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Faculty Governance: A Tradition or Legal Right?

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Engineering and Public Policy Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.766.1 - 26.766.10



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Paper Authors


Mike Ellis Idaho State University

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Dr. Mike Ellis is an Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering Program at Idaho State University. He is the past Vice-Chair of the Faculty Senate at Idaho State University. He has over 20 years of university teaching experience. He has held faculty positions at Weber State University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, North Carolina A&T University and Idaho State University. He has a BSEE from Brigham Young University, a Master’s of Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Ph.D. from Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

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Richard M. Wabrek P.E. Idaho State University

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Dr. Wabrek has been an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Idaho State University since 1989. In the past he served in the capacity of associate dean and interim dean at ISU. Prior to that time, he served as a faculty member and chairman at the University of Wisconsin--Platteville.

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Faculty Governance: A tradition or legal right? Impact on Engineering EducationAt many universities the traditional model of shared faculty governance is being challenged. The boardof trustees and the administration of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, one of the oldest engineeringschools in America recently suspended their faculty senate. At my university the State Board ofEducation suspended the faculty senate and authorized the President to implement an interim facultyadvisory structure. Many other universities have implemented less radical changes to their system offaculty governance.In many respects engineering has not been impacted to the same degree as some other disciplines bythe recent trend toward a more corporate model of university governance. For instance, bucking thetrend in higher education, engineering departments have yet to employ contingent faculty in significantnumbers. This may be why faculty in other disciplines have been more proactive in addressing concernsarising from this new corporate model. There are few papers addressing this important topic inengineering education literature.This paper will present the legal and political parameters that anyone involved in faculty governance anduniversity service should clearly understand. It will present a case study that involves a highly chargedpolitical controversy that extended beyond campus and into the federal courts. The university’s regionalaccrediting body was also drawn into the conflict and eventually the United States Department ofEducation became involved.This paper is not an advocacy paper or even an opinion paper it is an informational paper. It willpresent factual information and analysis that is applicable to other universities. It will attempt toquantify some the impacts and changes to engineering education that have resulted from a rapidtransition away from a campus culture of shared governance to a more corporate model.There are a number of upcoming events in the next three months at my university that could provideadditional insight and clarification of treatment of faculty governance by accrediting bodies. Myuniversity will undergo an accreditation visit by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities(NWCCU) on October 20 -22. The Department of Education will meet in December to discussreaffirming NWCCU recognition as an accrediting body.

Ellis, M., & Wabrek, R. M. (2015, June), Faculty Governance: A Tradition or Legal Right? Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24103

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