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DATE: March 5, 2000
TO: Members, UIUC Senate
FROM: James G. Ward, Chair, Fifth Senate Review Commission (SRC)
SUBJECT: Interim Report of the SRC

Senate Council Chair Robert Rich suggested that the Fifth Senate Review Commission submit with its Interim Report an essay outlining the rationale we employed in making our major recommendations. We urge all Senators to review this rationale along with the Interim Report itself as it comes before the Senate for consideration.

The Fifth Senate Review Commission was charged with developing a set of recommendations designed to increase both participation in the Senate and the credibility of the Senate. We feel that these two objectives are closely related. As part of our work, we surveyed all Senators for their views and suggestions and talked to a wide variety of individuals ranging from fellow faculty members and students to Chancellor Michael Aiken. Our recommendations are based on all the data we collected as well as our own experiences and observations.

(Survey results are appended to the Interim Report.)

First of all, the Fifth Senate Review Commission believes that participation in the work of the Senate needs to be increased and that the credibility of the Senate is under attack. Indeed, in many of our deliberations we discussed whether the very future of shared governance on this campus is in jeopardy. We believe that in many ways it is and we have developed a set of recommendations that, if adopted, will help restore the long tradition of university shared governance to its rightful place. We took very seriously those on campus, among both faculty and students, who questioned the current viability of the Senate and whether the Senate had any meaningful future as a campus governance mechanism.

One of the problems of a representative democracy is that the body being represented often feels divorced from governance. We believe that the Faculty as a body, and concomitantly the Students as a body, need to have their role in university governance strengthened. As a result we propose that the Faculty meet regularly and that the Faculty have direct responsibility for electing members of the Senate Executive Committee and the Committee on Committees. We believe that participation increases when people realize that their participation has practical importance. We also believe that people who are directly affected by decisions should have the major voice in those decisions. Therefore, we limit membership in the Senate to those faculty and students who are active on campus and not to those who are retired. We value the expertise of retired faculty, but their stake in Senate matters is less direct.

We propose an enlarged and, we believe, more powerful Senate Executive Committee, which would include at-large members elected directly by the Faculty. The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Senate Executive Committee would also be elected directly by the Faculty. The members of the Fifth Senate Review Commission have become firmly convinced that one of the factors that undermines participation in the Senate and the credibility of the Senate is the wide-spread perception across campus that the Senate is tightly controlled by a small group of individuals who maintain power in the Senate year after year. The more open process for the selection of a portion of Senate Executive Committee members and the Senate Executive Committee Chair and Vice-Chair is designed to change that perception or practice. Term limits are also proposed for that same purpose.

We propose an enhanced role for academic Deans in the Senate because we believe that Deans should be strong and visible educational leaders and that they should be role models for their faculty in stressing the importance of the Senate in educational policymaking on campus. Full participation of the Deans in the Senate should help build a reward system that says that faculty and student participation in the Senate is important.

We propose a stronger system of Senate Standing Committees, with fewer committees and more members on many committees. Ideally, all Senators would be active members of at least one committee. By reducing the number of committees and expanding the scope of many, we want to send the message that every Senate standing committee is a "major committee." Committee participation should be regarded as a major form of Senate service. We propose some specific changes in committee operations as well.

We concede that our recommendations are not without some controversy. There was controversy within the Fifth Senate Review Commission as well. We considered and rejected many ideas, just as we considered and accepted many other ideas. However, we emerged with a strong consensus that what we are recommending will, if implemented, strengthen the Senate and make it a more credible body with greater faculty and student participation. Many will reject our recommendations and will want staunchly to defend the status quo. Others will undoubtedly want to do away with the Senate altogether as a useless anachronism. We believe in the Senate and we believe that the Senate can and will have a glorious future as a model university governance body.