The concept of shared governance is vital to decisions made at the university, and its practice is integral to RIT's success. Members of the governance groups below represent the university's major constituencies - faculty, staff, students, and administrators. Each governance group is empowered to bring forth issues of importance to the university for deliberation, such as policy proposals, plans for new initiatives, and operational concerns. The diverse perspectives provided in these deliberations are the foundation of RIT's inclusive decision-making model.
University Council serves as the deliberative body in the development and review of university policies in areas not under the purview of Faculty Senate. Its meetings provide a forum for members to discuss issues of higher education and create a contextual framework within which university policy recommendations may be formed or administrative actions taken. Because University Council is comprised of representatives of the faculty (appointed by Faculty Senate), staff (appointed by Staff Council), students (appointed by Student Government), and administrators (appointed by, and including, the president) it also serves the important purpose of facilitating multi-directional communication among members and the constituent groups of the university. Additional information can be found on the University Council website or in the University Council by-laws.
Faculty Senate is the legislative and representative agency of the faculty and is empowered to formulate academic policy affecting more than one college of the university. The Senate offers advice and recommendations on other matters of university welfare and acts upon other resolutions or proposals submitted to them that pertain to academic governance or the general welfare of the university. Additional information can be found on Faculty Senate's website or in the Faculty Senate charter of academic governance.
Staff Council is an advisory body to the president, or his/her representative, on issues and decisions that affect the university. Members communicate to staff about university news, events and initiatives and act as a conduit providing staff feedback and insights on university issues. Additionally, Staff Council initiates policy proposals and revisions, and raises issues for university consideration. Additional information can be found on Staff Council's website or in the Staff Council by-laws.
Student Government is a recognized organization that delivers the voice of the student body to faculty, staff, administrators, and the board of trustees. Student Government senators include representatives from all RIT colleges and other major student constituency groups. Senators focus their efforts on addressing issues that are most important to their constituency, with the end goal of expanding opportunities and improving the RIT experience. In addition to governance, Student Government also hosts a variety of events throughout the year to initiate student involvement. Additional information can be found on Student Government's website.
History of RIT Policies
The history of RIT's policy structures and processes under the leadership of the past five presidents reflects the remarkable growth and development of the university over the past ninety years. It also provides important insights on the increasing commitment among university leaders to shared governance over time.
The highlights and milestones noted below are summarized, in large part, from Dane Gordon's historical text, Rochester Institute of Technology: Industrial Development and Educational Innovation in an American City1829 – 2006; 2nd Edition, 2007; RIT Press.
Under President John Randall (1922 – 1936)
The directors from the four academic departments (equivalent of deans today) and a director of course development reported to Randall; they formed the Directors Committee. With the addition of senior instructors from the departments, the Directors Committee became the Policy Committee which first met in September 1922. The meeting minutes of these two committees provided a permanent record of the policies of the institute (Gordon, pg. 138).
The Policy Committee initiated a planning process with all members of the faculty to develop the identity and educational objectives for the institute that, when integrated with those of President Randall, resulted in the final statement of institute objectives in 1931. These objectives served as the operating principles throughout the 1930’s and, when revised in 1940, the changes were not significant (Gordon, pg. 158).
Under President Mark Ellingson (1936 – 1969)
In 1942, the Policy Committee initiated an extensive planning process, involving fifteen committees to examine almost every aspect of the institute’s activities over the next two years. Ellingson used the committee reports to finalize a post-WWII plan that he presented to the board of trustees in 1944 (Gordon, pp. 186-187).
A notable and immediate result of the plan was the change of the name Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute to the Rochester Institute of Technology (Gordon, pg. 187).
The most significant outcomes of the post-war plan included the move to add more general or liberal education to supplement the technical training being offered and the acquisition of the School for American Craftsmen (now the School for American Crafts), which led to the granting of degrees in 1953-1954 (Gordon, pp. 205, 210).
Under President Paul Miller (1969 – 1979)
The deaths of four students at Kent State University during a May 4, 1970 protest of the expansion of the Vietnam War by sending troops into Cambodia led to intense activity on campuses nationwide, including RIT. The Policy Committee was called upon to respond to students’ request for a two-day break in classes to take part in a nationwide canvass for signatures on an anti-war petition. The Policy Committee’s decision to grant the two-day break served to bring students, faculty, and administration together in a way that prevented further divisiveness (Gordon, pp. 286-287).
During these discussions, Miller was challenged by students to give them more voice in the institute’s governance. Miller committed to changing the structure of the Policy Committee, which led to a new composition of its membership in 1971 of one-third students, one-third, faculty, and one-third administrators, as well as new by-laws. At a later date, the name of the Policy Committee was changed to Policy Council (Gordon, pg. 289).
The first evidence of the issuance of policy manuals occurred under Miller. The Educational Policies and Procedures Manual and Faculty Manual and Personnel Policies (a brown notebook) were published and updated throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. The Staff Manual and Personnel Policies (a blue notebook) was published and updated throughout the 1970’s and into the early 1980’s.
Under President Richard Rose (1979 – 1992)
A new publication, the Personnel Policies Manual, was published in 1984. Widely known as the “Beige Book,” it replaced most of the content previously published in the Staff Manual and Personnel Policies. As noted in its introduction, the manual’s focus was on the responsibility of supervisors to ensure the fair and consistent administration of RIT’s policies and procedures.
Under President Albert Simone (1992 – 2007)
Acting on his belief that the work of administration and faculty could not exist without the strong allegiance of the staff, Simone created a staff council in 1992 to represent the concerns of staff, comparable to the faculty, student and administration councils (Gordon, pg. 468). The first by-laws for Staff Council were approved in September 1993.
Faculty Council became Faculty Senate in 1995.
Policy Council became Institute Council in February 1996.
In May 1996, Faculty Senate created an ad hoc committee to edit and re-publish the institute's policies and procedures manuals. The re-publication was necessitated by changes in administrative structures and titles; changes and additions to the governance structures; and the scarcity of previously printed editions of the existing policies and procedures manuals at that time (Stanley D. McKenzie, Preface in Institute Policies and Procedures Manual, 1997).
The resulting publication, the Institute Policies and Procedures Manual (IPPM), was released in 1997 and became known as the “Green Book.” It replaced the Educational Policies and Procedures Manual and the Faculty Manual and Personnel Policies, the contents of which were fully included in the new manual, as well as some widely applicable policies from the Personnel Policies Manual (Albert J. Simone, Foreword in Institute Policies and Procedures Manual, 1997).
The IPPM, for the first time, documented the date (or approximate date) when each individual policy was first approved and its last formal revision, whether by Institute Council or Faculty Senate, or the Personnel Office (now Human Resources) in the case of policies or procedures issued by that office (Stanley D. McKenzie, Preface in Institute Policies and Procedures Manual, 1997).
The first electronic version of the IPPM was made available in AY 1997-1998. The last printed updates to the hard-copy manual were issued in November 2006.