The University Senate provides an opportunity for faculty, staff, students, and administrators to participate in shared governance. In most North American universities there is a Faculty Senate that examines University policy and matters of concern and advises the University President. The University of Maryland is unique in that we broadened our Senate in the 1970s to include staff, graduate students, and undergraduate students. This change has facilitated increased communication between the various University constituencies, and provided an opportunity for each constituency to have a voice and exercise leadership in decisions that help shape the University.
Faculty, staff, and student Senators are elected annually to fill vacancies on the Senate. Senate seats are apportioned by College and School for Faculty and Undergraduate students, by category for Staff (exempt and non-exempt categories), and at-large for Graduate students. Deans are ex-officio voting members of the Senate, and the President and Vice Presidents are non-voting ex officio members. The apportionment of Senate seats is detailed in the University Plan of Organization.
The Senate operates through a structured committee system. The Senate membership votes each spring to elect the thirteen members of the Executive Committee, including the Chair and the Chair-Elect of the Senate. The chairs of all standing committees must be Senators, however non-Senators are encouraged to volunteer to serve as members of committees.
When an issue or proposal is submitted to the Senate, it is first discussed in the Senate Executive Committee and then typically sent to a Standing Committee as a charge. After a full review of the proposal and charge, the Standing Committee typically submits its report and recommendations to the Executive Committee for placement on the agenda of the full Senate for debate, amendment, and approval.
Ad Hoc Committees, such as task forces, may be appointed jointly by the Senate and the administration.