Chapter Four

a. University committees

Serving on the various committees and boards which make up Notre Dame´s "informal" governance structure (informal because the formal governance structure is the university's officers and board and board of directors) provides an opportunity to build up some university service, while getting to know colleagues you might not otherwise meet and learning something about the way Notre Dame works. And for a lot of us, faculty self-governance is an ideal which is worth preserving, even if it is only imperfectly realized here. What follows is a brief guide to some of the more important committees at Notre Dame. No effort has been made to describe all of them, but this will offer you some idea of the main venues for service.

Ok, here are the main committees - in order of their appearance in the faculty handbook.


The Academic Council
The Academic Council is made up of both faculty and administrators, with 20 faculty being chosen by election. The Academic Council has comprehensive power over the academic life of Notre Dame; it must approve all changes to the Academic Articles as well as all new graduate degree programs and other matters pertaining to academic policy. At the same time, its approval is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for university action; in most cases, its decisions must be ratified by the Board of Trustees and the Fellows of the university. The Academic Articles provide that its decisions are "subject to the approval of the President."

The current composition of the Academic Council is about two thirds faculty, so the faculty members of the committee could exercise real power if they chose to do so. They almost never do, and since the administrators do vote as a block, the faculty voice on the Academic Council is diluted. However, there has been at least one recent case in which the faculty on the Academic Council did vote contrary to the wishes of the Administration. They were overruled by the University Fellows (who did not tell anyone about the vote for a couple of months), but it was a moral victory, anyway. What was the issue — adding a clause to university policies prohibiting discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

. 2.

The Faculty Senate
The Faculty Senate is the only body on campus made up entirely of elected faculty representatives - 53 in all. Unfortunately, it has no formal, structural power, apart from the right of agenda to the Academic Council. Interest in the Senate has dropped off drastically in recent years, and its future is currently in doubt. (Some recent history - the 2000-01 senate voted to disband the Senate in May of 2001, primarily because of lack of interest and the strong feeling that he Senate was structurally powerless to participate in governance of the university. The 01-02 Senate tried a motion to rescind the previous action, but that motion failed. The President of the Senate therefore took the motion to disband to the Provost's office, with the request that the Academic Council consider it this year. Since the Senate has right of agenda on the Academic Council, that is what should happen, fairly soon.)


The Graduate Council
As its name implies, the Graduate Council serves as an advisory board to the Vice President for Graduate Studies. So far as I can tell, it is purely advisory, although its decisions carry a lot of weight with the Academic Council. It includes elected and appointed members. It meets only a few times a semester, so is a good way to get involved without taking on a really onerous committee assignment.


The Faculty Board on Athletics
As the name suggests, this board oversees educational issues pertaining to Notre Dame´s extensive and expensive varsity athletic program. There are seven elected faculty members, out of a total of fifteen members. Like most of these committees, this board is advisory to the President, and has no formal power - but its informal power is considerable, and given all the givens, it is especially important for women to be involved here.


The University Committee on Women Faculty and Students
This committee is composed of elected and appointed faculty and students, and it is likewise advisory to the President, through the Provost. It has a broad mandate to consider "policies, practices, and the general environment at the University as they related to women faculty and students." There are 16 elected members who serve staggered three year terms.


The Provost´s Advisory Committee (known as PAC)
The PAC is composed of a combination of deans, other administrators, and elected faculty members. Again, it is a purely advisory committee, in this case to the Provost (no kidding!) but it has very considerable informal power because it is the committee which reviews and votes on all tenure and promotion cases. The Provost could disregard its recommendations, but so as I know he never has. It is VERY important to have strong participation by women faculty on this committee. However, only full professors are eligible to serve on it. There are 11 elected members and they serve staggered 3 year terms.

. 7.

The University Committee on Appeals
As the name suggests, this committee considers appeals on tenure and promotion cases. It is composed of five elected faculty members. Unlike some of the other committees discussed here, it does have real power, in this case, to mandate that a tenure case be done over again by the department. (See Chapter 6B for more on this committee.)


The Advisory Committee on Academic and Student Life This is a recently formed standing committee which advises the Provost and the Vice President for Student Affairs on matters pertaining to the intersection between academics and student life. It was formed in response to concerns about the ways in which faculty do and do not participate in the overall formation of students, and more particularly, over the university´s stance with response to student academic freedom in the student press. This could be a very influential committee, but so far its effectiveness has been curtailed by the fact that it is not meant to replace the Campus Life Council, which considers such matters as revisions of Du Lac, the student handbook.


College Council
Every college in the university (Arts & Letters, Architecture, Science, Engineering, Business, and Law) has a College Council. The College Councils are elected from the faculty of the College, of course, with the mandate to review all the procedures and policies of individual colleges. They are chaired by the Dean and their decisions are subject to his/her approval.

Read Comments  



Arts and Letters Dean's Advisory Committee
In the spring of 2001, the College Council endorsed the idea of creating a Dean's Advisory Committee. This committee will meet at least once per semester to assist the Dean in elaborating the criteria and priorities that should allow him/her to make the best possible decisions on behalf of the College. The committee is expected to be of assistance in formulating general criteria and priorities in advance of the annual ranking of budgetary requests; in formulating polices that assist the Dean in weighing proposals, such As institute initiatives and target of opportunity hires; and in recommending policies for special circumstances.

The committee will be an advisory committee, not a decision-making body. It will not sift through the various departmental requests for faculty lines or other resources, but will instead weigh the principles that should help the Dean make wise decisions. The faulty members will be asked to think about the common mission of the College and to weigh issues in broad categories. Unlike the Provost's Advisory Committee, this Committee will not address individual promotion and tenure cases.

The Committee will consist of the Dean of Arts and Letters and six additional T & R faculty members, three elected and three appointed.

Send comments  

(back to contents)

b. Getting yourself on a good committee

Serving on university committees is perhaps the absolute best way to learn how and why things are done in a certain way at Notre Dame. Like many new faculty members at the university, I had some important concerns, complaints, etc. Upon serving on my first university committee in the 92/93 academic year (The Colloquy 2000) many of my questions were answered and I could see the lay of the land much better. Once I realized what factors determined the student body makeup, the backgrounds of our students, and the inherent limitations given the self-selection of the applicants, I stopped complaining about certain things. Also, I developed some tolerance - perhaps even sympathy - for the football mania on this campus, when I realized the significant role that athletics played in providing funding for academic scholarships and other academic activities. I personally found it rewarding to know the facts. I was perhaps not particularly effective on this committee but I met lots of people from the various faculties and disciplines. From here I formed my own extensive network of individuals that I can contact on specific issues and action items.

The way that I got myself on various committees was by being vocal to my department chair and the dean of the college about my concerns and complaints. In fact, every time that I complained about something, I ended up on a committee where I could see the possibilities for improvements as well as the limitations. I have served on several university committees in addition to several departmental committees. It is incontestable that departmental committees affect the intellectual environment of the department. The benefits/costs of serving on these committees are essential and transparent. Some committees have appointed faculty but for most, to participate you will have to get elected. Keep your eyes open for the call for nominations at the beginning of each semester, then nominate yourself for one or the other. It is especially important for women faculty to serve on these committees, as there are gender-sensitive issues which you could speak to in many cases.

University committees all have different flavors. Some of the committees are there to make the university look good (and look as if there is significant faculty participation in all aspects of university governance) and your role on these committees is simply to be there. Committees on which you are able to make a tremendous impact are the ones that involve the selection of various academic officers since they set the tone of and provide leadership for the university. Examples include the Selection Committees for Vice President of Research, for the position of Dean in various colleges, the Provost, etc.

In addition, there are a number of committees, such as University Committee on Appeals, that can play a very significant role in the career of an individual faculty member regarding issues of tenure and promotion. This committee has the opportunity to consider the merits of an appeal after a denial of tenure and has the mandate to make sure that a colleague's case has been judged fairly, by returning it to the appropriate college's Committee of Appeals for further investigation, and perhaps then would mandate that the tenure process be repeated by the department if any procedural errors were discovered in the original review.

The Provost's Advisory Committee votes on all recommendations for tenure and promotion and advises the Provost on his final decision. Periodically the PAC is also asked to study and report on issues such as gender equity on wages, and other issues that concern all women faculty on this campus.

The Graduate Council was an excellent committee to serve on since it was possible to know first-hand of the coming programs and new developments on campus. My research benefitted tremendously from serving on the Graduate Council. We became aware of new funding initiatives from Washington on education, research, collaboration with foreign nationals, as well as, developments in academia across the USA.

Academic Affirmative Action Committee is also a dynamic committee that formulates standards that colleges must follow: to increase the balance women and minority faculty; to ease-in new faculty members with mentoring programs, and to be the conscience and judge of overall university performance in Affirmative Action. There is a large potential for being effective here.

The University Committee on Women Faculty and Students was useful in learning statistics.

Academic Council is in principle a very important committee but in fact an individual member can only play a very limited role. As noted in Chapter 4a, since the administrators vote as a block, the faculty voice on the Academic Council is severely diluted. Service on this committee could and usually does produce severe frustration, especially for progressive men and women faculty.

The Faculty Senate in my opinion should exist with some better connection to the administration. In the present format, for some it is has been a waste of time. Unfortunately, it has no formal, structural power, apart from the right of agenda to the Academic Council, so often it is a forum where faculty get together and make well researched and debated decisions/suggestions/resolutions that are then completely ignored, or only perfunctorily responded to by the administration.

The Advisory Committee on Academic and Student Life is well meaning and dedicated committee but as it is currently constituted, it cannot be effective. The committee includes members from a broad range of the university family: rectors, faculty, academic affairs, and student affairs but is dominated by a conservative block of administrators and rectors. I cannot see how the committee will make a difference although I do agree that something has to be done about the intellectual environment of the students' lives. The solution lies in student/faculty interaction and that is not something that this committee can do anything about.

There are many more committees. I cannot emphasize enough or encourage enough full participation in the governance of the university. It is essential to join the system in order to implement changes. Expressing concerns at faculty meetings, talking to your colleagues, discussing with your department chairs and your deans are the ways to get there. Then, put your name on a ballot, or ask a colleague to. Once on the committees, it is important to speak up, although just observing the process is rewarding by itself.

Send comments

(back to contents)







back to contents







back to contents







back to contents























6/15/02 12:47 AM
2007 University of Notre Dame