Piecing together a new senate

A 12-member task force has proposed two new models for University Senate that could change the face of university governance

The University Senate has helped seal the fate of 15 years of legislation.

Now, its own fate has been called into question, and the senators themselves will determine its destiny.

At its inception, the Senate was designed to advise the administration and Board of Trustees on a spectrum of issues including tenure, curriculum requirements and admission standards.

The system, however, has come under attacks recently by critics, who think it stifles the faculty voice, is inefficient and lacks accountability.

Because of the various complaints, senators voted to explore different governing bodies on March 23, 2001, and from that conviction arose the Governance Committee Task Force.

The 12-member force was charged to look at different ways to govern the university and report its recommendations back to the Senate.

"The work that went into it didn't surprise me," said Journalism Professor Mark Popovich, the chairman of the task force. "What surprised me were the different agendas people brought with them into the process."

Months of work by the task force ultimately resulted in two models. One is a modification of the current system; the other creates a new faculty senate and a professional staff senate.

Each model was designed to accomplish four goals: improve the flow of legislation, better define the relationship between Student Senate and University Senate, streamline the shared governance system and increase accountability.

"We think we're going to give (the Senate) some teeth," said professor Ray Scheele, a member of the task force.

Neither model, however, is guaranteed to pass, and Popovich said they are all proposals.

"They are not cast in stone," he said.

The University Senate governance committee, to which the task force reports, will meet Jan. 17 to vote to pass the proposals on to the Senate. If they do, and Popovich said he expects they will, the committee will decide how the Senate as a whole will handle the proposals.

Many people still need to be appeased for either model to be approved. Both models will need a majority vote from the University Senate.

For the faculty model system to be accepted, the Senate will have to vote itself out of existence, and the Student Senate will have to change its constitution so all its legislation will go to the executive committee.

"I have no idea when the discussion will start in the Senate," Popovich said.

Popovich said the models are more similar to the Senate than they are different.

Still, each model has its distinctions, and these distinctions affect the entire Ball State community, from students to administration, to various degrees.

A complete description of both models will be available on Ball State's Web site on Jan. 18 if the governance committee approves them.


The faculty model creates three new bodies: the faculty senate, professional personnel senate, and the executive committee. They would join the current Student Senate to create an inter-connected senate system.

Though the task force spent some time creating the professional personnel senate, the bulk of its efforts was dedicated to the faculty senate.

"When the faculty senate speaks, it speaks with the voice of the faculty," Scheele said.

n The executive committee would edit legislation from other senates and see if similar legislation is pending in other senates. similar to a conference committee in Congress, Scheele said.

n The executive committee has no legislative powers of its own, but it may return bills to its respective senates for corrections or clarifications. The executive committee, however, must pass the legislation on to the administration after the third time the committee reviews it.

n The executive committee will comprise two faculty senators, two student senators, two professional personnel senators and the faculty senate secretary, who will not vote. A spokesman from the committee will be chosen to represent the various senates to the Board of Trustees, and the committee will act as liaison between administration and the senates.

n Senate representation will be based on the number of faculty per department, not college. Departments with more than 20 tenure-track faculty will be granted an additional senator.

n Seven councils, not four, will oversee the work of the committees. Most of the committees and their responsibilities will remain the same. An Academics Resources Council, however, would be created to combine the standing committees for computing services, distance education, information technology, the library and the teleplex.

n Students and professional personnel will serve on committee, but they will not be able to vote. Originally, they had voting powers, but the task force decided that it might contradict with having a pure faculty voice.

"Why would you dilute the faculty voice at the lower level?" asked task-force member Malcolm Cairns.

n Faculty senators will serve staggered two-year terms with no limits on number of terms served.

n Ex-officio members will be exchanged between senates.


n Senate membership, terms and representation would remain basically unaltered. Faculty would still have majority representation. The vice chairs of the council, however, would be included in the senate, increasing the number of senators to 58.

n The Campus Affairs Council will replace the Student and Campus Life Council and inherit its responsibilities.

n The model also attempts to formalize the relationship between Student Senate and University Senate. The Student Senate will have a direct channel to the University Senate Agenda Committee. Under the current system, any action by Student Senate must go to the Student and Campus Life Council.

n Under either proposal, Student Senate will still be able to send bills directly to the president.


The members also formulated proposals they thought should be implemented for either model.

"If both of these (models) don't fly, at least consider these proposals the council has made," Popovich said.

n The committee chairs should be appointed by the Senate and be members of the Senate. Likewise, all committee chairs would serve on their respective councils. This, committee members said, would increase senators' accountability and make the process more efficient.

n The committee proposed the university provide staffing, office space and administrative services for the Senate. Senators should also be given compensation, including released time or honoraria for chief officers.

n A legislation implementation committee would monitor the status of bills and keep them moving throughout the system.

"We don't always know where things are in this convoluted system," Scheele said.

n In both models, faculty would be given the right of initiative, in which any faculty may introduce legislation, and referendum, where at least 100 faculty members can join together to ask the Senate to reverse its decision.

n Both models would also create an Academic Calendar Committee to coordinate recommendations and changes from academic, athletic and administrative agencies within the university community.

"The Senate doesn't have anything to do with the academic calender, but it is supposed to," Popovich said.


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...