Providing Leadership

Ever since the first classes convened in Dallas Hall in 1915, the SMU faculty has provided leadership in the social, fiscal, professional and intellectual life of the University. Today, both the power and the duty of that leadership are vested in the Faculty Senate.

Faculty representatives called their first “general faculty meeting” in President Robert Stewart Hyer’s office on Sept. 7, 1915, with Hyer himself presiding. One of the group’s first acts was to elect Professor John H. Reedy as secretary pro tem, a position that became permanent a few weeks later on Oct. 20. These early meetings were scheduled every Tuesday, but the faculty met almost daily during the first weeks on the new campus – considering topics ranging from the nomenclature of courses to the formation of a University athletic council, from alleged misconduct in a men’s dormitory to requirements for degrees and advanced standing.

Today, the Senate meets once per month during the academic year and operates independently from SMU administration. The University president, provost and a retired faculty member serving as president or designee of the Retired Faculty Association hold seats as non-voting ex officio members.

Many current standing committees still reflect the priorities of that first body: academics, athletics, libraries, student policies, the all-important University calendar. The Committee on Boarding Houses may have gone the way of the Model T, but new committees on research, honorary degrees, and the economic status of the faculty reflect the 21st-century concerns of the modern Senate.

All full-time faculty members who do not also serve in administrative roles are eligible for election to a three-year term in the Senate, with the exception of those who have already served two consecutive terms. (These faculty members may run again after one year has elapsed since the end of their service.)

The Faculty Senate constitution prescribes the seating of senators by electoral unit. Each electoral unit is entitled to elect at least one senator for every 20 full-time faculty members and remaining fractions of 11 or more, and no fewer than three senators in areas with 21 or more full-time faculty. Electoral units include each school except Dedman College, in which each division counts as a separate unit.

The faculty of a division that is not affiliated with a school also counts as an electoral unit if that division has at least 11 faculty members. In addition, the general faculty elects 12 at-large senators.

Senate bylaws state that meetings must be run according to Robert’s Rules of Order. Members of the SMU community are invited to observe as guests, but may not hold the floor unless acknowledged by the Senate chair or by a majority vote. The Senate also reserves the right to conduct an executive session limited to its membership.

The Faculty Senate elects all members of its executive committees at its first meeting of the academic year. Its current committees and subcommittees include:

  • Executive Committee, which includes the Senate president, immediate past president, and president-elect and represents the Faculty Senate to the University administration
  • Committee on Committees, which provides nominees for Senate offices and standing committees to the Senate, as well as candidates for Chief Marshal and the All-University Judiciary to SMU administration.
  • Academic Policies Committee, which represents the general faculty in all academic matters, and its three subcommittees: Libraries, Admissions and Financial Aid, and the Academic Calendar of the University. In the 2013-14 academic year, the Academic Policies Committee took on the charge of examining the role of online education at SMU.
  • All-University Finance Committee, which represents the general faculty in all matters concerning the financial status of the University, and its two subcommittees: Faculty Benefits and Economic Status of the Faculty.
  • Athletic Policies Committee, which represents the general faculty in all matters concerning intercollegiate athletics, including budget, eligibility, athletics personnel and scheduling of games. Members of this committee are also the Senate’s nominees to the University Athletics Council, and the committee chair normally serves as Council chair.
  • Committee on Research, which examines available University resources and access to external funding for faculty research, creative and professional activities. The committee undertook a comprehensive review of the level of support for SMU doctoral programs during the 2013-14 academic year.
  • Faculty Ethics and Tenure Committee, which represents the general faculty in ethics and tenure matters, investigates questions of due process in individual tenure and promotion cases, and investigates alleged breaches in professional ethics.
  • Honorary Degrees Committee, which evaluates and recommends honorary degree nominees to the Faculty Senate. The committee’s membership and deliberations are confidential.
  • Student Policies Committee, which reviews and recommends SMU policies to achieve and maintain a high quality of intellectual life at the University, including policies and programs of Residence Life and Student Housing and International Student and Scholar Services. Their considerations include the role of the Greek system, diversity of the student body, and participation for international students, ethnically diverse students, and students with disabilities.