[The following essay was published in the UTK Faculty Senate Newsletter in November, 1999. It was a contribution to a symposium on University governance. See also the symposium essays by Robert A. Levy and Roger W. Dickson.]

A Faculty View
by M. Mark Miller,
Immediate Past President,
UTK Faculty Senate

"We sure kicked some major administrator butt today!"

If you hang out with the UTK Faculty Senate don't expect to hear a statement like that very often. In the first place most faculty members don't talk that way. More important, things just don't happen that way.

Even when the faculty does have major impact--and sometimes it does--you won't hear Senate leadership bragging about it. If they did brag, they'd jeopardize their relationship with the administration, and that's the most important resource they have.

The Senate and its leaders are most effective when they have the respect and trust of the administration. Senate leaders are assured of access to UTK administrators, but such access can be just an empty form without a sound relationship between faculty and administrators.

The Senate has several advantages that make it the most effective faculty voice at UTK:
  • It's elected by procedures that assure that the range of faculty views is represented across disciplines, ranks, and demographics.
  • Its leadership has official access to administrators at all levels.
  • It sets its own agenda and convenes itself.

    AAUP, in contrast, represents only those people who elect to join it and isn't officially recognized by the administration. AAUP does have the substantial advantage of being part of a national organization, which can provide expertise, support. In extreme cases AAUP can even censure a university injuring its reputation and ability to recruit faculty.

    The faculty and the university are served best when the Senate and AAUP maintain distinct voices. The Senate at its best works inside established procedures making compromises and working for incremental change. AAUP is free to be more insistent and to seek dramatic improvements.

    Of course, the Senate and AAUP can and do cooperate on many issues. For example, efforts at presenting the university case for improved financial support call for a united front.

    There are groups other than the Senate that enjoy relative autonomy and set their own agendas. They include the Commission for Women and the Commission for Blacks, which have specific constituencies and focused agendas. These groups often cooperate with unofficial groups of faculty and staff who share their interests. Again, the university is well served by a system where official organizations like the Commissions have formal access to administrators and others, like the Black Faculty Staff Association, have the freedom to make pointed statements.

    Many other groups articulate faculty interests to the administration. One of the most important is the Chancellor's Advisory Committee for Planning and Budget. CACPB membership includes Senate officers and other faculty representatives. Over the past couple of years CACPB has taken on such tasks as writing procedures for review of academic and non-academic programs and drafting the UTK Five-Year Plan.

    But as important as CACPB is, the Chancellor convenes it and sets its agenda so it can only react to administrator priorities. This is true of a number of administrative committees that address such issues as setting the academic calendar and advising on computing policy.

    Among the most important vehicles of shared governance are the Undergraduate Council, which works with the undergraduate deans office, and the Graduate Council, which has a similar relationship with the graduate deans office. These Councils have strong roles in managing the curriculum and devising academic policies.

    Because curriculum and academic policy are directly under faculty control, the Undergraduate and Graduate Councils report to the Senate through its Academic Policies Committee. Thus the Senate controls curriculum and academic policy. The Councils do exert strong influence and administrators often initiate such policies. Ideally curricular change emerges from academic departments and moves up the hierarchy through the Councils to Senate and back to the administration.

    Of course, the academic departments are vehicles of shared governance. The faculty is supposed to have a powerful voice at the departmental level in matters of curriculum and faculty recruitment, retention, and promotion. There apparently is wide variability in the level of faculty input in departmental matters across the university. Also, UTK has a system in which department heads are chosen by deans rather than one in which department chairs are elected by faculty. Presumably the headship system puts more control in the administrators than does the chair system.

    Despite the word "Council" in the names, the Teaching Council and the Research Councils clearly are committees of the Senate. Unlike the Undergraduate and Graduate Councils, their members are appointed by the Senate and they elect their own chairs. The Teaching and Research Councils do work closely with appropriate administrators and often are effective voices for faculty participation in governance. There are more than a dozen other Senate Committees that serve as vehicles for faculty participation in governance. Among the most important are:
  • The Faculty Affairs Committee, which works on faculty rights and responsibilities and serves as a grievance committee on tenure and promotion decisions.
  • The Athletics Committee, which monitors the activities of student athletes.
  • The Budget Committee, which advises the administration on budgetary matters.
  • And others whose names explain their function: the Faculty/Staff Benefits Committee, the Library Committee, and the Legislative Committee.

    In recent years the Senate has been more assertive beyond the Knoxville campus, from the UT Board of Trustees to legislators and other community leaders.

    The faculty routinely has a substantial impact on university policy. Often that impact is subtle and comes from faculty efforts to discover, inform, and persuade. That's what we faculty do best.

    It would be a lot more fun if we could "kick some major administrator butt," but it just doesn't work that way.

    Senate Directory
    Governing Documents
       Senate Bylaws
       Faculty Handbook
       Tenure Policy



    Senate Home

    To offer suggestions or comments about this web site, please click here.