College and University Governance: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute


This report was published in the 2011 issue of the Bulletin of the AAUP.

This report concerns the action taken in summer 2007 by the board of trustees and the administration of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to suspend the faculty senate and replace it with a “transitional structure of faculty governance.” The board and administration stated that they took this step because the senate had declined to follow a board directive to amend its constitution to exclude all but the tenured and tenure-track faculty from the senate’s constituency and membership. In issuing its directive in December 2006, the board was reacting to a senate proposal to grant the “clinical” faculty the right to participate as voting members in the senate.

After outlining the history of the faculty’s conflict with the administration and governing board both before and after the suspension of the faculty senate, the report analyzes the administration’s rationale for suspending the senate and the ways in which its substitute for faculty governance departs from applicable AAUP-supported standards. The report also considers issues relating to the participation of non-tenure-track faculty in shared governance, and it comments on the climate for faculty dissent.