The Senate is the highest academic body in the university. It is the final academic authority on campus and as such makes decisions of significant import to students and faculty.The regular work of Senate includes awarding degrees and scholarships, approving new programs and revised curriculum, establishing regulations concerning students’ academic work.
The University operates on a bicameral system, with the Board of Governors being the senior corporate body and the Senate being the senior academic body. Senate draws its members from faculty, students, alumni and senior administration as well as including representatives of the Board of Governors.
The composition of Senate is determined by a bylaw of the Board of Governors. This bylaw is changed periodically on recommendation from Senate. Currently there are 38 elected faculty Senators (including five Secretaries of undergraduate Faculty Boards) elected for three year terms, renewable; 13 elected students – 10 undergraduate and 3 graduate, elected for one year terms, renewable; 23 ex-officio members that include senior administrators, deans, directors of Schools that have their own Faculty Board, and the presidents of the two student associations; currently two special appointments; four representatives of the Board of Governors, of which only two may vote at a given meeting.
Two faculty members of Senate are elected to serve as representatives of Senate to the Board of Governors.
Members of Senate do not represent the constituency from which they were elected, but rather the best interests of the University as a whole.
An elected faculty member who goes on sabbatical or other leave for one academic term or more must give up his or her seat on Senate.
Senate meets monthly except in December, June, July and August. The standard time is Friday from 2:00 to 4:00, however it is sometimes necessary to schedule the meetings at other times.
Occasionally Senate holds an extraordinary session to consider a matter of urgency. These meetings have the same structure as a regular meeting but usually have an agenda limited to one item.
Most meetings of Senate are open to the public. However there are three meetings of Senate every academic year to deal with graduation matters and have a closed portion. Anything considered at these meetings must not be discussed outside of the meeting. Eventually, the decisions of these meetings are made public by those responsible to do so, i.e. Registrar’s Office for the graduation lists, Senate Office for the list of medalists, and the President’s Office for honorary degrees.
Items to be added to the agenda should be brought to the attention of the Clerk of Senate prior to the meeting. There is a schedule of deadlines at the Senate website.
The agenda and non-confidential documentation for a Senate meeting are posted to the Senate’s website about one week before the meeting and a notice to this effect is e-mailed to each Senator. Senators may also request delivery of a paper copy of the package. Non-confidential Senate minutes are posted to the web after Senate has approved them.
Any Senator unable to attend a meeting must notify the Senate Office by email prior to the meeting in order to be listed as having sent in “regrets”. Failure to notify the Senate Office, of your absence, will result in being listed in the minutes as “Absent”. Elected members of Senate who fail, without cause, to attend at least two-thirds of the meetings of Senate in any academic year (i.e. six meetings) shall be deemed to have retired from the Senate at the end of that year. This refers to only members that are listed as “Absent” in the minutes.
Upon entering the Senate Room, you will find a name card and sometimes copies of documentation that is to be circulated at the meeting. There is also an Attendance Sheet to allow you to sign in.
Seating, for the most part, is unassigned in the Senate Room, but persons speaking to Reports generally sit at the front of the room. There is no special dress code for meetings of Senate.
The Chair of Senate is the President, and the Clerk of Senate and the Secretary of Senate support her/him in that role. The Chair controls what happens at Senate Meetings.
There is a Question Period at the beginning of each open session of Senate, and members of Senate are asked to send questions in writing to the Clerk of Senate prior to the meeting. This period is for questions and answers only, with no discussion. Questions can also be asked from the floor of Senate (by members of Senate only), but the question may not be answered until the next meeting.
Any motion can be presented to Senate by a Senator at any time, but proper notice is required if a vote is to be taken. To be considered at a particular Senate meeting the motion should be submitted to the Senate Office in time for circulation to Senate Executive then Senate (the deadlines are at the website). A motion that is presented at a Senate meeting or without adequate advance notice and that requires debate or additional information will be treated as a “Notice of Motion” that would be discussed at the next or subsequent meeting of Senate. There is more information about motions in the Senate Rules of Order.
Non-members of Senate are allowed to attend open meetings of Senate, but are not allowed to speak at meetings unless the Chair gives permission.
Refreshments are served for the afternoon meetings of Senate, and coffee and muffins for the morning meetings.
There are several key Senate committees that do most of the work for Senate. The members of these committees are drawn from across the campus and do not have to be Senators. These committees regularly present reports to Senate. If Senate does not want to accept a recommendation from a committee it rarely amends motions, but rather refers the matter back to the committee for further consideration and consultation.