Thomas Jefferson conceived of the faculty as a peer group responsible both for instruction and administration of the University. Administrative functions have diversified during subsequent growth of the University, but the tradition of faculty participation in governance continues. The original faculty met for the first time on April 12, 1825, elected a chair, and organized the instructional program. From it's founding until 1856 the University changed little. Then, as now, student enrollment determined the number of faculty; during the first twenty years the average attendance was only 190. By 1860 there were thirteen faculty and three major divisions: the literary and scientific schools, the School of Law, and the School of Medicine.
When student enrollment recovered from the Civil War and began to grow, major changes started to occur. New fields of study focused on the applied aspects of mathematics, biology, agriculture, engineering, and chemistry. The humanities established a separate professorship of English language and literature, as well as professorships of modern languages, history, and economics. By 1901 the medical school had expanded by offering a four-year course of study and a training school for nurses; faculty in business administration and law had increased as well.
The system of faculty ranks in use at the University today began in 1899 when an associate professor was appointed to help with instruction in romance languages. When the number of students grew too large for the professor of romance languages to instruct both undergraduate and graduate students, the work was divided and a junior professor was appointed to assist. With experience, these junior professors (also referred to as adjuncts) could become associate professors and, finally, a professor. In this way the faculty ranks diversified as the number of students increased. The undergraduate program became known as the College, and the graduate program was identified as the University.
As of 2017, the University employed 3,014 full-time faculty members.
The term “General Faculty” came into use around the turn of the 20th century. The faculty as a whole still governed the University, but committees of professors had assumed independent oversight of students and curricula in the various specialized areas of study, especially in the professional schools. Soon the General Faculty formally recognized and delegated its powers over students and curricula to these school faculties. After 1903 the faculty as a whole was known formally, as it is today, as the General Faculty of the University. As the number of administrative and supporting staff with faculty status grew after 1970, the term “general faculty” was used to identify those who were elected to the General Faculty of the University but not to the tenured ranks of faculty of the schools.
Today, “general faculty members” are those who hold salaried faculty appointments but are not eligible for tenure. The General Faculty of the University still convenes once each year to approve the conferral of degrees. The General Faculty of the University is also supported by the General Faculty Council.
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 action 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. 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.
Faculty members whose primary responsibilities are teaching and research are elected to one of the following school faculties: architecture, arts and sciences, commerce, continuing and professional studies, education, engineering and applied science, business, law, leadership and public policy, medicine, and nursing. They hold tenured or tenure-eligible positions 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, 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 he or she holds tenure. Instructors, lecturers, visiting professors, individuals holding tenure-ineligible positions, and those appointed to research or clinical positions are voting members of the school faculties only if their school faculty grants them voting rights. A school faculty may nominate a faculty member of another school to its membership.
The College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences administers graduate degree programs in the basic medical sciences, the Ph.D. in Nursing, and all graduate programs of the departments in arts and sciences. Other graduate degrees are awarded by the respective schools.
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.