Santa Clara University

University Governance

University Policy Committees Charter


In the report of the "Faculty Task Force on Governance" (May 23, 1994) JOINT UNIVERSITY COMMITTEES (hereinafter referred to as University Policy Committees or UPCs) were discussed as a means of assuring collaboration in University policy. At a retreat in June between the Administration and the Task Force, issues surfaced regarding responsibility and respective competencies, relations to other University decision structures, and relations to other University stakeholders. A follow-up committee composed of Paul Locatelli, Steve Privett, Don Dodson, Ruth Davis, David Skinner, and André Delbecq was formed to clarify the character of UPCs and the many specifics that remained to be resolved. As of the first of January 1995, the group was expanded by inviting Bob Senkewicz and Tim O'Keefe of the experimental University Coordinating Committee (UCC), and Kathy Ferguson, chair of the Staff Personnel Committee, to join in the discussion. This charter was initially formed from weekly meetings during the winter and spring quarters 1995. It was revised in June 2003, to reflect changes in the governance system (such as the creation of the position of Provost) since it was first developed. This revision was suggested by Ruth Davis, then UCC chair, but not approved at the time. During its 2007-08 term, the UCC, chaired by Dan Ostrov, worked with all the UPCs to update the 2003 revision. The UCC approved this updated version in the spring of 2008.

Context and Aim of this Report

Key parameter concerns were to achieve a UPC formulation that would not create another layer of bureaucracy or impede timely decision making or innovation, but would be guided by principles of good practices in governance, would recognize legitimate differentiation of spheres of responsibility and competence, and would ensure collaboration.

To emphasize the policy responsibilities of these bodies, their name was changed from Joint University Committees to University Policy Committees.

The nine principles of good practices in governance that were outlined at the retreat in June and subsequently nuanced by the Faculty Senate leadership, will guide the formation or improvement of current University committees and the development of governance structures. These principles will also be used to measure the effectiveness and productivity of the UPCs. A formal review process of the UPCs will be developed.

The normative principles for good practices in governance that will serve as guides for developing structures and processes and for making decisions are

1. Strengthen academic excellence and the Catholic and Jesuit identity of the University in a mutually reinforcing way.
2. Ensure that the Statement of Purpose guides policy development, decision making, and priority setting.
3. Exercise collaboration based on the recognition that Santa Clara University can flourish only if there is a healthy sense of community in which all members have a role in working for the common good.
4. Recognize the domains of primary authority and responsibility of the various University components and expect participants in the process to be held accountable for carrying out their responsibilities.
5. By means of clear and appropriate communication be open, accessible, and understandable to members of the University community.
6. Be efficient, effective, and productive.
7. Foster innovation and change.
8. Strive for continuous improvement and a culture of active participation.
9. Ensure timely and effective response to the changing external environment.

University Policy Committees

The UPCs will be the final collaborative bodies with the authority to:

  • Formulate and recommend new University policy and major strategic change
  • Review significant change in existing policy

UPCs will be established in the following areas, which do not necessarily correspond with existing committee structures:

Academic Affairs, Faculty Affairs, Planning Action Council (formerly University Planning Council December 2007), Staff Affairs, Student Affairs, University Budget Council, (Budget Advisory Committee dissolved May 2004)   Descriptions of committees, memberships, and minutes.

Policy Focus

UPCs will recommend and monitor the effectiveness of major policies and major strategic initiatives. Examples of issues would include

  • Policies relating to contractual obligations of faculty
  • Substantive changes in departments, centers, and overall structures
  • Substantive changes in financial allocations
  • Processes for evaluation of faculty, staff, and administrators

Prudential judgment about what is substantive is dependent on the majority opinion of the relevant UPC or the University Coordinating Committee.

Role of University Policy Committees 

UPCs are, therefore, the final locus of dialogue in collaborative policy formulation prior to approval by University administration and, in the case of contractual changes to the Faculty Handbook, by the Faculty Senate. Each UPC will meet as often as necessary to carry out its charge, but at least twice each year. It is expected that faculty, staff, students, and administrators will work closely to resolve differences and that the normal outcome of UPC deliberations will be the approval of their recommendation by the appropriate administrator. The administrator is expected to provide a response to the recommendation within 45 days, and before a policy goes into effect.

In rare instances where a UPC and appropriate administrator are unable to reach agreement, even after further discussion following the administrator's response, the UPC may submit its position document to the President or through the President to a Trustee Committee for consideration.

Trustees hold the ultimate legal and moral responsibility and authority for the University, and therefore, must ultimately determine and approve University policies and major strategic changes.

Sources of Policy Initiatives by UPCs

Policy concerns could be initiated bottom up from individual constituents within the University community, top down from UPCs or administration, or laterally from committees and councils of the University community. UPCs will decide whether an issue falls within their domain.

In instances where there is dispute or lack of clarity regarding which UPC is the appropriate policy body, the University Coordinating Committee will make a domain decision (which could involve forming a special purpose University policy task force).

Composition of University Policy Committees 

Background Logic

There are two classical approaches to composition of policy making bodies: a representational approach with maximum feasible participation, or a competency-based approach with smaller, efficient problem-solving groups.

We have selected the competency-based approach in light of several weaknesses of large representative committees: the glacial slowness of such decision structures, their tendency to increase political behavior as opposed to problem-solving behavior, and the excessive costs in time and energy of a large number of people in a relatively small University having to be extensively involved in the multiple UPCs.

The competency-based model for UPCs has a typical size of five to nine members (normatively the optimal size in the theoretical literature for effective problem solving), and has several features that ensures that the decision making will reflect rich input from relevant stakeholders:

  • Careful attention to the composition of each UPC so that appropriate domains of legitimate responsibility are recognized and competencies of members match the policy concerns of the specific UPC, both in general and relative to the agenda of a UPC during a particular year.
  • Staggered terms to allow for some continuity of membership to ensure efficient processes.
  • Decision sequence norms that assure that stakeholders have an opportunity to review major policy decisions at three critical points: the definition of problems, the formulation of tentative solutions, and a review of the final recommendations.
  • Identification of specific second-level resource individuals with whom a UPC will consult relative to major agenda items.
Consequent Composition

The membership of each UPC will be defined according to its charge and the expertise and perspectives required for it to function effectively. The University Coordinating Committee is responsible (jointly with the President in the case of the Planning Action Council) for appointing competent members to each UPC. The University Coordinating Committee will seek information from constituent groups and administrators involved in making the appointments, and will need to develop an "interest/expertise" data base to allow for efficient selection (or replacement) of members. The UCC may remove any of its appointed UPC members if warranted.  For example, a member with three consecutive unexcused absences from their UPC meetings would generally warrant removal.

The administrator who regularly receives a policy recommendation from a UPC will serve on the Committee or appoint a designate. The administrator will also be available for consultation and collaboration with the committee as necessary throughout their deliberations.

Each UPC will have a clearly defined second level of consultants representing those whose perspectives, information resources, and concerns are likely to be needed in committee deliberations (for example, University Librarian, Associated Students of Santa Clara University (ASSCU) President, Director of  Information Technology, department chairs, program and center directors, Faculty Senate/Staff Assembly Council members, etc.). In the case of major policy matters each UPC will be responsible for publicly defining additional second level advisors with whom they will consult in the process of their deliberations.

This does not preclude any constituent group from requesting that a UPC provide them an opportunity to share information or to discuss a policy initiative under consideration by a UPC.

UPCs will have different compositions to reflect the legitimate differentiation of spheres of responsibility and principles of good practices in governance, and to ensure timely decision making and innovation.

Communication With Campus Community

In the case of major policy matters, each UPC will be responsible for publicly defining processes by which they will obtain review comments from key stakeholders at critical decision points (problem definition, solution elements, final recommendation) in their deliberations.

Since there are numerous points from which new policies may be initiated, UPCs would have a special responsibility to assure sufficient communication with the University community by:

1. Publishing agenda prior to UPC meetings
2. Briefing other key decision makers and constituent groups
3. Soliciting input from the University community, and
4. Systematically reporting its actions to the campus community.

The agenda visibility fostered by this model provides an opportunity for constituency groups, such as the Faculty Senate Council and the Staff Assembly Council, to make their views known at any of the critical decision points mentioned above.

Printer-friendly format