In response to a query about the written underpinnings of faculty governance from one of the CIC institutions, the Faculty Consultative Committee, at its meeting on February 22, 2008, unanimously approved the following brief statement on governance.



The University of Minnesota Senate constitution, which is adopted both by the Senate itself as well as by the University's Board of Regents, provides that "Consistent with actions and policies by the regents of the University of Minnesota, all matters relating to the educational and administrative affairs of the University are herein committed to the president, the Faculty Senate, the University Senate, and the several faculties."  Both the Senate and the administration (at least for recent decades) have interpreted this language, in practice if not in formal policy, as a license for the governance system to talk with the administration about whatever is on the faculty's minds.  No one now involved in governance can recall a time when a governance committee wanted to talk about something and the administration declined.  (One former chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee (FCC), the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, said he interpreted the Regents policy incorporated in the Senate constitution to give the Senate the same jurisdiction—although not the same level of authority, of course—as the President.)


It is also accurate to say that the practice—again, not the written policy—is that the administration would not make any major decision without at least consulting with the chair of FCC.  And in most instances, they would make time to consult with the committee itself.  The charge to the FCC in the Senate Bylaws reinforces this practice, authorizing the FCC, among other things, to “discuss with the president and other University officers issues or policies of the University of concern to the faculty, [and] to consult with the president or senior academic officers . . . on planning and on the annual budget and the biennial request.” In the view of one of the former chairs, the Senate and its committees have authority reinforced by custom, much like the British constitution.  Sometimes individual administration officials may neglect to consult on an issue, from lack of familiarity with the custom of consultation, but that doesn't mean that a decision was made that consultation was not appropriate.  Also sometimes there are the appropriate "mea culpas" after the fact.


One legacy of the University’s struggle over tenure about a dozen years ago, and the inflamed and unproductive communications among the players at the time, was a firm commitment by faculty, administrators, and Regents that the lines of communication should be open and honest so such an event would not happen again. As a result, for the last dozen years the relationships among the faculty, the administration, and the Board of Regents have been warm and cordial. (The relationships before the tenure struggle were also quite positive, but those events led to a mutual commitment to institutionalize the interactions and not allow them to go off track again.) The leadership of the administration, Regents, and faculty meet several times per year and the senior officers meet regularly with faculty committees. Regents have high praise for the willingness of the faculty to address important issues in a thoughtful way; the faculty, in turn, have great respect for the willingness of the senior administrators and the Regents to listen attentively to, and respond to, views expressed by the faculty.


The University also has in place rules (adopted by both the Senate and the administration) governing participation in searches for senior officers, so that's altogether separate. That participation is also memorialized in the Faculty Senate Bylaws, which allocates to the FCC the duty “to advise the president on procedures for making major administrative appointments and to participate in the selection process.”


As should be clear, the Senate language sets the background here.  The Senate has, for as many years as any can recall, delved into whatever matters seemed to it important, almost always with the consent of the administration, and the administration has rarely taken major action without consulting the Senate or its committees.  (Sometimes the administration has warmly welcomed Senate/committee deliberation and inquiry, other times it has not been so excited about it, but at no time has the door been shut.)

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