Tufts Set to Have First University-wide Faculty Senate

Consultative body made up of representatives from all schools to work with senior administrators
photo from celebration of new faculty senate
From left, Cummings School Associate Professor Melissa Mazan and School of Dental Medicine Associate Professor David Paul speak with President Anthony Monaco at a celebration of the creation of the first university-wide faculty senate. Photo: Anna Miller
February 17, 2017

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Tufts is about to have its first university-wide faculty senate, a consultative body that will work with senior administrators on a wide range of issues concerning faculty. Each school will elect representatives to the senate, which will hold its first meeting later this semester.

The senate’s goals, according to its bylaws, are to provide input on university-wide plans and policies, foster collaboration among the schools, and consult with the president, provost and school deans to offer recommendations on matters of academic and non-academic administration.

A working group comprising two faculty representatives from each school met between April 2015 and November 2016 to lay the groundwork for the new organization, which is designed to facilitate a two-way conversation between faculty and administration to air and resolve concerns while preserving each school’s autonomy.

The senate will “enable our faculty to participate in decision-making about policies that affect them, and facilitate discussions with administration that will help Tufts University for years to come,” President Anthony P. Monaco said.

Academic senates have been quite effective at other institutions, Provost David Harris said. “When I arrived at Tufts in 2012, I was struck that there was no governance across schools,” he said. “Tufts has this unique constellation of schools, and if we bring all of the schools together, we can make an even greater university.”

Harris asked Vice Provost Kevin Dunn to set the process in motion. “A senate makes it easier for the provost, the university’s chief academic officer, to do his job, because he relies on knowing what the faculty is thinking to make decisions,” Dunn said.

Representation on the 29-member faculty senate will be proportional to the number of faculty at each of Tufts’ eight schools: two from the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, three from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, three from the Fletcher School, three from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, three from the School of Dental Medicine, three from the School of Engineering, five from the School of Medicine and seven from the School of Arts and Sciences. The president and provost will serve as non-voting members.

Each school will decide who should be considered a faculty member, particularly at the health sciences schools at which clinicians teach students. The School of the Museum of Fine Arts will have one dedicated Arts and Sciences representative. Once the senate convenes this spring, the members will decide whether Tisch College will have dedicated representatives.

Developing approaches to issues that affect faculty across the university will enable professors to think of themselves as part of a single university instead of as isolated groups at separate schools. “We’re bringing together eight different cultures,” said Jeswald Salacuse, the Henry J. Braker Professor of Law and former dean at the Fletcher School, who chaired the working group. “I’m very optimistic about the future that we’re setting in motion.”

Harris agreed. “The senate has the potential to pull together our geographically dispersed and culturally diverse community, and we look forward with great anticipation to its implementation.”