Shared Governance Charter

Fairleigh Dickinson University

Approved by the FDU Board of Trustees March 2024

Shared Governance at Fairleigh Dickinson University constitutes a system that provides opportunities for community members to propose, consider, and recommend changes to existing policies and practices or new policies and practices in accordance with our core values. Shared governance at FDU is representative, inclusive, consultative, transparent, and streamlined.

If you have questions or suggestions for shared governance, you can use the address to send a message to the Governance Steering Committee (GSC).

Topic Headings Index

History of This Charter

As the work of the Steering Committee of FDU’s Middle States Self-Study Report Project unfolded in the Spring 2023 semester, Benjamin Rifkin, then Dean of Becton College of Arts and Sciences (later named Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs), observed that the University had not done a substantial review of its shared governance system in over 20 years. Dr. Rifkin discussed the matter with Dr. Michael Avaltroni, who at that time held the position of Interim President and Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Dr. Avaltroni agreed that it would be in the University’s best interests to set up a process to review its shared governance structure and, if deemed appropriate, to propose changes to that structure.  

The Shared Governance Task Force, convened for this project, consisted of three faculty (one from Florham, Metro, and Vancouver: Patricia Melloy, President of the Faculty Senate, from Florham/Becton, Alex Casti, Faculty Senator, Metro/Gildart-Haas, Connie Bygrave, Faculty Senator, Vancouver/SPGA), three professional administrators (Anita Rivers, President of the PAS, Metro; Karen Stecher, Speaker of the PAS Florham Campus; Arlette Hernandez, Director of Enrollment Services, Vancouver Campus), and three students (Suleima Mestanza, President of the Metro SGA, Natalie Van, Florham; Parsa Mokari, Vancouver), most of whom were appointed by their respective governance bodies (the Faculty Senate, for all three campuses, the Professional Administrative Senate and the Student Government Association for the two New Jersey campuses). The Shared Governance Task Force (SGTF) created questions that constituted part of a survey administered to the entire FDU community. The responses to these questions demonstrated that the vast majority of community members, regardless of their role in the University, felt that they had little voice in shared governance and would like to be more engaged.  

Dr. Benjamin Rifkin, then Interim Provost (and subsequently Provost), and the Director of Academic Affairs, Vanessa Perez, facilitated the meetings of the SGTF. The goal of the task force was to review the existing structure of shared governance at FDU and, if the task force deemed it appropriate, to develop a proposal for a new shared governance structure for Fairleigh Dickinson University that would reflect our University’s core values, best practices in shared governance, and the needs of our University as it has evolved since the last major revision in 1999. 

The Shared Governance Task Force received a charge from President Avaltroni and worked in accordance with that charge over the course of the Fall 2023 semester and into the Spring 2024 semester.

In mid-December 2023, the Shared Governance Task Force distributed to all members of the FDU community a proposed charter of Shared Governance. This document was the basis of feedback sessions held in person on the Florham, Metro, and Vancouver campuses, and on zoom for the Wroxton campus, as well as on Zoom for faculty, professional staff, union representatives, and students. In addition to those synchronous feedback sessions, over 130 individuals responded to a survey about the proposed charter. The Shared Governance Task Force met in late February 2023 to review all the feedback received, make changes to the proposed charter as the Task Force deemed appropriate, and submitted the proposed charter to President Avaltroni for his and the Board’s consideration.

In its March 2024 meeting, FDU’s Board of Trustees approved the proposal for a new charter of shared governance to go into effect as of the Fall 2024 semester.

The various stakeholder bodies (Faculty Senate, Professional Administrative Senate, Union, Student Government, and Alumni Advisory Councils in NJ and Vancouver) will appoint or elect representatives to the various committees and councils described in our new charter of shared governance during the spring of 2024 so that the committees and councils are ready to begin their work in the Fall 2024 semester without delay. In addition, the University will establish a website for shared governance to operationalize our community’s aspiration for greater transparency in shared governance.

FDU’s Charter of Shared Governance does not supersede the FDU Faculty Handbook. The intent of the Charter is to bring all university constituents together to have their voices heard regarding university matters.

As stated in the FDU Faculty Handbook, the Faculty Handbook “is written for the Faculty and Administration of Fairleigh Dickinson University to serve as a statement of the general policies and procedures of the University. Its provisions shall be binding on the Faculty and Administration.”

In accordance with the Faculty Handbook “the primary responsibility for initiation of educational policy, maintenance of academic standards, requirements for degrees, admission standards, faculty status, and research shall rest with the Faculty. The Faculty’s authority in these areas shall be exercised through the various committees described herein, in association with the appropriate academic officers and subject, ultimately, to the approval of the Board of Trustees.”

Furthermore, in accordance with the Faculty Handbook, the Faculty Senate is the body through which the Faculty’s authority (as described in the Faculty Handbook) shall be exercised and the committees of the Faculty Senate recommend to the Senate on all matters in their jurisdiction, except as indicated for the Committee on Faculty Rights and Welfare.

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Core Values of Shared Governance at FDU 

We have designed this new structure to manifest the following core values. Our Shared Governance will be: 

  • Representative – all members of the FDU community will be represented in their respective stakeholder groups: faculty, professional administrators, staff, and students 
  • Inclusive – voices of all members of the FDU community will be considered, regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, native language, socio- economic class, ability or disability 
  • Transparent – all members of the FDU community will be informed as to how policies are made and/or revised and how new practices may be introduced or existing practices changed 
  • Consultative – all members of the FDU community will have opportunities to be consulted on issues relevant to them through the governance structure 
  • Streamlined – the shared governance structure will function without redundancies and without undue burdens on community members to serve on numerous committees or councils

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Structure of Shared Governance at FDU 

Shared Governance at FDU features a committee to receive and review requests for the review of policies and practices, the Governance Steering Council:

Governance Steering Council (GSC) 

The GSC coordinates and monitors issues that engage all constituents of the university and can send those issues to other committees and councils for their review. 

Membership, Leadership, and Terms of Office in the GSC 

The GSC comprises six faculty members selected by the Faculty Senate, representing the three degree-granting campuses, one individual selected by the Professional Administrative Senate (PAS), one individual selected by the Office & Professional Employees International Union (Union), one individual selected by the Student Leadership Council (a new leadership structure, see below), the University’s Provost, the Chief Financial Officer (currently, the Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration), and Chief Student Affairs Officer (currently, the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students) or their respective designees. All the individuals named above are voting members of the GSC.  In addition to the voting members of the GSC, two non-voting individuals participate in the GSC: one representative of the Vancouver Campus’s Alumni Association and one representative of the NJ Campuses’ Alumni Association. Non-voting alumni representatives are selected by the relevant Board of Governors.  

The Provost, representing the President’s Cabinet, and a faculty member serve as co-chairs of the GSC. The faculty co-chair is selected by the faculty delegation on the GSC. 

Faculty members, administrators representing the PAS, and staff representing the Union, on the GSC serve a term of two years each, renewable. The faculty members have staggered terms. Students serve a term of one year, renewable. The Provost, Chief Financial Officer (or their designee), and Chief Students Affairs Officer (or their designee) are permanent members. The faculty co-chair of the GSC should have one year of prior experience as a GSC member whenever possible. 

The home campus of the non-faculty members will be designated as follows, with the same pattern of rotation in succeeding years: 

  • Professional Administrator (selected by PAS): NJ (Florham or Metro) for 2024-2026, Vancouver 2026-2028, NJ 2028-2030 
  • Union Member (selected by the Union): Florham 2024-2026, Metro 2026-2028 
  • Student (selected by the Student Leadership Council): Metro 2024-2026, Florham, Vancouver 2028-2030

The GSC is supported by a staff member responsible for organizing meetings of the GSC, taking minutes at meetings of the GSC, communicating on behalf of the GSC to stakeholder governance bodies (defined below) as well as committees and councils, and tracking the progress of the review of proposed new policies or revision of existing policies on a University-wide website. Posting GSC’s progress and activities on a website also helps FDU document its efforts to foster and operationalize a culture of transparent and continuous improvement. 

Purpose of the GSC 

The purpose of the GSC is to examine suggestions – from any member of the FDU community – for changes to existing policies or practices and suggestions for the creation of new policies or practices at Fairleigh Dickinson University, to determine whether they are appropriate for further consideration, to develop charges to the relevant committee, advisory council, to review the proposals from those committees or councils, and, as appropriate, to recommend those proposals to the relevant decision-making authority of the University, be it the President, a Vice President, or through the President, to the Board of Trustees. 

The GSC may choose to invite any university community members to participate in the discussion of any particular agenda item; individuals thus invited to one or another meeting do not have voting rights on the GSC. Individual community members may request to come to a GSC meeting to address a particular issue, and the GSC may choose to extend or not to extend such an invitation as it sees fit. 

Members of the GSC are expected to discuss matters raised in the GSC as appropriate with their respective governance stakeholder bodies. 

The GSC does not address issues within the authority of the faculty as specified by the Faculty Handbook.   

The Work of the GSC

If there is a question if a matter is an issue within the authority of the faculty, the faculty representatives on the GSC will consult the Faculty Handbook and the Faculty Senate and report their conclusions to the GSC for discussion that will lead to a solution agreeable to all parties.

Once the GSC has sent a charge to a committee, council, or ad hoc task force and has received the response from that body, the GSC responds with one of these options:

1. Approved and recommended to the relevant decision-making authority

2. Returned to the relevant lower-level body for clarification or consideration of additional questions

3. Referred to another lower-level body for additional work

4. Rejected (with justification and, if appropriate, direction for further work). The GSC does not have the authority to reject a decision of the Faculty Senate on an academic matter as per the provisions of the Faculty Handbook.

The GSC strives to come to consensus on all matters brought to its attention. When it fails to come to consensus, the GSC members vote on the given matter and when the GSC is not unanimous in its recommendation to the relevant decision-making authority on any matter, the GSC must provide majority and minority opinions so that the decision-making authority can see all the perspectives discussed by the GSC.

Some matters brought to the GSC’s attention may require a prompt response and the GSC will have to consider that in its work and how it works with the University-wide committees, advisory councils, and stakeholder governance bodies. As one example only, changes to federal, state/provincial, or local laws may require changes to University policies on an urgent basis. In such cases, the University’s General Counsel will notify the GSC of those changes and the GSC may request a discussion with the General Counsel and other relevant University officers to discuss the implications of these changes.

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How Community Members Make Suggestions to Improve Policies or Practices at FDU

Any community member may suggest an idea for consideration by the University’s Shared Governance Structure by choosing one of the following options:

  • Submit a suggestion or question to the GSC through an email to the GSC (an email account will be established for this purpose) or to either of the co-chairs of the GSC (the Provost and a faculty member)
  • Submit a suggestion or question to the leadership of the individual’s Stakeholder Governance Body

Stakeholder Governance Bodies (defined below) may refer a suggestion or question they have received from a stakeholder to the GSC if they deem it relevant to the scope of the GSC’s function (e.g., a university-wide question affecting more than one group of stakeholders) or may take it up themselves within the purview of their authority (e.g., a suggestion from a faculty member to change the University’s grading system, which is a topic completely within the authority of the Faculty as per the Faculty Handbook). Not every suggestion or question directed to a Stakeholder Governance Body need be submitted to the GSC.

Levels of Analysis in Shared Governance

When the GSC refers a matter for review to a committee or council (see description of University-Wide Committees and Councils, below), it includes in the charge its deadline for a response and the instruction that the given review be conducted in one of the three levels of analysis as follows:

  • Level 1 (lowest level): Members of the committee or council discuss and report back to the GSC
  • Level 2 (mid-level): Members of the committee or council discuss and develop a preliminary response, present it to the relevant governance stakeholder bodies (defined below) for feedback (as specified in the charge from GSC), revise the response accordingly, and submit to the GSC. The governance stakeholder bodies are: for the faculty, the Faculty Senate; for the non-Union staff – the Professional Administrative Senate; for the Union employees – the Union; for the students – Student Government; for alumni – the Alumni Boards or Governors (which function as Alumni Advisory Councils).
  • Level 3 (highest level): Members of the committee or council discuss, research relevant policies and practices at some other institutions and/or consider best practices as documented in the research literature, develop a preliminary response, present their findings to the relevant governance stakeholder bodies as specified in the charge from GSC for feedback, revise the response if deemed appropriate, and submit to the GSC. The governance stakeholder bodies are: for the faculty, the Faculty Senate; for the non-Union staff – the Professional Administrative Senate ; for the Union employees – the Union; for the students – Student Government; for alumni – the Alumni Boards of Governors (which function as Alumni Advisory Council

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Stakeholders and Governance Stakeholder Bodies 

The Stakeholders of the University are the University’s faculty, non-faculty employees (both union members and individuals who are not union members), students, alumni, and members of the Board of Trustees. 

The Stakeholders of the University are represented in the following Governance Stakeholder Bodies as follows: 

The Board of Trustees is the highest-level governance body at Fairleigh Dickinson University. It is governed by its own By-Laws. 

The President of the University, who is a member of the Board of Trustees, acts in accordance with the Board’s By-Laws, and is the chief executive officer of the University. 

The President’s Cabinet consists of those individuals who report directly to the President, including the Provost, General Counsel, and others, as per the decision of the President. 

The Senior Leadership of the University consists of the President’s Cabinet and of those individuals who report directly to them, including Deans of Colleges, Directors of Independent Schools, Associate Vice Presidents, and Associate Provosts. 

The University-Wide Faculty Senate is a stakeholder body that represents all full-time faculty, as defined in the Faculty Handbook, on all FDU campuses with some non-voting representation of part-time faculty on all FDU campuses, as determined by the Faculty Senate. The Faculty Senate does not represent instructors who are primarily administrative or staff employees, who are represented by the Professional Administrative Senate. 

The University-Wide Professional Administrative Senate represents all full-time and regular part-time non-faculty employees on all FDU campuses, except those individuals who are members of the Union (see below) or members of the University’s Senior Leadership. This is currently a body that reflects only NJ-based administrators and will expand to include all non-Union employees on all FDU campuses. Furthermore, the Professional Administrative Senate (PAS) may invite contracted employees to share feedback with the PAS through non-voting attendance at PAS town halls or in surveys as deemed appropriate. 

The Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local 153, consists of all regular full-time and part-time office, clerical, and secretarial employees at the Florham and Metropolitan campuses, including athletic department employees and technical employees, but does not include individuals whose primary role is that of student, administrative staff to the President, clerical positions that report to the Controller, Faculty Information Specialist, Computer Center Shift Supervisors, all employees in the University Human Resources Department, Payroll Department,  professional employees, part-time employees employed less than 16 hours per week, confidential employees, managerial employees, uniformed public safety employees (except secretaries and clerks), and all supervisors as defined in the National Labor Relations Act, (29 U.S.C. Sec. 151-169) and all other employees represented by the Union. 

The Alumni Advisory Councils consist of the FDU-NJ Alumni Advisory Council, which represents FDU alumni of either New Jersey campus, and the FDUV Alumni Advisory Council, which represents alumni of the FDU Vancouver campus. 

Student Government Associations – representing all full-time and part-time students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, on each degree-granting campus and on-line, excluding students who are primarily employees of the University and represented by another stakeholder body. The student government associations may invite learners at off-campus locations to provide feedback on matters as they (the student government associations) deem appropriate. Student Government Associations currently exist on both New Jersey campuses, and one would be created at Vancouver. 

University-Wide Student Leadership Council consists of the members of the executive boards of each campus-based student government association, including a Student Government Association to be established at the Vancouver Campus. 

The Governance Stakeholder Bodies elect or appoint individuals, in processes they design to represent them, on the GSC and all other University-Wide Committees and Councils identified in this Charter of Shared Governance:  Faculty Senate, Professional Administrative Senate, Union, Student Governments, and Alumni Advisory Councils. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of each Stakeholder and Governance Stakeholder Body to determine how individuals are represented within their Governance Body (e.g., the Faculty Senate determines how faculty elect faculty senators). 

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University-Wide Committees 

The University Student Affairs Committee (USAC) – consists of representatives of students, a full-time faculty member, a PAS member, and a member of the Union, convened by the Vice President for Student Affairs (VPSA) or their designee, together with the chief student affairs officer on the Vancouver campus. The faculty member is a volunteer recruited by the VPSA.

The University Planning and Budget Committee (UPBC) – consists of senior administrators appointed by the President, the five faculty from the Faculty Senate’s Planning and Budget Committee (PBC), as well as one administrator chosen by the PAS. The UPBC may invite to its sessions a non-voting staff member chosen by the Union and non-voting students appointed for this purpose by the University-Wide Student Leadership Council. 

The University Review Committee and the University Grievance Committee are also University- Wide Committees and function as specified in the Faculty Handbook. Employees who are not faculty members who wish to file a complaint or grievance should do so in accordance with the Employee Handbook and may ask questions about the process with a representative of FDU’s Human Resources Office. Students who wish to file a complaint or grievance should do so in accordance with the Student Code of Conduct and may direct questions about this process to the Office of the Dean of Students. 

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University-Wide Advisory Councils 

The University Academic Planning and Policy Council (UAPPC) – consists of the APRC (constituted as per the Faculty Handbook), with one administrator chosen by the PAS, one staff member chosen by the Union, and one student chosen by the University-wide Student Leadership Council. The administrator, staff member, and student will serve a term of one year, renewable, at the discretion of their relevant stakeholder body. This body provides the APRC with a systematic way of consulting with staff and students about any matters the APRC is reviewing as part of its oversight of academic policy and programs. The APRC consults with the UAPPC on matters of interest to students and staff (e.g., proposed changes to the University’s grading scale), but for matters in which students and staff have no interest (e.g., reappointment, tenure, and promotion of faculty), the APRC may but need not consult with the UAPPC. 

The Information Technology Advisory Council (ITAC) – which replaces the ATAC (Academic Technologies and Applications Council) on both the NJ campuses, consists of four to six individuals, representing each of the stakeholder groups (faculty, administration, PAS, Union, students) and chosen by them. The members of ITAC also represent, together, the three degree- granting campuses, chosen by the stakeholder groups. Members of the ITAC have a term of one year. The ITAC meets regularly with the University’s CIO and its members report back to their relevant stakeholder bodies who, if necessary, will communicate concerns to the relevant University vice president.  

The Community Affairs Councils (one on each campus) – consist of volunteer faculty, professional administrative staff, members of the Union, and students on each of the University’s campuses, who work on enhancing relationships between the University and the community in which each campus is located. The council will be chaired by one of the volunteers as chosen by the Provost on the advice of the members of each campus-based council and others on the relevant campus. The position of chair of each campus-based community-affairs council will be for a term of one year, renewable. The chairs of the campus- based community affairs councils meet at least once a semester with the Provost. 

The Cultural Event Programming Advisory Councils (CEPAC, one on each campus) – consist of volunteer faculty, professional administrative staff, members of the Union, and students from each of the University’s campuses, who will work with campus community members to develop, plan, and implement cultural events for their respective communities. The chair of each CEPAC will be appointed by the Provost or the Provost’s designee from among the volunteers on each campus, in consultation with the members of the given council and others on the given campus, for a term of one year, renewable. The chairs of the CEPACS meet once a semester together with the Provost. At the request of the Vice President for Advancement, the Cultural Event Programming Advisory Councils will collaborate with the office of the Vice President for Advancement regarding events that that office wishes to run on any of our campuses. 

The Diversity, Equity, Belonging, Inclusion, and Access Council (DEBIA Council) – consists of faculty, professional administrative staff, members of the Union, and students from each of the University’s campuses to recognize, celebrate, and enhance diversity in our campus communities; identify inequities that may exist on any of our campuses and recommend policies to address them;  monitor and improve campus climate to promote a sense of belonging and inclusion for all students, faculty, and staff; and review obstacles to access to university services and opportunities for all students, faculty, and staff and to recommend strategies to enhance access. The co-chairs of the DEBIA Council are the Provost or the Provost’s Designee and the Vice President for Student Affairs or the VPSA’s Designee. 

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Scope of Responsibility 

Committees, Councils, Stakeholder Bodies (Faculty Senate, Professional Administrative Senate, Union,  and the Student Government), Senior Leadership (as defined above), the members of the President’s Cabinet, the President, and the Board of Trustees of the University all play distinctive roles in a broad range of governance issues, including the development and approval of policies and practices, the development and implementation of new academic and co-curricular programs, the hiring of senior leaders, and the development and approval of budgets. For each governance issue, each group or upper- level administrator is specified as having a particular responsibility: consult (lowest level), recommend, decide, approve a decision, consider an appeal of that decision. Appendix I to this document outlines some of the key roles and responsibilities for stakeholder groups, committees, and councils in the shared governance process. 

The function of the GSC is defined above in this document.

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Process for Amending This Charter 

At any time, any member of the FDU community may propose to the GSC a change to this Charter. If the suggested change is minor, the GSC may use its discretion to recommend the change to the President and General Counsel. 

If the GSC deems the proposed change to be major, the GSC will consider that proposed change and determine if it warrants further investigation. If so, the GSC will appoint an ad hoc task force to review and respond to the request for a change, possibly proposing a change to the GSC which might require broad consultation with the stakeholder groups. 

Every six years, the GSC will charge an ad hoc task force with the review of the entire structure of shared governance with the charge to consult with the stakeholders of the entire community and propose any revisions the task force deems necessary. This revision process must include adequate consultation with all stakeholder groups. 

Ultimately, any change to this charter must be approved by the President and the Board of Trustees of Fairleigh Dickinson University.

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Legal Disclaimer 

While this Charter addresses the University community’s desire for and commitment to representation, inclusion, transparency, and consultation in formulating policies and processes, nothing in this Charter or any associated statements, materials, and documentation establishes contractual or other legally enforceable rights, in whole or in part, between the University and any faculty, staff, student or other member of the University community, and a failure to follow the processes outlined in this Charter will not give rise to any legal claim.

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