An Introduction to the Academic Senate of the University of California

An Introduction to the Academic Senate of the University of California

What is the Academic Senate?

“The Systemwide Academic Senate and the ten Divisional Senates provide the organizational framework that enables the faculty to exercise its right to participate in the University's governance. The faculty voice is formed through a deliberative process that includes the Standing Committees of the Senate, the Academic Council, the Assembly of the Academic Senate, and their Divisional counterparts. Consultation with the senior administration occurs in a parallel structure: at the systemwide level between the Academic Council Chair and the President; and on the campus level between the Divisional Senate Chairs and the Chancellors.

With some exceptions and as defined by the Standing Order of the Regents 105.1, Senate membership is granted to individuals who have a ladder-rank or other selected academic appointment at the University. The Code of the Academic Senate comprises the Manual of the Academic Senate and the manuals of its Divisions. Each manual is divided into two sections – the (1) Bylaws that set forth the membership, authority and organization of the Senate, and the (2) Regulations that codify the requirements for admission, degrees, and courses and curricula.

In accordance with the tenets of shared governance, the Senate's responsibilities include authorizing, approving, and supervising all courses and determining the conditions for admissions, certificates, and degrees. In other areas of University life, the Senate exercises an active advisory role. It has specific authority from the Regents to advise the President and Chancellors on budget matters and on the administration of the libraries. Campus and systemwide officials regularly seek advice and review from the Senate on a wide variety of issues affecting faculty welfare and the academic environment. The Senate participates in searches for deans, chancellors and the president.

The Senate has influence over career advancement and the quality of UC's faculty through its recommendations to the chancellors, deans, and chairs on appointments and promotions. In addition, it protects the professional environment for faculty members with committees devoted to preserving academic freedom and assuring due process in personnel matters.”  Quoted from:

What are the goals of this module?

UC APM 110-4 (15) provides specific definitions and examples of what constitute faculty at the University of California.  However, not all faculty are members of the UC Academic Senate: specific membership is governed by Standing Order of the Board of Regents 105.1:

“The Academic Senate shall consist of the President, Vice Presidents, Chancellors, Vice Chancellors, Deans, Provosts, Directors of academic programs, the chief admissions officer on each campus and in the Office of the President, registrars, the University Librarian on each campus of the University, and each person giving instruction in any curriculum under the control of the Academic Senate whose academic title is Instructor, Instructor in Residence; Assistant Professor, Assistant Professor in Residence, Assistant Professor of Clinical (e.g., Medicine); Associate Professor, Associate Professor in Residence, Associate Professor of Clinical (e.g., Medicine), Acting Associate Professor; Professor, Professor in Residence, Professor of Clinical (e.g., Medicine), or Acting Professor; full-time Lecturer with Potential for Security of Employment, full-time Senior Lecturer with Potential for Security of Employment, full-time Lecturer with Security of Employment, or full-time Senior Lecturer with Security of Employment; however, Instructors and Instructors in Residence of less than two years' service shall not be entitled to vote. Members of the faculties of professional schools offering courses at the graduate level only shall be members also of the Academic Senate, but, in the discretion of the Academic Senate, may be excluded from participation in activities of the Senate that relate to curricula of other schools and colleges of the University. Membership in the Senate shall not lapse because of leave of absence or by virtue of transference to emeritus status.”  Quoted from:

The goals of this module are to provide important information to the above faculty and other interested individuals about what rights and privileges are conferred by membership in the Academic Senate, and how it is an integral partner in the governance of the University of California.

Who is the audience for the module?

Primarily members of the UC Academic Senate (and its respective campus divisions), but also all other members of the UC community who are interested in understanding shared governance between the Academic Senate, the campus and systemwide UC administration, and the UC Board of Regents.

Why is the topic important?

Faculty interact with the Senate on an ongoing basis from the moment they are hired.  Although it is not always apparent, the way departments are run, the way teaching is assigned and performed, the way merit and promotion actions are conducted, and the committees that faculty are expected to serve on are all examples of the Senate impacts their lives.  The Senate is not only there to provide structure, but also to provide help and guidance so that faculty can succeed and enjoy productive and enriching academic lives. The role of the Senate in the governance of the University of California cannot be underestimated: its faculty are partners in creating a culture of excellence that has established the University of California as the preeminent public university system in the world.

Suggested options for module delivery

  • One two-hour session covering the history of the University of California and the Academic Senate; the Standing Orders of the UC Regents that pertain to faculty; the Bylaws of the systemwide Academic Senate; principles of academic freedom and shared governance; Academic Senate standing committees; the relationship between the systemwide Senate, the divisional Academic Senates by campus, and the faculty executive committees.
  • One hour session with the current Chair and/or Vice Chair of the divisional Academic Senate to disuss current issues of importance
  • A day-long visit to a meeting of the systemwide Academic Senate in Oakland.

Scenarios for discussion

  • Should non-merit based annual salary increases be distributed uniformly, or should they be done through equity adjustments as well as COLAs?
  • Should the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program be expanded or delegated to campuses?
  • Should campuses be free to set their own salary scales?

Resources for developing the module

Access to previous Academic Senate chairs (divisional and systemwide) to determine what information they believe every Senate member should know

Optional: graphic designer for slide or website development (if partially an online course)

Recommended prerequisites

Clark Kerr's University of California: Leadership, Diversity, and Planning in Higher Education 1st Edition by Cristina Gonzalez.

Selection and search categories

  • Academic Senate
  • Shared governance
  • UC Regents
  • Faculty welfare


Primary Category