The Academic Senate was founded in 1991 as part of a Middle States accreditation review. It was predated by several faculty organizations dating back to the late 1880s, which have continually been vested with academic policymaking functions at the Institute, including review of policies and curriculum.

Early Meetings of the General Faculty

At a meeting of the instructors of Pratt Institute on January 5, 1888, a letter from founder Charles Pratt was read, forming the basis of Organization of Faculty: “The Faculty will meet at their convenience as often as once a week to review the work done, consider matters of general interest to the Institution, or of any special interest to any of its Departments.” This faculty body met as a “committee of the whole” for several decades to discuss topics including the academic calendar, entrance examinations, faculty salaries, physical plant, and national and global events, such as the World Wars, Great Depression, and the New York World’s Fair in 1939.

Faculty Council established

Around 1948, a Faculty Council was established with representatives from various departments. In addition to topics discussed previously at meetings of the general faculty, the Council also reviewed enrollment, financial, and strategic plans for the Institute, as well as policies related to academic freedom, tenure, and dismissal. Minutes from the late 1960s and early 1970s document calls for a faculty union, leading to the formation of UFCT Local 1460, and for faculty and student representation on the Board of Trustees.

Founding of the Academic Senate

In spring of 1991, Faculty Council drafted bylaws establishing an Academic Senate, which were adopted unanimously on April 23, 1991 and approved by the Board on May 14, 1991. The new Senate met for the first time on October 15, 1991.

Under its original bylaws, the Senate included proportional representation for full-time faculty, part-time faculty, and graduate and undergraduate chairs within each school. Its explicit functions included:

  1. academic policies and procedures;
  2. reviewing structures of programs, curricula, and schools;
  3. providing for appropriate review of course additions and changes;
  4. reviewing academic services;
  5. establishing committees on appropriate subjects;
  6. interviewing prospective deans, vice-presidents, provosts, and presidents;
  7. appointing faulty members to Board standing committees;
  8. nominating Faculty Trustee;
  9. structure, faculty and chair membership, and procedures of search committees.

Over the next 25 years, the Senate participated in extensive revisions to the Faculty Handbook and sponsored various institutional dialogues and initiatives, including new faculty orientation, Pratt film society, faculty listservs, and givetake.

Recent history

In 2016, the Senate was convened under new bylaws that provide representation for each academic department as well as each constituent group: full-time faculty, part-time faculty, chairpersons, and staff who each. The chairs category was also expanded to include assistant chairpersons and equivalent positions, such as academic coordinators. The new bylaws established a Steering Committee of Senate leadership and included non-voting representatives from the Office of the President, Provost’s Council, and student government.

Among the major activities of the past several Senate terms are revisions to the Faculty Handbook in 2022 and establishment of the Institute’s first Curriculum Review Policy and Academic Assessment Policy (in development). The Academic Initiatives Fund was established to support constituents’ activities, as well as two new awards to complement the longstanding Distinguished Teaching Award: Research Recognition Award and Academic Service Award.

Past presidents

Uzma Z. Rizvi (2022–present)
Chris Alen Sula (2016–2022)
Jenny Lee (2004–2016)
Don Ariev (2001–2004)
Joe Roberts (1998–2001)
Robert Anders (1995–1998)
Rosemary Palms (1992–1995)

Timeline of shared governance at Pratt