The University Faculty Senate represents all faculty at Penn State through the process of shared governance. The Senate is comprised of faculty senators who are elected from each college and campus. In 2011, the Senate legislated a fixed-size of 200 elected faculty seats. Senate seats are allocated proportionately by unit, based on the ratio of full-time unit faculty to the total number of full-time University faculty. Undergraduate and graduate students are represented on the Senate, as are University administrators. The Senate seeks ways to improve communication and collaborative decision making across the University.
Members of the University community are welcome to attend Senate meetings and, with prior approval of the Chair, may speak regarding a matter before the body. Further information about the Faculty Senate is available in the Constitution, Bylaws, and Standing Rules of the University Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate website, or by contacting the Office of the University Faculty Senate, (814) 863-0221, 101 Kern Graduate Building.
What the Senate Does
- Serve as the sole legislative body representing the University faculty as a whole with primary authority over all educational matters, including curriculum, student policies, admissions, and retention/graduation requirements.
- Act as an advisory and consultative body to the President, both through its corporate whole and any of its constituent parts, on any other matter that may affect the attainment of the educational objectives of the University.
- Serve as a forum for the exchange of ideas among the members of the University faculty. One of the ways the Senate facilitates communication among faculty, students, and administration is through visits by the Senate officers to all campuses and colleges every three years.
The Senate represents more than 5,600 full-time faculty at 23 Penn State campuses. The Senate is comprised of faculty senators who are elected from each college and campus. In 2011, the Senate legislated a fixed-size of 200 elected faculty seats. Senate seats are allocated proportionately by unit, based on the ratio of full-time unit faculty to the total number of full-time University faculty. Other Senate representation includes undergraduate/graduate student senators, ex officio, and members appointed by the President. Senate committee chairs invite other members of the University community to participate in the work of the committees as resources.
The Senate is under the leadership of an elected Chair and three other elected officers. It has 15 standing committees, including Admissions, Records, Scheduling and Student Aid; Committees and Rules; Curricular Affairs; Educational Equity and Campus Environment; Faculty Affairs; Faculty Benefits; Global Programs; Intercollegiate Athletics; Intra-University Relations; Libraries, Information Systems, and Technology; Outreach; Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity; Student Life; Undergraduate Education; and University Planning. In addition, the Senate elects or appoints members to, and participates in, various joint committees, commissions, and boards, including the University Promotion and Tenure Review and the Faculty Rights and Responsibilities committees. The work of the Senate is accomplished primarily through its committees and subcommittees. An Executive Director is responsible for the operational duties of the Senate and supervises a staff of five.
At the June 13, 1921, meeting of the Board of Trustees, a statute was adopted establishing the “College Senate,” and discontinuing the then existing organization of the General Faculty. The College Senate held its first meeting on October 6, 1921, with a total attendance of 56. Prior to that date, the entire faculty met as a general assembly, but as the faculty grew in number, a more efficient means of faculty governance became necessary. The current Senate dates back to 1966 when the body reorganized itself and adopted a new constitution, which was approved by the Board of Trustees on April 30, 1966. The following year, the first Executive Secretary of the Senate was appointed.