The Queen's University Senate Evolution of Composition and Function 1842 -1995

Margaret Hooey
March, 1996


Issues relating to the composition and functioning of the Senate have occupied a good deal of the Senate's time in recent years and the matter of Senate composition is once again before the Senate. The Chair of the Operations Review Committee has suggested that there would be value in future discussions if there was available a consolidated account of how the Senate has developed since its beginnings.

The document that follows traces functional and compositional changes to the Senate through its history. It is based on a reading of Senate minutes since 1842 which has yielded a vivid account of the evolution of the University, and other available documents relating to constitutional matters. Some personal views and questions which have arisen out of this review are included in the final section of the report.

Senate Functions

The Royal Charter of 1841 granted to the Board of Trustees the authority to constitute "the College Senate"

"for the exercise of academical superintendence and discipline over the students and all other persons resident within same, and with such powers for maintaining order and enforcing obedience to the Statutes, Rules and Ordinances of the said College, as to the said Board may seem meet and necessary."

The Charter also provided that

"the College Senate shall have power and authority to confer the degrees of Bachelor, Master, and Doctor, in the several Arts and Faculties."

The Queen's University Senate met for the first time on March 7, 1842. As originally constituted, it was to include the Principal and all of the professors of the University. It was initially composed of the Principal, 1 professor and 3 trustees who were to serve until professors were appointed and could replace them.

During its first 20 years, the Queen's University Senate directly managed all of the academic planning and academic housekeeping tasks for the University. The Senate decided on all matters relating to curriculum and course content. It dealt with applications for admission, dealt with special cases such as applications for exemptions and deferrals, awarded bursaries and prizes (after the candidates had presented themselves), arranged for examinations, conducted oral examinations, and meted out sanctions for disciplinary infractions (i.e. a 5 shilling penalty for a student caught sneaking in late through a window).

The first comprehensive set of procedures governing the government and management of the University (then Queen's College) was framed by the Board of Trustees in 1862. One of the most notable features of the 1862 by-laws was formal provision for Faculty Boards to administer the affairs of each faculty. At that time there were four faculties-Arts, Theology, Law and Medicine. This provision probably represents the first major step toward delegation of some aspects of the "academical superintendence" given to the Senate by the Royal Charter.

As the University expanded, Senate business grew heavier and various committees were struck to deal with specific subjects such as scholarships, admissions, degree regulations, requests for course changes, calendar publications, timetables and honorary degrees.

Although after 1860 some academic matters were being handled initially by the Faculties or the Senate's own ad hoc committees, the Senate itself continued to handle a broad mix of issues ranging from the establishment of new academic programs, and approval of earned and honorary degrees to administrative details such as hiring the printer for calendars, developing examination regulations and arranging for collection of fees. The main focus of the Senate revolved around the academic and non-academic activities of students. A substantial proportion of Senate time was devoted to considering student disciplinary infractions and imposing sanctions. There are few references to matters affecting members of faculty. An exception to this was a petition in 1908 which complained that faculty salaries compared badly with those of sister institutions.

In 1882, the powers of the Senate were elaborated but major revisions were not made until the 1912 Act of Parliament completed the separation of the University from the Church and gave the Board of Trustees the power to revise the Senate constitution after consultation with the Senate, making future changes to the Senate possible without federal legislation. In 1913, immediately following the passage of the Act, the Board of Trustees approved a new composition for the Senate as well as a revised statement of functions. At the same time, the Board spelled out the composition and functions of the Faculty Boards.

The Senate functions established in 1913 were as follows:

"To determine all matters of academic character which concern the University as a whole;

To consider and determine as to all courses of study leading to a degree, including conditions of Matriculation, on recommendation of the respective Faculty Boards. But the Senate shall not embody any changes without having previously presented these to the Faculty;

To recommend to the Governing Boards the establishment of any additional Faculty, Department, Chair, or Course of Instruction in the University;

To be the medium of communication between the Alma Mater Society and the Governing Bodies;

To determine all regulations regarding Social Functions of the students within the University, and regarding the University library and University Reading Rooms;

To publish the University Calendar;

To conduct examinations;

To grant degrees;

To award University Scholarships, medals and prizes;

To enforce the Statutes, Rules and ordinances of the University;

And generally, to make such recommendations to the Governing Board as may be deemed expedient for promoting the interests of the University."

The functions of the Faculty Boards established in 1913 were as follows:

"To recommend to the Senate courses of study leading to a degree, and the conditions of admission;

To decide upon applications for admission or for change of course, subject to regulations of Senate;

To submit to the Senate names for both ordinary and honorary degrees;

To arrange the time-table for classes and edit the Faculty Calendar, subject to the approval of the Senate;

To control registration, and determine the amount of fees and manner of payment, subject to regulations of Senate;

To deal with class failures;

To exercise academic supervision over students;

To make such recommendations to the Senate as may be deemed expedient for promoting the efficiency of the University;

To award Faculty Scholarships, medals and prizes;

To appoint such sessional assistants, fellows, tutors and demonstrators as shall be needed to give instruction in the subjects taught by the Faculty;

To pass such regulations and by-laws as may be necessary for the exercise of the functions of the Faculty."

From 1913 to the mid 1960's, the minutes of the Senate reveal an increasing degree of delegation of academic responsibilities to the Faculty Boards. The Senate itself was focussing more on its role of shaping the academic direction of the University itself while at the same time continuing to manage a variety of administrative chores-such as assuring itself that students did not have tuberculosis.

During this period, however, concern was expressed on several occasions that the Senate was not as effective as it should be in representing the academic aspirations of the institution as a whole. Evidence of this is found, for instance, in the Senate minutes of 1937, 1951, and in the mid 1960's.

March 1, 1937

Principal Wallace stated that

"all matters of educational policy affecting the University should be discussed in the should not be merely a recording body."

September 22, 1937

"The Committee appointed to consider the personnel of Senate recommended that Senate remain as at present constituted. The Committee recommend further that the Principal call together on one or two occasions during the year, to meet with Senate, all full professors, the Registrar and the Librarian, to discuss educational problems and other matters of interest to the University."

September 19, 1951

"Principal Mackintosh stated that he wanted the Senate to take full responsibility for the duties accorded to it and to advise on general academic matters....He felt it was important that a body with collective responsibility should have some knowledge of what was going on within the University. He suggested that the Senate consider having a 15 to 20 minute period preliminary to each meeting at which members of staff...would be invited in."

January 25, 1967

It was agreed

"that a Committee be appointed to examine the structure and proceedings of the Senate and to recommend ways and means by which the business of the Senate may be transacted more expeditiously."

In presenting the motion, Vice-Principal Gibson pointed out that

"the Senate was the highest academic authority of the University and as such had to be fully informed about academic matters and needed time for careful study and planning of academic growth."

July 11, 1967

"The unprecedented growth and expansion of the University in the '60's has caused a devolution of functions....Responsibilities formerly carried by the Senate are now being fulfilled admirably by other bodies and while preserving the power to deal with many of its traditional functions, the Senate is now free to assume a new and vital role in the development of the University...a policy-making body rather than an Administrative Board was envisaged, a body that will concentrate on issues of central importance..."

Discussions in the mid '60's led to the first major changes in the structure of the Senate since 1913. Certain functions-those of campus planning and selection of a new Principal-would be shared with the Board of Trustees, a new system of standing committees was established and the membership of the Senate was revised, notably with the addition of students. At this time the Senate was provided with a full time Secretary and a Secretariat with a research capacity "to give effect to the revitalized role for the Senate."

It was the intention that, while the reorganized Senate would exercise a review function and maintain the power to ensure the consistency of policies of Faculties and Schools with the overall interests of the University, the Senate would be mainly concerned with defining "the principal objectives of the University, to establish priorities for the attainment of these objectives and to translate these objectives and priorities into University policy."

The Senate functions approved in 1968 were as follows:

  1. To determine all matters of an academic character which affect the University as a whole, and to be concerned with all matters which affect the welfare of the University.
  2. To engage in planning the development of the University.
  3. To establish, subject to the ratification of the Board of Trustees, any faculty, school, institute, department or chair.
  4. To approve, on the recommendation of the respective Faculty Boards and Schools, all programmes of study leading to a degree, diploma or certificate, together with the conditions of admission thereto and the qualifications and standards required.
  5. To publish the University Calendars.
  6. To conduct examinations and to decide finally all matters relating thereto.
  7. To establish and to award fellowships, scholarships, medals and prizes.
  8. To grant all degrees, diplomas and certificates awarded by the University.
  9. To review the operating budget of the University so as to advise the principal on its consistency with the general needs and interests of the University and on any considerations for future budgeting.
  10. To advise the Board of Trustees through the Principal as to what buildings and other capital facilities are required to meet the needs of the University and in what order of priority.
  11. To be responsible for and to have authority to deal with all matters pertaining to the well-being and discipline of students.
  12. To establish policies and procedures to be followed in the appointment of the members of the academic staff, vice-principals, deans and heads of departments, and policies concerning the promotion, tenure, termination of appointment, sabbatical leave and other leave of members of the academic staff.
  13. To establish university policy governing the various central services of the University such as the library system and the computer system.
  14. To share with the Board of Trustees the responsibility for the selection and appointment of the Principal. In the appointment of a Principal the Board of Trustees shall act on the advice of a Committee to be composed equally of members of the Board and members of the Senate.
  15. To appoint such committees as it may deem desirable and to delegate to any such committee any of its powers.

The decade following the Senate reorganization of 1968 was marked by vigorous activity in a number of areas. There was renewed emphasis in the Senate on academic planning with the establishment of long term enrolment goals. An Office of Academic Planning was established to support the Senate in this activity. A number of new Centres, Institutes and Schools were established. One effect of the 1968 revisions was to involve the Senate in reviewing the budget; budget matters had previously been the exclusive reserve of the Board of Trustees.

During the period from 1969 to the early '80's, formal policies and procedures were developed by the Senate on a number of matters, such as tenure and grievance procedures, designed to ensure fairness in decision-making affecting faculty and students. In fact, much of the Senate business in the '70's concerned policies relating to conditions of employment of faculty in a major shift of focus from the early years of the Senate.

Some "fine-tuning" of the 1968 revisions was undertaken in 1970-71. The main feature of these changes was a sharp increase in the number of students on the Senate. For the first time, the principle of the faculty constituting a majority voice on the Senate was in jeopardy.

The vigorous Senate activity of the 1970's lessened somewhat in the 1980's. The University had reached a "steady state" in enrolment and policies were now in place governing many of the University's activities. Much of the Senate debate during the '80's reflected current concerns felt widely in society about human rights issues.

The concern raised in earlier decades, that the central role of the Senate in academic policy affairs was being eroded, was raised again in 1987. In a discussion paper, the Operations Review Committee, referring to the emergence of a strong committee of Deans and Vice-Principals, stated

"the Committee had identified a recurring concern that administrative officers were using more authority than in the past and that the Senate appeared to be somewhat less active than previously."

The Committee went on to suggest:

"there should be in place processes which make it possible for the Senate and its Committees to be apprised of crucial issues that affect the academic life of the University, and to develop relevant policies accordingly."

Reflecting on the decentralized nature of the University, the Committee asked "Has the sense of University been lost?"

The same Committee in 1993 and 1994 expressed the

"conviction that the effectiveness of the Queen's University Senate has been diminished over the years....Our view is that the Senate has become increasingly removed from its central function....if it is to remain in any way credible, the Senate must become more involved and more responsible for the academic direction of the University."

The Senate adopted recommendations designed to ensure that it was sufficiently informed and knowledgeable that it could provide the desired academic leadership. Some of these were not unlike those suggested by Principal Wallace in 1937 and Principal Mackintosh in 1951 [See page 4.]. For instance, the Senate agreed to plan an annual half day meeting of Senate Committee Chairs with the Principal and senior officers in September on major policy issues likely to be on the Senate agenda. Other measures designed to strengthen the Senate in its role were:

  • early debate on emerging policy issues
  • regular theme sessions
  • greater use of the Committee of the Whole as a way of generating ideas and input.

The period from 1993 to the present has been characterized by continued concern and discussions about how well the Senate is fulfilling its role and, more broadly, how well the governance structures at Queen's are serving the University. In 1993 and 1994 the Senate joined the Board of Trustees in two "retreats" on governance, the first time in the history of the University that the two bodies have jointly discussed concerns about governance. In 1995, another element that undoubtedly has implications for the functioning of the Senate was introduced with the decision of faculty to form a collective bargaining unit.

The Composition of the Senate

Table 1. Changes in the apportionment of Senate membership, 1841-1995



University Enrolment

Senate Composition
Ex Officio Faculty Students Staff Total
1841-42   1 4     5
1913: The Senate becomes a representative body
1913-14 1,200 7 11     18
1921-22   6 11     17
1953-54 2,500 6 10*     16
1958-59   7 11     18
1963-64   9 13     22
1966-67   11 13     24
1967-68   14 17     31
1968: The Senate embraces the principle of student representation
1968-69 6,000 17 30 4   51
1970-71   18 30 4   52
1971-72   17 31 14 0 62
1976-77   16 31 14 0 61
1979-80 11,000 16 31 15 0 62
1980-81   17 31 15 0 63
1983-84   17 32 16 0 65
1984-85   19 34 16 0 69
1988-89   19 34 16 0 69
1989-90   17 34 16 0 67
1990-91   18 36 15 0 69
1994: The Senate embraces the principle of staff representation
1994-95   18 36 15 2 71
1995-96 13,000 17 36 15 2 70
1996-97   16 36 15 2 69

* The number of faculty members elected by the Theological College was reduced from 2 to 1 in 1953.

From its original 5 members, the Senate grew as the University's professoriate grew until 1913 when, following passage of the 1912 Act of Parliament, it was reconstituted by the Board of Trustees [See Table 1.]. Henceforth, it was to include as ex officio members

  • the Principal,

  • the Vice-Principal,

  • the Principal of Queen's Theological College, and

  • the Deans of Arts, Medicine, Science and Education.

All professors, associate professors and assistant professors were eligible for election to the Senate by their faculty board, with 3 being elected from Arts, 2 from Medicine, 3 from Science and 3 from Education. With 7 ex officio members and 11 members elected from the faculty, the faculty held a clear majority on the Senate.

Apart from minor fluctuations in ex officio and elected membership, there were no significant changes in Senate composition until the late 1950's. The period following 1958 was marked by the addition of four new Faculties, substantial enrolment increases and expansion of the central administration. Between 1958 and 1968, ex officio membership grew from 6 to 14 to accommodate the Deans of the new Faculties, a Dean of Student Affairs, the University Librarian and 2 new Vice-Principals. To maintain the faculty majority in the Senate, the elected component of its membership also increased-from 10 to 17, the Senate itself almost doubling in size. Some reservations were expressed in the Senate on December 3, 1965 about the inclusion of administrators who were not directly concerned with academic decision-making in the ex officio membership of the Senate. The question was not resolved:

"The Chairman raised the question of the eligibility of the Vice-Principals (Administration) and (Finance) for places on the Senate pointing out that in earlier years the duties of the Vice-Principal had been academic in character....The debate on this matter revealed clearly that many issues arose in the Senate on which the knowledge and advice of both Vice-Principals were needed. Attendance by special invitation or membership without the privilege of voting were suggested as possible solutions but no action was taken. It was agreed to leave the situation unchanged for the moment in order to see how it would work out this session."

The changes in Canadian society that drove the expansion of the universities in the 1960's also led to a reevaluation and revision of Senate functions and composition. In their first report to the Senate in 1967, the Committee on Structure and Procedures of the Senate stated, with respect to composition, that

"Senate composition should be altered so as to make it more fully representative of the principal academic elements of the University....eligibility for election should be open to...all full-time members of the faculty of the University and all registered full-time intramural students of the University. Student representation on the Senate...would open an exceedingly useful channel of communication, and would be an appropriate recognition of the aspirations of a large and vitally important segment of the University."

As to how the membership of the Senate should be apportioned among the constituent elements of the academic community, the Committee recommended that

"the faculty component...should be apportioned among the Faculties and Schools, and that each Faculty or School should have a quota conforming roughly to the size of the Faculty."

and that student membership

"be limited to four, and that at least one of the four be a graduate student in view of the significant differences between the interests and problems of graduates and undergraduates."

It also recommended that

"All members of the Senate should have full and equal rights and privileges in that body in voting and in every other respect"

Nevertheless, the Committee voiced its concern about the trade-off between the size of the Senate and its effectiveness:

"the Senate should have power to add to its numbers, but that, if it is not to become an unwieldy body, an upper limit should be set and maintained in the neighbourhood of fifty."

and emphasized that

"addition of further ex officio members should be made only with the consent of the Senate."

These principles were reiterated in the Committee's second report to the Senate along with the recommendation that

"the proportion of elected to ex officio members should be established and maintained approximately in the ratio of two to one."

The Committee also considered for the first time, the nature of individuals' membership in the Senate. It concluded that

"The first principle of Senate membership is participation as opposed to representation."

and this principle became firmly embedded in all future reviews of the Senate.

The Committee's recommendations on composition were approved by the Senate on October 30, 1967 and, with some minor changes, implemented the following year. The reconstituted Senate was 51 strong and included:

17 ex officio members-

  • the Principal,
  • the Vice-Principals (4),
  • the Principal of Queen's Theological College,
  • the Deans of Arts and Science, Applied Science, Medicine, Law, Education, Graduate Studies and Research, Business, Nursing,
  • the Dean of Student Affairs
  • the Chief Librarian,
  • and the Registrar;

30 members elected from the faculty-

  • 9 from Arts and Science,
  • 5 from Applied Science,
  • 4 from Medicine,
  • 3 from Law,
  • 3 from Business,
  • 4 from Graduate Studies,
  • 1 from Education,
  • 1 from the Theological College; and
  • 4 members elected by the students on a campus-wide basis.

The review of Senate functions and composition was to continue through 1969 and 1970 and lead to further changes to the Senate's composition. In its report to the Senate in 1970, the Joint Nominating-Operations Committee stated that

"The contribution of students to the University must be recognized by effective membership."

while emphasizing that

"The faculty must have the major voice in determining the academic policy of the university...[and that this]..."requires that elected faculty constitute a majority of the Senate."

In terms of Senate composition, the result of this review was the addition of 10 student senators and a change to election of student senators on a faculty and school basis. The President of the AMS was added as an ex officio member and the Registrar removed. Total membership of the Senate increased to 62, with 17 ex officio members, 31 senators elected by the faculty and 14 senators elected by the students.

Concern was expressed at this time about the increase in the size of the Senate beyond the upper limit of 50 that had been recommended in 1968. It was justified in the Report of the Joint Nominating-Operations Committee as following from the changes to Senate functions:

"If the Senate is seen as the overall planning body, then a larger size may permit more adequate expression of varying points of view."

While Senate composition remained relatively unchanged over the next decade and increased only slowly in the period from 1980 to 1994, the issue of size, effectiveness and the appropriateness of membership was revisited with each redistribution of Senate seats and with each addition to the ex officio membership.

September 28, 1972

In a debate over the redistribution of Senate seats and a reduction in the number of senators from the Faculty of Law, it was argued that

"historically, there were three faculty members from each of the major Faculties, and...this number at least was necessary in order to represent the divergence of opinion within a Faculty. A reduction in the number would increase difficulties in communication, and reduce the possibilities of participation in decision-making was less costly to increase the size of the Senate than to reduce the functioning capacity of the Faculty of Law."

It was the view of the Nominating Committee, however, that

"the number of members should be roughly in harmony with the size of the Faculty...[and]...the Senate should not be made larger solely as a means of getting round the issue...each group should ensure that it had ways of getting its opinions into the Senate...while at the same time keeping the Senate to a manageable size."

June, 1976

Eligibility provisions for membership in the Senate were expanded to recognize the increased numbers of part-time students and faculty and would now include

"Faculty members, and instructors responsible for a course or a section of a course leading to a degree....[and]...Students who are registered in one or more courses for credit towards a Queen's degree."

May 1978

The Operations Review Committee recommended that the Senate not widen the constituencies from which Senate members were elected.

"It was the Committee's view that professional librarians could make their greatest contribution to the functioning of the Senate through membership on appropriate Senate committees."

May 22, 1980

The proposal to add the Dean of Women as an ex officio member of the Senate was seen to have

"implications for the structure of the Senate, in that the principle had always been upheld of having a majority of elected faculty Senators. The addition of one ex-officio member would upset this balance, and the Nominating Committee felt that such a step should not be taken without full consideration of the issues involved."

The Dean of Women was added to the ex officio membership, nevertheless.

May 24, 1984

In response to a proposal that an additional vice-principal and the President of the Faculty Association be added to the ex officio membership of the Senate, the Operations Review Committee considered

"the possibility of reducing the numbers of Senators by having administrators available to advise without having them as ex-officio members...[but]...noted that throughout the history of the Senate, administrators had been members of the Senate and it did not consider it advisable to change that principle at this stage."

The Committee also noted that

"the addition of two ex-officio members to Senate jeopardizes one of the important underlying principles of Senate membership, that elected faculty have a majority voice."

The removal of ex officio members, however, was deemed unfeasible and the Committee recommended that

"in order to maintain the balance, it would be preferable, rather than to remove ex officio members, to add two further faculty members."

With respect to the inclusion of the President of the Faculty Association as an ex officio member the Committee commented

"that placing 'political' appointees on the Senate was not in line with the general functioning of the Senate."

The change was justified, however, by the precedent of the ex officio membership of the President of the AMS and

"the special relationship existing at Queen's between the Faculty Association and the University."

May 24, 1990

The need to maintain the faculty majority on the Senate was raised again in 1990:

"In reviewing the membership of the Senate the Operations Review Committee had found that, over the last year, the principle of faculty majority in the Senate had not been upheld because of an increase in ex officio members. The committee had considered several alternatives to bring the membership back into balance, and had decided that it would be appropriate to recommend an increase in faculty numbers."

The question of including staff on the Senate was finally revisited in 1993 and 1994 when the next major review of Senate functions and composition was undertaken. Central to the review were the questions of the overall size of the Senate and the roles of the ex officio members.

In its May, 1993 Report, Review of Senate Operations - A Discussion Paper, the Operations Review Committee reflected on the issues, noting that

"If the idea of non-academic membership on Senate is adopted, the question of the number of representatives remains... This becomes problematic, since any increase in ex officio positions would eliminate the faculty majority provision. In order to preserve the faculty majority, the Senate would have to grow in size. It is the Committee's view that the current Senate size is already too large for maximum effectiveness, and this general observation led the Committee to a review of ex officio membership.

At present all Vice-Principals and Deans are voting members. The Committee considered whether, whereas some number of votes representing ex-officio opinion is necessary, a vote for each member is appropriate. The Committee also considered the view that senior administrators are a Senate resource, and should receive information from, and bring information to, the Senate on this basis. The appropriateness of ex-officio positions for representative groups, such as QUFA, AMS, and GSS, should also be reviewed. The Senate must decide how best to address the issue of numbers of voting members, while preserving the desirable input from the various constituencies."

In 1994, the Senate agreed to the addition to its membership of 2 senators to be elected from the non-academic staff of the University. Total membership rose to 71-18 ex officio members, 36 members elected by the faculty and 15 members elected by the students, in addition to the 2 members of staff.

The review of Senate composition continued and, in its June, 1995 Report on the Composition of the Senate, the Operations Review Committee recommended that the Senate be restructured so that its ex officio component include

"only the core academic administrators - the Principal, only two Vice Principals (Vice Principal Academic and Vice Principal Research), only the Deans of academic units (Faculties or Schools), and the principal of the Theological College. The rationale for this ex officio complement is that the smaller number allows for a smaller Senate and only those involved in direct academic decision-making are included...Senior administrators without ex officio status are welcome at Senate meetings in the role of guests and resource persons."

The Presidents of the AMS, GSS and QUFA were to be excluded from ex officio membership because

"the addition to the ex officio membership on Senate of the executive heads of particular groups to represent these groups' interest appear[s] to be at odds with the basic Senate principle of participation not representation...and...the AMS, GSS and QUFA Presidents are necessarily in a conflict of interest situation."

The Committee acknowledged that a cogent argument could be made to give ex officio status to any of the omitted administrative positions but added that this would defeat the purpose of trying to reduce the size of the Senate.

This proposal did not meet with the approval of the Senate, however, and, in September, 1995, the Operations Review Committee presented a new proposal, commenting that the first, small model was "good but flawed" because of the ex officio positions it would exclude. The revised proposal recommended the inclusion of

"all the senior university administrators (the Principal, the Vice-Principals, Deans and the Principal of the Theological College, Chief Librarian) and the AMS President and the GSS President,"

and an increase in the number of faculty senators to accommodate the increased ex officio,student and staff components of the Senate. A further revision in December 1995 would have the effect of moving Society and Association Presidents to the elected membership.

It also recommended that the Senate adopt the following as a principle:

"Ex officio members of Senate will include all those persons at the Vice Principal and Dean levels (including the Chief Librarian) Furthermore, should a new position at these levels be instituted within the university, the incumbent will automatically become a member of Senate."

that the Senate be constituted in the following proportions (Principle 3): 54% faculty 19% ex-officio 23% students (19% undergraduates; 4% graduates, both in proportion to full-time enrollments) 4% staff;

and, knowing that the number of senior administrative positions may change over time, that:

a) faculty members never be less than 54% b) ex officio members never be more than 19% c) student members never be less than 23 %; and d) staff members never be less than 4 %.

This proposal combines a number of factors and pressures that reflect the current University environment:

a desire for proportionate representation of all groups within the University community, the necessity of maintaining a faculty majority on the Senate, and the inclusion of all senior members of the administration as full voting members.

If the proposal is accepted by the Senate, its membership will increase from 67 to 84.

[Note: The proposal was rejected by Senate in March, 1996]

Chronicle of Significant Events in the History of the Senate
Relating to its Composition and Functions

1841: Charter gave the Board of Trustees authority to constitute a Senate.

1842-63: Senate was composed of the Principal and all professors

The Senate directly handled all academic-related business of the University, much of which was subsequently handled by committees, Faculty Boards, and academic and non-academic administrators.

1862: The Board of Trustees established Faculty Boards and provided for delegation of powers to the boards.

1912: Act of Parliament of Canada gave the Board of Trustees the power to make future changes to the Senate without government legislation.

1913: The Board of Trustees revised the composition of the Senate to make it a representative body-the faculty component being set at 11 -proportional by the size of the faculty and elected by Faculty Boards. There were 7 ex officio members.

The Board also established a set of functions for the Senate which remained in place until 1968.

The Board established a set of functions for Faculty Boards.

1913-68: Progressive delegation of functions to Faculty Boards.

1935-95: Periodic concerns expressed about the ability of the Senate to give academic leadership.

1958-68: Growth of ex officio component from 6 to 14 with an accompanying increase of faculty from 10 to 17 to preserve the faculty majority on the Senate.

1965: Question first raised about the appropriateness of full Senate membership of administrators whose role was not primarily academic.

1967-68:Major Senate reorganization featuring:

  • revised composition and functions,
  • creation of a system of standing committees,
  • inclusion of students in membership,
  • the beginning of shared functions with the Board of Trustees,
  • establishment of the Senate Secretariat and the first full-time Secretary,
  • renewed emphasis on the planning function of the Senate.

Membership increased to a total of 51-17 ex officio, 30 faculty and 4 students.

1971-72: Increase in student membership from 4 to 14

Creation of ex officio position for the President of the AMS

1971-95: The size of the Senate driven by the principle of maintaining the faculty majority.

Many minor adjustments to composition to accommodate changes in ex officio membership and to maintain proportional representation among Faculties.

1980:Creation of ex officio position for the President of the Faculty Association.

1993-94: First joint discussions with the Board of Trustees on governance matters.

1994: Inclusion of staff in membership.

June/95: Proposal (not approved) to re-structure the composition to include as ex officio members only those administrators involved in direct academic decision making and to exclude the Presidents of the Faculty Association, the AMS and the GSS.

Sept./95: Revised proposal (not approved) recommended inclusion of "all the senior administrators (the Principal, the Vice-Principals, Deans and the Principal of the Theological College, Chief Librarian) and the AMS President and the GSS President"

Mar/96: Further revised proposal (not approved) recommended moving Society and Association Presidents to the elected membership and established a set of guidelines determining future apportionment of Senate seats among faculty, ex officio, students and staff. Total membership would increase to 84.

1995-96: Beginning of examination of the implications of the faculty bargaining unit on the role and functions of the Senate.



  1. Prior to 1912, the University's formal name was Queen's College.

  2. These degree granting powers were later confirmed by statutes of the Parliament of Canada and the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. 

  3. Statutes, Rules and Ordinances of Queen's College, January, 1883.

  4. Board of Trustees, 1913.

  5. Board of Trustees, 1913. 

  6. Second Report of the Committee on Structure and Procedures of the Senate, 1967. 

  7. Second Report of the Committee on Structure and Procedures of the Senate, 1967.

  8. Ibid.

  9. This was later amended to read "To have responsibility for the well-being of students and to have final responsibility for their discipline including the power to dismiss students for cause. The Alma Mater Society of Queen's University and the Graduate Student Society share responsibility for, and have the right to promote, the well-being of their members. In the discharge of its disciplinary power, the Senate shall have regard to the initial responsibility of the Alma Mater Society of Queen's University and the Graduate Student Society for the discipline of students in non-academic matters; the Senate may review the decisions of the Alma Mater Society of Queen's University and the Graduate Student Society with respect to the discipline of students, and may take such action as it deems appropriate."

  10. Operations Review Committee, 1987. 

  11. Senate Minutes, December 3, 1965. 

  12. Senate Minutes, October, 30, 1967, January 9, 1968 and February 26, 1968.

  13. There has, in fact, been one instance in the early 1970's in which the Vice-Principal (Development and Information) was not a member of the Senate.

  14. Report of the Operations Review Committee, September, 1995.

  15. Draft Report, Operations Review Committee, December 13, 1995.