History of the Campus Assembly

The Campus Assembly is UMM’s most visible, college-wide symbol of shared governance. Reflecting UMM’s traditions and commitments it is inclusive, with representatives from all campus-based constituencies: faculty, both regular and part-time; academic staff, students, civil service and bargaining unit employees. It is both a forum for deliberation and a site for action. As the UMM Constitution puts it, “The Assembly, as the policy-making and legislative body, exercises general legislative authority and responsibility in all educational matters concerning the Morris Campus delegated to it by the University Senate and Board of Regents.” According to the University Senate Constitution, “Each campus shall determine its own assembly and shall adopt its own constitution and by-laws, consistent with the constitution and by-laws of the University Senate.” UMM’s Assembly encompasses such matters as “curriculum, library, honors, functions, admissions, graduation, teacher education, residential life, athletics, student activities, awards, financial aid, student behavior, and campus events.” While most Assembly decisions are taken by the whole body, the voting of degrees and academic honors for students are reserved to the faculty, and some elections are conducted by constituencies rather than the membership.

Much of the work of the Assembly is done by its committees, whose composition and charges are described in the Constitution and By-Laws. While the Assembly may delegate its powers to its committees or to other bodies, most items of general interest return to the Assembly for final review. As it has evolved in recent years, the Assembly meets as a whole several times a year, but its committees may meet considerably more often. An elected Executive Committee sets Assembly agendas and proposes committee memberships.

Not all of UMM’s shared governance functions rest with the Assembly. UMM’s academic divisions—Education, Humanities, Science and Mathematics, and Social Sciences—comprise “the basic unit[s] of the campus” and have primary responsibility to advise the Division Chairs about divisional budgets, programs, and policies. Curricular decision making begins here with discipline and Divisional review of course proposals prior to submission to the Assembly’s Curriculum Committee and to the Assembly itself. Personnel matters are also largely a divisional matter. Under the all-University Tenure Code, the divisions have primary responsibility for making recommendations about faculty appointments, retention, and promotion. For many years, elected student representatives have carried undergraduate concerns to the faculty of UMM’s academic disciplines and divisions, often serving in an advisory capacity on search committees.

Two other bodies address issues of individual or more general concern. A Campus Grievance Committee contains both UMM representatives and members from outside the campus, and works with the University Grievance Officer. An elected Campus Consultative Committee, which includes faculty, students, and staff, does not report to the Campus Assembly, but is designated to “discuss special problems” and “to facilitate communication” where appropriate.

A brief look at the history of UMM’s Campus Assembly illustrates the growth and change of campus governance since the early days of the college during the 1960s. During the campus’s first decade UMM had an Assembly that had no student or civil service representation. The 1967 Constitution observed that “part-time faculty normally shall be without vote” in Divisional matters. Yet the Assembly gathered frequently, sometimes every week, in town meeting fashion to discuss the campus mission. A substantial revision of the Constitution took place during the 1969-1970 academic year when a small task force appointed in February 1970 held nineteen meetings before presenting a draft to the campus in May. After considering alternative forms of organization, the committee proposed an Assembly consisting of faculty members working more than one-third time, student members at a ratio of 1:100, and civil service members including all directors and two civil servants elected at large. This inclusive approach continued through subsequent revisions, especially the change in 1982 incorporating “academic professionals” as faculty and “academic administrative staff” as civil servants with an addition of civil service elected membership on a basis of 1:50. Taking into account the increased numbers of faculty, today’s Assembly is a much larger body than that of earlier times, with about 200 members.

Also in the early 1980s, a substantial revision of the By-Laws transformed the committee structure. Four Assembly Committees—Campus Resources and Planning, Student Services, Curriculum, and Scholastic—achieved special prominence, the Assembly deleted several committees, and others became Adjunct Committees reporting to the new Assembly Committees, but with a sunset provision. Each Adjunct Committee had to be reauthorized every two years after justifying itself to its parent committee. Adjunct Committees have included a Faculty Development Committee (reporting to CRPC); Teacher Education, Minority Experience (later Multi-Ethnic Experience), and International Programs committees (reporting to Curriculum); and Academic Support and Functions and Awards committees (reporting to Scholastic). These revisions also established term limits and essentially precluded Assembly members from serving on more than one committee, all with a view toward involving as many as possible in this aspect of governance. In subsequent years an Assessment of Student Learning Committee has been added and, in 2004-2005, an elected Faculty Affairs Committee.

The Campus Assembly has been influenced by its traditions. It is a broadly based Assembly, not a more restrictively elected Senate, and as a result of its town meeting origins discussion historically has been free-wheeling. Years ago, at least one chancellor routinely declined to recognize attempts to cut off discussion by “calling the question” if members still wished to speak on a matter before the Assembly. Though not all have been satisfied with the result of Assembly decisions on any given question, a widely shared belief in the value of deliberative discussion has enabled the Assembly to bring together its diverse constituencies to create shared “teaching moments” that have enhanced UMM’s sense of community and its mission to promote liberal education.

—Roland Guyotte
February 2006