Texas Tech University Faculty Senate

A Brief History of Faculty Governance at Texas Tech University
Gary S. Elbow

This history begins with the administration of president Grover Murray, who served from 1967-1976. Soon after Dr. Murray arrived on campus he established the Faculty Advisory Committee, which was established provisionally to represent faculty interests before the university administration and also arrange for nomination or election of faculty to serve on university committees. The FAC also could make recommendations on matters of administrative concern and solicit faculty opinion on issues of interest to the administration. The FAC was formed in spring1967 and was soon replaced by the Faculty Council, which held its first meeting on May 1, 1968. As early as that time, the faculty had indicated a preference for a faculty senate as the faculty governing structure, but that suggestion was not followed.

The Faculty Council, which met once per semester, was comprised of all tenured or tenure-track faculty in the university. Dr. Murray set the agenda for and presided at Faculty Council meetings. There was an elected Executive Committee of the Faculty Council, which carried out many of the Council functions for which the FAC had previously been responsible.

In spring of 1975, the Executive Committee formed an ad hoc committee to consider some changes to the constitution of the Faculty Council involving issues such as representation on the Executive Committee. These changes proved to be controversial and were rejected by the Faculty Council at its spring 1975 meeting. Shortly after that, Dr. Murray announced his retirement as president. He was succeeded by Dr. Cecil Mackey, who assumed the university presidency in fall of 1976.

Dr. Mackey did not believe that it was appropriate for the university president to preside over a meeting of the faculty. He also favored allowing the faculty to determine their own government structure. Therefore, the committee that had been formed to revise the constitution of the Faculty Council received a new assignment: To assess faculty preferences for a faculty governance structure. The result was creation of the Faculty Senate, the constitution for which was adopted by the Faculty Council in a lopsided 289 to 33 vote on October 12, 1977 and approved by the Board of Regents on December 2, 1977. The first meeting of the Faculty Senate was convened by acting president Clarence Bell (Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and former chair of the Executive Committee of the Faculty Council) on December 14, 1977. Professor Bell became the first president of the Faculty Senate in February 1978 and presided through spring semester of that year.

In the intervening years since its creation, the Faculty Senate has been an active advocate for faculty interests. Perhaps the best known example is the tenure battle that erupted in 1984-85 during the administration of university president Lauro Cavazos. The university administration attempted unilaterally to impose a new and weaker tenure policy. This is a long story, and one that has been told before (Gary S. Elbow, "Tenure at Texas Tech: A Step Backward", Symposium [Journal of the Texas Faculty Association], Vol. 1, No. 1 [Spring, 1985], pp. 5-11), but the Faculty Senate, led by Professor William Mayer-Oakes (1983-84), of the Anthropology faculty, and Professor Evelyn Davis (1984-85), of the Interior Design program in Home Economics, worked with other faculty organizations (AAUP, TFA, Texas Tech University Faculty Legal Action Association) to challenge the action of the administration and negotiate a tenure policy that was acceptable to faculty. University President Emeritus Donald R. Haragan, who became Vice President for Academic Affairs in 1985, contributed significantly to creating a climate in which those negotiations could occur.