The first Bylaws to contain a description of the University Senate and an outline of its powers and duties appeared in 1899. Since that time the importance and the influence of the Senate have grown steadily. The Bylaws approved by the Board of Trustees on May 27, 1968, were the first to provide for multiple faculty representation according to the size of each school’s faculty. The Bylaws approved by the Board of Trustees on June 11, 2014, effective September 1, 2014 and amended December 9, 2015, delineated three categories of faculty—the Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty, the Full-Time Continuing Contract Faculty, and Other Faculty—and established separate faculty councils for the first two categories, each having multiple faculty representation generally based on the size of each school’s faculty. (Those interested in complete details are referred to the relevant Bylaws of the University—Chapters VII and VIII.) The Senate Rules of Procedure provide detail about membership, meetings, and committees.
In summary, the University Senate is empowered to act upon “educational matters and regulations of the academic community that affect more than one school.” Senate decisions in such matters are binding upon all faculties unless overruled by the Board of Trustees on an appeal lodged by a faculty. University-wide commissions report their findings and recommendations to the Senate. In addition, it is the deliberative body of the University for academic policies, structure, and procedures, including proposals for changes; it is concerned with the academic program and structure, personnel and budgetary policies, development of facilities, and community, professional, and educational relations of the University. It makes recommendations to the President and Chancellor, and, through the President and Chancellor, to the Board of Trustees concerning the policies and practices of the University. The Senate may also make recommendations for consideration by each of the faculties concerning their internal educational programs and policies. The Senate is authorized to define the educational terms used in catalogs, bulletins, and other announcements, upon which it may also make advisory recommendations; it is responsible for fixing the academic calendar and determining the length of terms and vacations, for arranging the Commencement exercises, and for establishing regulations on academic costume.
Section 61 of the University Bylaws reads as follows: “The Senate will consist of the President and Chancellor, and not more than one hundred and twenty-seven (one hundred and twenty-nine in the academic year ending in 2015 and one hundred and twenty-eight in the academic year ending in 2016) voting members as follows: (a) not more than thirty-six (thirty-eight in the academic year ending in 2015 and thirty-seven in the academic year ending in 2016) members of the Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty Senators Council, including one representative of the Division of the Libraries of the University; (b) not more than twenty-seven members of the Full-Time Continuing Contract Faculty Council, including one representative of the Division of the Libraries of the University; (c) not more than eighteen academic members of the Deans Council; (d) not more than thirty-five members of the Student Senators Council; (e) not more than six representatives of the Administrative Management Council; and (f) not more than five senior members of the administration of the University, including the President and Chancellor, the Provost, The Executive Vice President, if there is one, the Executive Vice President for Health, the Secretary and General Counsel, or such other senior members of the administrators of the University as may from time to time be designated by the President and Chancellor.”
The faculty members for each of the two faculty senators councils are elected—one or more per school, college, and Abu Dhabi and Shanghai portal campuses—from the faculties of the constituent schools of the University listed in Section 73 of the University Bylaws, and from the Abu Dhabi and Shanghai portal campuses, generally according to the number of full-time members in their respective faculties. (For this and other purposes, the faculties of the School of Medicine and of the Post-Graduate Medical School are regarded as one medical faculty, the faculties of the College of Arts and Science and the Graduate School of Arts and Science are regarded as one faculty, the faculties of the College of Dentistry, the College of Nursing, and the College of Global Public Health are regarded as one faculty, and the faculties of the Leonard N. Stern School of Business, Undergraduate College and Graduate Division are regarded as one faculty.) The deans and the vice chancellors of the Abu Dhabi and Shanghai portal campuses hold their seats Ex Officio. One student Senator is elected annually from each school, college, and the Abu Dhabi and Shanghai portal campuses, except that for this purpose the School of Medicine and Post-Graduate Medical School are considered one school. In addition, up to fourteen student Senators may be appointed at large by the Executive Committee of the Senate with the advice and consent of the regular student Senators. The Administrative Management Council is comprised of six representatives from the professional and administrative staffs of each college, school, and division of the University.
Some understanding of how the Senate functions may be gained by considering its Councils and the structure and interests of its committee system. The faculty Senators from the Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty constitute the Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty Senators Council and the faculty Senators from the Full-Time Continuing Contract Faculty constitute the Full-Time Continuing Contract Faculty Senators Council; school deans and the vice chancellors of the Abu Dhabi and Shanghai campuses belong to the Deans Council; the students are organized as the Student Senators Council; and professional and administrative staff are organized as the Administrative Management Council. All these groups meet regularly, apart from the full Senate, to discuss matters of concern to their respective areas of interest, and their reports and recommendations are regularly brought to the attention of the full body.
The standing committees of the Senate, all of which include members drawn from the Councils comprising the Senate, as well as appropriate administrative members of the Senate are: the Executive Committee; the Academic Affairs Committee; the Financial Affairs Committee; the Organization and Governance Committee; the Public Affairs Committee; and the University Judicial Board. The Executive Committee, composed of the President and Chancellor, the chairpersons of the Councils, and the Secretary of the Senate who is a non-voting member, appoints the members of the Standing Committees of the Senate, elects the officers of the Senate, is authorized to act on urgent matters that may arise at times when the full Senate cannot be convened, and is empowered to refer topics to Senate committees and to appropriate offices of the University.
Section 63 of the University Bylaws provides that the Senate normally meets monthly during the months of October, November, December, February, March, and April in accordance with a schedule adopted by the Senate. At the call of the President and Chancellor or when requested in writing by at least six members of the Senate, including at least one representative of each of the Students Senators Council, the Tenured/Tenure Track Faculty Senators Council, the Full-Time Continuing Contract Faculty Senators Council, the Administrative Management Council, the Deans Council, and University Senior Administration (as defined in Section 61), the Secretary is required to call a special meeting on 24 hours' notice, specifying the purpose of the meeting.