Academic Senate

The CUNY Board of Trustees mandates that each College in the City University of New York have a Governance Plan and Governance Body with mixed constituencies. Such bodies will deal with policy matters for the college and for the University. Queensborough has its own Governance Plan. That plan creates the Academic Senate as the local governing body and it has its own Bylaws of the Academic Senate and there are also the Bylaws of the Faculty, both of which need to be consistent with the QCC Governance Plan.  The Senate and faculty have authority to alter their bylaws.  Only the CUNY BOT may alter the Governance Plan upon request from the College being formally submitted from at least two of the following constituencies: the President, the Faculty or the Students supported by formal referenda. 

Meetings

“Regular meetings shall be held at least four times each full semester on the second Tuesday of each month unless that date falls on a period of recess. Should the date set for a regular meeting be a holiday or a day when Tuesday classes have not been scheduled by the University, the meeting shall be held on the Tuesday immediately following.”

The president of the College presides at its meetings. The agenda are set by the Steering Committee in consultation with the president but it is the Steering Committee that has final decision on the agenda.

Powers

In the Governance Plan as approved by the CUNY BOT June 2012 the following are the powers of the Senate:

Through its Steering and Standing Committees, the Academic Senate shall have the power to request and receive information appropriate to or necessary for the performance of its duties, from the President and members of the administration, from students and student organizations, and such other sources as may be appropriate. It may address communications to the Board of Trustees transmitted by the President in some document whether it be a Chancellor’s Report or some other report in which the vote must be recorded. As the policy making body of the College, the Academic Senate shall adopt policies not inconsistent with BOT Policies and Bylaws and shall be the voice of the academic community of Queensborough Community College of The City University of New York in all matters which shall appropriately be brought before it, including: 

  1. Intercollegiate athletics and cultural, fine and performing arts programs.

  2. Educational objectives of the College. The establishment and location of new units of the College. 

  3. The periodic review of all departments of the College. The Senate shall have the power to recommend to the Board of Trustees the creation, deletion, or restructuring of departments of the College in consultation with the department(s) in question.

  4. The formulation of the policy relating to the admission and retention of students, subject to the guidelines of the Board of Trustees, and curriculum, awarding of college credits, and granting of degrees. In granting of degrees student members of the Senate shall not vote. The recommendation of search and evaluation procedures. 

  5. Such other areas as affect the welfare of the institution. 

D. PRESIDENTIAL CONSULTATION 

The President shall inform and discuss with the Academic Senate or with the Steering Committee when the Senate is not in session, prior to his recommendation to the Board of Trustees on all college-wide matters which fall within the purview of the Academic Senate where his recommendations will be in disagreement with the vote of the Academic Senate and in areas that could not have been presented to the Academic Senate because of the necessity of meeting a deadline. 

Membership

The Academic Senate is composed of members of all constituencies of the college: the administration (6-appointed by the President) , the Department Chairs (18-elected by their department faculty), the faculty (41-elected by full time faculty), adjunct faculty (1-elected by adjunct faculty), higher education officers (HEO-2-elected by HEO’s), college laboratory technicians (CLTs-2-elected by CLTs), students (6-holding the highest elected positions in student government), and one alumnus(1-elected by alumni organization).

 Standing Committees of the Academic Senate (number of faculty on committee) (information found on this page http://www.qcc.cuny.edu/governance/academicSenate/committees.html )

The Academic Senate has a number of standing committees and faculty and students serve on them. They are quite valuable to the operation of the College and are influential in shaping practices and policies of the College. Service in the Academic Senate and on its Standing Committees is considered an important contribution to the College, as college service, which is an important part of the personnel review process for reappointment, tenure and promotion. However, just volunteering and being elected to a Committee is not enough to be considered as actual service in this regard; the contributions actually made to the committee are the basis for evaluation.

The agenda, minutes, and reports of all committees are now placed in the archives (print and digital) of the College. They report on the actual work being done in service to the college and to further the development of the College.

Senate Committee Membership

The Academic Senate elects members of the Standing and Special Committees of the Senate at the April meeting of the Senate each year.  Members presently serve one year terms and they can be nominated and reelected any number of times but the Committee on Committees attempts to observe a set of protocols that allows for service over three consecutive years.  Exceptions are made for a number of reasons including: continuity of the committee, multiple year projects, and preparation of a new chairperson. Each committee has two designees (without vote) appointed one each by the College President and the Steering Committee of the Academic Senate.

Senate Committee Operations

The committees have their charges set out in the bylaws and they receive further instruction on what they are expected to be doing from the Steering Committee of the Academic Senate. In addition, the President has a designee on each committee who may communicate items that the administration wishes the committee to address. The committees meet as needed to fulfill their charges.  Some meet nearly every week while others meet once a month or less. They meet in locations they determine and at times most facilitating attendance. 

Standing Committees of the Senate can submit proposals for adoption by the Academic Senate through the Steering Committee that sets each agenda for regular meetings of the Senate.

Nominations for Committee Service

The Committee on Committees (COC) receives nomination forms or forms with which faculty request service on a particular committee or their preferences for service relate to several committees. The Committee on Committees receives all such nominations and proceeds to produce a slate of nominees for each committee to be voted upon at the Academic Senate in April.  The COC consults with the current chairs of all committees and with the Steering Committee in an attempt to nominate faculty who are well suited for service on particular committees due to their experience and prior service.  Also considered are the rank and seniority of the faculty and in the case of many committees a balance on committees in relation to academic disciplines and academic programs.

At the April meeting of the Academic Senate there can be additional nominees, self nominated or otherwise.  The record does show that in almost all cases the Academic Senate votes to accept the entire slate as proposed by the COC.

The Difference it makes to have an Academic Senate and Shared Governance

The worth of having an Academic Senate as a governing body operating with shared governance is a judgment for each to make, however, it is mandated by the CUNY BOT that there be a governance plan and governing body for each college in CUNY and it is mandated that all policy matters proceed through the governing bodies to the CUNY BOT.  With the exception of the Pathways related matters QCC has had a tradition of shared governance in which the administration, the academic departments and faculty have worked through the structures of local governance to develop local policies and send forward matters to the Chancellery and BOT.

It is clearly set out in the Governance Plan with the authority of the CUNY BOT that: “The President shall inform and discuss with the Academic Senate or with the Steering Committee when the Senate is not in session, prior to his recommendation to the Board of Trustees on all college-wide matters which fall within the purview of the Academic Senate”.  This is not an idle passage or pro forma or readily disregarded. College-wide matters under the purview of the Academic Senate include in addition to the six areas set out in its powers the final “Such other areas as affect the welfare of the institution.”  This then places all matters as affect the welfare of QCC within the range of this obligation.  The President is not to send such matters to the BOT for its approval without prior involvement of the Academic Senate which is empowered to send items to the BOT itself.

With the exception of the Pathways related matters, there is evidence to support the judgment that the Academic Senate, whatever its faults, has served the College well as perhaps paramount example of not only shared governance but also of collaborative work involving all constituencies of the College Community.

With the exception of the Pathways related matters, QCC has had committees of the Academic Senate work with various units of the College to bring about changes and progress in service of the mission of the College.

With the Pathways related matters many at the College in all the various constituencies were susceptible to the threats and coercions of the Chancellery and enabled a definite undercutting of the principles and operations of shared governance.

With the exception of the Pathways related matters, many who voluntarily choose to be a part of the Academic Senate think that the College is far better off with the Academic Senate than without it and are willing to work to have it operate on as high a level of shared governance as is possible.

With the exception of Pathways related matters, throughout the College’s history the administration of the College has respected and followed shared governance and abided by the actions of the Academic Senate almost without exception.  The handful of times there were contentious issues and a reluctance to accept the action of the Senate or the attempt to act without the approval of the Senate have led to the use of a form of “appeals process” wherein the central CUNY Office of Legal Affairs or some other office of the Chancellery is consulted and the right and necessity for the Academic Senate approval has been upheld.

In one incident at QCC a president created a center without informing or seeking the approval of the Academic Senate.  Upon appeal to the CUNY Office of Legal Affairs the matter was brought before the Academic Senate for its consideration and approval. With the exception of the Pathways related matters QCC has had the Academic Senate has adopted numerous policies for the College that have been implemented. 

While the past Chancellors may have emphasized to college administrators that governing body actions are simply recommendations to the college president, the QCC Governance Plan makes clear it is otherwise with regard to policy making.  “As the policy making body of the College, the Academic Senate shall adopt policies not inconsistent with BOT policies and Bylaws and shall be the voice of the academic community of Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York in all matters which shall appropriately be brought before it”  Recent New York State Court decisions have also affirmed the policy making authority given to the local governance bodies by the CUNY BOT that has made the local governing bodies subject to the Open Meetings Law of NY State. 

College Mission

As the Academic Senate is the most representative body it is the most appropriate to address the matters of college wide significance.  Thus, it has been the Senate, as the governing body of the College, that has drafted and discussed and then adopted the mission statement of the College setting out the principle purposes for which the College operates.  The CUNY BOT has given the Academic Senate authority to set College policies not inconsistent with BOT policies an specific matters and in “Such other areas as affect the welfare of the institution. “  While the Senate acts on academic matters more often than in any other area that has not been the only area.

 Academic Matters

The most active area of concern for the Academic Senate is the academic program.   The Academic Senate has reviewed and adopted academic matters including new degree programs and certificate programs and courses and revisions of same.  The Academic Senate, as the BOT authorized governing body, has set out the hours and credits and pre and co requisites for courses and even set class seat limits.  The academic departments generally prefer to keep the setting of such limits as something to be determined by the department and the Provost but the Senate has on occasion exercised the authority it has to set seat limits.  Such authority was reviewed and upheld by the CUNY Office of Legal Affairs where local governance plans have provisions such as the QCC Governance Plan does.  

Nearly all academic matters upon which the Senate deliberates and acts are brought to its agenda through the actions of the Committee on Curriculum.

With the exception of some Pathways related matters the administration of the College has forwarded all academic proposals adopted by the Academic Senate on to the Chancellery for presentation to the CUNY BOT.  After the approval of the CUNY BOT many academic items then proceed on to the New York State Education Department for further and final approvals.

A happy and most important function of the Academic Senate, with student members removed, is to vote upon and formally approve of the awarding of the degrees and certificates.

Setting college policies

The Academic Senate has set College policies in advance of action on similar matters by the CUNY BOT or the CUNY-PSC collective bargaining process.  Such matters have included access to the library resources, physical and digital for retirees and access to email.  It has acted in advance of the CUNY as well on such matters as restrictions on smoking.

It has set polices with regard to training for writing intensive instruction and for online instruction and made provision for support of the instructional staff.

Influence over college affairs

The Academic Senate has had influence over College affairs in a number of ways that do not involve the setting of College Policy.  Through interactions of the Steering Committee and the Standing Committees of the Senate with the administration of the College there has been input and influence upon the formation of college plans and programs.  The College President presides over meeting s fo the Academic Senate and presents reports on the status of the college and its various programs and plans and addresses matters brought forth to the President by members of the Senate. 

It is set out by the CUNY BOT through the College Governance Plan that “Through its Steering and Standing Committees, the Academic Senate shall have the power to request and receive information appropriate to or necessary for the performance of its duties, from the President and members of the administration, from students and student organizations, and such other sources as may be appropriate”.  Thus, it is that the Senate has requested and received information concerning the operations of the College and has made them more transparent.

In one of its most important recent actions the Academic Senate adopted a College Policy for the creation and maintenance of a Culture of Assessment that would be comprehensive.  The Committee on Assessment & Program Effectiveness  monitors how well the College is observing this policy.

Here is the briefest of descriptions of what just some of the 20 Committees of the Academic Senate do.

The Committees on Admissions and Course and Standing have had direct influence over the admission or readmission or removal of students.

With the advent and growing dependency on information technologies the Committees on Computer Resources and eLearning were created and have grown in importance and have had direct input an influence on planning on the development and use of such resources.

There is a Committee on Budget Advisement that now sees the budget as it is drawn up and has input as to the plan for the allocation of the resources of the College.

Among other significant functions the Committee on Academic Development & Elective Programs   creates and reviews the effectiveness of and revises the forms and process for the conducting of the student evaluations of faculty teaching.

The Committee on Continuing Education can have an important oversight and support function for the programs under its charge.

The Committee on Cultural & Archival Resources has had considerable influence on how there can be integration of the Art Gallery and QCC Performing Arts Series (QPAC) with the academic programs and courses at the College.

The Committee on Environment, Quality of Life and Disability Issues reviews the physical conditions of the College and makes appropriate recommendations for the well being and safety of all. 

Attendance:

In the proper operation of the Academic Senate as the Governing Body of the College and as a body that is authorized to send forward matter to the CUNY BOT the Senate must operate in compliance with several laws of New York State. The Freedom of Information Law and the Open meetings law are two of them.  The Academic Senate is required to have a quorum and an absolute majority in order to send matters of policy forward.  This includes all academic matters related to academic programs, curricula, courses and such.  

The Open Meetings Law requires that the voting record indicate how each member voted on each policy matter and that record be made public along with the minutes of the meetings.  This is satisfied through postings on the College website.

There is a challenge to obtain the number attending to conduct official business and adopt policies.  That number is 40.  It is regrettable if the attendance record indicates that there are several voting members of the Academic Senate who are frequently absent.   It is therefore recommended that persons invited or volunteering to be elected to a position on the Academic Senate not accept or run if they do not or cannot attend all meetings of the Academic Senate.  No proxy voting is allowed, nor are there any substitutes.  Faculty members may serve even while on leave but if while on leave they are not able to attend they are asked to resign and another can then take their position and serve out the remainder of their term.

Non-participation

More troubling than non-attendance which is a problem is the occasions in which there have been voting members of the Academic Senate present at the Senate meeting but who do not participate in the voting, not even to abstain.  Members of the Academic Senate who do not wish to so participate should resign their positions and allow those willing to attend and participate take their place. There is the need to insure a quorum and an absolute majority for the adoption of policy proposed for the consideration of the Senate.  Participation in the voting is as important as attendance at the meetings.

Opportunities to Serve

An effort has begun to restructure the committees of the Academic Senate and attempt to have them relate to the criteria for excellence of the Middle States Association for Accreditation.  The new structure may include some of the present committees intact.  Among the aims of restructuring are:

Invitation

The Steering Committee of the Academic Senate encourages your comments and suggestions concerning the Academic Senate structures and operations.  Please do feel free to communicate them to us in the manner with which you are most comfortable.

Academic Senate Steering Committee 2013-2014

Philip Pecorino, Ph.D., Chairperson, Professor, Philosophy: ppecorino@qcc.cuny.edu

Emily Tai, Ph.D., Vice Chairperson, Associate Professor, History: etai@qcc.cuny.edu

Joel Kuszai, Ph.D., Secretary, Associate Professor, English: jkuszai@qcc.cuny.edu