A report reviewing the full breadth of the responsibilities of the Urbana-Champaign Senate is expected to lead to action following its acceptance at the May 4 meeting.
“This framework could turn into more-specific recommendations in the future,” said Kim Graber, a professor of kinesiology and community health, who is vice chair of the Senate Executive Committee and a member of the seventh Senate Review Commission.
The commission, led by Abbas Aminmansour, a professor of architecture, was asked last year to begin reviewing senate government and organizational structures and make recommendations to improve them.
Graber said the report’s recommendations were broad and would need more discussion and refinement to turn them into actionable concepts. The report was submitted at the April 27 meeting of the Senate Executive Committee.
The commission’s membership included faculty and staff members, campus administrators and students. Senate members and committee chairs also were consulted.
“The commission firmly believes that our … senate is a crucial partner in our shared governance system,” said the report’s introduction.
Initial discussions coalesced around five themes: senate membership, senate rule 13, senator engagement, the Illinois Open Meetings Act issues and shared governance.
As for senator membership, the report recommends allowing units to elect alternate members when a senator cannot attend, and better enforcing current attendance rules.
The report also recommends limiting faculty seats to full-time faculty members, with a predetermined number of seats offered to and selected by retired faculty members. It also suggests “a more uniform mechanism” to elect specialized faculty members and to increase the number of academic professionals who may serve.
As for improving engagement, the report suggests actively recruiting senate candidates, creating a guide for new senators and adding technology that allows resolutions, documents and even motions and amendments to be projected in real time during meetings. It also suggests creating a post-meeting summary that senators could share with constituents.
“Senators should be reminded that their role as senator does not end once a senate meeting adjourns,” the report says. “A culture must be created whereby the role of the senate is perceived as critical to the successful functioning of the university.”
The report recommends a larger role for the senate’s Educational Policy Committee by adding to its purview an annual review of the campus Enrollment Management report for academic units and programs undergoing large changes.
“The commission believes that the EPC can share experiences and knowledge with anyone considering reorganization of units so that there is a more consistent and smooth process,” the report says. “Particular attention should be paid to the impact of such changes on other units or programs and their resources.”
It also recommends reviewing the senate committee structure every five years.