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University of California Santa Barbara

What is the Academic Senate?

The Academic Senate represents the faculty in the shared governance of the institution. The University of California Academic Senate is one of the most highly developed and influential faculty governments in any university. It is the voice of the faculty; the one organization through which the faculty can express its views on an issue.

Shared Governance

The university has developed a dual-track system of authority and responsibility which presumes that faculty members are best qualified to chart the University's educational course, while administrators are most competent to direct its finances and organization. In practice, these domains are overlapping and interdependent. To function successfully together, faculty and administrators depend upon a high degree of consultation, trust, mutual respect, and a tradition of collegiality.

The University’s governing body, the Board of Regents, has delegated that faculty exercise direct control over academic matters and has advisory powers on all issues relating to the mission of the university including research, budget, and public service. In summary, the Senate’s chief responsibilities include:

  • Authorizing, approving, and supervising all courses (except those of certain graduate professional schools).
  • Determining the conditions of admissions, certificates, and degrees.
  • Recommending the hiring and promotion of faculty members.
  • Approving the publication of manuscripts by the University of California Press.
  • Advising on the administration of the UC libraries.
  • Assisting in the searches for deans, chancellors, and presidents.
  • Advising the university president and the chancellors on budget and administrative matters under the rules of shared governance.

The Systemwide Academic Senate, along with its ten campus divisions, of which Santa Barbara is one, provides the organizational framework that enables the faculty to exercise its right to participate in the University’s governance.


The membership of the Academic Senate is defined by Standing Order of the Regents 105.1. The Santa Barbara Division is currently home to over 1,200 faculty members, including emeriti. A list of the current membership, by department, is available here.

Professional Life

In the professional realm, Senate committees address issues as diverse as resource allocation and planning, benefits and working conditions, teaching, affirmative action and diversity, research and public service. Senate divisions allocate grants for faculty research and also manage faculty award programs to acknowledge exemplary research, teaching, mentoring and service. In addition, every division has a Committee on Privilege and Tenure to which a faculty member may turn if they believe they have a professional grievance. This committee also conducts hearings in cases of disciplinary action by the administration against Senate members.

Assuring Faculty Quality

The Senate's reputation as one of the world's strongest faculty governments derives in good measure from its crucial role in academic personnel review. In this domain, divisional Senate Committees on Academic Personnel maintain a highly respected merit system which upholds stringent professional and academic standards. CAP conducts confidential peer reviews of every candidate for a faculty position and scrutinizes the records of faculty candidates for advancement. Their review process focuses on academic and professional achievement and service to the campus or professional community. CAP works to make sure the process is not affected by outside pressures; they guard against allowing considerations that are unrelated to professional competence. Senate academic personnel committees report their conclusions and recommendations about hiring and promotions to the Chancellor, who exercises final authority over campus personnel matters. The Chancellor relies on the committee's expertise--and generally follows its advice.

Voice of the Faculty

The Senate, through its committees and its leaders, is the voice of the faculty and the major conduit for faculty initiatives. Each division communicates formally through committee reports, legislative actions, and resolutions. Extensive informal channels of communication exist as well, through contacts with campus and systemwide administrators. Division chairs and Chancellors, for example, often confer with one another about issues affecting their campuses. Informal lines of communication are strong between statewide administrators and Academic Council leaders as well. Senate leaders serve on administrative committees and advisory boards. Administrators may be invited to attend Senate committee meetings to exchange information. Information sharing extends to the highest level of the university, where the Chair and Vice Chair of the Academic Council are the official faculty representatives to the Board of Regents, positions through which they participate in the discussions at the board's regular meetings, make faculty views known, and relay Regental actions and concerns back to the Senate leadership.

Senate Service

Faculty members serve the Senate on a voluntary basis. They come to this work on each campus through appointment by the divisional Committee on Committees and confirmation by the division as a whole. At the university-wide level, the University Committee on Committees makes the appointments. Representatives to the Academic Assembly and to campus legislative bodies are either appointed or elected, depending on campus practices. Many Senate committees include student representatives nominated by the student government. Please do think about volunteering for Senate service. If you are interested in exploring Senate service, please visit our Opportunities to Serve section.

The Systemwide Academic Senate

Collectively, the ten Senate divisions at each campus form the Universitywide Academic Senate, which represents the entire University of California faculty through the Assembly of the Academic Senate. The Assembly meets to take legislative action on matters that affect more than one campus. The Universitywide Senate functions through its committees, which correspond to committees with similar responsibilities at the campus level. The Academic Council, comprised of the Chairs of each division as well as a number of Chairs of systemwide committees, acts as the executive arm of the Assembly. For more information, please visit the Universitywide Academic Senate.

Each campus has a division with either a Faculty Legislature (consisting of representatives from the various departments: this is the structure for Santa Barbara), or an assembly structure which extends voting privileges to all senate members on the campus. Each division then has its own set of committees that mirror, to some extent, those at the systemwide level.

History of the Academic Senate

Two organizational characteristics of the University of California distinguish it from other public and private research universities in the United States. One is the designation of the institution in the state constitution as a public trust, thereby giving the Board of Regents an ability to manage the institution relatively free of outside interference. The second is the remarkable power invested in the faculty by the Regents, and specifically the Academic Senate, to guide the academic and administrative affairs of the university.

The Academic Senate of the University of California was established with the creation of the university in 1868. Under the Organic Act passed that year as statutory law, the Senate and its faculty would act as administrators, instructors and researchers. This model of faculty as both managers and teachers within the university was affirmed when the university was elevated to a "public trust" under the California State Constitution in 1879. At several important junctures in the history of the University of California, the regents reaffirmed and actually strengthened the decisive role of the Senate in both the daily management and long-term planning of the institution.