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November 21, 2002

University Senate proposes altering procedure for changing its bylaws

Changing the University Senate's bylaws would no longer require a vote of the full Senate membership, under a plan that Faculty Assembly and Senate Council endorsed this month.

The new system would streamline the amendment process considerably, said Frank Beatrous, who chairs the Senate's bylaws and procedures committee.

Most Senate bylaws changes are minor or technical, yet currently they must be put to a mail ballot distributed to the full Senate membership, Beatrous said.

For an amendment to pass under the current system, it must be approved by a majority of at least 15 percent of Senate members — the great majority of whom don't care about most proposed changes, suggested Beatrous.

The Senate includes all full-time Pitt professors, instructors and faculty librarians; part-time faculty with tenure, and staff representatives to Senate Council, along with part-time untenured faculty as well as emeriti and retired faculty who annually inform the University Senate office that they want to remain members.

The proposed amendment system would work like this: Changes approved by both the Assembly and Council would be published on the Senate's web site, possibly with explanatory materials and accompanying position papers.

Senate officers would be responsible for informing Senate members of the proposed changes.

Changes would become effective 45 days after publication unless Faculty Assembly or Senate Council recommended a mail ballot or the Senate office received a petition signed by at least 50 members of the Senate requesting a vote of the full membership.

If a vote of the full membership were required, the amendment would become effective immediately if approved by a majority of the ballots returned within three weeks of the mailing date.

Ironically — because the Senate is still operating under the current amendment system — the proposal to streamline the process must be decided by a mail ballot of all Senate members.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 35 Issue 7

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