What is University Governance?The University Council is a body of about 75 members at Virginia Tech. The council is advisory to the president of the university in formulating university policies and is the primary organization in the governance system. All commissions, councils, and university committees report through University Council to the President. Browse through the tabs below to familiarize yourself with the inner workings of the governance process.
What are the benefits and value of
a shared governance system?
- encompasses all major areas of the University
- involves all major groups: faculty, staff, administrative and professional faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, and administrators
- requires an informed and knowledgeable citizenry
- involves transparent, comprehensive, and open communication – electronic publication of minutes, interlocking membership between committees and commissions
Governance Guiding Principles
+ View the Constitution
+ View the Bylaws
Composition of Committees, Commissions, and Councils
The University Council Constitution and By-laws stipulate the membership of University Council and each of the committees, commissions, and councils. The Office of the Vice President for Policy and Governance (OVPPG) is responsible for tracking the membership of each of these bodies and ensuring that vacancies are filled properly.
At the beginning of the spring semester each year, the OVPPG solicits new membership from the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, Graduate Student Assembly, Student Government Association, Faculty Organizations, assorted administrators, commission chairs, deans, etc. Each of these groups then conducts its own nomination/election process and reports its outcome to the OVPPG by mid-April. For commission vacancies, the name of one person elected for each vacant seat is to be provided. For committee or council vacancies, the names of two nominees for each vacant seat are to be provided; from the two nominees, the President will select one to serve. Governance terms are between one year and four years in length and expire on June 30th. The goal is to have each committee and commission roster completed soon thereafter.
Once membership rosters have been completed (reflecting the Constitution and By-laws to the letter), new members are notified of their roles, and committee/commission chairs are provided with their respective membership roster.
By the beginning of the academic year, all membership rosters are posted on the governance website. Thereafter, rosters are updated periodically as necessary.
- Board members, administration, faculty, staff, and students share a committment to: trust, collaboration, communication, transparency, inclusiveness, honesty, and integrity
- An institutional culture of good will, good intentions, and commitment to common values
- A shared commitment to focus the practice of shared governance on the university's strategic goals, aspirations, and challenges
How to Write an Effective Resolution
Resolutions are written and submitted for approval when a commission or committee is proposing a significant change that impacts university governance. Resolutions will have two readings at the commission level and two readings at University Council prior to being voted on.
Anytime a commission is proposing a new policy or making significant revisions to existing policy statements, a resolution is needed. Policy matters, which are a primary responsibility of the commissions, should be highlighted and documented in resolution format to be submitted for discussion by University Council.
Significant actions commissions may consider that do not necessarily fall into the category of "policy actions," may require or benefit from passage of a formal resolution. For example, the approval of a new degree program should be highlighted through a resolution and brought to the attention of University Council for approval.
Commissions may be asked to review proposed procedural guidelines and advise the administrative officers responsible for implementing a particular policy. Generally, such advice is given by commission members without a formal resolution; procedural matters are not generally sent to University Council for approval unless it is embedded in a new policy statement.
Legal or Financial Implications
When resolutions have legal or financial implications for the University, the commission chair or relevant administrator should consult with University Legal Counsel or the Budget Office BEFORE initiating official review and approval through a commission and University Council. When unsure of the implication, consult the Secretary of University Council.
Matters pertaining to tuition or fees are the purview of the Board of Visitors and should not be put forward through the commissions or University Council. Consult the Secretary to University Council with questions.
Typical resolutions have several parts:
- First line: a brief descriptive title for the resolution
- Second line: name of the originating commission(s)
Third line: a resolution designation number from the commission
(numbering scheme that identifies the year of consideration and the specific resolution)
It is also helpful to include the following lines in the heading, with dates added as completed:
Approved by the Commission on ________: (date)Faculty Senate Review or Waiver of Review: (date)Staff Senate Review or Waiver of Review: (date)Graduate Student Assembly Review or Waiver of Review: (date)Student Government Association Review or Waiver of Review: (date)First reading by University Council: (date)Approved by University Council: (date)Approved by the President: (date)Approved by the Board of Visitors: (date)(include only when BOV approval required)Effective date (date; immediately; whatever is appropriate)
WHEREAS statements describe the problem, context for the policy (if important), those involved in advising the proposal, the general nature of the proposed solution and explanation of how it solves the problem. These statements should follow a rolling logic. In some cases, the statements might be organized in chronological order.
While you should make sure the topic is covered well enough for an uninitiated reader to follow, a resolution should typically be no longer than one page. A simple issue might require one or two WHEREAS statements. A more involved issue might require five or six WHEREAS statements.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED statement:
This is the action statement, stating EXACTLY what is to be voted upon. If you are revising existing language, it is helpful to include the old version so the reader can compare the two. If the new or revised policy statement is long, then this section might say: "That the attached policy on (subject) be adopted effective (date)." Then attach the complete policy statement clearly identified at the top.
It is VERY important to state exactly how the new or revised policy will go into effect and whether it revises, or replaces an existing policy. For example, policies affecting faculty employment are incorporated in the Faculty Handbook and a reference should be made to a specific section of the Handbook that would be revised. Student-related policies are often appropriate for the University Polices for Student Life or the Student Code of Conduct. Other policies may be issued as President's Policy Memoranda and/or given a policy number and included among general university policies. The Secretary to University Council should be able to advise resolution writers about where new policy will be incorporated and how this should be stated for the resolution. The commission needs to give some thought to this as they are drafting language for new policy statements. Usually, it is not sufficient to simply wave a wand and state that "university documents should be revised accordingly." You need to be specific about what should be revised and exactly what language is being proposed for the revision. The reason for this is obvious once you start the task-- it often brings up issues that need more discussion and resolution if the policy is really going to be implemented.
Include an effective date for the policy (effective immediately? some subsequent term?).
The Board considers all matters related to student discipline. Hence items related to student discipline coming from the Commission on Student Affairs (or from other committees and commissions, such as matters related to the Honor System), generally go to the Board for approval prior to implementation of a new policy.
Typically, the Board has chosen not to review matters relating to the curriculum. Exceptions to this are the initiation, major revision to, or discontinuance of a degree authorization (these also require review and approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia) and creation or dissolution of a major organizational unit, such as a college or school. Although the Board does not usually review or approve most academic policies, they retain an interest in such matters and are frequently briefed on significant changes or the adoption of new policies after the fact. The Board is required to approve reports and recommendations resulting from the reviews of research centers which were established through legislative action.
The Board, of course, has many fiduciary responsibilities, such as establishing the budget, overseeing internal audit, approving the sale or purchase of property and naming of buildings, approving plans for capital projects, and many other issues that generally are not dealt with by the commissions.
How to Submit Commission/Committee Minutes
Since minutes are the "formal" record of meetings, it is important to ensure that all items presented, discussed and those in which actions are taken, are documented in a concise and timely manner. The following guidelines are provided to assist anyone responsible for the recording of minutes. They are not intended to be all inclusive.
- Drafting minutes soon after the adjournment of the meeting typically results in the most complete information. This will also allow you to confirm information on items for which you may have questions.
- After your draft is complete, have another person in attendance, preferably the chair of the commission/committee, proof the document. By doing this, you can ensure that all items presented and actions taken are documented properly.
- Minutes should be presented in a timely manner for approval by the commission or committee.
Once approved by the respective committee, minutes of committee meetings should be forwarded to the appropriate commission(s) for information and to the secretary of University Council for posting on the governance website.
Once approved by the respective commission, minutes of commission meetings should be forwarded to the secretary of University Council for placement on the agenda of the next University Council meeting and, upon acceptance by University Council, for subsequent posting on the governance website.
University Council Minutes
Once approved by University Council (via electronic vote), minutes of University Council meetings are posted by the secretary of University Council to the governance website.
- Keep it Short and Simple. (Minutes should not be verbatim)
- Know your commission/committee.
- Prior to your meetings, review the agenda and minutes of the last meeting with the chair.
- Use your listening skills to know what should and/or should not be included in your minutes.
- Know the charge of your commission/committee and the reporting structure. (to whom your group reports or those groups which report to your group)
"All voices are important at Virginia Tech. Through shared governance, we can work together to advance our vision for the university."
President Timothy Sands
- Planning Agendas
- Chair meetings and be familiar with parliamentary procedures
- Post meeting schedule
- Write resolutions and share with the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, Student Government Association, and Graduate Student Assembly
- Be mindful of financial, legal, and HR implications of proposed resolutions and seek guidance
- Ensure meeting minutes are written, and then forward those minutes to the Secretary of University Council after approval
- Forward items needing University Council action to the Secretary of University Council by the deadline
- Mentor incoming chair