The Latent Organizational Functions of the Academic Senate: Why Senates Do Not Work But Will Not Go Away

Birnbaum, Robert
July 1989
Journal of Higher Education;Jul/Aug1989, Vol. 60 Issue 4, p423
Academic Journal
This article presents information on academic senates, which are considered to be the normative organizational structure through which faculty exercise their role in college and university governance at the institutional level. This article first examines briefly the manifest functions of the academic senate that its critics claim appear not to be fulfilled. Secondly it examines at greater depth, what may be the latent functions of the academic senate that may explain its growth and persistence despite its failure to meet its avowed purposes, and how these functions relate to organizational models. Depending upon the organizational assumptions used, an observer might consider the senate to be effective in governance either (a) to the extent that it efficiently considered institutional problems and, through rational processes, developed rules, regulations, and procedures that resolved them, or to the extent that, perceived as fully representative of its constituencies, it formulated and clarified goals and policies, or (c) to the extent that, through interaction in the senate forum, it developed shared values leading to consensus, But senates often appear to do none of these things well.


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