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Shared Governance at the UW

One of the things that makes universities unique is their system of shared governance.  The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) defines shared governance as meaningful participation in institutional governance, emphasizing the importance of faculty involvement in making personnel decisions, selecting administrators, preparing the budget, and helping set university-wide policy.  The AAUP principles of shared governance were written in collaboration with the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. It is available in the AAUP Policy Documents and Reports, also known as the Redbook.

At the UW, we could not agree more. Since as early as 1956 with the adoption of our General Policy in Section 13-20 of the Faculty Code, we have been committed to a joint faculty-administration relationship that manages our complex interests and common objectives. We believe shared governance between the faculty and the administration is the best way to advance our mission and status as a world-class university. We are proud of our track record of collaboration at all levels of operation – institutional, school/college/campus, and department/program.

We want to be clear on this point: our faculty members play a critical role in the management of the university. This collaborative decision-making is seen frequently in the Faculty Senate, which serves as the legislative and executive agency of the Faculty, but it goes much further. Our system of joint leadership also includes a wide-ranging matrix of advisory and decision-making bodies that include college councils, executive committees, search committees, promotion and tenure committees and more. We describe this system of joint leadership below.

Faculty Senate

The Faculty Senate, as the legislative arm of the faculty, serves as a partner – and sometimes counterweight – to the President of the UW. Senators are elected by their peers and led by the Senate Chair.

Senators are elected by their peers and led by the Senate Chair, who this year is Zoe Barsness, PhD, Associate Professor at UW Tacoma in the Milgard School of Business, and also serves as the Chair of the Senate Executive Committee. The Senate Vice Chair this year is Thaisa Way, PhD, Professor of Landscape Architecture. The Chair this year of the Senate Committee on Planning & Budgeting, is Paul Hopkins, PhD, Leon C. Johnson Professor of Chemistry.

The Senate Chair, Vice Chair, and SCPB Chair meet regularly with the President and Provost. The Senate Chair is a regular participant in Board of Regents meetings. Working with the UW administration, the Senate has addressed the promotion and tenure process, appointment tracks and types, academic freedom and professional qualifications, including recognition of contributions to diversity and equal opportunity. Faculty Senate representatives are also active in Olympia, advocating on issues important to faculty.

University faculty councils and committees

The UW’s eleven university faculty councils study and make recommendations on ways to strengthen the welfare of the university. Representing faculty from a wide range of appointment tracks, ranks and titles, the councils play an important role in university policymaking. In recent years they have addressed issues such as the need for more flexible on-site childcare; increased equity, access and inclusion in hiring at the UW; and the University’s retirement plan.

The Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting plays an important role in advising the administration on long-range planning, budget preparation and the distribution of funds with particular reference to faculty concerns.

Schools, colleges and campuses

The elected faculty councils for UW schools, colleges and campuses advise deans and chancellors on academic policy, including priorities, resource and salary allocation, and budgets. They also play a key role on faculty hiring, promotion and tenure decisions.

As an example, beginning in 2014, faculty in the College of Engineering engaged in a multi-year effort to update the college’s undergraduate admissions policy. A faculty committee met with engineering departments, students, alumni, high school counselors, and UW Admissions staff to source feedback about the process and policy. Working together through shared governance, and after careful consideration, faculty made a specific set of recommendations to their dean about the policy, ultimately giving each department the opportunity to vote. The new admission pathway was approved in 2017 by the necessary faculty councils, which oversee changes to the UW academic and admissions process. Read more about the changes.

Secretary of the Faculty

The Secretary of the Faculty plays an important role in supporting the administration of our system of shared governance. The current Secretary is Michael Townsend, JD, Associate Professor of Law.