Faculty Senate Archives

Documents and information to be preserved for archive purposes will be retained in the relevant section on this website in addition to being placed in the University archives at Woodson Research Center.

Faculty Council Archives

The Faculty Council was replaced by the Faculty Senate. Archives pertaining to the Faculty Council are stored in the Faculty Senate office. Contact for more information.

A Brief History of Faculty Governance at Rice

by Deborah Harter, Deputy Speaker of the Senate
September 2005

The Council further divided into two separate lobes in order to handle the significant work of promotion/tenure and faculty grievance. 1) One lobe consisted of the six tenured faculty elected to serve both on Council and the Promotions and Tenure Committee. They, along with two faculty appointed by the President, met each year from January to April under the chairmanship of the Provost to consider every recommendation for promotion and tenure and also to review faculty in rank long enough to be considered, though passed over, for promotion. The recommendations of the Promotions and Tenure Committee were forwarded to the President, who met with the Committee to discuss his decisions before communicating them to the Trustees, who both in the old and the new system of faculty and shared governance are invested with final authority. This lobe, including the two Assistant Professors, also served as faculty representatives to an all-University advisory board to the president, University Council. 2) Eight members of Council plus the two untenured members of the first lobe made up the body from which the Convener of Appeals and Grievances could draw to form panels to hear appeals from any individual faculty member who wished a review of the procedures used in his or her tenure or promotion case, as well as grievances brought by or against faculty by other members of the university community. The Convener was chosen by the Speaker from those in this lobe.

In addition, Faculty Council, acting on recommendations from its Committee on Committees, forwarded to the President in the spring of each year nominees for faculty positions on 25 University Standing Committees. The Council also itself appointed a representative to the Faculty and Staff Benefits Committee, and, in recent years, nominated a panel of faculty to assist in considering appeals of Honor Council violations. The Speaker had the authority to insert items in the agenda of plenary faculty meetings, and, with the Deputy Speaker, met with the President and Provost several times each semester to discuss matters of mutual concern.

A three-year process of reconsidering faculty governance, funded by the President's Office, resulted in the unanimous approval, on 28 February 2005, of a new system of faculty representation. A Senate, comprised of 26 elected faculty representing different Schools and constituencies, two persons appointed by the President, and the President and Provost ex-officio, now has most powers once exercised by the faculty as a whole. The Senate may not abrogate, however, the authority of the faculty to alter the faculty's governance and policies; such an alteration must proceed from a faculty-initiated plenary session called to consider a particular motion, followed by an affirmative vote on that motion through a ballot sent to all faculty. The faculty in plenary session also retains the right to vote all degrees.

Otherwise, the rights and responsibilities of the general faculty and of Faculty Council devolve upon the Senate, which will have a Speaker and Deputy Speaker elected from and by the Senate. The Senate will also have an Executive Committee whose composition will reflect the widest possible spectrum of professional interests and academic divisions. (Exactly how positions on Executive Committee will be allocated is still to be determined by the Senate, which has nearly concluded discussions about its Constitution and will be moving on in the fall of 2005 to a detailed consideration of draft By-laws and Meeting Rules.) Appeals and Grievances will be chaired by a Convener, who shall be a member of the Senate appointed to the position by the Speaker. The committee the Speaker appoints, however, may include members from outside as well as inside the Senate. Similarly, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are statutory members of the reconstituted University Council, but the other faculty representatives appointed by the Senate may come from outside or inside the Senate. The six faculty members of the Promotions and Tenure Committee (the former "first lobe" of Faculty Council) are now elected separately; they must be full professors from specified academic constituencies. The Provost may appoint two additional faculty members from any School. All faculty positions on these bodies have terms, and some have term limits.

Faculty and shared governance will continue to operate through University Standing Committees, but their number, charges, membership, and operations will be reviewed by the Senate and the administration in the next year. Three committees are of paramount importance in conducting faculty business: the Admissions Committee, the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, and the Committee on Examinations and Standing, which administers policy but does not deliberate nor recommend changes in policy.

Recommendations for changes in faculty policies and practices come up from standing or ad-hoc committees to the Senate, which has final authority in all matters not reserved to the plenary faculty. Issues of university-wide concern, such as the academic calendar, pass through University Council before being approved by the Senate and the administration. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker will continue to meet regularly with the President and Provost. In the past few years, a tradition was begun whereby the Chair of the Trustees met once each semester with the Faculty Council, and this tradition too will continue, with the Chair of Trustees meeting twice each year either with the Faculty Senate or with its Executive Committee.