The Ideal Senate Structure

I have over five years of experience working with an Academic Senate, which has provided me great insight as to what I feel is an effective way to influence policy and practice at an institution.  If I was a recently appointed President at an institution, charged with creating an Academic Senate, I would opt to develop a Functional Senate.  According to Minor (2004), a functional senate “primarily operate[s] to represent and protect the interest of faculty in university decision making…The senate membership is elected and representative, usually acting through a faculty-led executive committee…The senate usually maintain[s] authority in areas that are traditionally the domain of the faculty such as curriculum, promotion, tenure, and academic standards…functional senates are not particularly assertive and usually do not set their own agenda.  Instead, they respond to the initiatives and actions of the administration or issues that arise from the environment” (p. 348-349).  Through my work with the UCLA Academic Senate, I had great exposure to the operations of a functional senate.  This Senate was able to create a true, united, voice of the faculty.  While the Senate was not always a favorite of the administration, I believe that their input was always respected.  I believe the pure operations of a functional senate provides the foundation for success; while other senate models (e.g. Influential Senates, Ceremonial Senates, and Subverted Senates) may only provide either a controversial or symbolic voice that is never actually heard.  With a functional senate, the faculty is given the opportunity to make a true contribution and this contribution is vital to the success of an institution of higher education.

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