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Faculty Governance Committee Report

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Charter Revision


REPORT TO THE FACULTY SENATE OF THE
AD-HOC COMMITTEE ON FACULTY GOVERNANCE

We believe that the role of the faculty in policymaking at the University should be considerably enhanced. Moreover, we are convinced that enhancing this role should begin with a reconstruction of the charter and practices of the one University-wide faculty body, the Faculty Senate. We here describe a series of reforms that we believe will provide a formal structure within which the faculty can assume a more significant role in the University polity.

Why, one might well ask, should the Senate play a more active role in the making of University policy by means of the reforms we propose here? The answers to this question are threefold. First, the reforms we propose promise to strengthen the lines of communication between the University administration and the faculty (which are asymmetrical) and between the Board of Trustees and the faculty (which are near non-existent). In each case, improving two-way communication in the manner we suggest is valuable for its own sake and for the comity it engenders. But it will also, we believe, have two additional valuable effects. It will make for better informed policymaking since the faculty have a valuable store of insight and a distinctive perspective to bring to bear on the important decisions affecting the University--and a better informed policy is ordinarily a better policy. Finally, it will make for more legitimate policy, since in the eyes of the faculty, policy made in the wake of deliberations in which their elected representatives have been actively involved is policy in which they have a voice and hence an investment.

At present, the Senate is little more than a forum at which policies that have already been largely formulated are conveyed to the faculty by University administrators and/or the Board of Trustees. The bulk of its meetings consists of Senators listening to ex post facto reports on such policies. Discussion is perfunctory and informed deliberation is near absent. At best, the Senate may stall the implementation of a policy about which there is substantial doubt or dissent, but even then no established procedures are in place which allow for an active and independent role for faculty representatives in the reconsideration or revision of such controversial policies. We would suggest then that two of the three functions specified for the Senate in its charter have atrophied. While it is, in some respects, an effective "channel of communication" between University administrators and the faculty, it is not serving well as a body in which representatives of the faculty "consider the state of the University and make recommendations for its academic development to the appropriate persons or bodies within the University" nor as a body in which such representatives "inquire into any matter of an educational or administrative nature that has implications for the academic function and welfare of the University" and "make recommendations concerning such matters to the appropriate persons or bodies within the University."*

While we do not foresee a new independent legislative role for the Senate in any strict sense, we do believe that the Senate and its committees should, as its charter now provides, be actively involved in policy deliberations in their formative stage. Consequently, we believe constitutional and procedural reforms of a much more substantial nature than those proposed by the last Senate committee on faculty governance are in order.**

We believe three sorts of changes are necessary if the Senate is to play a more active role in the making of University policy. First, the Senate as a whole must be reconstituted as a more autonomous and active institution and less as a creature of the University administration. Second, the standing committees of the Senate must expand their role in University policy-making by becoming sites at which policy is presented, analyzed, and debated in its formative stage. And third, the Senate should establish a less mediated relationship between itself and the Board of Trustees.


 
 

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*Charter of the University of Rochester Faculty Senate (as amended 1 November 1976), 1.

**See the report of "The Committee to Study the Faculty Senate" and the discussion of that report in the University of Rochester Faculty Senate Minutes (19 November 1991), 29.68-29.86, Appendix A. That report includes as an appendix the similarly modest recommendations of an earlier "Committee to Examine the Role of the University of Rochester Faculty Senate" (1970) and endorses its vigorous disavowal of the wisdom of investing legislative power in the University faculty. We believe that there is an appropriate role for the Senate (specified in its charter) that is not formally legislative but considerably more substantive than that it currently plays or that envisioned by these earlier committees.


 
 

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I. A More Autonomous, Active Senate

We propose:

  1. That meetings of the Senate be presided over by the chair of the Senate Executive Committee or his or her representative rather than the President or Provost. The President, Provost, and University Dean of Graduate Studies shall continue to be essential to the affairs of the Senate as non-voting, ex officio members.
  2. That eventually a majority of the membership of all standing and ad hoc committees of the Senate be made up of senators or former senators and be selected by the Executive Committee of the Senate. Every member of the Senate shall have the opportunity to serve on a standing committee.
  3. That at the September and January meetings of the Senate the report of the President shall be not only retrospective but also prospective, outlining any contemplated policy initiatives. We recommend that the President meet with the chair of the Senate Executive Committee prior to these meetings to discuss such initiatives in order that consideration of them might be speedily assigned to the appropriate Senate committee(s).
  4. That at the May meeting of the Senate, the Provost and the chair of the Senate Executive Committee will provide the Senate with a "Report on the State of the Faculty," consisting of information about such matters as faculty accomplishments, comings and goings, and aggregate salaries, as well as an assessment of its current strengths and weaknesses, problems and potential. At that same meeting, the University Dean of Graduate Studies shall also present a "Report on the State of Graduate Education," consisting of information about such matters as enrollment, financial aid, placement, program quality, and the training and use of teaching assistants.
  5. That the Senate make its voice heard on significant policy matters by means of resolutions offered to the President, Provost, Board of Trustees, and/or other appropriate persons or bodies in the University and conveyed directly to such persons or bodies by the chair of the Executive Committee.
  6. That members of the Senate Executive Committee and Senate committees be encouraged to apply to the Deans of their respective schools for relief from other obligations they may have as faculty members in recognition of significant involvement in the activities of the Senate and its committees.

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II. Stronger, More Active Senate Committees

We propose:

  1. That in addition to the Executive Committee, the standing committees of the Senate be reorganized so as to include the following committees: Academic Affairs, Budget, Facilities, Personnel, Research Policy, and Student Affairs. The work of the current Library Committee would be folded into that of the Academic Affairs Committee; the Elections Committee would become a subcommittee of the Executive Committee; and the current Benefits Committee would expand its purview to include all personnel matters affecting faculty.
  2. That each of these committees redefine its charge, taking as their model the recent revisions in the charge of the Budget Committee.* Several features of this charge strike us as exemplary. The Committee has identified the key administrators with whom it will consult and established a set of procedures for regular consultation with these administrators. It has cast its net widely so as to include all of the significant aspects of budget policy. And it has insisted on a role in deliberations over the formation of budget policies in their early stages and in the evaluation of those policies once they have been implemented.
  3. That the chairs of each of these committees work closely with the Executive Committee to insure that timely reports of their activities are made to the Senate in order that important policy initiatives are eventually subject to the deliberation of the entire body.
  4. That the consideration of matters of policy regarding faculty tenure and privileges be assigned to a joint committee of the Senate Committee on Academic Affairs and the University Committee on Tenure and Privileges. The Committee on Tenure and Privileges would alone continue to exercise its important judicial functions and to be constituted largely by independent elections.
  5. That the Executive Committee of the Senate appoint two senators to serve as ex officio members of the University Council on Graduate Studies (one of whom will serve as liaison to the steering committee of the UCGS). These representatives will report to the Executive Committee on any matters under consideration in the Council that might also come under the purview of the Senate. We recommend that the Charter of the UCGS be amended to allow for this representation.

 
 

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*For the Budget Committee charge see University of Rochester Faculty Senate Minutes (11 May 1999), Appendix C. The only change in the charge of this committee that our reform proposals occasion would be in the process by which the members of the committee are chosen.

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III. An Unmediated Senate Relationship with the Board of Trustees

 We propose:

  1. That the chair and one other member of the Senate Executive Committee, the Senate Academic Affairs Committee, and the Senate Budget Committee serve as non-voting members of the comparable Board of Trustees committees: the Executive Committee, the Academic Affairs Committee, and the Financial Planning Committee.
  2. That with the mutual consent of the chairs of other comparable Senate and Board of Trustees committees (Facilities, Personnel, Student Affairs), two members of these Senate committees may attend meetings of the Board committees as the need arises.
  3. That members of the Board of Trustees be extended an open invitation to attend Senate meetings as non-voting participants, and that, as the occasion demands, appropriate members of the Board be explicitly invited to relevant Senate and Senate committee meetings.

 
 

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Charter Revision

If the Senate were to adopt these proposals, the charter and by-laws of the Senate would have to be amended in the following fashion (excisions are struck out and additions are in boldface):

Charter 2.1: The President, Provost, and the University Dean of Graduate Studies shall serve as members ex officio, without vote. : except that the Presiding Officer shall cast the deciding vote in case of a tie.

Charter 5.1/Presiding Officer: The Chair of the Executive Committee of the Senate shall preside at meetings of the Senate; in the absence of the President, the Provost shall preside; and in the absence of both the President and Provost, the Chair of the Executive Committee, another member of that Committee selected by the Chair shall preside.

Charter 5.1/Committees: The Senate shall elect from its membership an Executive Committee and shall establish other standing committees, as it deems necessary. These shall include, at the least, an Academic Affairs Committee and a Budget Committee. A majority of the standing committees shall be composed of faculty members serving on the Senate or former Senate members but membership shall not be restricted to those persons. Each member of the Senate shall have the opportunity to serve on at least one standing committee. The chair and one other member of the Executive Committee shall serve as a non-voting member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees; the chair and one other member of the Academic Affairs Committee shall serve as a non-voting member of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees; and the chair and one other member of the Budget Committee shall serve as a non-voting member of the Financial Planning Committee of the Board of Trustees. With the consent of the relevant chairs, members of other Senate standing committees may also participate in the meetings of comparable committees of the Board of Trustees.

Charter 6.3: The President, after consultation with The Executive Committee, shall appoint annually a Nominating Committee . . .

Charter 6.6: If and when the Senate or the Executive Committee establishes an ad hoc committee, the President the Executive Committee shall appoint the committee after consulting with the Executive Committee.

By-Laws 1.2: The order of business at special meetings shall be specified in the call or petition that occasions them. The report of the President at the first Senate meeting of each semester shall include an account of any significant contemplated policy initiatives.

By-Laws 1.6: If a member requests that the vote be taken by secret ballot, the presiding officer shall so order. The substance of any motions or resolutions passed by the Senate shall be conveyed by the Chair of the Executive Committee to the President, Provost, Board of Trustees, and/or other appropriate persons or bodies in the University.

 Respectfully submitted,

Ad-Hoc Committee of the Faculty Senate on Faculty Governance

  • Raymond Ball, Simon School of Business
  • Eldred Chimowitz, Engineering, The College
  • Donna Brink Fox, Eastman School of Music
  • Robert Joynt, School of Medicine
  • Douglas Ravenel (Chair), Arts and Science, The College
  • Madeline Schmitt, School of Nursing
  • William Simon, School of Medicine
  • Harold Wechsler, Warner School
  • Robert Westbrook, Arts and Science, The College

3 November 1999

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Faculty Senate site created Monday, June 29, 1998, by William Simon wsimon@biophysics.rochester.edu
Maintained by Mary Ann Davis mdavis@admin.rochester.edu.
This page last revised December 14, 1999