The Academic Council and the Executive Committee which it elects are the chief instruments of faculty governance at Duke University. The Bylaws of the University invite the Faculty in general, and the various quorums as well, to organize themselves in representative councils for discussion of matters of interest to each faculty grouping. These councils provide for representation of considered faculty opinion to the Administration, and less directly to the Trustees and any other bodies.
The Academic Council was created in 1962, growing out of its predecessor, University Council. The University Council had consisted of administrative officers of the University and their appointees, and included some senior faculty members elected through departments. This arrangement, much dominated by the principal administrative officers of the University, failed to accommodate the concerns within the faculty on a numbers of issues. Most notable among these was a governance crisis in 1960, when the President resigned and the Vice President in the Division of Education (Provost equivalent) was removed from office in a highly differential action reached among the Trustees. The best forum then available to the faculty for discussion of this crisis was the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors. There was also a memorable meeting called by interested faculty and presided over by out-going President Hollis Edens.
In due course, the groundwork was laid for an Academic Council, initially of some 48 elected members, increasing to 100 plus eventually, with only the President and one or two other administrative officers as ex officio members. A school-based and divisional-based system of election and representation was worked out, rather than a departmental system, with a requirement from the very outset that junior ranks be represented at a significant level. The two largest academic units, Arts & Sciences and the School of Medicine, are represented by three and two divisions each. For Arts & Sciences the divisions are the Humanities, the Social Sciences, and the Natural Sciences including Mathematics. The School of Medicine quite soon came to have two divisions, the Basic Sciences and the Clinical Sciences. All five of these divisions have from the early days been large enough to elect a maximum of ten members each. Seven other schools elect members based on the size of the School Faculty, up to that same maximum of ten representatives.
Academic Council elections are conducted by a Committee on Faculty Elections, operating initially through the office of the University Secretary, but now wholly independent of the administration. The Council elects its own officers and Executive Committee (ECAC), who call the meetings of the Council at generally monthly intervals, arrange agendas for the meetings, meet more often themselves as an Executive Committee, and serve as the Committee on Committees with respect to faculty representation on University committees. In 1972, a committee chaired by Professor George Christie of the School of Law fine-tuned the Academic Council in a series of reforms. The Council two-year terms were staggered by having annual elections, and the Executive Committee likewise was placed on overlapping two-year terms. The election of a chair of the Academic Council was made quite separate, and not necessarily from among the immediate membership of the Council. The chair was elected for a two-year term, with an overlap of a few months with the previous chairman. The election of the members of the Executive Committee is from the Council membership. Each spring, once the new Council membership is known, ECAC is charged to present a slate of candidates double the number of open positions among the seven regular members of ECAC. There is provision for introduction of alternate slates from the floor of the Council, subject to a requirement that any candidates so presented must have agreed to serve if elected. The Christie Report also codified a practice already recognized within the Council leadership, henceforth known as the “Christie Rule.” That Rule is as follows: “except in emergencies, all major decisions and plans of the administration that significantly affect academic affairs should be submitted to the Academic Council for an expression of views prior to implementation or submission to the Board of Trustees. The views expressed by the Academic Council should be transmitted, along with the Administration’s proposals, to the Board of Trustees when these plans and decisions are considered by the Board of Trustees.” That Rule succinctly defines the role of faculty governance at Duke University. The Academic Council is only to a very limited extent a legislature. Its primary role is advisory, but it asserts the right of being heard in that advice and of having it considered, under a “Rule” that requires constant and vigilant tending.
From the beginning the Academic Council had the responsibility of approving award of honorary degrees in behalf of the Faculty, and the Christie Report suggested that “the decision-making powers now still retained by the University Faculty, insofar as these powers pertain to University governance, should be delegated to the Academic Council.” In fairly short order the University Faculty called meeting adopted this suggestion, after that time customarily meeting only once each year in an “Annual Meeting” devoted primarily to State of the University reports from the President and the Chair of the Academic Council. The principal responsibility thus entrusted to the Council was the thrice-yearly approval on behalf of the Faculty of degrees earned in course, a systematic polling of the College and the ten Schools (including the Graduate School) for presentation of lists of candidates for such approval. This process, customarily concluded by a motion of general approval recommending the candidates to the Board of Trustees for final approval, and an entrusting of the Provost to make any adjustments in the name of the Faculty, is subject to a special quorum requirement, “the members present,” guaranteeing that this process will not be at the hazard of Council attendance. During the past ten or more years, the President and the Provost (members ex officio of the Academic Council) have participated actively in Council meetings and discussion, including responding to official questions raised formally by members of the faculty. Quite early in its existence the Academic Council decided that its meetings should be open, accessible to all interested persons including the press. The mode of Executive Session (members of the faculty only) has been narrowly limited to discussion of honorary degree candidates and occasionally of impending searches for principal administrative officers of the University. As a result, the Academic Council has become the principal open forum for discussion of all matters of interest to the University community. Meeting some thirty or more times each year, ECAC identifies faculty nominees for some fifty-five or more University committees (including special task forces, for example, and review committees for deans and University officers). One faculty committee, the Faculty Hearing Committee, is elected by the Council directly each year, from a slate of nominees developed by ECAC. For University committees ECAC usually nominates a slate of faculty choices for consideration by the appointing officer, usually after discussing preferences with that officer. It appoints Council committees directly and also recommends the faculty representatives on the Trustee committees. It is a recognized principle of faculty governance that “faculty representatives” can arise only through this process, and such faculty representatives are understood to be accountable to ECAC for their participation in the various committees, task forces, or boards on which they may serve. ECAC systematically surveys all the bodies on which faculty representatives serve, by report of the committee chair, for activities of that committee over the year. Committee chairs are frequently asked to report to the Academic Council, and even more frequently to report at meetings of ECAC. It is understood that at times administrative officers may wish to appoint faculty members entirely of their own choosing to various groups or committees, usually of some special and temporary purpose, but it is also understood that these faculty do not then represent the faculty as a part of University governance.
Subjects of noteworthy interest within the Academic Council in recent years have included the globalization of Duke’s academic programs; university finances and related planning; faculty salary equity reports within broad areas of the university; diversity and the extent of progress in recruiting and retaining minority faculty; the intellectual climate of residential undergraduate student life; library planning; prevention of harassment; proposals of various new departments, renamed departments, and new or renamed degree programs; tenure policy and procedure; intercollegiate athletics; faculty grievance procedure; and the process of joint and dual degree programs with other universities. It should be understood that still more extensive matters are addressed within ECAC, although with no published record. Whatever ECAC thinks should receive wider attention is generally put on the agenda of the Academic Council.
To follow is the succession of Academic Council chairs over the years:
Elected for one-year terms:
1962, William B. Hamilton (History)
1963, William B. Hamilton (History)
1964, Richard L. Watson (History)
1965, Richard L. Watson (History)
1966, Francis Paschal (Law)
1967, William Cartwright (Education)
1968, William Cartwright (Education)
1969, Donald J. Fluke (Zoology)
1970, Donald J. Fluke (Zoology)
1971, Joel Colton (History)
1972, Joel Colton (History)
Elected for two-year terms:
1973 Carl Anderson (English)
1975 Richard L. Watson (History)
1977 Anne F. Scott (History)
1979 Lawrence Evans (Physics)
1981 E. Roy Weintraub (Economics) (served one year)
1982 Arie Lewin (Business)
1984 Arie Lewin (Business)
1986 Philip Stewart (Romance Studies)
1988 Allan Kornberg (Political Science)
1990 Lewis Siegel (Biochemistry) (served one year)
1991 E. Roy Weintraub (Economics) (elected to fill out the second year)
1992 Richard Burton (Fuqua School of Business)
1994 James Siedow (Botany)
1996 Leonard Spicer (Biochemistry & Radiology)
1998 Robert Mosteller (Law)
2000 Peter Burian (Classical Studies)
2002 Nancy Allen (Rheumatology/Medicine) (elected for one additional year)
2005 Paul Haagen(Law)
2007 Paula McClain (Political Science)
2009 Craig Henriquez (Biomedical Engineering & Computer Science)
2011 M. Susan Lozier (Earth & Ocean Sciences)
2013 Joshua Socolar (Physics)