The Policymaking Function of the Faculty Senate
in a Comprehensive Liberal Arts University:
A Case Study

©2001 Emil A. Ricci


edited 4/26/12

Table of Contents




Significance of the Study

Review of Relevant Literature

Shared Governance and Models of Academic Organization and Decision Making
Case Study Methodology

The Faculty Senate of Saint Mark's University and The Development of Academic Policy

The Policymaking Function of the Faculty Senate: A Case Study

Summary and Conclusions



Abstract: The Policymaking Function of the Faculty Senate

In many academic organizations, faculty senates serve as the central governance body for expressing faculty interests on a host of academic and professional issues. One area in which senates perform an important function is the development of academic policy. Since faculties exercise significant authority over the curriculum, student admissions, instructional methods, grades, and academic program quality (Trow, 1990), senates frequently formulate policies governing these aspects of academic life. Using case study methodology (Merriam 1998; Stake, 1995), models of academic decision-making (Baldridge, Curtis, Ecker, & Riley, 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997) and models of policy analysis (Dye, 1998; Quade, 1989; Stone, 1997), this paper describes the educational policymaking function of the Saint Mark's University faculty senate. The study concludes that the senate not only exercises an important academic policymaking role, but that policymaking is subject to political (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997; Edelstein, 1997; Stone, 1997), collegial (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997), and symbolic (Birnbaum, 1988, 1989; Bolman & Deal, 1997) organizational dynamics.


Since the 1960s, faculty senates, sometimes referred to as academic senates, have been key institutions in the governance structure of American colleges and universities (Hines, 200). Created initially to give professors a collective voice in campus decision-making, faculty senates exercise power and influence over a broad range of academic and professional issues. While the size, composition, and strength of senates vary according to institutional type and culture (Baldridge, Curtis, Ecker, & Riley, 1978; Blau, 1973; Floyd, 1985; Lee, 1991; Wolvin, 1991), senates play a vital role in formulating educational policies. Perhaps the most important exercise of senate influence is in the area of academic policymaking (Baldridge et al., 1978; Trow, 1990). Traditionally, college and university faculties, through their senates (Baldridge et al., 1978; Edelstein, 1997; Floyd, 1985; Hines, 2000; Trow, 1990), determine policies governing the curriculum, degree requirements, and academic program quality (Trow, 1990). Consequently, these campus bodies tend to exert their greatest policymaking influence over curricular and academic matters (Baldridge et al., 1978).

Since faculty senates derive their authority from governing boards and administrations (Baldridge et al., 1978; Edelstein, 1997), institutional statutes and by-laws often define the limits of faculty policymaking. In addition, Lee (1991) demonstrates that institutional culture, the composition of the senate executive committee, as well as agenda setting, all impact senate functions. Campuses with faculty collective bargaining tend to separate policy issues, with senates controlling academic policy, while faculty unions view personnel issues (e.g., faculty appointments, tenure, and promotion), salaries, and compensation as their main prerogatives (Baldridge et al., 1978). As Floyd (1985) notes:
Academic senates have concentrated on matters of basic academic policy and have historically not been involved in questions of wages, hours, and working conditions. On those few campuses where senates had been involved in employment questions before unionization, senates withdrew from involvement after the selection of a collective bargaining agent. (p. 23)

While Lee (199 1) suggests that conflicts between faculty senates and unions are minimal on campuses with both governance structures, Floyd (1985) claims that collective bargaining has not diminished the effectiveness of faculty senates. Still, as collective bargaining spreads, particularly in public institutions, competition between senates and unions may prove detrimental to senate authority (Floyd, 1985). In any event, Gilmour, Jr. (1991) shows that although faculty senates seek some voice in salaries and compensation, curricular and academic issues still dominate their agendas.

The purpose of this study is to explore the policymaking function of the faculty senate of Saint Mark's University, a private, Master's Comprehensive I liberal arts university. Using structural (Bolman & Deal, 1997), political (Birnbaum, 1998; Bolman & Deal, 1997; Edelstein, 1997), collegial, and symbolic models of academic decision-making (Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997), as well as models of policy analysis (Quade, 1989; Stone, 1997), this study reveals how educational policy is shaped by university faculty members. Furthermore, the paper examines the senate's role in policy development in relation to other bodies within the university hierarchy. Since the research focuses upon one academic organization, a case study approach is used. As a result, the paper offers a descriptive and analytical study of how academic policy is formed, as well as insight into the principal goals of educational policymaking in a liberal arts institution.

Significance of the Study

Since research examining the policymaking activities of faculty senates is limited, this study seeks to offer a better understanding of how academic policy is formulated as part of campus decision-making. At the same time, the paper reveals the hierarchy of institutional structures involved in developing educational policy. For purposes of this study, educational policy may be defined as "university-wide educational policy, including academic programs, admissions, grading, teaching methods, testing, curriculum, advising, retention and dismissal, and academic standards, as well as questions of feasibility affecting educational policy" (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, p. 12). Through its Constitution, the Faculty

Senate of Saint Mark's University is "responsible for recommendations concerning all matters of both faculty policies and procedures and university-wide academic policies and procedures, and their evaluation" (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, p. 9). As such, the faculty senate serves as the principal academic policymaking body within the university.

Therefore, adopting a case study approach, it is possible to analyze how academic policy issues are presented, evaluated, and formulated as part of the overall policymaking function of a private, Master's Comprehensive I University. As teaching and learning form the core mission of baccalaureate degree programs in Master's Comprehensive I institutions ("A New Way of Classifying Colleges," 2000), it is educational policy which is a critical priority for faculty and administrative officers. Falling within this Carnegie classification, Saint Mark's faculty senate devotes considerable attention to framing the University's educational policy. How such policies are developed, the organizational forces shaping them, and the various constituencies involved in the policymaking process, are examined carefully.

Review of Relevant Literature

There is a dearth of research literature examining the roles and functions of faculty senates in American colleges and universities. Those studies which exist tend to treat senates as part of the academic governance structure of each institution (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1989; Edelstein, 1997; Floyd, 1985; Gilmour, Jr., 1991; flines, 2000; Lee, 1991; Trow, 1990; Wolvin, 1991). Faculty senates are viewed as decision-making bodies through which faculties participate in shared governance (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1989; Floyd, 1985; Gilmour, Jr., 1991; Lee, 1991; Wolvin, 1991); a process of sharing authority and management with trustees and senior administrators over the functions and operations of the university (Balderston, 1995). Still, much of the literature suggests that senates are perceived as weak and ineffective bodies (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1989; Floyd, 1985.- Keller, 1983; Weingartner, 1996), regardless of their decision-making powers in the campus governance structure (Baldridge et al., 1978; Floyd, 1985; Gilmour, Jr., 1991; I-Enes, 2000; Lee, 1991; Wolvin, 1991).

In an early study of the relationship between administrative structure and academic work, Blau (1973) found empirical support for the conclusion that the number of faculty participating in academic senates directly affected educational policy decisions. Put simply, the greater the number of faculty participating in a faculty governance body such as a senate, the less administrative control of educational policies (Blau, 1973). While somewhat dated, Blau's (1973) findings implied that faculty senates and democratically elected committees reduce "bureaucratic centralization in the formulation of educational policies" (p. 164). Conversely, if there are more administrators than faculty members in an academic organization, there is a higher degree of centralization of educational policy decisions (Blau, 1973).

More recent studies, however, suggest that although faculty senates retain control over academic policy, they are generally weak and have only a symbolic governance function. In their analysis of policymaking and academic management, Baldridge et al. (1978) found that faculty senates "on most campuses are ineffective and weak" (p. 80). Still, their extensive study of senates and academic unions at a variety of institutions concluded that senates have considerable influence over issues of curriculum and degree requirements (Baldridge et al., 1978). Baldridge et al. (1978) conclude, however, that senates do not perform substantive governance and policymaking functions. Instead, academic departments and administrators control key decisions regarding the curriculum, faculty appointments and dismissals, budgets, and related institutional matters (Baldridge et al., 1978).

Similarly, in an extensive study of college and university management, Keller (1983) argues that faculty senates are ineffective, stating that "the old faculty senates are now ragged, poorly attended oratorical bodies in most cases" (p. 127). Indeed, Birnbaum's (1989) study of academic senates views this as part of the political model of academic organizations. Yet, Keller's (1983) criticisms extend even to faculty participation in the policymaking arena. As such, he notes 'Taculties are becoming more interested in reviewing, criticizing, and modifying policy than in making policy" (Keller, 1983, p. 127). Thus, even though Keller (1983) recognizes the importance of the faculty in academic and other institutional matters, his belief that faculty senates are ineffective supports the Baldridge et al. (1978) and Birnbaum (1989) studies.

Additional research conducted by Floyd (1985), Birnbaum (1989), and Lee (199 1) underscores further the view that senates could be more effective governance bodies. Analyzing faculty involvement in academic decision-making, Floyd (1985) claims that "Senate authority on most issues is the functional authority of providing advice to the university administration with the expectation that reasons will be given when administrative officers take a course of action different from that advised by the senate" (p. 19). Such a view suggests merely an advisory role for faculty senates. But Floyd (1983) contends that "In a few areas, the most notable of which is curriculum, senates have quasi-formal authority" (p. 19). Trow (1990) and Hines (2000) affirm this notion, suggesting that of all policy matters in the governance process, academic senates probably have most influence over educational policy. Moreover, Floyd (1985) concludes that faculty senates are useful participatory bodies for decisions on curriculum and faculty issues primarily at research institutions and elite liberal arts colleges. Baldridge et al. (1978) and Hines (2000) reach similar conclusions, implying that faculty policymaking in other institutional types (e.g., Master's Comprehensive I and 11 institutions, community colleges, public colleges) may be less significant.

Birnbaum (1989), however, offers the most careful analysis of academic senates. Using the organizational models of bureaucracy, political systems, and a collegium, Birnbaum (1989) argues that senates fail to perform manifest (planned, intended) functions such as making key decisions governing institutional resources, clarifying institutional goals and policies, program evaluation, and developing shared values through consensus. Instead, senates have symbolic value, exhibiting latent (unplanned, unintended) functions such as serving as symbols of campus authority relationships, symbols of faculty status, and as a ritual, bringing members of an institution together at regular meetings according to established rules and procedures (Birnbaum, 1989). In this manner senates can "symbolize a general faculty commitment to substantive values" (Birnbaum, 1989, p. 428) and indeed promote professional unity. These symbolic elements of senates occur in academic organizations characterized as an "organized anarchy,"; institutions with unclear goals, loosely coordinated units, and accidental decision-making (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1989). But although senates have mainly symbolic functions (Birnbaum, 1989; Lee, 1991), Birnbaum (1989) warns against dismantling them as governance bodies. Perhaps the symbolic nature of senates compels their existence on most campuses (Birnbaum, 1989; Lee, 1991).

Finally, Trow (1990), while acknowledging the weakness of academic senates, claims they have a key role in issues involving the curriculum and maintaining academic program quality. Besides influencing academic policy, "senates and their committees do defend academic values and academic freedom, and resist the "managerialism" of an activist president and a partly professional, partly bureaucratic administrative staff' (Trow, 1990, p. 27). Trow (1990) argues that senates serve to limit administrative power, but should not be used to train campus leaders. Still, his belief that faculties and senates hold considerable authority over academic affairs (Trow, 1990), contributes to the notion that faculty senates have an important academic policymaking role. On this point, Edelstein (1997) agrees, while Gilmour Jr. (1991) notes that faculties are interested in curricular issues and new academic programs.

Overall, the literature reviewed confirms that faculty senates are not strong governance bodies. Nevertheless, through their senates, college and university faculties hold legitimate and exclusive authority to formulate and adopt educational policies governing the curriculum, academic programs, instructional methods, and standards of student performance. The degree of senate influence over these academic issues may vary according to institutional type (Lee, 1991), but faculty senates generally seem to have considerable power in this policy area. Indeed, along with an institution's history and culture (Lee, 1991), the organizational arrangements of academic institutions may well affect educational policymaking (Baldridge et al., 1978).

Shared Governance and Models of Academic Ormanization and Decision-Making

As governance bodies delegated with specific decision-making functions, faculty senates operate within certain models of academic organization. These models, derived from organizational theory, provide a concise and well-established view of the governance structures typically found in most colleges and universities. A brief examination of each model is necessary for understanding the relationships between faculty and administrators, and thus patterns of shared authority in higher education.

According to the structural frame (Bolman & Deal, 1997), usually referred to as the bureaucratic model (Baldridge et al., 1978; Edelstein, 1997), academic institutions are characterized as hierarchically organized (Baldridge et al., 1978; Bolman & Deal, 1997), with clear lines of decision-making delegated to specific officers (Baldridge et al., 1978; Edelstein, 1997), formal rules, policies, and regulations (Baldridge, et al., 1978; Bolman & Deal, 1997; Edelstein, 1997), and tasks organized in order to achieve established goals and objectives (Bolman & Deal, 1997). Bureaucratic institutions thus exhibit a high degree of vertical authority (Bolman & Deal, 1997) and emphasize rules and regulations (Baldridge et al., 1978) to manage and coordinate organizational activities. Even governance bodies such as university senates operate according to well-defined rules and regulations (Baldridge, et al., 1978). Through these mechanisms, bureaucratic structures aim to achieve rationality in organizational processes and decision-making (Bolman & Deal, 1997; Edelstein, 1997). Most colleges and universities, as well as their faculty senates, exhibit elements of structural or bureaucratic organizations.

In contrast to the bureaucratic model, the collegial model (Baldridge, et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997) is frequently embraced as the normative pattern for the academic community (Baldridge et al., 1978). Collegial institutions demonstrate shared decisionmaking and consensus (Birnbaum, 1988) in professional and academic matters, stressing the professional authority of the faculty (Baldridge et al., 1978) to decide key academic and institutional issues. Moreover, a strong sense of equality (Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997) pervades the academic enterprise. Edelstein (1997) notes that in the collegial model "Interactions among the entire community are extensive and informal, and decisions are usually reached by consensus after thorough and lengthy deliberation. The function of the administration is to fulfill the will of the collegium. Institutional culture is cohesive" (p. 64). While the collegial model may be more elusive than real (Baldridge et al., 1978), college and university faculties certainly strive for consensus in academic decision-making. As this study will point out, a high degree of collegiality exists in the Saint Mark's University faculty senate. Still, broad agreement on key academic policy issues is sometimes difficult to achieve.

While collegial decision-making emphasizes consensus, the political model views conflict as endemic and normal throughout academic organizations (Baldridge, et al., 1978). Conflict frequently results from competition for power and scarce resources (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997). In political institutions there is a diffusion of power (Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997) with various interest groups and coalitions (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997; Edelstein, 1997) seeking specific goals. Each group has different goals and values (Baldridge et al., 1978) and thus decisions result from bargaining and negotiation (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997). Thus, with power decentralized throughout a college or university, coalitions form to influence key decisions and policies (Baldridge et al., 1978; Edelstein, 1997).

Baldridge et al. (1978) argue that the political model of academic organization is evident in the policy formulation process. According to Baldridge et al. (1978), policymaking is a political process, and since "Policy decisions are critical decisions, those that have a major impact on the organization's future" (Baldridge et al., 1978, p. 34), such decisions generate conflict among organizational members. Therefore, interest groups and coalitions serving on faculty senates and other university bodies, seek to promote policies and goals they believe important. As Baldridge et al. (1978) note, "Policy making becomes a vital focus of special interest group activity that permeates the university" (p. 34). Perhaps since "policy decisions are those that bind the organization to important courses of action" (Baldridge et al., 1978, p. 34), attempts to influence policymaking in the academic arena normally involve conflicting interests and values. As such, the political model offers one key perspective on the development of educational policy.

As a final model, colleges and universities are frequently referred to as an "organized anarchy" (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997). Birnbaum (1988) observes that this type of institution has "problematic goals, an unclear technology, and fluid participation" (p. 154). Indeed, decision-making structures in an "organized anarchy" are very loose, with solutions to problems usually determined accidentally or by flight (Birnbaum, 1988). Thus, many institutions lacking clear direction and systematic decision-making, particularly in the area of shared governance, reflect characteristics of an organized anarchy.

A concept closely related to organized anarchy is the symbolic frame of organizational leadership and decision-making (Bolman & Deal, 1997). The symbolic frame explains organizations as places in which people interpret the meaning of events and develop symbols, shared values, and beliefs (Bolman & Deal, 1997). As a result, an organizational culture is created, binding together members who share similar experiences and values (Birnbaum, 1988;

Bolman & Deal, 1997). Most important, as Bolman and Deal (1997) point out, organizations in the symbolic frame can be viewed as theater, in which individuals play certain roles and contribute to a belief in organizational goals. As Birnbaum (1989) suggests, academic senates have important symbolic meaning since they give faculty members enhanced status, allow them to share similar professional values, and define their authority within an institution. Thus, faculty senates exhibit key symbolic features since they give meaning to shared decision-making, keeping faculties together in striving to attain specific goals and policies.

Although elements of each model exist in every academic organization (Edelstein, 1997), this study posits that collegial and political forces characterize how the Saint Mark's University faculty senate shapes educational policy. But while senates have been criticized for attracting "faculty members more interested in political intrigue than academic policy" (Edelstein, 1997, p. 67), Saint Mark's senate appears committed to developing academic policies consistent with institutional mission and values. A more careful analysis of how this is accomplished follows.

Case Study Methodology

A case study approach (Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1995) was used in order to explore the policymaking function of the Saint Mark's faculty senate. In addition, purposeful sampling (Merriam, 1998) yielded the selection of a Master's Comprehensive I liberal arts university, since this institutional type emphasizes primarily undergraduate teaching. Consistent with case study methods, the faculty senate was selected as the case or the unit of study (Merriam, 1998). This university governance body is delegated with the authority to formulate academic policy. Furthermore, in order to explore and to understand the complexity and particular aspects (Stake, 1995) of senate policymaking, the study employed two data collection methods specific to qualitative research: (a) observation, and (b) document analysis (Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1995). Although these methods provided sufficient information on academic policymaking, they were limited in both scope and focus to facilitate easier data reduction and interpretation.

Within this framework, this study offers a descriptive as well as an interpretive (Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1995) account of the senate policymaking function within a Master's Comprehensive I University. Aside from describing and interpreting policymaking, however, the study focuses upon the process and the particular elements involved in educational policymaking. As Merriam (1998) states, "Case study is a particularly suitable design if you are interested in process" (p. 33). Given the process implicit in faculty senate deliberations and in policy formulation, a case study approach is warranted. Also, the particular phenomenon under study, educational policymaking, is the key event (Merriam, 1998) being examined.

As such, this study addresses three main questions: (a) how do faculty members develop academic policy?; (b) how do structural (bureaucratic), collegial, political, and symbolic organizational forces impact policymaking?- and (c) what policy goals ultimately drive decision-making? Analysis of these issues using a case study approach offers a better understanding of the policymaking function of the Saint Mark's faculty senate.

The Faculty Senate of Saint Mark's University and The Development of Academic Policy

Established in 185 1, Saint Mark's University is a private, coeducational Roman Catholic institution conducted by the Society of Jesus. The University is classified academically as a Master's Comprehensive I University according to the Carnegie classification of academic institutions ("A New Way of Classifying Colleges," p. A35). Emphasizing excellence in both undergraduate and graduate education, the University's mission clearly endorses "effective and rigorous teaching and learning as a primary value" (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, p. 3). Consequently, the University seeks to frame educational policies which advance its strong teaching mission, as well as its Catholic and Jesuit identities.

Within the university's governance structure, the Faculty Senate functions as "the officially recognized voice of the corporate faculty" (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, p. 9). As such, the senate is an autonomous body with its own constitution, which does not require approval from either the University Council, the main University policymaking body, or the President (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, p. 9). But while the University Council is the primary body for all campus constituencies to engage in institutional policy formation, the Faculty Senate is charged with developing and evaluating academic policies and procedures (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, pp. 4, 9). Therefore, through the senate, the faculty retains its traditional role of shaping academic policy (Baldridge, et al., 1978; Edelstein, 1997; Floyd, 1985; Hines, 2000; Trow, 1990) for all of the University's colleges and academic programs.

As constituted, all full time tenure-track faculty are senate members, with the President, Vice- President, and Secretary serving as the key officers (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000). In addition, an executive council and an executive committee manage and coordinate senate affairs. Each of these bodies is elected according to rather complex procedures. The substantive work of the faculty senate, however, is conducted by three standing committees, (a) the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee, (b) the Faculty Policies and Procedures Committee, and (c) the Elections Committee (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000). Of the three committees, it is the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee which has the authority to develop and consider actions appropriate to carrying out the University's expressed educational mission.

As a key standing committee, the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee consists of between nine and fifteen members appointed for two year terms by the Faculty Senate Executive Committee (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000). The full faculty senate approves each committee member (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000). Once the committee is established, a chairperson is elected at the beginning of each academic year (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000) to direct committee functions and responsibilities. Moreover, the full Academic Policies and Procedures Committee may establish subcommittees (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000) which assist the full committee in identifying key policy issues. After the committee is formed, it is now ready to consider curricular and other academic issues important to the entire university community.

The Policymaking Function of the Faculty Senate: A Case Study

The Academic Policies and Procedures Committee is charged "with the formulation of university-wide educational policy, including academic programs, admissions, grading, teaching methods, testing, curriculum, advising, retention and dismissal, and academic standards, as well as questions of feasibility affecting educational policy" (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, p. 12). As part of the Faculty Senate, the conu-nittee exercises one of the most significant functions in the academic enterprise-the development of official policies designed to promote sound teaching and learning. It is within this structure that faculty members from various academic disciplines identify key educational objectives and frame policies to achieve them.

Although it is difficult to construct a "model" of academic policymaking, the senate's academic policymaking role is relatively straightforward. Consistent with the statute of university governance, the faculty senate may only develop policies recommended by the University Council (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000). For example, questions involving the curriculum, academic programs, and grading criteria are referred to the faculty senate, since this body has appropriate authority to deal with educational policy. The full senate then refers the issue to the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee which reviews the issue carefully. Comn-fittee members discuss specific educational issues thoroughly, attempting to formulate several policy alternatives (Dye, 1998; Quade, 1989) for final consideration. Since faculty disciplinary interests and values influence policy decisions, certain committee members occasionally form coalitions or alliances (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997; Stone, 1997) in order to strengthen their position. Thus, as Stone (1997) claims, "Cooperation entails alliances, and alliances are at least somewhat enduring" (p. 26). In this sense, educational policymaking is a political process (Birnbaum, 1988; Stone, 1997), although the collective decisions of the full senate try to ensure that the policies formed benefit the whole academic community (Stone, 1997).

An example of such interest group formation and bargaining (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997) occurred during the early 1990s, when the faculty senate considered eliminating certain courses from the core curriculum. All Saint Mark's undergraduate students are required to take six courses for their General Education Requirements (GER). These courses include two introductory English courses, two Philosophy courses, and two History survey courses. When the University Council recommended dropping two General Education courses, faculty members on the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee, as well as the full faculty senate, began maneuvering to influence academic policy. The proposal encountered strong opposition and eventually failed to gain senate support. Faculty from disciplines such as History and English united to block any efforts to drop their General Education courses. As a result, these two key academic constituencies joined forces to retain their influence over the undergraduate curriculum.

Besides generating political conflict the debate over General Education Requirements also fostered a highly collegial senate atmosphere. Faculty members from different disciplines worked hard to reach consensus (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997) on keeping those courses considered essential for a liberal arts general education. For example, professors from the business school, recognizing the University's long commitment to liberal education, worked as equal partners (Birnbaum, 1988) with Arts and Sciences faculty members to preserve the core curriculum. Many faculty members shared similar values (Birnbaum, 1988) regarding educational goals and objectives and thus were able to agree on the general purposes of the University (Birnbaum, 1988). Even though all full time tenure-track faculty are senate members, the democratic procedures used to make decisions in both the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee, as well as the full senate (e.g., voting, amendments) contributed to a sense of professional community.

Furthermore, the policy debate sparked by the proposal to alter existing academic requirements, revealed a strong symbolic (Birnbaum, 1988, 1989; Bolman & Deal, 1997; Stone, 1997) attachment to the University's liberal arts tradition. This was a key policy goal. Members of the Academic Policies and Procedures Committee, joined by other senate faculty members, invoked ideals of the common good (Stone, 1997) and "concern for the individual student" (Saint Mark's University, Mission Statement, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, p. 3) to unite professors in a cohesive organizational culture (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997) emphasizing shared values and beliefs (Bolman & Deal, 1997). Thus, senate debate over changing educational policy, to a large degree, represented both ritual and theater (Bolman & Deal, 1997) in which faculty members acted their roles as defenders of basic institutional values (Birnbaum, 1989; Bolman & Deal, 1997). Just as political (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & deal, 1997; Edelstein, 1997; Stone, 1997) and collegial (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997) elements influenced academic policymaking, symbolic forces (Birnbaum, 1988, 1989; Bolman & Deal, 1997) proved effective in thwarting any proposed curricular changes.

Consequently, an array of organizational forces-political, collegial, and symbolicimpacted academic policymakers in the faculty senate, affirming support for the core curriculum and established educational goals. Even structural (Bolman & Deal, 1997) or bureaucratic (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997) factors were important, given the time constraints imposed upon the senate by the University Council to act on mandated policy issues (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000). Senate failure to comply with specified time limits in policy matters "shall result in the senate forfeiting its right to comment" (Saint Mark's University, Faculty Handbook, September 2000, p. 13). But although official rules (Stone, 1997) and bureaucratic procedures (Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997) enter the policy process, these were of minimal importance in the core curriculum controversy. In the end, faculty interest groups (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997) collegial decision-making (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997), and symbolic (Birnbaum, 1988, 1989; Bolman & Deal, 1997) values effectively maintained the academic status quo.

Summary and Conclusions

As the principal faculty governance body of Saint Mark's University, the faculty senate is responsible for developing educational policy. In this capacity, faculty senators exercise their traditional authority over areas such as the curriculum, academic programs, admissions criteria, instructional methods, and student evaluation (Baldridge et al., 1978; Edelstein, 1997; Floyd, 1985; Flines, 2000; Trow, 1990). The role of faculty senates in academic policymaking is thus critical (Baldridge et al., 1978; Floyd, 1985, Trow, 1990). But as Birnbaum (1989) suggests, senates serve key symbolic functions such as defining authority relationships, providing a ritual for faculty members, and promoting important professional and institutional values. Even though faculty senates have been criticized as weak and ineffective ( Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1989; Keller, 1983; Trow, 1990; Weingartner, 1996), they nevertheless continue to be viewed as important governance bodies controlling decisions governing curricular and academic issues.

As such, this study suggests that far from using rational decision theory (Dye, 1998; Quade, 1989- Stone, 1997) in formulating educational policy, the faculty senate of Saint Mark's University is influenced by political, collegial, and symbolic organizational forces. But case studies, particularly one case study, can make generalizations to other situations problematic (Lee, 1991; Merriam, 1998; Stake, 1995). As with most case studies, however, this study was presented to make the case understandable (Stake, 1995). Thus, in the policy debate over the University's core curriculum, political (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Bolman & Deal, 1997; Edelstein, 1997; Stone, 1997), collegial, and symbolic (Baldridge et al., 1978; Birnbaum, 1988; Edelstein, 1997) decision-making models best explain the behavior of the Saint Mark's faculty senate.

Overall, this study presents a descriptive and interpretive (Merriam, 1998) analysis of the policymaking function of the Saint Mark's University Faculty Senate. Whether or not the faculty senates of other Master's Comprehensive I academic institutions can be similarly studied, depends upon organizational factors as well as the issues involved. In this case, the faculty senate proved highly effective, not for formulating new educational policies, but in maintaining a curriculum it considered vital for the entire university community. As a result, it exercised a traditional function in the best interests of all campus constituencies.


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