Guidelines for Faculty Governance Organizations

Introduction

A faculty organization shall serve as the voice of its faculty both within the academic unit and throughout the University. It shall function for its faculty as a whole within its academic unit regarding internal matters. Although the legislative authority allows for the submission of certain actions directly to the University Faculty Senate, it does of necessity, submit matters concerning courses and programs under the jurisdiction of departments and colleges through the appropriate department and/or college. The academic unit must establish a faculty governance organization according to these principles before the University Faculty Senate considers the delegation of authority and responsibility to the academic unit. Any additional authority and responsibility outside the jurisdiction of the University Faculty Senate requires authorization from the President of the University.

History

To respond to the general need of the various segments of the University as provided for in the following documents, it is incumbent on the University Faculty Senate to issue a policy statement concerning guidelines for faculty organizations. The Senate Council recommends that the following statement be approved by the University Faculty Senate and submitted to the President for approval.

    1. The July 28, 1972 Academic Policy Plan of The Pennsylvania State University issued by President Oswald and approved by The Board of Trustees states on page 78 that: “Faculty participation in decision-making and academic policy formulation is of major importance in shaping and assuring quality programs of instruction, research, and public service.”
    2. The 1980-81 Constitution, Bylaws, and Standing Rules of the University Faculty Senate, Article II, Section 6(i), page 25, directed the Committee on Intra- University Relations to “prepare criteria and guidelines to assist academic voting units in setting up appropriate faculty organizations….”
    3. The July 3, 1972 Academic Organization, Policies and Procedures for the Commonwealth Campuses issued by President Oswald in which he directs on page 4 that: “A local faculty organization shall be established at each campus….”
    4. The March 13, 1973 Report of the Committee on Intra-University Relations, Appendix III, set the original guidelines for faculty organizations.

Definition

These guidelines apply to “academic voting units” as defined in the University Faculty Senate Constitution, Article II, Section 3. The membership of an academic voting unit is the electorate of the University Faculty Senate for that unit. A faculty member may be a member of more than one academic unit even if he or she teaches at multiple locations. (Academic voting units are henceforth called “academic units” for simplicity.) Academic units include:

  1. Each College at University Park;
  2. Penn State Abington;
  3. Penn State Altoona;
  4. Penn State Erie, The Behrend College;
  5. Penn State Berks;
  6. Penn State Harrisburg;
  7. Dickinson School of Law;
  8. Great Valley;
  9. University Libraries at University Park. (All members of the University Libraries at locations other than University Park fit the definition of the Senate electorate are included in the Senate electorate and census for that particular location.);
  10. College of Medicine;
  11. The Combined Departments of Military Science at University Park. (All members of the Departments of Military Science at locations other than University Park who fit the definition of the Senate Electorate are included in the Senate Electorate and census for that particular location.);
  12. Each campus of the University College; and
  13. Such groupings as may be designated, according to such procedures as the Senate may establish.

Purpose

For the purpose of performing legislative, advisory/ consultative, and forensic functions within its own academic unit and for the purpose of requesting delegation of certain legislative functions of the University Faculty Senate, each academic unit shall have one faculty governance organization which will be recognized by the University Faculty Senate.

The constitution of the faculty governance organization shall specify how the faculty governance organization functions, which is distinct from the administrative organization of the unit into schools, departments, or other subdivisions.

Membership

The membership of the various faculty governance organizations may differ according to the needs and desires of each academic unit. Each academic unit must define the type and composition of its membership. The general framework of membership depends on whether the academic unit has a plenary governance organization or a representative governance organization.

In the case of a plenary governance organization, membership must include:

  1. All full-time faculty including instructors and all professorial ranks and Equivalent ranks as defined in Policy (HR-21).
  2. The chief administrative officer of that academic unit who shall be an ex officio member and other members of the University appointed by this officer. The total number of ex officio and appointed members shall not exceed ten percent of the full-time faculty members.
  3. Student members may be included, but their number may not exceed ten percent of the full-time faculty members.
  4. Part-time faculty representatives may be included.

In a representative governance organization, the faculty in an academic unit may wish to designate a representative group to perform its functions, in which case the faculty in the academic unit becomes the electorate of the representative faculty governance organization. Any such representative body shall have its own membership distributed as follows:

  1. a minimum of 80 percent shall be full-time faculty, as defined in Item 1;
  2. a maximum of ten percent shall be administrative and appointed members, as defined in Item 2;
  3. a maximum of ten percent shall be student members.

These are mandatory requirements. In some instances, an academic unit may seek exceptions. Exceptions are permissible provided that the unit can show that such change in membership would still leave the faculty governance organization nonetheless qualified to execute any authority or responsibility of the organization and the University Faculty Senate Council approves such request.

Structure of Faculty Governance Organizations

Chairs of faculty governance organization standing committees are elected or appointed by a representative electorate or by the presiding officer of the faculty governance organization. An administrator of the unit may not serve as the chair of the faculty governance organization. The chair of the faculty governance organization should be elected by the faculty of the unit.

In most cases, units will establish committees such as curriculum, faculty affairs, and student affairs to fulfill the functions of the faculty governance organization. Other committees will be constituted, as appropriate. In units that opt for a representative faculty governance organization, it may be necessary and advisable to add faculty members who are not members of the governance organization to committees.

Delegation of Authority

The University Faculty Senate as the properly organized and recognized faculty governance organization can delegate authority and responsibility and has done so in the case of various academic units. Acknowledgement of such delegation of authority in the constitutions of the academic units, as requested by the Senate Council, should be in the form of a statement such as, “The authority vested in this constitution has been delegated by the University Faculty Senate.”

Legislative Functions

A faculty governance organization shall serve as the sole legislative body representing its academic unit in participating in the legislative functions of the University Faculty Senate. It shall submit its actions for approval through the appropriate academic and administrative units to the appropriate University Faculty Senate Committee or the University Faculty Senate concerning such matters as:

  1. Instructional program;
  2. Courses and programs of study;
  3. Academic admissions standards;
  4. Retention and graduation requirements;
  5. Scholarships, honors programs, and honors designations;
  6. Academic standards for intercollegiate athletics; and
  7. Access to library and information systems

Advisory/Consultative Functions

A faculty organization acts in an advisory and consultative capacity, both through its corporate whole and any of its constituent parts, to the administrators of its academic unit, on matters concerning the academic unit, such as:

  1. The establishment, reorganization, or discontinuation of organizational units and areas of instruction or research;
  2. Policies concerning the planning and physical facilities when these may affect the attainment of the educational objectives of the University;
  3. Policies and administration of the libraries of the University;
  4. Policies affecting University development and utilization of resources;
  5. Matters pertaining to the general welfare of the University;
  6. Overall educational policy and planning;
  7. University calendar;
  8. Faculty affairs;
  9. Student affairs;
  10. General admissions policy; and
  11. Other appropriate matters

Forensic Functions

A faculty governance organization serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas among the members of the academic unit faculty. The Standing Rules of the University Faculty Senate shall serve as a model for conduct of forensic business.

Delegation of Responsibilities and Authorities

The faculty governance organization may request the delegation of authorities and responsibilities now under the jurisdiction of the University Faculty Senate by submitting documentary evidence to the University Faculty Senate through the Senate Council that it has the capability to assume these responsibilities and authorities and that such delegation is in the best interests of the University as a whole.

Considerations in Writing Constitutions for Faculty Governance Organizations

The following suggestions are offered as ideas to consider in writing or revising the constitutions of faculty governance organizations.

  1. Consider the governance and advisory functions that the faculty in the unit must perform, such as reviewing and forwarding curriculum proposals, constituting committees for promotion & tenure and sabbatical reviews, and advising the administration. The unit constitution or bylaws should include mechanisms through which the faculty can perform their governance and advisory functions efficiently and effectively.
  2. Descriptions of the items typically included in constitutions, bylaws, and standing rules according to Robert’s Rules of Order can be found at http://www.bartleby.com/176/67.html. The Constitution, Bylaws, and Standing Rules of the University Faculty Senate are consistent with the recommendations in Robert’s Rules of Order and may serve as a model, although many organizations combine these sections in ways that work for them.
  3. Units that opt for representative faculty governance organizations should consider including a provision to ensure that positions are distributed among sub-units such as divisions, departments, or schools.
  4. Consider including a provision for electronic meetings and voting, especially for elections.
  5. Meetings should have a distinctive beginning and end time and allow for deliberative, simultaneous communication. See a discussion of electronic meetings in Robert’s Rules of Order.
  6. Faculty governance organizations should consider meeting at least two times a year.
  7. Consider specifying a method for communications between the University Faculty Senate and the unit’s governance organization (and faculty at large). This could be accomplished by including a report from University Faculty Senators on the standard order of business of the unit’s faculty meetings (or governance meetings).
  8. Constitutions should specify a procedure for amendments, and consider adding periodic reviews to evaluate whether current practices are consistent with the constitution.
  9. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, ex officio members are always voting members. If a unit includes administrators or other appointed personnel as nonvoting members, they should be labeled as nonvoting members and not as ex officio members.
  10. Although a faculty member with appointments at multiple campuses may be a member of the faculty governance organization at only one of those campuses, this restriction on membership does not apply to membership in the University College Faculty Council or the Graduate Council. Neither of these organizations elects its own representatives to the University Faculty Senate, so neither is an academic voting unit as defined in the University Faculty Senate Constitution, Article II, Section 3. A faculty member may be a member of his or her own academic unit’s faculty governance organization and the University College Faculty Council or the Graduate Council.

Revised by Senate Council: November 12, 1997
Revised and approved by Senate Council: April 11, 2006
Revised and approved by Senate Council: January 14, 2014