Frequently Asked Questions
What is the University Senate?
The Senate is one of the largest and most powerful governing bodies on campus. It provides an opportunity for faculty, staff, students, and administrators to participate in shared governance. The Senate votes on policy-related issues and other governing aspects that directly affect the day-to-day functions of the University. Much of the Senate's work is completed in the ten standing committees, which report to the full Senate periodically throughout the year.
What does the Senate do?
The primary function of the Senate is to advise the University President on any matter or concern, including but not limited to, education, budget, personnel, campus-community relations, long-range plans, facilities, and faculty, staff, and student affairs (subject to the limitations imposed by laws or mandates from the University System of Maryland (USM) Board of Regents (BOR) or the Chancellor). This broad charge brings virtually all campus policy matters within the purview of the Senate. The Senate meets on a monthly basis to vote on proposals and other matters as submitted by its committees and constituents.
Who Serves on the Senate?
Senators are elected representatives of all constituencies of the campus community, including faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students. A summary of the Senate seats is available here. For specific information, visit the Senate Composition page. The full Senate is composed of approximately 209 elected senators and 15 Deans. A complete listing of all of the current senators can be found here.
What does a Senator do?
Senators are responsible for reviewing materials (e.g. legislation, University policies), attending monthly meetings, and voting on reports and proposals as presented by Senate committees and other entities at each Senate meeting. Senators elect the members of the Executive Committee, the Chair-Elect, and other University & System councils and committees. Senators also have the opportunity to interact with the administration and other campus leaders. Finally, Senators can serve on or Chair a Senate standing committee, or may be elected to the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee serves as a gateway to anything brought to the Senate floor.
Faculty and Staff Senators serve a three-year term. Undergraduate and Graduate Student Senators serve one-year terms on the Senate. Faculty and Staff Senators must take a one-year break following their third year of service before serving another term.
What types of proposals does the Senate review?
The Senate has been involved with reviewing proposals for the University's Strategic Plan, Good Samaritan legislation, a Campus-Wide Smoking Ban, Open-Access to Scholarly Publications, Prayer at Commencement, Climate Action Plan, 30-Credit Hour Residency Rule, the Arbitrary and Capricious Grading Policy, and the Non-discrimination and Disability and Accessibility policies, to name a few.
Where do proposals come from?
Members of the campus community can submit proposals for review of any policies or procedures, as well as the creation and establishment of new policies.
- How can I submit a proposal for review by the Senate?
To whom does the Senate report?
The Senate directly advises the President of the University.
What is the difference between the Senate and the SGA (Student Government Association)/GSG (Graduate Student Government)?
The SGA and GSG are governmental bodies made up entirely of undergraduate and graduate students respectively. As such, the main roles of the SGA and GSG are to advocate for causes that students care about, to support student organizations, and to plan and organize events for students. The University Senate differs in that it is representative of all campus constituencies (faculty, staff, and students) and works directly with the University President.
Often the legislatures of the SGA and GSG pass resolutions related to items under review by the Senate. The presidents of the SGA and the GSG are ex-officio members of the Senate, and they frequently speak on behalf of the undergraduate and graduate student bodies at Senate meetings. There are also ex-officio SGA and GSG representatives on Senate committees.
When and where does the Senate meet?
The current Senate meeting schedule can be found here. Typically, the Senate meets 4-5 times each academic semester. Senate meetings are held on campus and are open to the public. Anyone may attend and observe a Senate meeting. While members of the public may not vote, they can speak on the Senate floor if they are first introduced by a Senator.
How can I get involved with the Senate aside from serving as a Senator?
As a member of the University, you are invited to volunteer to serve on any of the Senate's standing committees. A list of all Senate committees and information about the work they do can be found here. You do not have to be a Senator to serve on a Senate committee. Each spring, a University-wide email will announce the open volunteer period. At this time you may sign-up online to serve on a committee that has vacancies for your constituency. When you sign up, only those committees with open spots will appear on your preference form. The Senate Committee on Committees makes final placements of volunteers on committees.
What do Senate committees do?
Senate committees receive charges from the Senate Executive Committee or from members of the committee itself. After research and deliberation, committees write reports in response to charges and submit them to the Executive Committee for consideration. Committee members are responsible for studying materials, attending meetings, and contributing to the discussion on major policy implementation, changes, and review.
For examples of current legislation please click here.
Faculty and Staff committee members serve a two-year term. Ex-Officio members, Graduate Students, and Undergraduate Students serve one-year-terms on committees.
Who serves on the Senate?
Senators are elected representatives of all constituencies of the campus community, including faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, members of the campus community who do not meet the eligibility criteria for inclusion in the Faculty, Staff, or Student constituencies are represented by single Senate seats. These are referred to as single-member constituency seats, and include single representatives for: part-time undergraduate students, part-time graduate students, emeritus faculty, head coaches, contingent II staff, part-time professional track faculty and all visiting faculty, and professional track faculty with entry-level titles (as defined in question 2 below). A summary of the Senate seats is available here. A complete listing of all of the current senators can be found here. The Senate is composed of approximately 209 elected Senators and 15 Deans for a total size of 224 Senate seats.
Who is eligible for PTK Faculty Senator seats?
The Plan of Organization defines eligible faculty as full-time professional track faculty with a title included in the University of Maryland Policy on Professional Track Faculty (II-1.00[G]) and Librarian I faculty, except for faculty with entry-level or term-limited titles. The exclusion of entry-level or term-limited titles excludes faculty with the following titles: Faculty Assistant, Faculty Research Assistant, Junior Lecturer, Research Associate, Post-Doctoral Scholar, and Post-Doctoral Associate. These faculty are represented on the Senate in a single-member constituency, and so are not eligible to serve as professional track faculty Senators representing a College or School. Visiting faculty are also ineligible to run for these seats.
How are the Staff Categories divided in the Senate representation structure?
Staff are represented by the following four categories: Exempt Staff from Divisions, Exempt Staff from Colleges and Academic Affairs, Non-Exempt Staff from Divisions, and Non-Exempt Staff from Colleges and Academic Affairs. The Plan of Organization Review Committee developed a mechanism for dividing staff for representation purposes by the home unit of the staff member's appointment at the University:
Units included in Divisions: Division of Administration and Finance (VPAF), Division of Research (VPR), Division of Student Affairs (VPSA), Division of University Relations (VPUR), Division of Information Technology (DIT), Office of the President (PRES).
Units included in Colleges and Academic Affairs: College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (AGNR), School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (ARCH), College of Arts and Humanities (ARHU), Robert H. Smith School of Business (BMGT), College of Behavioral and Social Sciences (BSOS), College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS), College of Education (EDUC), A. James Clark School of Engineering (ENGR), College of Information Studies (INFO), the Graduate School (GRAD), Philip Merrill College of Journalism (JOUR), the University Libraries (LIBR), School of Public Policy (PLCY), School of Public Health (SPHL), the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost (SVPAAP), Undergraduate Studies (UGST), the Office of Extended Studies, and the Universities at Shady Grove.
Staff members are eligible to run and vote in the elections for the constituency group related to their home unit. If you are a staff member and have a question about which constituency group you belong to, please contact the Senate Office.
What are the term years for Senate seats?
Generally, terms for Faculty and Staff Senators are three years, and terms for Student Senators and Senators representing single-member constituencies are one year and renewable for up to three consecutive years.
When can someone run for the Senate and what is the process?
The Senate has a timeline for the application and election periods for all constituencies. Typically, Senate elections are held annually from January through March. To find the dates for the application and election periods, visit our Elections page.
Elections for full-time tenured/tenure-track (T/TT) and professional track (PTK) faculty are held within their units and the Senate Office is notified of elected Faculty Senators (faculty should contact their Dean or unit head for more information). Senate elections for staff (exempt, non-exempt, and contingent II), undergraduate and graduate students (full & part-time), emeritus faculty, part-time PTK faculty, and PTK faculty with entry-level titles, are conducted by the Senate Office on our website. These elections consist of two parts: a sign-up period and an election period.
Sign-Up Period: constituents interested in running for a seat on the Senate submit their names for placement on the electronic ballots. Candidates also submit a statement to be included on the ballot and seen by their peers during the elections.
Election Period: members of the campus community review the candidacy statements and vote for new Senators. The electronic voting system will automatically route you by category to your ballot (e.g. BSOS Undergraduates vote for BSOS Undergrad Senators, Exempt Staff from Divisions vote for Exempt Staff from Divisions, etc.).
The Senate Office notifies the campus community annually with information on how to run for the Senate and when to vote for new Senators.
Am I Eligible to Run for the Senate?
Any member of the campus community may run to be elected to the Senate. Senators are categorized by their primary appointment within the University and are only eligible to run based on their faculty, staff, or student status. For instance, full-time staff members who take classes part-time are eligible to run as a staff member but not as a student, and students who work on campus are eligible to run as a student but not as a staff member. Staff must be a part of the campus community for one year before being eligible to serve on the Senate. Faculty must have been under contract at least since August of the academic year during which the election is held before serving. Students must fulfill the Senate's eligibility requirements. Specific eligibility guidelines can be found here.
How can I become a Senator?
You must submit an application at the start of the spring semester through this page. As part of your application, you will need to submit a statement (no more than 200 words). This statement can be edited up to the application deadline by logging back in through the link above. Members of your constituency can vote for you by visiting our website during the elections period.
What is the time commitment if I am elected to the Senate?
Senators are expected to attend Senate meetings approximately once a month and to review materials before each meeting. The Senate meets nine times each academic year, and does not meet during the winter or summer breaks. Each meeting is one hour and 45 minutes from 3:15pm-5:00pm. Meeting materials are available online one week prior to each meeting. The current meeting schedule can be found here.
If I am changing my majors, can I run for election in my new college?
No. You can only run for a seat in the college that you are registered for at the time of the election.
What College do I run in if I am a double major?
Students with double majors will be able to run for election in the College of their primary major. University databases identify a primary College for advising and other purposes in cases of double majors, and the Senate's election system should route students to the appropriate College during the sign-up period. The Senate Office will verify the primary College with the Registrar's Office after the sign-up period and ensure that students are placed on the ballot for the appropriate College. Students will be informed before the elections begin if they have been placed on a different ballot due to verification of the primary College with the Registrar's Office.
What happens if I am an undergraduate student and I change Colleges between when I am elected and the start of the fall semester, or in the middle of my term of service?
Because undergraduate senators are apportioned by College and elected by undergraduate students in a specific College, changing Colleges would generally make a Senator ineligible to serve in their elected role. A student Senator who changes Colleges would need to inform the Senate Office by emailing email@example.com. The student Senator would be replaced, but the student would be eligible to run in the next election cycle to represent his or her new College. To fill the vacancy created by the change in College, the next runner-up in the most recent elections would be asked to serve.
What if I change classifications within the University (e.g. contingent to regular, non-exempt to exempt, divisions to colleges, entry-level PTK to non-entry level; part-time to full time) during my term of service?
Senate representation is based on current roles and classifications at the University. Changing classifications would typically make a Senator ineligible to serve, since they are no longer a member of the group they were elected to represent. A Senator whose classification changes after the election would need to inform the Senate Office of this change by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The Senator would be replaced, but would be eligible to run in the next election cycle to represent the new constituency. The next runner-up in the most recent elections would be asked to serve in the vacancy created by the change in classification.
What if I am a faculty member taking a sabbatical or leave of absence during my Senate term?
If a full-time faculty Senator decides to take a sabbatical or leave of absence during their Senate term, the College or Department which elected the Senator must elect a replacement Senator for the length of the absence. The Department Chair or College elections manager should inform the Senate Office of this change by emailing email@example.com with the name of the replacement Senator and the length of the absence.
Can Senate candidates campaign?
The Senate Office does not endorse or fund candidate campaigns. If you choose to campaign, you must abide by the University guidelines for advertising (e.g. flyers or posters).
When and how are election results announced?
Election results are sent via email to candidates and the campus community the day after the voting deadline. All results will also be posted on the Senate website.
How are vacancies filled if a Senator steps down or is ineligible?
If a student, staff, or single-member Senator becomes ineligible, the next runner-up from the most recent elections will be asked to fill the vacancy. If the next runner-up declines to serve, the Senate staff will ask the next runner-up, until the vacancy is filled. If there is no runner-up or none of the runners up wish to fill the vacancy, the Senate Office will either run a special election or fill the vacancy during the spring semester elections, depending on the time of year in which the vacancy occurs.
If a full-time faculty Senator steps down or otherwise becomes ineligible, the College or unit will elect a replacement. The Department Chair should send the name of the elected replacement Senator to the Senate Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How are vacancies filled in committees?
When the Senate Office becomes aware of a vacancy on a committee, the Senate Chair-Elect, acting on behalf of the Senate Committee on Committees, will review the list of unplaced volunteers from the most recent committee volunteer application period and determine a suitable replacement. If no suitable replacements exists, the seat will remain vacant until the next committee volunteer period, and the Committee on Committees will choose an applicant to fill the vacancy at that time.
Please email your revised Plan of Organization and any supporting documents to email@example.com or contact the Senate Office at 301.405.5805 with any questions or concerns.
How often does a College-level Plan of Organization have to be reviewed?
Article 11 of the University of Maryland Plan of Organization for Shared Governance states that each College-level (meaning each College or School, department or other academic unit, and the Library) Plan of Organization must be reviewed every ten years.
Who needs to review the Plan of Organization?
Plans of Organization must first be reviewed and revised by the College. Colleges may undertake reviews at any time, but must review the Plan at least every ten years. The review must be conducted by an elected committee composed of faculty, staff, and, students. A College's review should take place under the conditions specified in the version of the Plan of Organization last approved by the University Senate and the President. For example, if the College's Plan states that the Plan should be reviewed by a committee elected from the College Assembly, then the College should follow this process.
Colleges then submit their revised draft Plan of Organization to the University Senate at firstname.lastname@example.org for a Senate-level review. The Senate recommends that Colleges submit a final draft of the Plan in order to avoid asking the College to vote on multiple versions before and after the Senate review. At the Senate level, the ERG Committee and the Faculty Affairs Committee take responsibility for reviewing the Plan of Organization and its APT section.
After these Senate committees vote to approve the Plan, the College Assembly must vote to approve the finalized version of the Plan. This vote should again take place under the conditions specified in the version of the Plan last approved by the University Senate and President.
Once the committees and the College have approved the revised Plan, it will be submitted to the Senate Executive Committee and the full Senate for approval. Once approved by the Senate, the Plan will be reviewed and approved by the President of the University. The new Plan of Organization will be in effect following presidential approval.
How does a College revise its Plan of Organization?
A College's review should take place under the conditions specified in the version of the Plan of Organization last approved by the University Senate and the President. For example, if the College's Plan states that the Plan should be reviewed by a committee elected from the College Assembly, then the College should follow this process. Once the group responsible for revising the Plan of Organization has agreed upon a final draft, it may submit this draft to the Senate for review.
Can the APT Section refer to an APT policy that is separate from the Plan of Organization?
Yes. In some cases, Colleges find it helpful to separate the APT policies and procedures of the College from the Plan of Organization so that these policies may be amended more easily without involving a review of the entire Plan of Organization. In these cases, the Plan of Organization should still have a section that describes the APT Committee, and the section should note that the policies and procedures of the APT Committee are specified in a separate College APT Policy.
Does the College need to vote to approve the Plan before it can be submitted for review?
No. Once the group responsible for revising the Plan of Organization has agreed upon a final draft, it may submit this draft to the Senate for review. The Senate actually recommends that the College send a draft Plan that has not yet been voted on by the College Assembly. Often during the review process, revisions become necessary, and submitting a draft for a preliminary review allows the Senate and the College to work out any revisions. With this approach, Colleges can avoid asking the College Assembly for multiple approval votes on different versions.
The College Assembly will need to vote to approve the final version of the Plan that will be sent to the Senate Executive Committee (SEC) and the Senate.
Why does the Senate need to review College-level Plans of Organization?
Article 11 of the University of Maryland Plan of Organization for Shared Governance states that each College or School, department or other academic unit, and the Library Plan must be submitted to the Senate for approval or disapproval, and that the newly revised Plan of Organization must be approved by the Senate in order for it to go into effect.
Do department-level Plans of Organization need to be reviewed by the University Senate?
No. The University of Maryland Plan of Organization for Shared Governance specifies that the Plans of each department or other academic unit in a College should be filed with the Faculty Advisory Committee of the College, which will review it for compliance with the University and College Plans of Organization. The University Senate does not need to review these Plans. However, the Senate can serve in an advisory role if questions arise.
What is the Senate's review process like?
A full description of the Senate's review process can be found here.
How does the ERG Committee evaluate the Plan of Organization?
The ERG Committee uses a Best Practices in Shared Governance Checklist to evaluate Plans of Organization. The committee's original checklist was approved by the Senate and President. The committee usually reviews the Plan over the course of a few meetings and it compares the Plan to the items on the checklist to determine if the Plan correlates to the shared governance standards the committee has developed. However, the checklist is not a perfect tool and occasionally the committee also conveys concerns or comments that are not well captured in the checklist.
The ERG Committee understands that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for Plans of Organization and shared governance, and understands that there may be specific reasons why the Plan cannot match certain standards in the checklist. In these cases, the committee will often welcome a representative from the College to a committee meeting for a more in-depth discussion of these issues.
What is the Shared Governance Checklist?
The Best Practices in Shared Governance Checklist is a tool the ERG Committee uses to evaluate Plans of Organization. The committee uses the checklist to determine if Plans meet the standards it has developed related to shared governance at the University of Maryland. The committee will compare the revised Plan to the items on the checklist as it completes its review.
How long does the Senate's review take?
The review timeline differs for each College Plan of Organization. When a Plan is first submitted to the Senate, the review will begin as soon as possible. The ERG and Faculty Affairs Committees each meet approximately once a month during the academic year (September to May), and each committee will strive to complete its review as soon as possible. It can sometimes take each committee a few meetings to come to a consensus on the entire Plan or section. After a Plan of Organization is returned to a college with questions or suggested revisions, the Senate recommends that the College respond as soon as possible, but understands that any revisions may take time.
Once the review process at the committee level is over, the College Assembly will need to vote on the final Plan of Organization. After the College has approved the Plan, it will be sent to the SEC and the Senate for approval. Like the committees, the SEC and the Senate meet approximately once a month during the academic year. Because the Senate and the SEC transition at the end of every academic year, they generally do not consider any business (including Plans of Organization) after mid-April, so any Plans of Organization that are finalized after that point would be presented to the SEC and/or the Senate in September of the next academic year.
When does the revised Plan of Organization take effect?
After the Senate completes its review of the Plan of Organization and votes to approve it, it will be sent to the President of the University for review. The Plan of Organization must be approved by the President before it can go into effect. Until a new Plan of Organization is approved by the President, the College is still governed by the last approved version, and the College must continue to follow the specifications of the approved Plan. For example, if a College has a Plan of Organization that was approved by the Senate in 2000, the 2000 Plan will continue to govern the College and determine the procedures for its Plan of Organization review until the President of the University approves the revised Plan of Organization.
Where can I find the status of my College's Plan of Organization review?
If you would like to find the status of the review of your College's Plan of Organization, visit the College & School Plans page.