On Oct. 21, members of the Urbana Academic Senate heard the first reading of a proposal that would give the University Senates Conference, which has representatives from all three campuses, the power to propose amendments to university statutes.
USC serves as a central mediator among the three campus senates, working to foster agreement over proposed rules and regulations that affect all three campuses and seeking to reconcile areas of concern or disagreement among the senates. It also serves as the primary faculty advisory group for the university president and board of trustees.
Backers of the idea say the new rule simply codifies a practice for which there is substantial precedent, considering USC has proposed statute amendments in the past.
"USC serves a very significant role ... in not only coordinating ... but in making policy recommendations and recommendations of substance," said Sen. Joyce Tolliver, a professor of Spanish.
Since USC meets regularly with the president and university administrators to discuss matters of relevance for all three campuses, she said, it would be more logical for it to initiate proposals to change statutes than it would be for any one of the three senates.
Sen. Mary Mallory, a professor of library administration who is serving a third term on the USC, voiced concern over the proposal.
She said codifying the creation of an extra level of influence for the USC might weaken its traditional role as facilitator and peacemaker.
"I don't want to see that changed," she said. "This has worked well without this being in writing. I'm really not sure it's necessary.
Tolliver said the proposal did not represent an overreach because USC proposals must be reviewed and approved by the senates, and all final university policy recommendations must be approved by the U. of I. Board of Trustees, regardless of origin.
"It would regularize what already has been in practice," Tolliver said. "The original intention was not to give USC any more power than it has already."