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The Bylaws cover rules for how the Faculty Senate should function, expectations for leaders and members, meeting structure and move.  

Download a printer-friendly version of the Faculty Senate Bylaws.

Article I: Functions

Section 1: The Faculty Senate shall consider, make recommendations, and pass resolutions concerning matters of general university interest including all educational and research endeavors, hiring policy, the tenure and promotion system, and campus life. It is the representative and elected body of the faculty.

Section 2: The Faculty Senate will strive to protect academic freedom, the faculty appointment and promotion processes, the tenure system, and encourage excellence, equity, and diversity within the faculty, student body and university as a whole.

Section 3: The Faculty Senate will consider and make recommendations concerning retired faculty, faculty salary and benefits policies, and improvement of the intellectual and social environment for faculty and students.

Section 4: The Faculty Senate will consider and make recommendations concerning student life, including athletics, and co-curricular activities.

Section 5: The Faculty Senate will represent the faculty in any revisions to the Faculty Handbook, and have a consultative role in developing criteria for reviewing senior university administrators.

Section 6: The Faculty Senate shall be responsible for selecting a slate of faculty candidates to serve on University Presidential and Provost Search Committees. The Search Committees will include at least one faculty member from this slate.

Section 7: The Faculty Committee on Cause reviews appeals in connection with faculty termination and suspension proceedings and faculty disciplinary appeal proceedings. Each fall, the Faculty Senate's Executive Committee will nominate Faculty Senate members to serve on the Committee on Cause. Two of the nominees must be non-tenure eligible faculty members. The President of the Faculty Senate will send the names of the nominees to the Faculty Senate's membership. The Faculty Senate will then consider those names and, by majority vote, approve the members of the Committee on Cause or propose other candidates to serve on the Committee on Cause.

Section 8: A University faculty committee appointed by the Provost will nominate candidates for honorary degrees (“the nominees”). These nominees will be transmitted to the Faculty Senate for confidential review and recommendation by a simple majority vote. A list of nominees will then be transmitted by the Faculty Senate through the Provost and University President to the Board of Trustees with an indication of the Faculty Senate’s vote to recommend or not recommend each of the committee’s nominees. In the absence of a quorum of the Faculty Senate, the list of nominees will be forwarded directly to the Board of Trustees without indication of a vote by the Faculty Senate. In either event, the Board of Trustees shall have final authority over the selection of honorary degree candidates.

Section 9: On its own initiative the Faculty Senate may submit recommendations and resolutions to the Board of Trustees, transmitted through the Provost and University President, on any matter affecting the interests of the University.

Section 10: The Faculty Senate will periodically solicit feedback from faculty on the functions of the University.

Article II: Membership

Section 1: Each department or other tenure-home unit of the University shall elect one of its members to the Faculty Senate from among those department/unit members who are members of the Faculty Assembly. In addition, the non-tenure-eligible faculty of each school or college shall elect one non-tenure-eligible member who is a member of the Faculty Assembly as its representative, and the Northwestern Emeriti Organization shall elect one of its members as its representative. The University Libraries shall elect two librarian faculty to represent all departments and faculty that report to the Dean of Libraries. Tenured and tenure-track faculty are eligible for election immediately upon their University appointment. Non-tenure-eligible faculty who are members of the Faculty Assembly are eligible for election after one year.

Section 2: Faculty Senate members will serve for three years, with the exception of the Senator selected to serve as President Elect, the President and the immediate past President who will serve as a member for such additional years as required to serve a full year as President Elect, a second full year as President, and a third full year as Immediate Past President. During any part of this term that extends beyond the term for which the Senator was originally elected, the appropriate academic unit may elect another representative. During any extension of a Senator’s term under this section, the Senator will be treated as if an elected member of the Senate for all other purposes.

Section 3: Each year one third of the members will be chosen in elections by the appropriate academic departments and schools. Elections for the following academic year must be completed before the end of the Spring Quarter.

Section 4: If an elected member misses three consecutive meetings without notice the Executive Committee may request that the member’s department replace that member with a temporary appointment to serve out the remainder of the academic year while organizing an election for the member’s replacement.

Section 5: If an elected member must miss up to a year of service due to professional or personal reasons, the Executive Committee has the discretion to request that the member’s department appoint a one-year replacement.

Section 6: Except under pressing personal and professional circumstances, all members of the Faculty Senate are expected to serve on one of the Faculty Senate’s Standing Committees.

Section 7: Faculty Senate members may be elected for two consecutive terms. After a two year absence they may be re-elected to serve again.

Article III: The Executive Committee

Section 1: The Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate shall be composed of the President, Immediate Past President, the President Elect (who also serves as Vice President), and the chairs of the Standing Committees. The terms of these officers shall begin on August 1.

Section 2: The President Elect must be selected from Faculty Senate members

Section 3: The President Elect must be selected at the last regular Faculty Senate meeting in the Spring quarter. The Executive Committee shall function as a nominations committee, securing one or more nominations to bring to the Senate at the penultimate regular Faculty Senate meeting in the Spring quarter. Nominations may also come directly from the floor in the penultimate regular Faculty Senate meeting. Candidate(s) should be given the opportunity to address the Senate, either in person and/or in writing, before the vote at the last regular Faculty Senate meeting. Voting shall be conducted by secret ballot. If there are three or more candidates, rank-choice voting shall be used. If no candidate wins an absolute majority of first place votes, the candidate with the fewest first choice votes would be removed from consideration and those votes would be reallocated to the voters’ second choice candidates.

Section 4: The Executive Committee constitutes the leadership of the Faculty Senate. Nominees for the chairs of the Faculty Senate Standing Committees will be recommended to the Faculty Senate by the President, Immediate Past President, and President Elect of the Faculty Senate for a confirmation vote by the Faculty Senate at its first meeting in the Fall Quarter. Nominees must be members of the Faculty Senate at the time of their nomination. Faculty Senate Standing Committee chairs will serve a one-year term that is renewable.

Section 5: When directed by the Faculty Senate, the Executive Committee may propose meeting with the Board of Trustees or its Executive Committee to discuss matters relevant to the well-being of the University.

Section 6: A simple majority of the Executive Committee may request a meeting of the Executive Committee.

Section 7: In the event of a vacancy in the position of President, the President Elect will serve as President for the remainder of that academic year and for the academic year in which they would have normally served. In the event of a vacancy in the position of President Elect, the Senate shall begin selection of a new President Elect at its next regularly scheduled meeting (pursuant to the process outlined in Article III, section 3), or if no such meeting is scheduled before six weeks will pass, at a special meeting of the Senate announced no less than three weeks prior to such meeting. In the event of a vacancy in the position of Immediate Past President, the most recently serving past President of the Faculty Senate shall serve as Past President for the remainder of the term. In the event of a vacancy in a chair of a Standing Committee, the Executive Committee will act in accordance with Section 4 above, at the time of the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Senate.

Section 8: The Faculty Senate may remove the President of the Faculty Senate if two-thirds of all Senators vote in favor of a motion of no confidence, providing that the motion was made at the previous meeting.  A motion for a vote of no confidence can be brought on the basis of unethical or unprofessional behavior or the inability of the President to complete the duties of office. The motion is brought forward either by a simple majority of the Executive Committee placing a vote of no confidence on the agenda of a Senate meeting or as a motion from the floor during “New Business” at a Senate meeting.

The Past-President shall preside over debate of the motion of no confidence. Voting shall be by secret ballot, and the counting of those ballots shall be done by the Parliamentarian.  Senators not present at the meeting will be given 48 hours to submit their vote electronically to the Parliamentarian assuming that the votes of those Senators are needed to determine the outcome.  If the two-thirds vote is achieved, the President shall be immediately replaced by the President-Elect.  Nominations for a new President-Elect shall be made at the next Senate meeting with voting at the subsequent meeting following the general procedures outlined for selecting a President-Elect in Article III, Section 3.  If a President-Elect replaces a President following a vote of no confidence, that person will complete both the remainder of the current term and the following one-year term.

Article IV: Meetings

Section 1: The Faculty Senate shall hold meetings on a fixed schedule from October through June. Special meetings of the Faculty Senate can be called by the Executive Committee or by petition of one third of the Faculty Senate. The schedule for the regular meetings must be communicated to the Faculty Senate by the first day of October.

Section 2: The agenda (order of business) for the meetings must be conveyed to the Faculty Senate forty-eight (48) hours before the scheduled call to order of regularly scheduled meetings. The agenda (order of business) for special meetings must be sent to the Faculty Senate at least one day in advance of the meetings. The agenda (order of business) will include names of non-Senators who are permitted to address the Senate. Other non-Senators wishing to address the Senate must receive the approval of a majority of Senators present in order to do so.

Section 3: The agenda (order of business) in any meeting of the Faculty Senate shall be determined by the President in consultation with the Executive Committee. The Faculty Senate, on majority vote of members present, may amend the agenda (order of business). Robert’s Rules of Order shall govern the conduct of the meetings except as the Faculty Senate may prescribe.

Section 4: Fifty-one percent of the elected members of the Faculty Senate constitute a quorum. Only members present at the time of the vote are eligible to vote on any question or motion. In the absence of a quorum, discussion may occur at the discretion of the President, but no action may be taken except adjournment to a specified future time. Faculty Senate members may attend via teleconference or video conference at a single location designated by the Faculty Senate on the Chicago campus. Members of the Northwestern University in Qatar campus may also participate through teleconference or video conference from locations in Qatar. If pressing circumstances prohibit attendance in one of the above-mentioned locations, other Faculty Senate members may also participate and vote individually by teleconference or video conference after notifying the President of the Faculty Senate. Faculty members participating by teleconference or video conference as described above will be considered present and in attendance for purposes of determining the existence of a quorum.

Section 5: All resolutions of the Faculty Senate must be promptly communicated to the membership of the Faculty Assembly. To expedite the posting of minutes on the Faculty Senate website, the minutes of any meeting of the Faculty Senate can be approved through an online vote with at least one-third of all Senators voting "yes" with no dissenting votes.

Article V: Committees

Besides the Executive Committee, there are three categories of faculty committees that are essential for the Faculty Senate to fulfill its functions in Article I. They are Faculty Senate Standing Committees, University Standing Committees, and Special Faculty Committees. The membership of these committees will be posted on the Faculty Senate website.

Section 1: Faculty Senate Standing Committees

  1. The primary objectives of each standing committee for the year must be identified by the committee and approved by the Faculty Senate. Other issues may be referred to the committees by the Faculty Senate as the need arises. The committees can decline to address these issues.
  2. Committee chairs are to
    • help recruit committee membership for Faculty Senate confirmation
    • establish committee agendas and procedures, and lead meetings
    • report committee recommendations to the Faculty Senate
    • file an annual written report with the Faculty Senate
  3. Committees may establish attendance policies that authorize the chair to terminate committee membership.
  4. Standing committees may have appropriate university administrators serve as ex-officio members of committees.

Section 2: University Standing Committees

  1. The faculty chairs of University Standing Committees that share the same functions as the Faculty Senate and are listed on the Provost’s webpage shall meet or otherwise confer at least once a year with either the Faculty Senate, its Executive Committee, or an appropriate Faculty Senate Standing Committee. The list of University Standing Committees may be updated by the Provost’s Office from time to time.
  2. The Faculty Senate, through its Executive Committee, shall have a consultative role in the recruitment of faculty members for the key University Standing Committees identified in the Standing Rules of the Faculty Senate.
  3. These key University Standing Committees shall make an annual report, excluding confidential information, to the Faculty Senate when requested to do so by the Faculty Senate.

Section 3: Special Faculty Committees

  1. The Executive Committee can recommend the establishment of special faculty committees to investigate and make recommendations concerning specific issues.
  2. The Faculty Senate must approve the formation and duration of all special committees recommended by the Executive Committee.

Article VI: Bylaws

Section 1: The Faculty Senate shall adopt bylaws that it deems necessary to conduct its business, including rules regarding the conduct of elections.

Section 2: The bylaws may be adopted or amended by a two thirds vote of the full membership of the Faculty Senate provided that the proposed bylaws or amendments were submitted in writing to the Faculty Senate at a prior meeting. If a proposed bylaw is approved under the ordinary voting rules outlined under section 4 of Article IV, the remaining required votes may be submitted by electronic means within two weeks of the meeting at which the initial vote is taken.

Article VII: Standing Rules

Section 1: Standing Rules can be adopted by majority vote of the Faculty Senate to establish governance procedures and content areas with respect to matters that are too specific to be described in the Bylaws.

Section 2: The Standing Rules may be suspended or changed by a majority vote of the Faculty Senate.

Section 3: The Standing Rules must be consistent with the University’s Statutes and the Faculty Senate’s Bylaws.


Updated February 2019