LTE: Preserve the Faculty Assembly’s legislative power

The Faculty Senate leadership announced this fall a plan to eliminate the legislative powers of the Faculty Assembly. The proposed changes to the Faculty Assembly bylaws would cancel the only channel through which faculty can directly govern the University. We urge voters to reject the concentration of the faculty’s power solely in the Faculty Senate.  

The Faculty Assembly was created as a check on the Faculty Senate. The rationale that the Faculty Assembly has rarely reached quorum thus is not a reason to eliminate it. Indeed, we know that faculty do intend to use the Faculty Assembly to pursue resolutions on behalf of education and academic freedom. We urge Northwestern faculty to join us in preserving the Faculty Assembly in its current form.

We strongly support the recommendation of our colleague and Professor Emeritus of Art History Stephen Eisenman, who played a leading role in drafting the Faculty Assembly bylaws. We need faculty to attend this week’s meeting of the Faculty Assembly and vote “no” on the resolution eliminating Assembly legislative powers.  

The Assembly meets on Oct. 19 at 5 p.m. via Zoom webinar. In order to receive a link to the meeting, faculty must register. Authentication instructions here.


Spanish and Portuguese Prof. Jorge Coronado, President of Northwestern’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors

French and Italian Prof. Alessandra Visconti, Vice President of Northwestern’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors 

Political Science Prof. Jacqueline Stevens, Secretary of Northwestern’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors

Humanities and German Prof. Sam Weber, Member-at-Large of Northwestern’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors  

 Excerpts from Stephen Eisenman’s letter

Until 2010, faculty governance was vested in a General Faculty Committee. Its members were chosen by an arcane set of rules drafted in 1939. Council members therefore created a committee to establish a new, more accountable and effective faculty governance system. The committee examined governance models at dozens of comparable universities, reviewed American Association of University Professors guidelines about faculty governance and even considered models from European intellectual history and Indigenous practices. We did this with the knowledge and approval of the president and provost, but generally without their input. This was a faculty matter, and while trustees had to sign off on any change to the University Statutes, the most important thing to us was that whatever body we created represented the interests of the faculty. 

The Assembly is a place where matters of general concern can be presented, discussed and debated. It is a place where the university president and the Faculty Senate president face the faculty directly and describe their challenges and achievements, and where faculty can publicly hold them to account. Without the constituted authority of the Assembly, that holding to accounts would be extremely vitiated; the Assembly would be nothing more than executive publicity or window dressing.

For all these reasons, I strongly encourage the Assembly and Senate to reject the proposed changes to Assembly Bylaws and Statutes. I also encourage all parties to ensure that Assembly meetings are well advertised and promoted and that programs be of sufficient weight and relevance that they attract the greatest possible participation.


Stephen Eisenman

Professor Emeritus of Art History If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.