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January 28, 2020

Note on minutes of the faculty senate

The Chicago Maroon was recently sent a set of minutes of the Council of the University Senate, minutes of the Committee of the Council, and several internal reports produced by members of the Council. These are the source documents for a number of recent articles.

The Maroon withheld some portions of the minutes because discussions were incomplete and could not be adequately contextualized in this reporting.

Here's some background on the faculty senate.

At Council meetings, discussions are recorded by the Secretary of the Faculties. The Council votes at each meeting on whether to approve the previous meeting’s minutes. Speakers therefore have a chance to contest or revise the way their comments are paraphrased. Still, the Minutes should not be read as direct quotes or as perfect reproductions of conversations that took place.

The Council, sometimes referred to as the ‘faculty senate,’ is a group of 51 faculty members elected by tenured faculty to serve as the “supreme academic body of the University,” according to the bylaws of the University of Chicago. What that means—what, exactly, falls within the Council’s power—has been a subject of intense debate. But here’s a brief overview:

  • The University Senate is the group of all Professors, Associate Professors, and Assistant Professors who have completed one year’s full-time service—in other words, nearly all tenure-track and tenured professors.
  • The Council of the University Senate comprises 51 elected members chosen by the Senate from its membership. They meet monthly during the academic year. The President and Provost usually attend but do not vote.
  • The Committee of the Council is a seven-member group of Council members who meet every two weeks with the President and Provost.

Governance structures at universities vary significantly. Faculty governance bodies at some peer institutions share minutes of their deliberations with the public. For example, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate at Yale University makes some minutes available online. Stanford makes minutes of its Senate of the Academic Council available online.

At the University of Chicago, the minutes are available to members of the University Senate, which includes nearly all current tenure-line faculty. They are not publicly available.

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January 28, 2020

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