The Other Senate

Provost Etchemendy presents to the Faculty Senate
This blog, the Review, and the Stanford Daily have all often ruminated about the role of various deliberative bodies in deciding the path of the university. Whether it’s the [ASSU Senate]( or the [Graduate Student Council](, not to mention the less deliberative [ASSU Executive](, Stanford news sources do cover the elected student bodies (although [there’s a debate]( about the quality of coverage). However, there’s significantly less coverage of another deliberative body that impacts student lives: the Faculty Senate.

The Faculty Senate, originally known simply as the Academic Council (which elected an Advisory Board) when it was founded in 1904, persisted in its original form for over 60 years. However, it eventually became necessary to elect faculty to a Senate in order to keep it at a manageable size. In 1968-1969, the Faculty Senate as we now know it came into being, made up of 55 elected, voting faculty members who each serve 2 year terms.

The primary purpose of the Faculty Senate has always been to vote on “appointment, reappointment, and promotion of faculty,” but it’s other duty to “make recommendations and tender advice to the President of the University on a broad range of issues” is more interesting. A look at the minutes of the Senate meetings shows the variety of reports that come before them: a report on the university budget, a look at the use of honorific titles for non-academic appointments (the “Rumsfeld” controversy), a summary of Stanford building projects, and the list goes on. My favorite comment came from the report about Senate Chair Varun Sivaram’s report before the Faculty Senate on what he views as undergraduate priorities (undergraduate research, early syllabus release, and grade distribution release):

Mr. Sivaram’s presentation was complimented—and endorsed—by the Provost, applauded by the Senate and given a thumbs-up by his mother.

It’s clear that there’s lesser known information in these minutes about the state of the university. As the academic year continues, I’ll try to bring coverage of issues of interest to the Stanford community.

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