Faculty Senate to draft shared governance reforms

By Dan Doren

The Faculty Senate will move forward with drafting a set of shared governance reforms, which are aimed at vesting the Faculty Senate with academic responsibility and authority and at simplifying the current shared governance structure and processes.

The motion passed 43 to 7 with 3 abstentions at the Faculty Senate’s monthly meeting on Wednesday.

Faculty Senate President Kendall Thu said this decision is a step toward ensuring that tenure-track staff, who are given consideration for future tenure, are the “backbone of the university.”

The changes would involve a transfer of power to the Faculty Senate from the University Council, which has the power “[to] establish the educational and academic policies of the university,” according to Article 1 of the NIU Constitution.

“Let’s be clear about that,” Thu said. “We’re asking University Council members to give up power and push academic matters into Faculty Senate, and let them have authority over it.”

Currently, the Faculty Senate reports to University Council. The council reports to NIU’s president, then onto the Board of Trustees, the final governmental authority. Under the proposed changes, the Faculty Senate would report directly to the president rather than University Council.

This would mean amending the constitution to grant those powers to the Faculty Senate and moving appropriate committees to the Faculty Senate, as noted in the agenda.

Thu said this will require the approval of at least two-thirds of University Council members who are present for the vote.

Another part of these reforms involves reducing the number of university-wide committees, as there are estimated to be 103 with around 1,600 seats, according to the agenda.

“I’ve heard loud and clear that we have too many damn committees,” Thu said. “But we’re going to take a small step in that direction, hopefully toward the end of the meeting, to get rid of some of them.”

Operating Staff Council President Jeffry Royce said there are 16 voting student members of the University Council and asked Thu if he would support the idea of adding the same number of students to the Faculty Senate, if curricular powers were transferred to that body.

“I’m very open to having students on the Faculty Senate, whatever number that might be,” Thu said in reply, making note of how he asks his students regularly for suggestions on how to improve the courses he teaches.

Contributor Brandon Soto contributed reporting.