UNIVERSITY SERVICE WORK AND WHY IT MATTERS
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 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Committee will consist of the Dean of Arts and Letters and
six additional T & R faculty members, three elected and
Getting yourself on a good committee
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
University Committee on Women Faculty and Students was useful
in learning statistics.
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.
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.
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.
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