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Faculty Senate Constitution

This representative body shall be known as the Faculty Senate of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, hereafter referred to as the Faculty Senate or the Senate.

The purpose of the Faculty Senate is to represent the interests of faculty within Virginia Tech’s system of shared governance (see below) and to work with the administration, A/P faculty, staff, and students to advance the shared goals of the university, including the creation and protection of a university environment conducive to the richest growth of scholarship, learning, teaching, research, service, and respect for human dignity and rights.

The Faculty Senate is part of the legislative system defined in the University Council Constitution. This system constitutes the main bodies for policy formation at Virginia Tech and also includes the University Council; the University Council Cabinet; the A/P Faculty Senate, the Staff Senate, the Undergraduate Student Senate, and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate; the university and senate commissions; and the standing committees of the University Council. The senate commissions formulate and recommend policies to the senates, which in turn recommend policies to the University Council; the university commissions formulate and recommend policies directly to the University Council. The University Council makes policy recommendations to the president of the university. Final authority rests with the president and the Board of Visitors. Because these bodies constitute a legislative system, their functions, relationships, and the processes they hold in common will be defined in the University Council Constitution and Bylaws. All aspects of the Faculty Senate not defined in those documents will be defined in the Faculty Senate Constitution and Bylaws.

In order for this system to function as intended, the roles and authority of its different components as presented in this document must be maintained, and participants in shared governance are expected to adhere to these statements of purpose, function, or charge. Senate and commission charges identify the areas of legislative authority and responsibility for the relevant body. These charges are not exhaustive: when questions arise regarding the relevance of the topic of a resolution to a commission or senate charge, they will be addressed to the University Council Parliamentarian, and if necessary, the University Council Cabinet. Per Article III Section 3 of the University Council Bylaws, the University Council Cabinet will review all resolutions for agreement with the commission charge. Determination of the authority of a commission to advance a resolution rests with the University Council Cabinet and the University Council.

Faculty Senate policy recommendations are advanced in the form of resolutions as prescribed in Article III of the University Council Bylaws and Article XI of the Faculty Senate Bylaws. 

Flow chart that shows the governance structure of Virginia Tech

Flow chart that shows the governance structure of Virginia Tech
Flow chart that shows the governance structure of Virginia Tech

In accordance with Article VII of the University Council Constitution, the functions of the Faculty Senate are as follows:

“The Faculty Senate shall be representative of the faculty as defined in chapter one of the Faculty Handbook and have the authority and responsibility to act on their behalf through legislative recommendations concerning academic policies and regulations; educational standards, curricula, and methods of instruction; faculty status; matters of equity and diversity that affect faculty; and the working conditions of faculty. Assigned commissions: Faculty Affairs (CFA), Graduate and Professional Studies and Policies (CGPSP), Research (COR), and Undergraduate Studies and Policies (CUSP).”

The Faculty Senate also has the right to consider any matter of general interest to its members and to seek wider discourse on these topics within our system of shared governance. However, concerns that fall outside the purview of the Faculty Senate or of its commissions as delineated in the University Council Constitution may not be advanced as resolutions.

More specifically, the functions of the Faculty Senate are to:

Provide leadership in the formulation of academic and educational policies.

  • Develop policy recommendations both within the Senate and through its assigned commissions that advance the interests of faculty and the missions of the university.
  • Express the views and preferences of faculty regarding university affairs and policy recommendations that impact faculty no matter their point of origin within our system of shared governance. 
  • Apply the disciplinary knowledge and perspective of faculty members to the issues and aims of shared governance.
  • Coordinate the efforts of and partner with the college faculty associations.
  • Advise and respond to the university commissions, the University Council, the administration, and the Board of Visitors on university affairs. 
  • Actively communicate with the other participants in shared governance through formal and informal channels in a timely manner.  
  • Accept and share responsibility with the administration, staff, and students in all efforts to improve the stature and usefulness of the university. 
  • Elect, appoint, or recommend members to the University Council, senate and university commissions, and university standing committees.
  • Provide referral for individual concerns and issues to appropriate organizations or personnel.
  • Evaluate the nature and procedures of the Faculty Senate in an ongoing manner in order to improve the senate’s ability to fulfill its purpose and carry out its functions. 

Senators, though uninstructed representatives of their constituents, have the responsibility to seek the opinions of their electorate. Having done so, they shall make decisions and vote on matters brought before the Faculty Senate according to their own reasoned judgment.

Section 1. Composition

The Faculty Senate consists of elected faculty members as determined and apportioned by the processes outlined in the Faculty Senate Bylaws. Except as noted in the bylaws, the majority of senators are elected by and represent the interests of their respective constituencies (e.g., department, school, or institute).

Section 2. Eligibility

Faculty members who hold appointments in the acaemic colleges and University Libraries and defined in the Faculty Senate Bylaws are eligible for election to the Faculty Senate: tenured and tenure-track, collegiate, clinical, professor of practice, and instructor (the college faculty); continued appointment and continued-appointment track (University Libraries and Extension faculty); and tenured track, tenure-track, tenured-to-title track, tenure-to-title track, secondary, adjunct, clinical preceptor, and instructor (the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine faculty). Additionally, research faculty, including those on restricted appointments, are eligible for election: research professor, research associate, research scientist, and postdoctoral associate. Qualified faculty members who currently hold primary appointments in administrative positions at the college or university level or within the University Libraries and faculty members studying for a degree at the university are ineligible for election to the Faculty Senate or to vote in Faculty Senate elections. 

Because of their instructional, research, and service expectations, University Libraries faculty who hold a continued appointment or are on the continued appointment-track, though classified as A/P faculty, are eligible to be members of the Faculty Senate. All other A/P faculty with instructional or research responsibilities, such as Extension agents, project associates, or instructors in the University Libraries, are eligible to serve in the A/P Faculty Senate.

Interpretations of these eligibility requirements are provided in the Faculty Senate Bylaws. 

Section 3. Principles of Representation

Insofar as possible, each senator shall represent an equal number of faculty members eligible for Faculty Senate membership. The faculty of each department and college should be represented by at least one senator, with exceptions as defined in the bylaws. Additional representation details are prescribed in the bylaws. The Faculty Senate Cabinet, upon recommendation of the operations officer, may annually adjust the number of faculty senators, in accordance with procedures outlined in the Faculty Senate Bylaws.

Section 4. Nominations and Elections

Eligibility to vote in the election of senators is limited to those eligible for membership in accordance with this constitution and its accompanying bylaws. Nominations and elections are made as prescribed in the bylaws, which include the timing of elections. 

Section 5. Term of Membership and Vacancies

Senators are elected for a term of three years, or until their successor is elected, and are eligible for re-election as prescribed in the bylaws. Senators serve until their successors take office. Vacancies in unexpired terms are filled as prescribed in the bylaws.

Section 6. Elected Alternates

Each department, college, the University Libraries, and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine should elect at least one alternate and may elect additional alternate senators equal to the number of senators it elects. Alternate senators may attend Faculty Senate any Faculty Senate meetings, but are only allowed to vote when the senator for whom they seerve as alternate is absent.

Section 1. Officers of the Faculty Senate

The Faculty Senate shall have a president, vice president, and operations officer elected by members of the Faculty Senate from elected senators. The previous president serves as the immediate past president. The president may appoint a parliamentarian from elected senators.

a. President
The duties of the president include representing the faculty as the main point of contact and primary advocate for faculty to external entities including the Board of Visitors and the administration, presiding at all meetings of the Faculty Senate and cabinet, and performing duties prescribed in this constitution and its accompanying bylaws. Due to the demands of the office, the president is ineligible for membership on commissions or university standing committees, unless required by the role or when policy designates ex-officio appointment.

b. Vice President
The duties of the vice president include assisting and supporting the president and acting in their absence, monitoring the activities of the Faculty Senate commissions and the external standing committees, and performing other duties as prescribed in the bylaws. Though not required, the vice president typically chairs the Commission on Faculty Affairs.

c. Operations Officer
The duties of the operations officer include organizing all Faculty Senate operations, monitoring internal standing committees and work groups, organizing the election of faculty members to the Faculty Senate, and performing other duties as prescribed in the bylaws. 

d. Immediate Past President
The duties of the immediate past president include advising the president; organizing the election of the Faculty Senate officers; and performing other duties as prescribed in the bylaws. 

e. Parliamentarian (optional)
The duties of the parliamentarian include advising the Faculty Senate on the application of the rules of order. 

Section 2. Nomination and Election of Officers

The Faculty Senate cabinet shall nominate a slate of officers and nominees for other senate elections. Additional nominations may be made from the floor of the Faculty Senate. The time and manner of election of officers are prescribed in the bylaws.

Section 3. Term of Office and Vacancies

Officers are elected for a term of one year or until their successor is elected and are eligible for re-election as prescribed in the bylaws. The beginning and ending dates of the terms of office are prescribed in the bylaws. Vacancies in unexpired terms are filled in the same manner as are full terms. 

Section 1. Membership and Functions

The members of the Faculty Senate Cabinet are the officers of the Faculty Senate and one senator from each college, and the University Libraries. An officer may serve as their college’s representative on the cabinet, provided they are elected in that capacity by senators from their college. Given the variability of faculty experience in shared governance, the president of the Faculty Senate may also appoint up to two non-voting advisors to the cabinet. 

The functions of the cabinet are to serve as the executive body of the Faculty Senate, to which it is responsible and to which it reports regularly on the disposition of matters submitted to it; to act on behalf of the Faculty Senate between Senate meetings; and to discharge duties in accordance with this constitution and its accompanying bylaws.

Section 2. Nomination and Election of Faculty Senate Cabinet Members

Cabinet members who are not Faculty Senate officers are elected by caucus from the senators of their respective colleges of the University Libraries. The time and manner of election of officers are prescribed in the bylaws.

Section 3. Term of Office and Vacancies

Cabinet members are elected for a term of one year, or until their successor is elected, and are eligible for re-election as prescribed in the bylaws. Vacancies in unexpired terms are filled in the same manner as full terms.

All policy recommendations of the Faculty Senate must first be advanced and approved by one of its commissions before they are voted on by the Senate. The commissions of the Faculty Senate are the Commission on Faculty Affairs (CFA), the Commission on Graduate and Professional Studies and Policies (CGPSP), the Commission on Research (COR), and the Commission on Undergraduate Studies and Policies (CUSP). 

Though senate commissions are part of senates, their charges and membership are maintained within the University Council Constitution and cannot be altered directly by the senates. Charges of senate commissions are defined in the University Council Constitution and repeated here for convenience.

The chairs of the Faculty Senate Commissions are senators elected or appointed as prescribed in the bylaws. 

Commission on Faculty Affairs (CFA)

Charge: To study, formulate, and recommend to the Faculty Senate policies and procedures affecting faculty working conditions and the professional standing of all faculty who qualify for membership in the Faculty Senate. Areas for consideration include commencement; academic freedom and faculty morale; procedures for appointing, evaluating, disciplining, and recognizing faculty, including department heads and chairs; tenure and/or promotion, benefits, academic and personal leave, and extra-university professional activity; and matters of equity and diversity that affect faculty.

Commission on Graduate and Professional Studies and Policies (CGPSP)

Charge: To study, formulate, and recommend to the Faculty Senate policies and procedures concerning graduate and professional academic matters. Areas for consideration include admissions, academic progress, degree requirements, commencement; registration and scheduling; graduate curricular standards and expectations, advising, and instruction, both of and by graduate students; research involving graduate students; financial assistance including assistantships, scholarships, and fellowships; and library resources.

Commission on Research (COR)

Charge: To study, formulate, and recommend to the Faculty Senate policies and procedures concerning research and research faculty. Areas for consideration include sponsored programs, core programs and interdisciplinary research; intellectual property; animal care and human subjects; indirect costs and returned overhead; research facilities, centers and institutes, and library resources; and liaison with affiliated corporations and institutes.

Commission on Undergraduate Studies and Policies (CUSP)

Charge: To study, formulate, and recommend to the Faculty Senate policies and procedures concerning undergraduate academic matters. Areas for consideration include library resources, admissions, academic progress, degree requirements, Honor Systems and study environment; In-Honors programs, undergraduate curricular standards and expectations, advising, and instruction; student honors and awards; financial aid, scheduling, and registration.

Section 1. Description

Standing committees and work groups are established to carry out the functions and operation of the Faculty Senate. The actions of all standing committees are subject to review by the Faculty Senate. 

There are two types of Faculty Senate standing committees: external and internal. External Faculty Senate standing committees serve in the preservation of academic freedom and the procedural integrity by which scholarly activities are evaluated, and in maintaining standards of professionalism. These committees report to the vice president of the Faculty Senate, are prescribed in The Faculty Handbook, and are summarized in the Faculty Senate Constitution (see below). Internal Faculty Senate standing committees serve the internal operations of the Faculty Senate, report to the operations officer, and are prescribed in Article XIII of the Faculty Senate Bylaws. 

Internal Faculty Senate standing committees and work groups may be established, dissolved, or modified upon recommendation of the Faculty Senate president, the cabinet, or a senator, and approval by the Faculty Senate. In addition to Senate approval, the establishment, dissolution, or modification of external Faculty Senate standing committees requires approval through the resolution process.

The Committee on Faculty Ethics receives and considers charges of violations of faculty ethics that involve the abuse of professional responsibilities as outlined in the principles of ethical behavior prescribed in The Faculty Handbook.  It is the venue for the examination of possible violations of the standards for research, teaching, and appropriate behavior with colleagues, students, and other supervisees that do not cross legal thresholds, such as behavior that is offensive but does not meet the standard for discrimination/harassment. The committee has an investigatory and reporting role. 

The Committee on Reconciliation offers advice and counsel to faculty members who seek it, particularly in relation to disputes with immediate supervisors or university administrators. The committee has a designated role within the grievance process to assist in resolving disputes that are eligible for consideration as a grievance if so requested by the faculty member. Its purpose is to help facilitate conversations between faculty members and their supervisors with the goal of reaching mutually agreeable solutions. The Committee on Reconciliation operates informally as a facilitator. It meets with the respective parties to determine if there is common ground for resolution of the matter, facilitating a solution that is agreeable to the principal parties and consistent with university policy and practice. 

The Faculty Review Committee oversees the movement of grievances through the grievance process as prescribed in The Faculty Handbook, provides faculty review of faculty grievances that are not resolved at the college level, and considers appeals in the promotion and tenure or continued appointment process when the provost does not concur with a positive recommendation from the University Committee on Promotion and Tenure or the University Committee on Promotion and Continued Appointment. The committee has an investigatory and reporting role. 

Section 2. Membership, Terms of Membership, and Appointments

Memberships and terms of membership for external standing committees are prescribed in the Faculty Handbook. Membership and terms of membership for internal standing committees are prescribed in the Faculty Senate Bylaws.

The president of the Faculty Senate, with the advice of the cabinet, appoints members to and selects the chair of all external Faculty Senate standing committees. Members of internal standing committees are selected in the same manner, but chairs of internal standing committees are elected by the committee members subject to the concurrence of the president. 

Section 1. Principles of Representation

Recognizing the importance of democratic processes, representation of the Faculty Senate within the various bodies of shared governance shall be determined by election, except for ex officio appointments or appointments made at the prerogative of the president or cabinet. Faculty Senate representatives shall keep in mind that the prime function of such bodies is policy making and that the implementation of policies and programs is properly the responsibility of administrators. In all cases, Faculty Senate members or Faculty Senate representatives who serve on shared governance bodies are expected to represent the position of the Faculty Senate in the formulation of policy; to inform the Faculty Senate of pertinent matters to be considered and of actions taken; and to bring matters of Faculty Senate concern before the body.

Section 2. Faculty Senate Representation on the University Council Cabinet

The president of the Faculty Senate shall serve as an ex officio member and co-chair of the University Council Cabinet. The president of the Faculty Senate, with the advice of the Faculty Senate Cabinet and the confirmation of the Faculty Senate, may appoint two additional Faculty Senate members to the University Council Cabinet. While preference shall be given to the vice president and the immediate past president, experience in shared governance should be a significant factor in the selection. Term of membership (one-year) is prescribed in the University Council Constitution. Eligibility for reappointment is prescribed the Faculty Senate Bylaws.

Section 3. Faculty Representation on the University Council

Faculty Senate representation on the University Council shall include the president, vice president, and immediate past president, who serve as ex officio members, and one senator from each college, who are elected by the Senate. Term of membership (three-years) and the procedure to fill vacancies in unexpired terms are prescribed in the University Council Constitution. Eligibility for reelection is prescribed in the Faculty Senate Bylaws. If the office of immediate past president is vacant, the operations officer will serve in their stead.

Section 4. Faculty Senate Representation on Senate and University Commissions

The Faculty Senate holds membership on university commissions as prescribed in the University Council Bylaws. The Faculty Senate Commissions are also listed in the Faculty Senate Constitution and their membership is outlined in the Faculty Senate Bylaws. The commissions of the other senates are the Commission on Administrative and Professional Faculty Affairs (CAPFA), the Commission on Graduate and Professional and Student Affairs (CGPSA), the Commission on Staff Policies and Affairs (CSPA), and the Commission on Undergraduate Student Affairs (CUSA). The university commissions are the Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity (CEOD) and the Commission on Outreach and International Affairs (COIA). Term of membership and the procedure to fill vacancies in unexpired terms are prescribed in the University Council Constitution. Eligibility for reelection is prescribed in the Faculty Senate Bylaws. 

Section 5. Faculty Representation on University Standing and Other Committees 

The Faculty Senate representatives on university standing and other committees are nominated and appointed in accordance with the provisions of the University Council Constitution and Bylaws. 

Section 6. Faculty Representation on the Faculty Senate of Virginia

The Virginia Tech Faculty Senate holds membership on the Faculty Senate of Virginia. The terms, functions, and duties of this representation are prescribed in the Faculty Senate Bylaws.

Section 1. Regular Plenary Meetings of the Faculty Senate

The Senate shall hold at least five regular plenary meetings each fall and spring semester and other meetings as prescribed in the Faculty Senate Bylaws.

Section 2. Special Plenary Meetings of the Faculty Senate

Special plenary meetings of the Faculty Senate may be called by the presiding officers at any time, including June, July, and August, upon recommendation of the cabinet.  Requests for special meetings may be made as prescribed in the bylaws.

Section 3. Open Forum Meetings of the Faculty Senate

Open forum meetings may be called to provide an opportunity for all segments of the university to express their views on an issue of general concern. Such meetings are called as prescribed in the bylaws.

Section 4. Meetings of the Faculty Senate Cabinet

Regular meetings of the cabinet shall be held at least once each month from September through May. Special meetings of the cabinet may be called at any time by the presiding officer.

Section 5. Meetings of the General Faculty

In consultation with the other senates, the Faculty Senate may call a meeting of the general faculty.

Section 6. Meetings of the Faculty Senate Standing Committees

Each standing committee meets as frequently as required to fulfill its responsibilities. The presiding officer prepares the agenda and distributes it to all members prior to each meeting.

Section 7. Quorum

A simple majority of the total membership of the convening body, excluding non-voting members and vacant positions, shall constitute a quorum for all meetings of the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate Cabinet, the Faculty Senate commissions, and the Faculty Senate standing committees, with the exception of open forum meetings where no quorum is required. For establishing quorum, any alternate senator attending in the place of an elected senator is counted toward the simple majority. In the absence of a quorum, a meeting can be held but no votes taken or decisions reached, except votes on motions to obtain a quorum or to adjourn the meeting.

Section 8. Faculty Attendance

Faculty members eligible for election to the Faculty Senate may attend but not vote in regular and special plenary meetings of the Faculty Senate. 

Section 9. Guests

Any Virginia Tech faculty member, employee, or student may attend plenary and open forum meetings of the Faculty Senate as a guest, with the understanding that guests:

  • May participate in discussions if and when recognized by the chair but cannot vote or make motions for consideration.
  • Will treat participants in shared governance with respect and in accordance with the expectations for decorum outlined in Robert’s Rules of Order.
  • May be removed from a meeting by the request of any member and a majority vote of the members in attendance. 
  • May not displace a regular member of the body when seating/space is limited.

Members of the public who wish to attend Faculty Senate meetings should contact the president of the Faculty Senate. 

Section 10. Parliamentary Procedure

The parliamentary rules used by the University Council, subject to special rules as may be adopted by the Faculty Senate, shall govern the procedures of the Faculty Senate, the Faculty Senate Cabinet, the Faculty Senate commissions, and the Faculty Senate standing committees. 

Section 11. Voting on Senate Commission Resolutions and Other Matters

All resolutions advanced to the Faculty Senate by the Faculty Senate commissions follow the process defined in the University Council Bylaws, either by means of a consent agenda or by actual vote. Faculty Senate votes will be carried out via the same software used by the University Council. In accordance with the University Council Constitution, votes on resolutions are by recorded ballot. The Faculty Senate shall determine the voting procedure on all other matters. 

Section 1. Development

Amendments to the constitution or bylaws may be developed by whatever means the Senate deems appropriate. Amendments to the constitution require the approval of a resolution by the Commission on Faculty Affairs; amendments to the bylaws do not. 

One-fifth of faculty eligible for election to the Faculty Senate may petition the president of the university to convene a meeting of faculty eligible for election to the Faculty Senate to make changes to the constitution.

Section 2: Approval of Amendments to the Faculty Senate Constitution

Amendments to the constitution become effective upon the following sequence of actions:

 

a. An affirmative majority vote by the Commission on Faculty Affairs.

 

b. An affirmative vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the senators present and voting, provided that a quorum has been reached.

 

c. An affirmative vote in the University Council of the majority of members present and voting, provided that a quorum has been reached. 

 

d. Approval by the president of the university.

 

Section 3. Approval of Amendments to the Faculty Senate Bylaws

Amendments to the bylaws become effective upon an affirmative majority vote of the senators present and voting, provided that a quorum has been reached, and requires no further approval. 

Section 4. Notice of Proposal

Notice of proposal to amend the Faculty Senate Constitution or Bylaws shall be given in the Faculty Senate agenda and considered at no fewer than two meetings of the Faculty Senate prior to voting. A vote may be taken on an amendment at the second meeting. The proposed amendment shall be distributed with the agenda.

This version of the Faculty Senate Constitution was approved by the Board of Visitors on June 11, 2024.