as changes in ACM procedures, moving to inclusive language, etc.

The proposed bylaws are reviewed by the ACM COO, Chair of the Constitution and Bylaws Committee, the SGB EC, and the SGB prior to being sent out for vote by the SIG membership. The former bylaws will contain details about the total vote needed by the membership to revise bylaws as well as the percentage that must approve the changes.

If the bylaws revision does not receive a sufficient percentage of votes from the membership of the SIG, the proposed new bylaws can be approved by a majority vote of the ACM Executive Committee. (Bylaw 6 of the Bylaws of the ACM.)

C. Streamlined procedure for some changes in bylaws

In its meeting of February 2007, the SGB voted to put in place a streamlined procedure for approving certain specific changes in SIG bylaws, listed below. These specific changes are pre-authorized by the SGB, so can be approved by action of the SGB EC.

The proposed changes to the SIG bylaws must be requested by a majority of a SIG's elected officers.

After the initial approvals following the procedures below, the changes must be announced to the SIG membership, and a procedure and deadline set for receiving objections. The bylaw changes will be adopted unless 3% of the SIG members object within the allotted timeframe. The final step is forwarding the revised bylaws to the ACM EC for approval.

There are two groups of changes that may be requested through this streamlined process:

Group 1: The following revisions can be requested to take effect with the next scheduled SIG election.

  • Changes between 2-year terms and 3-year terms;
  • Restrictions on term extensions, including disallowing extension of terms for the SIG, reducing the length of the extension to one year, or allowing an extension of one full term;
  • Election of some or all SIG officers at large, without designation of roles. (A mechanism for designating officers must be specified AND there must be n+1 candidates for the n positions at large.)
  • Election of some or all SIG officers by specified role. (There must be 2 candidates for any specified role.)

Group 2: The following revisions can be requested to take effect on final approval of the ACM Executive Committee.

  • Addition or removal of ex officio non-voting members of a SIG executive committee. (This provision includes not only newsletter editors, webmasters, and information directors, but also advisory boards, conference chairs, and other non-elected leaders.)
  • Addition of past chairs as officers of a SIG and/or as voting members of the SIG executive committee.
  • Title changes, for example, chair to president.
  • Separation or consolidation of roles, for example, changing secretary/treasurer to separate officers of secretary and treasurer, or vice versa.
  • Addition of new elected officers
  • Change of election schedule, but schedule cannot be later than set out in the ACM guidelines

Procedures for Requesting Streamlined By-Law Changes

In order for streamlined by-law changes to be considered, approved and implemented expeditiously please act in accordance with the following procedures:

  • Review the list above to determine whether the desired by-law change falls within the realm of this new stream-lined process.
  • Note the submission calendar below, along with deadlines.
  • Create a word-processing document that includes both old and new language, using the TrackChanges feature in MS Word (or similar software).
  • Email form and modified bylaws to the appropriate SIG Services Staff Liaison who will initiate the review process.

If you have questions about whether proposed changes fit within the scope of the streamlined process, please contact the Director of SIG Services in advance to discuss the changes.

Submission Calendar

Submissions will be reviewed by SGB EC/ACM Governance three times each year, at the end of March, September and December. Deadlines for consideration:

March 31st: Submit by February 28th (leap year, Feb. 29th)
September 30th: Submit by August 31st
December 31st: Submit by November 30th

After your request is reviewed and initially approved by ACM governance, the proposed streamlined by-law change will be publicized to the SIG membership, either via postcard or printed in the SIG newsletter. The membership will have a 30 day response period to lodge objections to the changes. Unless 3% of membership objects, new by-laws will be forwarded to the ACM EC for adoption.

*** If the proposed changes are beyond the scope of the streamlined by-law change resolution, the SGB EC will return the changes to the SIG to consider the option of proceeding with the usual change process, including a vote of the membership.

Your SIG Services Liaison will keep you updated on the status of your request at each stage of the process.

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Virtual Conferences: A Guide to Best Practices

In March 2020 ACM formed a Presidential Task Force (PTF) to help conference organizers transition their events to online. The PTF is working on a guide to offer practical advice and shed light on the largely unfamiliar territory of online conferencing.

The report, available here, includes pointers to a live document with additional resources. We welcome comments, suggestions and experience reports from the community.