Academic Senate Overview

The Academic Senate plays an integral part in the shared governance of the University of Utah. Its status is codified both in University Regulations and in the history of the University. Strong working relations have developed between the Senate and the Administration in confronting the issues faced by the University. Both Senate and Administration take the initiative in formulating issues and in developing responses to them. Much of the actual Senate work is carried out by the Senate-elected committees, which work on the central academic issues of the institution. They report to the full Senate, and the Senate often acts on their proposals as well as on issues brought to its attention by the administration.

Scope of Authority

Subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees, the “university faculty shall have authority . . . to legislate on matters of educational policy. . . . The faculty has a right to a meaningful role in the governance of the University; . . . it has a right to participate in decisions relating to the general academic operations of the university including budget decisions and administrative appointments.” “The legislative power of the University faculty collectively will normally be exercised by the faculty through their representatives in the Academic Senate and the college and Graduate and Undergraduate councils. . .” U-Policy 6-001-III-B-3. See also 6-002 and 6-300.

More specifically, the Academic Senate acts for the University faculty “in all matters of educational policy, including requirements for admissions, degrees, diplomas, certificates, and curricular matters involving relations between colleges or departments.”  “The Senate shall also have the following powers:

  • to receive and consider reports from all faculty committees, councils, departments, divisions, schools, colleges, faculties and libraries, and other academic units, and administrative officers, and to take appropriate action thereon within the scope of this authority;
  • to consider matters of professional interest and faculty welfare and make recommendations to the University President and other administrative officers concerned;
  • to propose to the Board of Trustees amendments or additions to the University Regulations for the government of the University…”

Finally, “the University president may refer to the Senate any matter upon which the University president feels it would be useful to have the advice of that body.” U-Policy 6-001-III, Section 2 . See generally 6-002.

Composition

The Academic Senate is comprised of the following elected voting members:

  • 101 faculty members, proportionally representing and elected by their respective colleges or other areas of representation
  • 2 deans elected by the deans
  • 18 students from student government (ASUU), one from each college or equivalent area of representation, and the ASUU president and ASUU Campus Relations chair

The Senate includes as ex officio members who may debate and present motions, but do not vote:

  • University President
  • Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Senior Vice President for Health Sciences
  • All deans except the two voting deans
  • A representative of the University’s academic advisors, selected by the University Academic Advising Committee
  • A representative of the staff employees, selected by the University Staff Council

Committees

The Senate has 10 standing committees. The Committees are listed below, along with their general charge. A link to the committee description and roster of current members is also provided.

  • Senate Advisory Committee on Academic Policy — considers any matter relating to academic policy, broadly defined (which beginning 2018 is expanded to include operations of the University Libraries, and employee benefits for faculty and other academic personnel—formerly responsibilities of the advisory committees on Library Policy, and Salaries and Benefits).
  • Senate Advisory Committee on Budget and Planning – consults with university administration regarding long-range budgetary planning, holding confidential budget information in confidence, and urging budgetary policy decisions be made “in as open and public a way as possible.”
  • Senate Advisory Committee on Diversity – serves as a forum for the exchange of ideas within the University in promoting diversity in various roles and activities; and identifies issues, projects, and proposals that would further a positive climate of diversity on the campus, enhance relations with diverse elements in the community, and promote appreciation of diversity in the wider community.
  • Senate Advisory Committee on Information Technology (IT) – advises regarding information technology as it affects the academic missions of the University.
  • Senate Committee on Academic Freedom and Faculty Rights — investigates academic freedom complaints and grievances from faculty members with respect to the academic process of teaching, research, thinking and communication, and advises generally regarding academic freedom and freedom of expression.
  • Senate Consolidated Hearing Committee – hearing body for 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.
  • Senate Executive Committee – prepares the Senate’s agenda, refers matters to other committees for study, initiates study on matters not assigned to other university committees, and acts on behalf of the Senate during recess periods.
  • Senate Faculty Review Standards Committee – reviews and approves department/college standards and procedures for reviews of faculty members, including retention/promotion/tenure reviews; and advises generally on related University Regulations.
  • Senate Personnel and Elections Committee – makes nominations of faculty representatives for Senate committees and, if requested, for committees to be appointed by the University administration; conducts Senate elections; reviews all standing committees periodically and recommends necessary changes.
  • Senate Advisory Committee on Student Course Feedback – develops, for Senate approval, a standardized “Student Course Feedback Instrument,” a standardized “Course Feedback Report,” and appropriate procedures and forms suitable for use in all credit-bearing courses at undergraduate and graduate levels, by all course-offering academic units.

Faculty members of the above committees are generally nominated by the Senate Personnel and Elections committee from among any faculty volunteers and deans’ nominees and are elected by the Senate. Faculty members of the Senate Executive Committee and Senate Personnel and Elections Committee are elected from sitting senators by the Senate. Some of the committees have student representatives selected by ASUU, and ex officio administrative representatives selected by University administration.

Procedures

The Academic Senate usually meets the first Monday of each month at 3:00 p.m. during the academic year. These are open public meetings and the press is usually in attendance. The Executive Committee meets approximately two weeks before each Senate meeting to prepare the agenda, and also meets monthly during the summer, when it is authorized to act on behalf of the Senate.

Each month the Senate is informed of appointments, resignations, retirements, and leaves of faculty and administrative officers, and is asked to give its consent to forwarding these items to the Board of Trustees. The university administration typically begins the substantive portion of each Senate meeting by delivering an oral report, followed by a report by the president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah. Thereafter items upon which the Senate has a right to decide or advise are presented as “Debate” items (or rarely as a “Notice of Intent” preview of an item for Debate at the following meeting). Matters of educational policy (e.g. approving a new major, or revising a Regulation of academic importance) are set for “Debate” and a vote. Many non-academic administrative policy changes (e.g. driving on sidewalks, animals on campus), and various routine reports on academic or non-academic matters are set as “Information & Recommendation” items presented to but not voted on by the Senate.