KERNS: To get involved in the issues, contact your (University) Senator



Bryan Kerns

“The Board of Trustees of Villanova University, for the better governance of the University, and to effect greater participation in the decision-making processes of the University … herein approves … the creation of a University legislative body … the Villanova University Senate.”

Those words comprise Article I of the Constitution of the University Senate, a body with the authority to legislate in major academic matters, all major areas of faculty concern, all major areas of student life, all major areas regarding mission and social justice and all major areas of athletics. It has the authority to “participate in the formulation of the annual budget” and possesses the right of “final review, and approval of the budget before submission to the president.”

In other words, the Senate has the potential to be the single most powerful arm of University governance outside of the Board of Trustees. It is composed of 13 faculty members, 13 administrators, 13 students and four staff members.

I happen to be a University senator, representing the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, serving as the body’s executive secretary and sitting on a number of committees. The plea of the student senators is for our constituencies – the student body – to bring us your issues, to let us know what matters to you, so that these things can be brought to the forefront and discussed.

Items on the agenda include a debate of parking fees based on a report submitted by an ad hoc parking committee, discussion of last spring’s Russell Athletics apparel controversy and an update from the vice president for Administration and Finance on the economic crisis’ impact on the University. It’s important to note that all of the proceedings of the University Senate are open to the public and that individuals are encouraged to attend.

That said, in an institution with a President’s Cabinet, a Faculty Congress, a University Staff Council, a Student Government Association and countless other committees, panels, task forces and working groups, the University Senate often gets lost in the shuffle despite a direct charter from the body which possesses the legal authority to act in the name of the University, its Board of Trustees.

The Senate often seems to be searching for an identity – the SGA is making an effort this year to formalize the role of the student senators and integrate them into the decision-making process in SGA and its representation of the students.

If awareness about the Senate is raised, then it can use its full might – through its given authority – to legislate on behalf of the University community and engage administrators through official channels of governance.

That said, Villanova operates under the principle of subsidiarity, which says that issues should be resolved at the lowest possible level of authority. The Senate may not act on issues affecting only one college, but its representatives may advocate on behalf of those in the community.

One instance of the Senate being able to use its power is the parking fee situation. The issue is something that affects everyone at Villanova. The Senate is capable of legislating on this matter, the President is capable of vetoing that legislation, but such is the nature of the process. It involves a give and take.

That give and take can’t occur unless community members know that the Senate has the potential to act on issues of considerable importance.

Find out who your senator is and get in touch with them. They’ll appreciate it – and it’s very likely that you will too at some point down the road.


Bryan Kerns is a junior honors and humanities major from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].