On July 27, 1973, the Constitution of the Senate of College Councils received approval from the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System. On this date Senate was recognized as the official voice of students at The University of Texas at Austin in academic affairs.
But even before then, College Council leaders had been coming together to discuss academic issues on campus. As early as the 1950s, Council presidents were joining together to share their best practices and to collaborate on University-wide issues. Several such meetings later, the Senior Cabinet was formed, a predecessor of Senate that was the first to formalize the relationships between the various College Councils and provide a student forum dedicated exclusively to the discussion of academic issues.
Several name changes and more than a half-century later, the Senate of College Councils is today comprised of 20 College Councils representing a membership, including the Councils, agencies, At-Large and Executive members, of more than 1,000 students. Though Senate has grown appreciably since that first meeting between Council presidents, the heart of the organization, and its core purpose, remains the representation of students’ concerns with regard to academic affairs.
How Senate Represents Students
At a university of 50,000 students this is no small feat. With so many students, all with unique opinions, perspectives and concerns, the task can seem impossibly overwhelming. So, instead of approaching all 50,000 students at once, Senate’s representational structure focuses on the student populations of the 18 different schools and colleges on campus as represented by their respective college councils. By segmenting the campus, the overall student population of 50,000 becomes much more manageable. Within many councils exist department and student organization representatives that further segment the student population within their colleges.
What this all means is that Senate’s unique representational structure makes having a meaningful voice in academic policy accessible to every student on campus. Each and every student has a specific avenue through which to voice his or her academic concerns, be it through a council representative, a student org representative or council membership.
It also means that the students in their colleges can hold members of Senate accountable for their actions. Regularly scheduled council meetings, a transparent legislative and financial system and participation in councils by many students and student organizations means that councils are able to accurately represent the concerns and opinions of the students in their colleges.
Instead of canvassing and poling, the council system easily gauges student opinion through council meetings, everyday interaction with students in their colleges, and through diverse council membership. The Senate of College Councils is where the focused opinions and concerns from each college come together to represent the entire University. Each council represents the smaller populations of each school and college, but together the Senate of College Councils is able to represent the entire 50,000-student population of The University of Texas at Austin.
College Councils are what make Senate. It says so in our name. But in addition to the College Councils, Senate is also made up of eight standing academic committees and four agencies. Our committees focus on specific areas of academic policy, while our agencies promote synergy between colleges by creating interdisciplinary programming and publications. Together these three entities work to improve the quality of academic life at the University, and advance student recommendations and grievances to the people who can make a difference.
To be the voice of academic affairs at one of the most outstanding Tier 1 public research universities in the nation is a formidable challenge. With game-changing issues such as course transformation, college-readiness and severe budget reductions, apathy is not an option. These are issues that will change the University, and students must have a say in what this change looks like. Each and every student on this campus has a voice, and through the 20 College Councils, eight Senate committees, four Senate agencies and the Senate Leadership Team, each one of those voices is made loud, clear and confident. Every student, and every one of our namesake Councils has something unique to offer. Whether that is a vision, an experience or a specialization, when we bring those councils, and all of the 50,000 students they represent together, these individual strengths combine to create something extraordinary.
This is the Senate of College Councils.