Faculty Senate

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Senate History

On Wednesday, May 18, 1938, then UW President Sieg called the first meeting of the first Faculty Senate at the University of Washington. The President served as Chair of the Senate until 1947, when legislation was passed to require that Senate Chairs be elected from the voting members of the faculty to serve one-year terms.

During the period of the Canwell hearings in the Washington State Senate in the late 1940s, the Faculty Senate faced a major challenge to shared governance. Canwell’s interest in ridding the University of faculty members with “dangerous ideas” went unopposed by President Allen and some Regents. According to an article in The New Republic (1948), the faculty of the University of Washington was being subjected to a “witch hunt.” What happened and who played what role remains a matter of some controversy fifty years later, as evidenced by the responses to a 1997 article in the University alumni magazine Columns.

Wherever one stands in that dispute, it is clear that the years immediately following the Canwell hearings occasioned serious and sustained discussion within the University community about the importance of honoring and practicing shared governance – discussion that led to an important accord between the faculty and President Schmitz.

This accord was adopted in April, 1956 and was incorporated as part of the new Faculty Code (Section 12-20). It was passed unanimously by the Faculty Senate and approved by the University Faculty with an overwhelmingly positive vote.

In taking this action, the Faculty Senate emerged from what is arguably the University’s darkest hour with a robust “constitution” in the form of the Faculty Code – the framework for shared governance that remains in effect to this day.

Role of Faculty Senate

According to the Code (Section 13-23), the Faculty Senate serves as the legislative body of the University Faculty, with whom the President of the University shares the responsibility of formulating regulations and procedures for the immediate government of the University on such matters as:

  • educational policy and general welfare;
  • policy for the regulation of student conduct and activities;
  • scholastic policy, including requirements for admission, graduation,
  • and honors;
  • approval of candidates for degrees;
  • criteria for faculty tenure, appointment, and promotion;
  • recommendations concerning campus and University budgets.

1956 Accord

The following accord, signed by President Schmitz and the 1956 Faculty Senate leadership, affirmed the ideals of shared governance at the University of Washington and was instrumental in restoring trust between the University faculty and the administration:

"A university is a community of scholars contributing, each according to his own talents and interests, to the transmission and advancement of knowledge. Because of its diversity of interests a university is a complex organization, not quite like any other in its management, which requires the understanding and good faith of people dedicated to a common purpose. A university administration must seek wisely and diligently to advance the common effort, and the strength of a university is greatest when its faculty and administration join for the advancement of common objectives. Much of the faculty-administration relationship has been established through long experience, and has the weight and good sense of academic form and tradition. But the terms of this relationship are essentially those of spirit, mutual respect, and good faith, and thus must be flexible to meet changing needs. Some of the traditions of the University of Washington are given expression in the pages that follow. Yet these and other common understandings have meaning only to the extent that they reflect the integrity and faith of administration and faculty in the day by day accomplishment of their joint effort."

Carl Allendoerfer Alfred Harsch William S. Hopkins Brents Stirling E. Roscoe Wilcox, on behalf of the faculty

Henry Schmitz President,on behalf of the administration

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