1.0                   Mission and Governance of the University

 

1.1                   Mission of the University

 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is a public land-grant university serving the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world community. The discovery and dissemination of new knowledge are central to its mission. Through its focus on teaching and learning, research and discovery, and outreach and engagement, the university creates, conveys, and applies knowledge to extend personal growth and opportunity, advance social and community development, foster economic competitiveness, and improve the quality of life.

 

1.2                   Governance of the University

 

The Board of Visitors is the primary governing body of the university. The board appoints the president of the university, who serves as the chief executive. The president may delegate authority to the executive vice president and provost and vice presidents.

 

1.2.1                Governance Structure

Image of the governance structure table diagram

 

1.2.2                Board of Visitors

 

By statute of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the governing body of the university is the Board of Visitors which exists as a corporation under the control of the Virginia General Assembly. The board is comprised of 13 members appointed by the governor—subject to confirmation by the senate—and the president of the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services, who is an ex-officio member. Board members appointed by the governor serve for overlapping four-year terms. A rector and vice-rector are elected annually by the membership, and the board appoints a secretary annually. The board appoints two non-voting student representatives (one undergraduate, one graduate) who serve a one-year term and attend open sessions. The president of the Faculty Senate and the president of the Staff Senate sit with the board at all meetings, except those held in closed session, and participate in discussion without authority to vote. By law, the board meets at least once a year, but typically meets quarterly to consider policy matters and to review the progress of the university.

 

The Board of Visitors is responsible for institutional policies except those under the direct jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The board’s responsibilities are specified by state statute. Responsibilities include, but are not restricted to, the appointment of the university president; approving appointments and setting salaries of the faculty, university staff, and other personnel; approval of promotion, grants of tenure; removal of members of the faculty; the prescription of faculty responsibilities; ratifying appointments by the president or vice presidents; reviewing and approving personnel policies for the faculty and university staff; establishing fees, tuition, and other charges imposed by the university on students; and the government and discipline of students; reviewing and approving the university budgets and overviewing its financial management; reviewing and approving establishment of new colleges or departments; reviewing and approving physical plant development of the campus; naming of buildings and other major facilities on campus; reviewing and approving real property transactions; and subject to the management agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia Tech, the board has full responsibility for management of Virginia Tech.

 

1.2.3                Governance by Shared Responsibility

 

There is a wide recognition of the complexity of university governance and general acknowledgment of the need for faculty, staff, and student participation in the conduct of university affairs. The University Council, university commissions, university advisory council, and university standing committees provide an organizational structure through which faculty, staff, student, and administrative responsibilities are shared and fulfilled.

 

The University Council and university commissions constitute the main resident bodies for policy formulation. Their memberships include representatives from administration, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, college faculty associations, administrative and professional faculty, Graduate Student Assembly, Student Government Association, and representatives from other interest groups where appropriate. The university commissions formulate and recommend policies to the University Council, which in turn makes recommendations to the president of the university. Final authority rests with the president of the university and the board of visitors.

 

The constitutions and bylaws of the University Council, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, and Graduate Student Assembly are found on their respective Virginia Tech websites. The constitution and bylaws of the Student Government Association are available from their office. Persons concerned with the governance of the university are encouraged to consult the constitutions and bylaws of these organizations. The constitution and bylaws of University Council contain the specific membership lists for University Council, the commissions, and the committees. Also available are lists of the specific persons who hold membership on the various bodies. These lists are updated as the personnel change. The membership lists are maintained by the president's office and are available on the governance website.

 

1.2.4                University Advisory Council on Strategic Budgeting and Planning

 

The university Advisory Council on Strategic Budgeting and Planning serves a primary advisory role for the university budgeting and planning process. It reports jointly to the president and the University Council. Areas for consideration include: monitoring the university’s planning and budgeting processes; participating in and advising on the development of biennial budgets, formulation of the university plan, development of university capital and facilities plans, and reconciliation of the plan and available resources; consulting on other budget and planning matters; addressing matters of policy relative to budget and planning appropriate for governance consideration and, in such instances, making recommendations to the University Council.

 

1.2.5                University Council

 

The function of the University Council is to advise the president on matters of university governance; to accept functions and authority delegated to it by the president; and to review and make recommendations on matters of concern to the faculty, staff, students, and administration. Any council member, in accordance with its constitution and bylaws, may place such matters on the University Council agenda. The University Council refers appropriate matters to the commissions, advisory councils, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, groups, or individuals for consideration and recommendation.

 

1.2.6                University Commissions

 

University commissions are responsible for fulfilling their charge as outlined in the University Council constitution and bylaws. The commissions are:

  • Commission on Administrative and Faculty Affairs
  • Commission on Equal Opportunity and Diversity
  • Commission on Faculty Affairs
  • Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies
  • Commission on Outreach and International Affairs
  • Commission on Research
  • Commission on Staff Policies and Affairs
  • Commission on Student Affairs
  • Commission on Undergraduate Studies and Policies
  • Commission on University Support

 

1.2.7                University Committees

 

University standing committees are those committees constituted on a continuing basis by the president on recommendation of the University Council to deal with matters of a university-wide interest. Each standing committee reports directly to one commission.

 

The university standing committees are:

  • Academic Support
  • Athletics
  • Campus Development
  • Commencement
  • Computing and Communications Resources
  • Employee Benefits
  • Energy and Sustainability
  • Faculty Honorifics
  • Graduate Curriculum
  • Honor Council
  • Intellectual Property
  • Library
  • Transportation and Parking
  • Undergraduate Curriculum Committee
  • University Curriculum Committee for General Education

 

The president also constitutes ad hoc and special committees as needed. In addition, university operational committees are constituted on a continuing basis and appointed by the executive vice president and provost, the vice president for administration, or one of the other vice presidents. These committees deal with matters of university-wide interest that fall primarily within the responsibilities of the appointing officers. Unless made the subject of specific legislation to the contrary, each university operational committee is constituted, charged, and staffed as the appointing administrative officer deems appropriate. The secretary of the University Council maintains a record of university operational committee chairs and members. Approved minutes of meetings of university operational committees are maintained by each committee and by the secretary of the University Council so that they are accessible, as required or requested.

 

1.2.8                University Policies, Administrative Policies, and Presidential Policy Memoranda

 

In addition to policies outlined in the Faculty Handbook, university policies are generally applicable to more than one office or department of the university. University Council and the university commissions constitute the main resident bodies for university policy formation. The university commissions formulate and recommend policies to the University Council, which in turn makes recommendations to the university president. Final authority rests with the university president and the Board of Visitors.

 

Administrative policies are issued by the vice presidents who are responsible for the accuracy and timeliness of policies and procedures relating to their areas. This responsibility includes proper notification of changes and updates to these policies and procedures, and conducting a review of policies annually. The university website (www.policies.vt.edu) is the official repository of university policies and procedures and is maintained by the chief of staff, Office of the President.

 

Presidential policy memoranda provide information regarding policies and procedures that apply to specific situations, groups, or individuals. Presidential policy memoranda are issued by the university president and are available online.

 

1.3                   Additional Governance Organizations

 

1.3.1                College Faculty Associations

 

The faculties are formally organized as faculty associations in the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Architecture and Urban Studies, Engineering, Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Natural Resources and Environment, Science, and Veterinary Medicine, as well as in the University Libraries and Virginia Cooperative Extension (“Extension”). These associations have constitutions that designate the purposes of the association, membership, officers, election procedures, standing committees and their duties, and other organizational and procedural matters. The Pamplin College of Business vests similar rights and responsibilities on its faculty members through a less formal structure.

 

1.3.2                Staff Senate

 

The purpose of the Staff Senate is to create an effective staff organization that can enter into partnership for shared responsibility and cooperative action between the staff, faculty, administration, and students in order to promote the general welfare of the university.

 

The functions of the Staff Senate are:

  • To serve as the representative body for staff employees of Virginia Tech;
  • To act in an advisory capacity to the university administration and governance system;
  • To appoint or recommend staff representatives to University Council, commissions, advisory councils, and committees;
  • To facilitate the exchange of information between staff and the administration;
  • To foster a spirit of unity and cooperation;
  • To provide referral for individual concerns and problems to appropriate organizations or personnel, and
  • To accept and share responsibility with the administration, faculty, and students in all efforts to attain the stated goals of the university.

 

1.3.3                Student Government Association

 

The Student Government Association (SGA) is the official representative body for undergraduate students. Popular elections for officers and senators of SGA are held annually each spring. Senators are elected within academic colleges to represent proportionate enrollment in each respective college. The student senate and house make up the legislative branch of the SGA. The representatives to the house are elected or appointed by student organizations across campus.

 

The functions of the Student Government Association are:

  • To express opinion on university affairs as the legislative branch of the SGA deems appropriate and necessary; 
  • To establish an effective means for advising and responding to the University Council, university commissions, the university administration, the Faculty Senate, the Board of Visitors, and the public on university affairs;
  • To participate in the formulation of academic and education policies which concern more than one college, division, or center at the university;
  • To consider policies, programs, and other matters as the administration, college faculties, student organizations, and individuals of the university may propose;
  • To afford avenues and procedures whereby communications within the university may flow freely, fully, and systematically;
  • To help create, maintain, and protect a university environment conducive to the richest growth of scholarship, learning, teaching, research, and respect or dignity and rights, and
  • To accept and share responsibility with the administration and faculty in all efforts to improve the stature and value of the university.

 

1.3.4                Graduate Student Assembly

 

The Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) is the governing and representative body of graduate students. The graduate students of each department offering graduate work elect two members to the assembly. Every year the GSA governing board and delegate body work to improve campus life, scholarly development, and the graduate community by creating and implementing goals based on the issues and concerns of graduate students at Virginia Tech.

 

The functions of the Graduate Student Assembly are:

  • To represent the interests of graduate students in all university activities and to facilitate the exchange of information between the university and graduate students;
  • To solicit, compile, and promote graduate student opinions and concerns and to develop and recommend policies concerning graduate students to the university;
  • To cooperate and communicate with the graduate school and other university administrative bodies to improve the quality of graduate educational programs, graduate academic activities including research and graduate teaching programs, and
  • To provide and develop relevant programs for the augmentation of graduate student life and welfare.

 

1.3.5                Faculty Senate

 

The purpose of the Faculty Senate is to create an effective faculty organization that can enter into partnership for shared responsibility and cooperative action between the faculty, staff, administration, and students in order to promote the general welfare of the university.

 

The membership of the Faculty Senate consists of elected faculty members. A faculty member is eligible to be elected to the Faculty Senate and to vote in the election of faculty senators if the faculty member holds: (1) the rank of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, or instructor [this includes faculty in the clinical professor series, professor of practice series, collegiate professor series, and all ranks of instructor]; (2) a full-time and continuing appointment to the university; (3) an appointment or tenure in an academic department, or in University Libraries, or as an extra-collegiate faculty member.

 

Although otherwise qualified, those faculty members in administrative positions at the college level, the university level, or University Libraries, and those faculty members studying for a degree at the university are ineligible.

 

Faculty Senate members, though uninstructed representatives of their constituents, have the responsibility to seek the opinions of their electorate. Having done so, they make decisions and vote on matters brought before the Faculty Senate according to their own reasoned judgment.

 

The functions of the Faculty Senate are:

  • To establish within the laws applicable to the university an effective means for advising and responding to the university commissions, the University Council, the administration, and the Board of Visitors on university affairs;
  • To express opinion on university affairs as the Faculty Senate deems appropriate and necessary;
  • To participate in the formulation of academic and educational policies that concern more than one college, division, or center;
  • To consider policies, programs, and other matters that the administration, college faculties, student organizations, and individuals of the faculty may propose;
  • To afford avenues and procedures whereby communications within the university may flow freely, fully, and systematically;
  • To help create, maintain, and protect a university environment conducive to the richest growth of scholarship, learning, teaching, research, service, and respect for human dignity and rights;
  • To accept and share responsibility with the administration, staff, and students in all efforts to improve the stature and usefulness of the university, and
  • To advise, respond to, and participate in the Faculty Senate of Virginia, thereby providing university faculty with a voice in matters of broader concern to faculty across the commonwealth.

 

The standing committees of the Faculty Senate are:

  • Committee on Faculty Ethics
  • Committee on Reconciliation
  • Faculty Review Committee

 

The Faculty Senate cabinet is comprised of the officers and representatives of each of the colleges and the University Libraries. It is concerned primarily with the general business of the Faculty Senate. The president of the Faculty Senate may create additional work groups and ad hoc committees as necessary to address specific issues or concerns of the faculty.

 

1.3.5.1             Committee on Reconciliation

 

The Committee on Reconciliation is composed of eight tenured faculty members eligible for membership in the Faculty Senate. Faculty appointed to administrative positions with responsibility for recommending promotions, salary adjustments, and distribution of teaching, research, and Extension assignments are ineligible for membership. The functions of this committee are to offer advice and counsel to faculty members who seek it, particularly in relation to disputes with immediate supervisors or university administrators.

 

The committee has a designated role within the grievance process to assist in resolving disputes that are eligible for consideration as a grievance if so requested by the faculty member. See the relevant grievance procedure for guidance on valid and ineligible issues for grievance that define the committee’s purview in relation to the grievance process. Faculty members who wish to engage the assistance of the committee in the context of a potential grievance submit their request concurrently to the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost and the chair of the Committee on Reconciliation within 30 calendar days of the time when the faculty member knew, or should have known, of the event or action that is the basis for the potential grievance. The executive vice president and provost automatically grants a 60-day postponement of grievance timelines for the Committee on Reconciliation to attempt to resolve the complaint between the parties.

 

The Faculty Senate Committee on Reconciliation may also be consulted by faculty members concerning serious disagreements with immediate supervisors or other university administrators concerning issues that are not eligible for consideration within the grievance process. In such instances, the committee contacts the relevant administrator to determine if there is an interest and willingness to explore informal resolution of the dispute. The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost need not be notified to initiate discussions with the committee in such instances.

 

Cooperation and candor from all members of the university community are prerequisite to the successful functioning of the Committee on Reconciliation in investigating serious and delicate cases. Confidential information concerning personnel and academic issues may be shared with the committee. The committee keeps no written records and treats all matters with utmost sensitivity.

 

In conducting its work, the Committee on Reconciliation takes special measures to assure that participating members have no conflict of interest in the matter. In contrast to the Faculty Review Committee, which has responsibility for formally investigating a grievance through hearings, calling witnesses, and collecting and assessing evidence prior to rendering its judgment, the Committee on Reconciliation operates more informally as a facilitator. It meets with the respective parties to determine if there is common ground for resolution of the matter, facilitating a solution that is agreeable to the principal parties and consistent with university policy and practice.

 

Generally the faculty member initiates the request for assistance of the committee; however, an administrator may seek the committee’s involvement in resolving a dispute with a faculty member. Both parties to the dispute must agree to be participants in the reconciliation process. If no resolution is reached, the matter reverts to formal review as part of the grievance process if the matter is eligible for such consideration.

 

1.3.5.2             Faculty Review Committee

 

The Faculty Review Committee (FRC) includes a minimum of two faculty members from each college and two each from the University Libraries and the extra-collegiate Extension faculty. Additional members from colleges are appointed in direct proportion to the colleges' representation in the Faculty Senate. The president of the Faculty Senate, in consultation with the cabinet, appoints the chair. The chair is either a member of the senate or a member of the FRC. FRC members, who are appointed by the Faculty Senate president in consultation with the senate cabinet, must, at the time of their initial appointment, have served on their college or equivalent promotion and tenure committee or in the Faculty Senate. Members cannot serve on a university or college promotion and tenure committee and serve on the Faculty Review Committee simultaneously. In the event that no eligible faculty members from a particular college or the University Libraries or the extra-collegiate Extension are identified as willing and able to fill a vacant position on the FRC, the Faculty Senate president, in consultation with the senate cabinet, appoints the appropriate number of tenured faculty members to complete the membership of the FRC.

 

The functions of the Faculty Review Committee are: to provide faculty review of faculty grievances and to consider appeals in the promotion and tenure or continued appointment process when the executive vice president and provost does not concur with a positive recommendation from the University Committee on Promotion and Tenure (see chapter three, “Appeals of Decisions on Reappointment, Tenure, or Promotion”) or the University Committee on Promotion and Continued Appointment (see chapter four, “Appeals of Decisions on Reappointment, Continued Appointment, or Promotion”).

 

The Faculty Review Committee reports annually to the Faculty Senate cabinet on the number of cases handled, their disposition, and on the effectiveness of the review process.

 

Separate grievance procedures exist for administrative and professional faculty and for research faculty. See the relevant sections of this handbook for a description of those appeal processes.

 

1.3.5.3             Committee on Faculty Ethics

 

The Committee on Faculty Ethics (CFE) receives and considers charges of violations of faculty ethics that abrogate the principles of ethical behavior set forward in chapter two of the Faculty Handbook, “Professional Responsibilities and Conduct.” The CFE also acts to promote knowledge of and adherence to the principles of ethical behavior.

 

The Committee on Faculty Ethics is not used to seek remedies such as monetary damages. The CFE does not act when legal, mediation, or other proceedings are initiated or are ongoing by complainants that render the CFE's pursuit of an investigation redundant or disruptive. The CFE does not act on matters that are referred or should be referred for investigation and action to an administrative officer, supervisor, or another appropriately charged committee in accordance with university policies and procedures. Complaints concerning personnel actions taken by a supervisor are handled by the applicable grievance procedure. If ethical issues arise from, or remain unresolved following such proceedings, the CFE is available to receive or consider charges of violations of the principles in chapter two of the Faculty Handbook, “Professional Responsibilities and Conduct.”

 

The Committee on Faculty Ethics is composed of one faculty member from each college, one from the University Libraries faculty and one from the Extension faculty with continued appointment. The president of the Faculty Senate, with the advice of the senate cabinet, appoints committee members. All CFE members hold tenure or continued appointment. The senate president designates one committee member to serve as chair. Voting members of the CFE serve a two-year appointment and are limited to serving two consecutive terms. A quorum of the CFE consists of two-thirds of the appointed members.

 

While the Committee on Faculty Ethics is not a legal body, conflicts of interest may affect members’ judgment on a given case. All members of the CFE are required to disclose any potential conflicts of interest with regard to cases that come before the CFE. Decisions concerning recusal are made by the individual member in consultation with the committee as a whole. In the event of a conflict of interest concerning the chair of the CFE, the chair steps down from that position during the course of any discussion or investigation of that case. In such a situation, the president of the Faculty Senate appoints an interim chair from within the current CFE membership. Decisions with regard to the chair’s recusal from the committee itself are made in consultation with the committee and the Faculty Senate president.

 

Anyone may bring incidents to the Committee on Faculty Ethics by writing to the chair of the CFE. The CFE will decide if a violation may have occurred and may conduct investigations, as it deems appropriate. The CFE will inform those involved of its findings and the processes and rationale by which the findings were formulated as described in the CFE operating procedures. When it is determined that a breach of faculty ethics has occurred, the CFE's findings along with its recommendations, will be reported to appropriate administrative personnel including, when appropriate, the Faculty Senate president. Strict confidentiality will be maintained. The CFE operating procedures are available on the Faculty Senate website.

 

The Committee on Faculty Ethics chair will provide a summary of its activities to the Faculty Senate annually.

 

1.4                   Central Administration

 

The university’s central administration includes the president, executive vice president and provost, vice presidents, and deans.

 

1.4.1                President

 

Virginia Tech’s president is appointed by the university’s Board of Visitors to initiate proposed policies, to execute approved policies, and to administer the university. The president serves as the authorized officer through whom communication takes place between the board and the other officers of administration or instruction employed by the university. The board, as the governing authority of the university, delegates to the president the authority to oversee and to administer the policies of the board and to manage the administrative, instructional, research, and public service programs of the university.

 

University officers reporting to the president include the executive vice president and provost, vice president for administration, vice president for advancement, vice president for finance and chief financial officer, and vice president for information technology and chief information officer. Other direct reports to the president include university legal counsel, the chief of staff to the president, the executive director of governmental relations, and the director of intercollegiate athletics. The director of internal audit has a dual reporting line to the president and the Board of Visitors. The vice provost for inclusion and diversity and vice president for strategic affairs has a dual reporting line to the president and the executive vice president and provost.

 

The directors and executive officers of the individual agencies, services, and regulatory activities report directly to the vice president under whom the president has placed each organization.

 

 

1.4.2                Executive Vice President and Provost

 

The executive vice president and provost serves as the university's chief executive officer in the president's absence, and assists the president in the administration, coordination, and development of the university’s learning, discovery, and engagement programs. Reporting to this officer are the college deans, dean of University Libraries, executive director of technology-enhanced learning and online strategies and associate provost for TLOS, executive director of the Center for the Arts and associate provost for the arts, vice president and dean for graduate education, vice president of health sciences and technology, vice president of the national capital region, vice president for outreach and international affairs, vice president for research and innovation, vice president for student affairs.

 

Also reporting the executive vice president and provost are the vice provost for enrollment and degree management, vice provost for faculty affairs, vice provost for inclusion and diversity and vice president for strategic affairs, vice provost for resource management and institutional effectiveness and vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs.

 

In addition, the executive vice president and provost is responsible for maintaining the university's relations with the academic program function of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

 

 

1.5                   University Academic Administration

 

1.5.1                College Deans

 

The deans of the colleges are responsible for the academic activities of their respective colleges. These responsibilities include the allocation and administration of resources, appointment and evaluation of faculty and support staff, and curriculum development. The department heads or chairs in each college report directly to their respective deans for all matters related to the programs of the colleges.

 

The college deans are appointed by the executive vice president and provost, and may be reappointed indefinitely. Periodic evaluations of their effectiveness in this capacity occur every five years.

 

 

1.5.2                Academic Department Administration

 

The colleges are subdivided into academic departments and/or schools. Departments are under the supervision of department heads, chairs, or school directors, who report to the dean of the college.

 

Department heads or chairs are responsible for the growth and vigor of the academic programs, for the recruitment of new faculty, and for the administration of the curriculum and the budget of their departments. In certain cases, some of these responsibilities may be delegated to program chairs of specific disciplines.

 

Department heads or chairs serve for fixed-length terms, specified by the dean. The dean, in consultation with departmental faculty, takes into account the periodic review required prior to reappointment and decides the length of term and procedures for renewal. The president or the executive vice president and provost authorizes the appointment.

 

As an integral part of shared governance of the university, faculty committees are formed in departments to make recommendations and otherwise assist the head or chair in curricular modification, in the selection of new faculty, and in the determination and application of policies.

 

1.5.3                Dean of University Libraries

 

The dean of University Libraries directs the University Libraries in providing the Virginia Tech community with information collections and services necessary to support the learning, discovery, and engagement programs of the university. The dean allocates and administers resources, and appoints and evaluates faculty and staff in support of University Libraries goals. The dean reports to the executive vice president and provost.

 

The dean of the libraries is appointed by the executive vice president and provost, and may be reappointed indefinitely. A periodic evaluation of the dean’s effectiveness in this capacity occurs every five years.

 

1.5.4                Dean of Honors College

 

The dean of the Honors College directs the college in its mission to provide extraordinary educational opportunities for students of exceptional motivation and ability. The dean allocates and administers resources in support of the goals of the Honors College. The dean reports jointly to the executive vice president and provost and the vice provost for undergraduate academic affairs.

 

The dean of the Honors College is appointed by the executive vice president and provost, and may be reappointed indefinitely. A periodic evaluation of the dean’s effectiveness in this capacity occurs every five years.

 

1.5.5                Director of Virginia Cooperative Extension

 

The director of Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) reports to the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is responsible for the administration of VCE programs in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state and local governments, as well as the Cooperative Extension Service Program at Virginia State University. The director is responsible for the VCE programs in agriculture, community and leadership, natural resources, family, food and health, lawn and garden, and 4-H/Youth. Since three colleges provide these services, the director administers these programs under the guidance of a committee chaired by the executive vice president and provost. Committee members include the vice president for finance and chief financial officer, vice president for outreach and international affairs, vice president for research and innovation, director of VCE, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, and deans of the colleges of agriculture and life sciences, natural resources and environment, and veterinary medicine.