Communication #27: Shared Governance for Academic Units (AY2023-24)

Last revised April 2023


Governance of each academic unit1 shall be based on unit bylaws established and amended by the faculty of that unit. The University of Illinois Statutes require that academic unit bylaws provide for the administrative organization and procedure of the academic unit, including the composition and tenure of executive and advisory committees. In addition, certain other topics necessary for a well-functioning academic unit should be considered for potential inclusion in the bylaws. The outline presented below prioritizes between items required by the Statutes; matters that are recommended, although not required, for all academic units; and those asterisked items (*) that may be pertinent to some academic units but not others. 

This outline identifies topics that academic unit bylaws should address; it does not prejudge how they are addressed or the specific policies to be adopted—which may vary from unit to unit. Each unit has the right to formulate and amend its own bylaws on the governance and internal administration of the unit, without the approval of encompassing units. However, any changes to a unit’s bylaws should be reported to the encompassing unit. The Appendix includes a list of recommended topics for inclusion in academic unit bylaws. 

An academic unit’s bylaws must not contradict the bylaws of any academic unit encompassing it, including the college, school, university level, the system-wide Statutes and General Rules, or other specific actions of the Board of Trustees. In drafting and revising its bylaws, the academic unit is responsible for ensuring that this provision is followed, and to review its bylaws periodically to ensure consistency. When an academic unit’s bylaws are silent on a subject matter, the academic unit should rely on the encompassing unit’s bylaws for guidance where applicable (e.g., grievance procedure). When an academic unit’s bylaws conflict with the encompassing unit’s bylaws, the encompassing unit’s bylaws will prevail. 

There is no requirement that different academic units within an encompassing unit formulate their bylaws consistently with one another. There may be occasions for periodic review of unit bylaws by the encompassing unit, and/or by the university, to ensure that unit bylaws cover necessary administrative or governance matters. 

Academic unit bylaws should be made accessible to everyone in the unit, the campus community, and the public. 

This document was developed in partnership with the Senate Committee on General University Policy.

Guidelines on Information Sharing and Transparency

The following practices regarding the sharing of policies and information should be followed in academic programs, departments, schools, and colleges.

  • Academic unit bylaws are readily available to everyone in the unit (e.g., distributed to new faculty), made accessible to the campus community and public (e.g., prominently posted on the website), and followed conscientiously.
  • At a minimum and in accordance with the University Statutes Article II.3, academic unit bylaws specify:
    • definition of unit faculty members;  
    • rights and privileges of tenure-system faculty members, with and without joint appointments; 
    • rights and privileges granted to other unit instructional faculty, including specialized faculty members, affiliate or zero-time faculty members, students, or staff members; 
    • grievance procedures for faculty members and students; and 
    • procedures for amendments of the bylaws.
  • College, campus, and University governing documents are shared and are followed conscientiously. 
  • Lists of unit committee composition and charges are made readily available to unit faculty members. 
  • In accordance with the University Statutes Articles II.3.d.1; III.5.b.1; IV.2.e.4; and IV.3.d.3, the full unit faculty meet with the unit executive officer (EO) as necessary, at least once a year. 
  • Schedules of unit meetings are announced well in advance and items for meeting agendas are secured several days in advance. 

Guidelines Involving Unit Faculty in Unit Decision Making

The following decision-making practices should be followed in academic programs, departments, schools, and colleges.

  • The EO consults with the advisory/executive committee in preparing the unit budget, in accordance with the University Statutes Articles II.3.d.8; III.5.b.8; IV.2.d; and IV.3.d7
  • Short-term and long-term hiring priorities are determined through discussion among appropriate faculty groups and the EO.
  • Formal strategic planning exercises for the unit are carried out at appropriate intervals and centrally involve all unit faculty members. 
  • Matters central to the academic mission of the unit, such as graduate admissions, curricula, and course assignments are discussed by duly constituted committees, whose recommendations are shared and discussed with the faculty. 
  • Sufficient time is allowed during faculty meetings for full discussion of agenda items; faculty meetings are not simply a series of announcements and presentations. 
  • The EO generally acts in accord with advice from the faculty; the EO may need, on occasion, to make a decision that contradicts advice from the faculty. When such a situation arises; the EO reports back about the reasons for such a decision.

Guidelines for Faculty Mentoring, Development, and Evaluation

The following practices and policies regarding faculty development should be followed in academic programs, departments, schools, and colleges (see Provost Communication #21: Annual Faculty Review, for required elements):

  • The EO ensures the wide availability of the unit’s written procedures for yearly evaluation of faculty members, including contributions to teaching, research, and service, and a statement of the unit mission and expectations for faculty members’ contribution to that mission. 
  • Each faculty member in the unit receives an oral or written evaluation of annual progress and is given an opportunity to respond. 
  • The EO ensures that a mentoring process is available for all pre-tenure, early- and mid-career faculty members in the unit. 
  • The EO regularly shares information about campus and unit resources potentially available for faculty development (e.g., travel funds, research funds, access to RA assistance, fellowship, and teaching release opportunities, etc.) and how to apply for these resources.

Guidelines for Faculty Participation in Unit, Campus, and University Shared Governance

The following practices should be followed to encourage faculty members’ awareness of and involvement in shared governance across the campus.

  • The EO shares information about the basic administrative and governance structures of the campus and the University.  
  • Unit faculty members are aided in how to navigate campus administrative processes such as approvals of curricular proposals. 
  • The EO shares information about the role of the campus Senate and the Graduate College, and their basic committee structures. 
  • The EO ensures that timely elections are held for faculty representation to the campus Senate, in coordination with the Office of the Senate
  • The EO encourages all voting faculty members to nominate and elect qualified representatives to the campus Senate. 
  • The EO encourages departmental Senators to regularly report to the unit on the work of the Senate. 
  • Faculty members are encouraged to participate in shared governance committees within their unit, school, college, and campus. 
  • The EO ensures that service and leadership activities on campus are recognized in the annual performance evaluation of faculty.

Practicing Shared Governance on Campus

The Office of the Provost encourages widespread dissemination and incorporation of these guidelines. To ensure that these principles are woven into the fabric of academic decision making, all new faculty members should be made aware of this document. In addition, EOs (e.g., department chairs/heads, directors, deans) should be required to commit to the principles when accepting new leadership positions and should incorporate the principles in their annual reviews of leadership activities.    

Suggestions for implementing these practices for faculty members include:

  • Sharing this document with new faculty members during the campus-wide orientation (e.g., Illinois New Faculty Orientation). 
  • Providing this document to newly tenured faculty members in the letter from the Provost that confers tenure and promotion.

Suggestions for implementing these practices for EOs include:

  • Providing this Communication in all offer letters made to new department chairs/heads, new directors, and new deans. 
  • Ensuring that all department heads/chairs, directors, and deans address how they have fostered shared governance in their annual reports of leadership activities in their units. 

Additional Resources


Outline of Academic Unit Bylaws

Overview: This outline addresses topics that academic unit2 bylaws should address; it does not prejudge how they are addressed or the specific policies to be adopted—which may vary from department to department.  

Academic unit bylaws must be consistent with College Bylaws, which must in turn be consistent with University and System rules (Provost Communications, Statutes, and General Rules). Bylaws should be reviewed periodically to be sure they are consistent. 

Academic unit bylaws should be made accessible to everyone in the unit, the campus community, and the public. 

These topics are prioritized between matters that ought to be included in the academic unit’s bylaws in some fashion, as opposed to asterisked items (*) that may be pertinent to some units but not others.


  • Mission statement of the unit
  • Voting eligibility/Composition of electorates
    • Tenure-system faculty 
    • Specialized faculty 
    • Affiliate or zero-time faculty 
    • Academic staff 
    • Adjunct/Visiting staff 
    • Students
  • Departmental Meetings
    • Frequency 
    • Procedures for calling special meetings 
    • Who presides 
    • Agenda
      • Who drafts it 
      • What it contains 
      • How far in advance of a meeting it is distributed out
    • Minutes
      • Who drafts them 
      • How are they distributed
    • Rules of order
    • Quorum
  • Organization of Department
    • Responsibilities of head or chair
    • Responsibilities of associate head/chair* 
    • Term length of department officers 
    • Responsibilities of other department administrators (e.g., Director of Graduate Programs)* 
    • Eligibility for these positions 
    • Processes for election of these officers 
    • Processes for periodic review/evaluation of these officers; frequency 
    • Organization chart* 
    • Structure of programs or divisions
  • Committees (composition of the committees; eligibility for membership; processes for election; term length; who chairs the committee)
    • Faculty Advisory Committee or Executive Committee
    • Capricious Grading Committee
    • Processes for creating Ad hoc Committees 
    • Promotion and Tenure Committee
      • Procedures for P&T reviews
      • Committee composition there are not enough faculty of appropriate rank 
      • Structure and procedures for third-year review of tenure-system faculty
    • Committee, procedures, and criteria for review and promotion of specialized faculty 
    • Grievance Committee
      • Grievance procedures; processes of appeal
    • Curriculum or Program Committee* 
    • Graduate Student Policy* 
    • Space or Facilities Committee* 
    • Awards Committee* 
    • Academic Integrity Committee* 
    • Academic Professional or Staff Advisory Committee* 
  • Revision of Bylaws
    • How changes can be proposed, and by whom 
    • How they are approved by vote 
    • Standard time for periodic review of Bylaws 


  1. In the context of this policy “academic unit” is inclusive of programs, departments, schools, and colleges. ↩︎
  2. In the context of this policy “academic unit” is inclusive of programs, departments, schools, and colleges. ↩︎