The Academic Council and the Executive Committee which it elects are the chief instruments of University-wide faculty governance at Duke University. The Academic Council was created in 1962 in the wake of discontent with its predecessor, the University Council. While the University Council included some senior faculty members elected through departments, it was dominated by administrative officers of the University and their appointees. This arrangement failed to accommodate the concerns of the faculty on a number of issues, thus other means for faculty deliberations were sought. For example, during the governance crisis in 1960, when the President resigned and the Vice President in the Division of Education (Provost equivalent) was removed from office by the Trustees, the faculty forum for discussion was the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
In pursuit of a faculty dominated governance body, the Duke faculty laid the groundwork for the Academic Council shortly after the aforementioned governance crisis. The Council initially consisted of 48 elected faculty members 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 Council was structured such that elections are conducted by a Committee on Faculty Elections. The Council elects its own chair and Executive Committee (ECAC), who collectively call the meetings of the Council at monthly intervals, arrange agendas for those meetings, 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’s two-year terms were staggered via annual elections, and the Executive Committee likewise was placed on overlapping two-year terms. Eligible nominees for Chair of the Academic Council were to be drawn from the entire faculty membership and not necessarily from the membership of the Council. Council membership, however, remained a criterion for election to the Executive Committee.
The Christie Report also codified a practice recognized within the Council leadership, henceforth known as the “Christie Rule.” That Rule states: “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.” The Christie 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, and it asserts the right of being heard via this rule.
The Christie Report also 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.” A called meeting of the University Faculty adopted this suggestion. One responsibility thus entrusted to the Council was the thrice-yearly approval of degrees earned, which involves a systematic polling of the College and the Schools for presentation of lists of candidates for such approval. The awarding of honorary degrees was also entrusted to the Council.
During the past ten or more years, the President and other senior administrators 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.
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; faculty 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.
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 of Siegel's term who was selected to be the Dean of the Graduate School August 1991
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)
2015 Nan M. Jokerst (Electrical & Computer Engineering)
2017 Don Taylor (Sanford School)