Faculty Role in University Governance

Authority for the governance of the University is vested by statute in the Board of Visitors by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The board’s responsibilities, specified by state statute, include but are not restricted to the appointment of the University president; appointment, promotion, and granting of tenure; removal of members of the faculty; the prescription of faculty responsibilities; the setting of faculty salaries; the determination of student tuition, fees, and other charges; and the government and discipline of students. The board prescribes the duties of the president, and the president has supreme administrative direction of the University, subject to the authority of the board. The board has delegated certain authority and responsibilities to the president and the chief academic officer, who have delegated certain of these responsibilities to the faculty.

University faculty members have played an important role in assisting the Board of Visitors in fulfilling its responsibility from the University’s founding to the present day. Faculties approve the conferral of all degrees and oversee the development of curricula in their respective schools and departments. Through the work of the Faculty Senate, a representative body consisting of members elected from each of the schools, faculty recommend approval of the establishment of new degree programs and major modifications to existing degree programs. The Faculty Senate also provides the executive vice president and provost with advice and counsel on other academic matters. Each spring, the Board of Visitors appoints a non-voting advisory faculty representative to serve on the Board.  In addition, faculty members serve as non-voting consulting members on committees of the Board of Visitors, as well as on standing administrative committees of the University, including the University Policy Review Committee, which reviews administrative policies. Through all of these mechanisms, faculty members share their expertise and insights on academic matters with the provost, the president, and members of the Board of Visitors. 

The Faculty Senate

The Faculty Senate represents all faculties of the University with respect to all academic functions such as the establishment and termination of degree programs, major modifications of requirements for existing degrees, and actions affecting all faculties, or more than one faculty, of the University. Additionally, the Senate advises the president and the Board of Visitors concerning educational and related matters affecting the welfare of the University.

The Faculty Senate is a representative body consisting of approximately eighty members elected from the schools. Its presiding officer is the president of the University. The president, the executive vice president and provost, the vice presidents of the University, the deans of schools, and the University librarian serve as ex officio members of the Faculty Senate with voice but without vote (except in the case of a tie vote, in which case the president casts the deciding vote). The Faculty Senate has an elected chair and an executive council, as well as several committees. The chair has the power to call meetings of the Faculty Senate on behalf of the executive council. The Constitution and By-laws of The Faculty Senate can be found online. Refer to the constitution and by-laws for faculty member eligibility criteria.     

General Faculty Council

The General Faculty Council (GFC) represents full and part-time general faculty (academic, administrative, and professional faculty who are not eligible for tenure) and senior professional research staff. The GFC consists of around 20 elected representatives from different schools and areas. It serves as a conduit of information to the general faculty about University policies and facilitates connections between the general faculty, University leadership, and the rest of the University community. The GFC collaborates with the Faculty Senate. As an advisory body and a forum for discussion and democratic decision-making, it plays a role in University self-governance and works to ensure that all faculty enjoy academic freedom, professional protections, and opportunities for advancement and contributions to the academic mission of the University of Virginia.

School Faculties

Faculty members whose primary responsibilities are teaching, clinical care, and research are elected to one of the following school faculties: architecture, arts and sciences, business, commerce, continuing and professional studies, data science, education and human development, engineering and applied science, law, leadership and public policy, medicine, and nursing. They hold tenured, tenure-eligible, or term-limited appointments in their respective schools and are also members of the General Faculty of the University. 

The faculty organization of each school consists of the president of the University, the dean of the school, and all professors, associate professors, assistant professors, lecturers, and instructors in the school. The executive vice president and provost is an ex officio member of each school’s faculty but votes only in that school in which they hold tenure. Instructors, lecturers, visiting professors, and other individuals holding tenure-ineligible positions have voting rights on issues as granted by the school or department, or as required by University policy. A school faculty may nominate a faculty member of another school to its membership. 

Each school administers and awards their own degree programs, with the exception that the Ph.D. in Nursing Science is administered by the School of Nursing, but the degree is conferred by the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. 

Each of the school faculties formulates its own policies governing admission of its students, approves all courses, establishes all degree requirements, enacts and enforces rules governing academic work, approves candidates for degrees, and exercises jurisdiction over all other educational matters pertaining to that school, subject to the authority of the General Faculty of the University and the Faculty Senate in matters affecting general policy.