The Academic Senate has grown in number from five professors to over one hundred members. In the process, the Senate broadened its representation from those involved in teaching to those involved in all areas of academic work: students, clinicians, librarians, deans, and researchers. The various names the Senate has been called reflect these advances, from Administrative Council to Faculty Council then from University Senate to Academic Senate. A common theme throughout the development of the Senate is the desire of students and faculty to have a say in how the University operates, from students wanting to evaluate professors and influence campus culture to faculty desiring to affect budget and hiring decisions.
The first version of the Senate—the Administrative Council—focused on both campus culture and faculty hiring. The Council established a Nominating Committee to help advise the President regarding which faculty to retain and hire. The Administrative Council also worked with the Regents’ Faculty Relations Committee to update regulations allowing students to “form and maintain orderly, dignified discussions of any and all questions of current interest to intelligent citizens” (University of Utah Administrative Council 1915) and expand the ex-officio membership to include the ASUU President. A year into the Administrative Council’s new role, the group conducted a faculty review to determine whether a professor should be fired. The hearing resulted in the professor deciding to resign. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the Council discussed tenure and promotion standards and the best way of organizing the University.
With the growth of the University in the 1940s and 1950s, Council membership increased to forty faculty and the name was changed to Faculty Council. All colleges/areas had some representation, but the basis of apportionment and election procedures had not yet been established. The Faculty Council’s order of business and the committee structure served as the foundation for the current Academic Senate. See Appendix I, Senate Structures from 1915-2015 for a more detailed overview.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the Faculty Council focused on implementing student evaluation of professors, enhancing the promotion policy, and improving “inefficient meetings” (University of Utah Faculty Council 1947-1970, Mar 2 1955 meeting). By 1964, apportionment was based on student credit hours and the Council grew to fifty faculty across fifteen colleges/areas without regard to rank. Student representatives were added as non-voting members in 1968. The Council also moved to have an elected chair. Up until then, the default presiding officer had been either the University President or the Academic Vice President. The motion went as far as saying that the chair should be a non-administrative member of the faculty, but the idea failed during debate. This question of having an elected chair and whether the presiding officer should be an administrator became a central and on-going debate for nearly two decades. In fact, the Senate did not reach consensus on the matter until 1992.
In 1969, Utah passed the Utah Higher Education Act which established the State Board of Regents and institutional Boards of Trustees. The Faculty Council responded to the Act by making modifications. The Council changed its name to University Senate and formed College Councils. The most significant work done by the University Senate in this period included the Code of Faculty Conduct. The Act had replaced the previous employment contract initiated by the Regents in 1907 and required all Utah higher education institutions to develop their own rules and standards for faculty. It took the Senate two years to draft and debate the code, from 1971-1973.
The faculty code consisted of seven sections and the preamble indicated that “the rules are intended as minimal standards of behavior designed to assure fair and reasonable disposition of rare and episodic occurrences of faculty misconduct” and violations would result in sanctions. In a rare instance of clarity and unanimity in the Senate, the basic aspiration that everyone agreed on was “to be excellent and inspire excellence in others” (University of Utah Academic Senate 1959-present).
The rules section of the Faculty Code included “Duties to Students,” “Professional Obligation,” and “Obligations to the University.” Sanctionable violations included failure to meet scheduled classes without prior notice and without a valid excuse; not keeping regular office hours; failure to give reasonable notice of general course content and criteria for evaluation; preempting substantial portions of class time for presentation of personal views on topics unrelated to the subject matter of the course, or penalizing disagreement with the faculty member’s views on controversial topics; using authority to obtain uncompensated labor for personal gain; plagiarizing the work of a student or limiting his/her right to publish his/her own scholarly research; misappropriation of university property or facilities; and failure to comply with university regulations restricting the amount of time one may spend on non-university commitments, outside consulting or other on-campus employment.
The post-1969 Senate also recognized the emerging role of student rights and incorporated students as voting members. The Senate also added research faculty and the ranks swelled to ninety-six. In response, the Senate restructured apportionment to include both student credit hours and the number of faculty in a college. This pared it back to seventy-five members.
Both the Faculty Code and the 1969 Higher Education Act represented a distinct evolution in the University’s history and the new significant role of the Senate. In the beginning, the Regency determined employment and while the President eventually helped make hiring and firing decisions, employment terms were still poorly defined with requirements limited to individual merits, loyalty, and efficiency. The faculty, through the Senate, advocated for more sophisticated and rigorous employment terms that resulted in serving the dual functions of protecting academic freedom and the rights of students in their individual scholarly pursuits.
While the 1970s witnessed significant changes in employment terms and the Faculty Code, the academic budget and “politicizing the chair” represented popular items in the meetings during the 1980s (University of Utah Academic Senate 1959-present, Senate summary: 14(6), 1986). The Senate asserted a new role by creating the Budget Advisory Committee to provide advice and counsel to the president and other administrative officers regarding faculty opinions and reactions to budget matters. In 1986, the Senate criticized itself by noting that it had recently suffered an “erosion of its sense of self and occupied itself with trivial or ceremonial matters while major policies [were] decided elsewhere” (University of Utah Academic Senate 1959-present, Senate summary: 14(6), 1986).
Part of strengthening the Senate included a name change from University Senate to Academic Senate in 1987. The Senate also wanted to focus on “strengthening” the role of the chairperson (University of Utah Academic Senate 1959-present, Senate summary: 14(6), 1986). Senate members saw the role as “influential in determining senate issues, chairing the Executive Committee and making sure senate committee and floor work” was completed (ibid.).
The Senate moved for an elected chair “with all tenured professors eligible to run,” but, as was done in 1968, the Senate rejected the change by a substantial majority during a special meeting on April 20, 1987 (University of Utah Academic Senate 1959-present, Senate summary: 17(3), 1987). Opponents felt that an elected faculty leader would create an us/them, confrontational structure. Only a few spoke in support of the idea saying “electing a Senate chairperson would give the faculty autonomy from the administration” (ibid.).
By May 1990, a middle-ground approach was approved. The Senate voted in favor of the Executive Committee creating a slate of candidates for the University President to choose as the first Senate chair who would also serve as a member of the President’s Cabinet. Leslie Francis (Philosophy and Law) was selected chair and presided over the Senate during the 1990-1991 academic year.
The idea of a direct election surfaced again in December 1990 and was narrowly defeated. Another compromise was suggested: the Senate would choose the nominations from a list of six that would go to the University President for final selection based on the Senate’s preferential voting results. This was reaffirmed during the January 7, 1991 meeting and an ad hoc committee was formed in February 1991 to study the best method of electing a chair. Bruce Landesman (Philosophy) was selected as the chair-elect and announced during the March 4, 1991 meeting. Election procedures were on the floor again during the April 1, 1991 meeting with the final decision being single-round preferential voting by the Senate, which would then serve as a nomination to the University President for final selection.
These years of compromise seemed to be successful because by the following year the Senate directly elected its first chair during the October 5, 1992 meeting. The slate included six names and required that the top vote getter have 50% plus one to be elected. The vote resulted in a tie and run-off election. John McCullough (Anthropology) received the most votes during the run-off and served as the first directly elected Senate Chair during the 1993-1994 academic year. The title of Senate Chair changed to Senate President in June 1994, which reflects current Senate practices.
Presently, the Academic Senate is made up of ninety-eight tenure-line and career-line faculty members across all schools and colleges based on the 1975 apportionment calculation of student credit hours and number of faculty in a college. Deans elect two senators and students elect eighteen. The University President, Senior Vice Presidents, and all the non-voting Deans serve as ex-officio members.
Much like the Administrative Council, the Faculty Council, and the University Senate, the responsibilities and power of today’s Academic Senate include discussing and acting on educational policies including requirements for admissions, new degrees, certificates and programs, and curricular matters involving interdisciplinary collaborations. The Senate receives and considers reports from its committees and other University committees. Matters of faculty welfare as well as any item referred by the University President come before the Senate. The Academic Senate can also propose changes to University regulations including “the power to make rules governing its own organization and procedure,” which are stipulated in U Policy 6-002 (The Academic Senate, Senate Committees: Structure, Functions, Procedures) (University of Utah 2014).
In order to not repeat the scourge of “inefficient meetings” that plagued the 1960s Senate, agenda items do not reach the floor until other Senate or University committees have vetted them. However, Senate members frequently identify the unintended consequences of policies and raise them on the Senate debate floor. This is often the case with controversial policies. By the end of this comprehensive process, most University policies and programs of study are ready to move forward to the Board of Trustees. Figure 5 shows a sample workflow chart for a new undergraduate degree.
Academic Senate Committees
The Academic Senate has ten standing committees to help manage its responsibilities and powers. The committees also serve the purpose of avoiding the 1986 ‘erosion’ of the Senate’s effectiveness where other, more active non-Senate committees decided University policies. Some committees address topical issues such as diversity, academic freedom, and faculty rights Other committees, such as the Executive Committee, assist with setting meeting agendas, debating about whether items are ready for final vote, and generally acting as faculty and student sounding boards. U Policy 6-002 governs each Senate committee. Two Senate committees receive additional governance through other University policies. U Policy 6-011 (Functions of the Senate Consolidated Hearing Committee) provides additional guidance for the Senate Consolidated Hearing Committee and U Policy 6-313 (Terminations and Program Discontinuance–Declaration of Financial Exigency) further instruct the Senate Advisory Committee on Budget and Planning.
Senate Executive Committee
The Senate Executive Committee prepares the Senate agenda and reports each month on its actions. The committee studies the actions of other Senate committees as well as College Councils, the Graduate Council, and the Undergraduate Council. It recommends to the Senate the creation of possible ad hoc committees to study a specific issue when the topic involved does not fall under the jurisdiction of an existing committee. It acts on behalf of the Senate on urgent matters and acts on behalf of the Senate during vacation periods and the summer semester. The committee receives confidential reports indicating a serious concern about the systemic operation of a program, department or college or other academic unit and carries out such functions described in various University Regulations.
Powers and Duties
• Sets the monthly Academic Senate meeting agenda
• Studies the actions of committees, College Councils, Graduate Council, and Undergraduate Council
• Initiates ad hoc committees to study specific issues
• Acts on behalf of the Academic Senate on urgent matters and during vacations
Membership: The Academic Senate elects twelve of its own members to serve and includes three students: the ASUU President, the Student Senate Chair, and a student senator representing graduate students.
Senate Advisory Committee on Academic Policy
The Senate Advisory Committee on Academic Policy considers matters related to academic policy brought before the committee by members of the committee, members of the faculty, administrative officers, or students. Upon its selection of a subject for study, the committee notifies all interested agencies within the University, including standing committees, and invites their cooperation. At least once each academic year, the committee submits a written report of its studies and recommendations, if any, to the Senate.
Powers and Duties
• Considers any matter related to academic policy
• Faculty, administrative officers, and students may suggest reviews
• Works closely with other university areas and committees on reviewing academic policies
Membership: The Academic Senate elects nine tenure-line or career-line faculty members. ASUU selects three students.
Senate Advisory Committee on Budget and Planning
The Senate Advisory Committee on Budget and Planning consults with the University’s administration with regard to the views and interests of the whole faculty in long-range academic and budgetary planning. The Committee strives to persuade the administration to make critical budgetary and academic policy decisions in as open and public a way as possible.
Powers and Duties
• Provides forum for individual faculty to submit their views on budget and planning
• Consults with the University administration on developing a transparent academic and budgetary planning process
• Represents views and interests of all faculty
Membership: The Academic Senate elects eight tenure-line or career-line faculty members.
Senate Advisory Committee on Diversity
The Senate Advisory Committee on Diversity provides leadership and expertise to the University community in promoting diversity in their various roles and activities and serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas within the University. The Committee’s principal role is to identify issues, projects, and proposals that would further a positive climate of diversity on the University campus, would enhance relations with diverse elements in the community, and would promote appreciation of diversity in the wider community. The Committee’s roles include forwarding information and recommendations to the Academic Senate and submitting an annual report.
Powers and Duties
• Identifies issues, projects, and proposals to further a positive climate of diversity at the University
• Provides leadership and expertise in promoting diversity on campus
• Promotes dialogue, exchange of ideas, and appreciation for diversity in the wider community
• Responds to directions from the Academic Senate and forwards information
Membership: The Academic Senate elects twelve tenure-line and career-line faculty members. ASUU selects three students. Ex-officio members include Academic Senate past-president, Associate VP for Equity and Diversity, Associate VP for Diversity for Health Sciences, UUSC Chairperson, ASUU President, Director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action, Director of LGBT Resource Center, Assistant VP for Human Resources, and two representatives from the community.
Senate Advisory Committee on Library Policy
The Senate Advisory Committee on Library Policy confers with and advises directors of the Marriott Library, the Eccles Health Sciences Library, and the Quinney Law Library concerning library policies and practices including matters of operational policies, the development of existing holdings, and the expansion of existing facilities. It functions as a liaison between the libraries and the faculty and student body. The Committee also brings before the Academic Senate matters affecting library needs, policy, and administration and reports to the Senate annually.
Powers and Duties
• Confers with and advises directors of the University’s libraries
• Receives input from faculty and students about library services
• Brings matters before the Academic Senate that affect library needs, policy, and administration
Membership: The Academic Senate elects eighteen tenure-line or career-line faculty members with one representative from each of the eighteen Senate areas. ASUU selects six students.
Senate Advisory Committee on Salaries and Benefits
The Senate Advisory Committee on Salaries and Benefits functions in a research and advisory capacity on matters related to sabbatical leaves, salaries, salary schedules, cost of living, faculty retirement plans, annuities, health and life insurance, and other benefits. The Committee does not exercise budgetary or administrative powers in relation to these subjects. It reports to the Senate annually and makes recommendations.
Powers and Duties
• Makes recommendations related to sabbaticals, salaries, retirement, insurance, and other benefits
• Reports on advice the committee provides administration
Membership: The Academic Senate elects six tenure-line or career-line faculty members. The Chief Human Resources Officer (or designee) serves as ex-officio.
Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Faculty Rights
The Academic Freedom and Faculty Rights Committee (AFFR) reports to the Academic Senate on issues related to academic freedom, faculty rights, and academic grievances. The Committee keeps fully informed on the most important controversies on academic freedom and faculty rights in higher education, surveys problems of academic freedom and faculty rights at the University of Utah, and informs the Senate on these matters in its annual report.
Powers and Duties
• Investigates issues of academic freedom at the university
• Reviews, determines merit, and advises in response to grievances brought by faculty
• Hears academic freedom matters referred by the University President or the Consolidated Hearing Committee
• Oversees the Code of Faculty Rights & Responsibilities
Membership: The Academic Senate elects twelve members to the committee for three-year terms.
Senate Consolidated Hearing Committee
The Consolidated Hearing Committee for Faculty Disputes (CHC) hears grievances and complaints brought against faculty members at the University of Utah or by faculty members asserting rights including appeals from retention, promotion and tenure decisions. It is the hearing body for matters initially considered but not resolved by other committees (such as AFFR), offices, or individuals.
Power and Duty to Hear
• Denial of retention, promotion, and/or tenure
• Complaint of discrimination
• Violation of Faculty Code
• Abridgment of academic freedom
• Termination or reduction in status for medical reasons
• Appeal of dismissal or reduction in status due to financial exigency or program discontinuance
• Appeal for restriction on speech under University speech policy
• Allegations of sponsored research misconduct
Membership: The Consolidated Hearing Committee consists of a pool of at least thirty faculty members nominated by the Senate Personnel and Elections Committee. The Senate Executive Committee reviews the nominees and, in consultation with the administration, provides a slate to the Senate. The Senate votes sufficient members to fill the pool. CHC pool members are normally appointed for six year staggered terms. There may be expedited elections if necessary to fill vacancies in the pool or to provide sufficient members for a particular panel.
Senate Faculty Review Standards Committee
The Senate Faculty Review Standards Committee generally advises the Senate and University administration on regulations and practices for reviews of members of the University faculty. Acting on behalf of the Senate, the Committee develops and implements procedures to approve criteria for retention, promotion, and tenure.
Powers and Duties
• Advises the Senate and University administration on policy and practices for review of faculty and instructional personnel
• Develops and implements procedures to review and approve criteria for retention, promotion, and tenure (i.e. RPT Statements)
• Initiates a regular schedule to review statements from any academic unit
Membership: The Academic Senate elects twenty-three faculty: seventeen tenured and six career-line. The Associate Vice President for Faculty (or designee) serves as ex-officio.
Senate Personnel & Elections Committee
The Senate Personnel and Elections Committee makes nominations for elections of members to standing committees of the Senate (except as otherwise provided for a specified committee, including the Senate Advisory Committee on Budget and Planning). The Committee also prepares a list of nominees or makes recommendations for committees to be appointed by the University administration.
Powers and Duties
• Nominates faculty for elected Senate committees and appointed University committees
• Reviews standing Senate and University committees
• Appoints alternate faculty members for University Promotion and Tenure Advisory Committee
Membership: The Academic Senate elects eighteen tenure-line or career-line Senators. ASUU selects two students.