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Faculty Shared Governance Rights and Responsibilities


The Regents of the University of California have established the importance of shared governance in the University of California system: “The Regents recognize that faculty participation in the shared governance of the University of California through the agency of the Academic Senate ensures the quality of instruction, research and public service at the University and protects academic freedom. The Academic Senate shall perform such duties as the Board may direct and shall exercise such powers as the Board may confer upon it.” (Bylaw 40.1 (Duties and Powers of the Academic Senate).

Frequently Asked Questions about Shared Governance Rights 

This document (available as a pdf) is guidance from the Committee on Privilege and Tenure.

Shared Governance Rights and Responsibilities

Faculty principally exercise their Academic Senate rights through their departmental membership, committee service, and their right to vote on “substantial department questions.” Systemwide Bylaw 55, “Departmental Voting Rights” explains that “According to the Standing Orders of the Regents, . . . No department shall be organized in a way that would deny to any of its non-emeritae/i faculty who are voting members of the Academic Senate, as specified in Standing Order 105.l(a), the right to vote on substantial departmental questions.” That is, faculty should have the right to have an opportunity to discuss and vote on substantial department questions.

Faculty also have the right (and, some would argue, responsibility!) to participate in shared governance in their school and at the divisional level through voting for representatives on their Faculty Executive Committees and the Legislative Assembly, serving on committees, as well as by the right to bring issues before those bodies. See the UCLA Academic Senate Bylaws and Regulations for more information.

Departments and Shared Governance 

Departments and their Faculty are the “local level” of shared governance and act as an agency or committee of the Academic Senate.* The Regents explicitly give “the several departments of the University” the right to “determine their own form of administrative organization” and its Senate members “the right to vote in department meetings” (RSO 105.2c). This right is limited by “approval of the President.” That is, departments do not have authority to organize in a way that violates other University policies, bylaws, and regulations. Departmental organization, as documented in department bylaws, is subject to approval of the divisional Academic Senate.

*See Systemwide Legislative Ruling 7.06 ("In matters delegated to the Academic Senate, an academic department acts as an agency of the Academic Senate"); Systemwide Bylaw 50 ("of which it is a committee").

All departments, including those in professional schools, have the same rights and responsibilities. The only difference is an exception relating to courses and curricula “at the graduate level only.” The UC Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs (CCGA) has clarified that this exception refers to specific first professional degrees: M.D., D.D.S., D.V.M., Pharm D., and J.D. For these five (5) degrees, the Academic Senate bodies of the professional schools, rather than the divisional Academic Senate, are responsible to “authorize and supervise all courses and curricula.” In all other matters, departments in professional schools are responsible to the divisional and systemwide Academic Senate.

Substantial department questions are those matters delegated to the Academic Senate, including the right to meaningful consultation. See also the Committee on Rules & Jurisdiction Guide to Creating or Revising Department Bylaws part X.  

One of the professional rights of Academic Senate faculty listed in the Faculty Code of Conduct is “participation in the governance of the University, as provided in the Bylaws and Standing Orders of The Regents and the regulations of the University.” The list of rights is another guide to substantial matters, some of which are voted on in departments and some of which are subject to divisional faculty committees: “(a) approval of course content and manner of instruction, (b) establishment of requirements for matriculation and for degrees, (c) appointment and promotion of faculty, (d) selection of chairs of departments and certain academic administrators, (e) discipline of members of the faculty, and the formulation of rules and procedures for discipline of students, (f) establishment of norms for teaching responsibilities and for evaluation of both faculty and student achievement, and (g) determination of the forms of departmental governance.” (The Faculty Code of Conduct, APM-015, Part I “Professional Rights of Faculty.”) 

  • Departments must allow an opportunity for voting on substantial department questions. Departments may organize by committees for certain substantial matters, but the organization for substantial department matters should be discussed and voted on by Academic Senate members. 
  • In order to not violate Academic Senate rights, departments should have Senate faculty meetings. The right to vote includes the right to discuss. Senate faculty also bear responsibility to ensure that faculty meetings are held.
  • Academic Senate members should attend and participate in department meetings!   
  • A best practice would be to document how substantial department questions are handled by the department as part of the departmental bylaws. 
  • Periodically review departmental bylaws, keeping in mind that department bylaws are part of the Code of the Academic Senate.  

At its core, shared governance rights are expressed in the right to discuss and vote, including voting on how the processes surrounding shared governance are followed. While other faculty rights are individual rights, the right to have a part in the governance of the University is a general right to discuss and vote. For example, faculty have a right to vote on the organization of the department or to vote on how committees are selected, but do not have a right to serve on a committee of their choice. Faculty have a right to propose a curriculum change, but they do not have an independent right to change curriculum. See “Privileges and Duties of Members of the Faculty” (APM-005) for other limitations. 

Systemwide bylaws are clear that non-Senate faculty do not have voting rights on substantial department questions. However, departments may vote to extend an advisory vote to non-Senate faculty on substantial department questions and/or on personnel actions. Those votes must be reported separately. Academic Senate faculty also have responsibility for the teaching program of their department. Given that non-Senate faculty often make up a significant portion of that teaching program, Academic Senate faculty have an obligation to support their non-Senate faculty in their work. 

Department Chairs are faculty administrators and, as such, have certain administrative authority. However, in matters under Academic Senate jurisdiction, Department Chairs serve as the presiding officer over a deliberative body. Like all other Senate faculty, they have one vote, but their principal duty in matters under the authority of the Academic Senate is to conduct meetings, facilitate discussion, and see that votes are carried out properly.

Departmental Organizational Rights

As noted, “no department shall be organized in a way that would deny to any of its non-emeritae/i faculty who are voting members of the Academic Senate, as specified in Standing Order 105.l(a), the right to vote on substantial departmental questions.” 

Departments that have chosen to organize by areas (in some departments referred to as divisions and/or sections) still must honor shared governance rights. Areas, divisions, and or sections are not duly organized departments. Departments may not organize in a way that deprives faculty of their right to vote on substantial department questions. While areas may discuss and even provide an advisory vote or recommendation, all substantial questions, including academic personnel votes, are subject to a full departmental vote. See [Areas in Departments] for additional questions posed to the Committee on Privilege and Tenure on this subject. 

Academic Senate members in professional schools have the same duties, powers, and privileges as Academic Senate members in other schools. Some hold a misconception that faculty in the professional schools are self-governing and not subject to the oversight of the Academic Senate and/or require only certain Academic Senate processes. This is not true. Professional schools and departments should operate with exactly the same Academic Senate processes as non-professional schools and departments. With the one exception related to only to courses and curricula for specific first-professional degree programs, professional schools and departments are subject to oversight by the divisional and systemwide Academic Senate bodies.

For those hospitals which are UCLA-owned, your clinical department and academic department have the same organization. According to Medical Staff bylaws, “’Clinical Services’ of the Medical Staff shall correspond to the Clinical Departments of the David Geffen School of Medicine and School of Dentistry, University of California, Los Angeles, and their organization shall be the same.” To the extent that clinical matters involve teaching and research, they are under the authority of your department and the Academic Senate. They are also, of course, subject to UCLA Health policies. Matters that are strictly clinical are under the authority of the Medical Staff and UCLA Health policies. As a faculty member, you have an obligation to follow University policies and are subject to the professional corrections under Medical Staff authority. 

Academic Personnel Voting Rights

Your right as an Academic Senate Faculty to vote on academic personnel matters is defined by systemwide Bylaw 55 (which defines minimum voting rights) and your own departmental bylaws (which may extend or delegate certain rights). See the Committee on Rules & Jurisdiction’s Guide to Creating or Revising Department Bylaws. For rights regarding your own personnel case, see this page

Operationally, departments can honor the right of their Senate faculty body to vote on Senate academic personnel matters by the following actions. Unless the department has voted to follow the same voting procedures for non-Senate faculty, this does not apply to voting on non-Senate personnel cases.  

  • Have faculty meetings to allow Academic Senate faculty (by privilege as outlined in their approved bylaws) an opportunity to discuss all promotions and appointments that confer Academic Senate membership before holding a confidential vote. 
  • Give Senate faculty the right to discuss all potential appointments that will confer Academic Senate membership. 
  • Ensure that all voting faculty have access to the dossier for review. 
  • Understand that faculty do not have to attend a meeting to exercise their right to vote. 
  • Ensure that the departmental letter reflects the faculty discussion. Consistent with academic personnel policy, the “departmental letter shall discuss the proposed personnel action in the light of the criteria set forth in APM - 220-10, and shall be accompanied by supporting evidence. The chair shall report the nature and extent of consultation on the matter within the department (including any vote taken) and present any significant evidence and differences of opinion which would support a contrary recommendation” [APM-220-80.e; emphasis added] It is insufficient consultation to send around a ballot asking that faculty vote without an opportunity for a discussion. 
  • Ensure that voting faculty have access to review dossiers before such discussions in order to have an informed discussion.  
  • Ensure that voting faculty are aware of their responsibility to honor the confidentiality of both dossiers and the content of academic personnel discussions.

Grieving Shared Governance Rights

Academic Senate members have a responsibility to ensure that shared governance occurs in their department, by going to meetings, participating in discussions, voting, and offering agenda items. 

Department meetings.

If your department is not holding faculty meetings, Senate faculty in that department should ask their department chair to hold regular meetings! Faculty have the right to request that a faculty meeting be held, especially when there are matters that should be discussed and voted on by the Senate faculty. If a chair refuses to hold Academic Senate faculty meetings after a proper request to do so, the Faculty might seek assistance from their Dean or to mediate with the Ombuds Office. Failing those avenues, filing a grievance might help promote a resolution of the concern. 

Substantial Department Questions.  

If you feel you have been excluded from voting on a substantial department question, it may be that your department has organized in a way that a committee oversees that matter. In that case, any faculty member is free to propose revisions to their department bylaws regarding how matters such  as course proposals, admissions procedures, and personnel cases are handled. See How to submit a proposal for new or revised bylaw(s) or regulation(s). While a committee may handle the procedures, final decisions in key matters should go to a full faculty vote. Faculty can also discuss their concern with the School’s Faculty Executive Committee. If you have tried to resolve the matter, but still believe that shared governance rights are being violated, you can ask to speak to a Grievance Advisory Committee member or file a grievance with the Committee on Privilege and Tenure.