On Wednesday, May 18, 1938, then UW President Sieg called the first meeting of the first Faculty Senate at the University of Washington. The President served as Chair of the Senate until 1947, when legislation was passed to require that Senate Chairs be elected from the voting members of the faculty to serve one-year terms.
During the period of the Canwell hearings in the Washington State Senate in the late 1940s, the Faculty Senate faced a major challenge to shared governance. Canwell’s interest in ridding the University of faculty members with “dangerous ideas” went unopposed by President Allen and some Regents. According to an article in The New Republic (1948), the faculty of the University of Washington was being subjected to a “witch hunt.” What happened and who played what role remains a matter of some controversy fifty years later, as evidenced by the responses to a 1997 article in the University alumni magazine Columns.
Wherever one stands in that dispute, it is clear that the years immediately following the Canwell hearings occasioned serious and sustained discussion within the University community about the importance of honoring and practicing shared governance – discussion that led to an important accord between the faculty and President Schmitz.
This accord was adopted in April, 1956 and was incorporated as part of the new Faculty Code (Section 13-01). It was passed unanimously by the Faculty Senate and approved by the University Faculty with an overwhelmingly positive vote.
In taking this action, the Faculty Senate emerged from what is arguably the University’s darkest hour with a robust “constitution” in the form of the Faculty Code – the framework for shared governance that remains in effect to this day.