Chapter One: Mission and Governance of the University
Inspired by our land-grant identity and guided by our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) is an inclusive community of knowledge, discovery, and creativity dedicated to improving the quality of life and the human condition within the Commonwealth of Virginia and throughout the world.
The Board of Visitors is the governing body of the university. The board appoints the president of the university who serves as the chief executive. The president may delegate authority to the executive vice president and provost (also referred to as the “provost”), executive vice president and chief operating officer, and vice presidents.
By statute of the Commonwealth of Virginia, the governing body of the university is the Board of Visitors, which exists as a corporation under the control of the Virginia General Assembly. The board is comprised of 14 members, 13 of whom are appointed by the governor subject to confirmation by the Senate of Virginia, with a four-year term that is eligible for reappointment of a successive four years. The president of the Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services serves as the fourteenth member, by virtue of position, with the term running concurrently from July 1 through June 30. A rector and a vice-rector are elected annually among the members of the board, and, by state statute, either the rector or vice-rector must be a resident of Virginia. The vice president for policy and governance serves as secretary to the board. The board appoints two non-voting student representatives (one undergraduate, one graduate/professional) who serve a one-year term and attend open sessions of board meetings. The presidents of the faculty senate, administrative and professional faculty senate, and staff senate sit with the board at all meetings, except those held in closed session, and participate in discussion without authority to vote or to make or second motions. By law, the board meets at least once a year, but typically meets quarterly to consider policy matters and to review the progress of the university.
The Board of Visitors is responsible for institutional policies except those under the direct jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Virginia. By statute, the board is charged with the care, preservation, and improvement of university property and with the protection of the safety of students and other persons residing on such property. The board regulates the government and discipline of students. The board has authority over the roads and highways within the university’s campuses and may prohibit entrance to the property of undesirable and disorderly persons or eject such persons from the property. The board is also responsible for ensuring that the university does not incur an unauthorized deficit or members shall be held personally liable.
Some examples of the board’s responsibilities as specified by state statute or developed through tradition and practice include:
- appointing the president
- approving appointments and setting salaries of faculty, university staff, and other personnel
- establishing fees, tuition, and other charges imposed by the university on students
- reviewing and approving university budgets and overseeing the university’s financial management
- reviewing and approving the establishment and discontinuance of new colleges, departments, and degrees
- ratifying appointments by the president or vice presidents
- representing the university to citizens and officers of the Commonwealth of Virginia, especially in clarifying the purpose and mission of the university
- approving promotions, grants of tenure, and employment of selected individuals
- reviewing and approving physical plant development of the campuses
- the commemorative naming of buildings and other major facilities on campus
- reviewing and approving real property transactions
- exercising the power of eminent domain
- reviewing and approving personnel policies for the faculty and university staff
- subject to the management agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia Tech, the board has full responsibility for the management of Virginia Tech.
There is a wide recognition of the complexity of university governance and general acknowledgment of the need for faculty, staff, and student participation in the conduct of university affairs.
The purpose of the University Council and its internal and related components is to assist the president of the university in formulating and implementing university policy in a manner that attempts to ensure that Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University always strives effectively toward its goals, which are:
- To provide an environment conducive to the pursuit of learning, teaching, scholarship, research, and service.
- To anticipate and meet the educational needs of society in general and the Commonwealth and nation in particular.
The University Council, the senates, and the university and senate commissions constitute the main bodies for policy formulation at Virginia Tech. The senate commissions formulate and recommend policies to the senates, which in turn recommend policies to the University Council; the university commissions formulate and recommend policies directly to the University Council. The University Council makes policy recommendations to the president. Final authority rests with the president of the university and the Board of Visitors.
Because the University Council, the senates, and university commissions, and the standing committees constitute a legislative system, their charges, memberships, relationships and the processes they hold in common are defined in the University Council Constitution and Bylaws. All aspects of senates not defined in these documents shall be defined in senate constitutions and bylaws. The Office of the Vice President for Policy and Governance maintains membership lists available on the governance website.
Purpose: The senates are accountable to and responsible for representing the collective voice of their respective constituencies. The senates provide representation within our system of shared governance for faculty, administrative and professional (A/P) faculty, staff, undergraduate students, and graduate and professional students.
Functions: Each senate has a specific area of legislative authority and responsibility as defined below and at least one senate commission assigned to it that is responsible for the crafting of policy recommendations in the form of resolutions. To be advanced as recommendations to the University Council, resolutions of senate commissions must be approved by the appropriate senate under procedures described in Article III of the University Council Bylaws. In addition to their legislative activities, senates appoint or recommend members to University Council, senate and university commissions, and committees; facilitate the exchange of information between constituencies; provide referral for individual concerns and issues to appropriate organizations or personnel; and accept and share responsibility with the administration, faculty, A/P faculty, staff, and students in all efforts to attain the shared goals of the university.
While senates have the right to consider any matter of general interest to its members and to seek wider discourse on these topics within the system of shared governance, concerns that fall outside of senate or commission purviews as delineated in the University Councils constitution may not be advanced as resolutions.
To ensure that constituents can identify their senate representatives, senates will maintain membership rolls that are available on public or secure websites accessible to constituents.
The senates are:
There are two kinds of commissions: senate commissions, which are part of and whose policy recommendations are voted on by senates before advancing to the University Council; and university commissions, which are part of and whose policy recommendations are made directly to the University Council.
Commissions gather administrators, faculty, A/P faculty, staff, undergraduate students, and graduate and professional students in relatively small numbers to discuss topics and develop policies in the area defined by the commission charge. Each commission is chaired by a faculty, A/P faculty, staff, undergraduate student, or graduate and professional student member and advised by an ex officio administrative faculty member who oversees the unit or office at the core of the commission’s charge and provides support and information to guide the commission’s work. Ex officio and administrative faculty members may not serve as chair of any commission. While the membership of commissions varies in number and mix depending on the charge, all commissions include at least one faculty, A/P faculty, staff, undergraduate student, and graduate and professional student member, making them microcosms of shared governance.
The charges of all commissions can be found in the University Council constitution and bylaws. Though senate commissions are part of senates, their charges are maintained within the University Council Constitution and cannot be altered directly by the senates. Memberships of commissions are maintained in the University Council Bylaws.
University Commissions (2) (part of and whose policy recommendations are made directly to the University Council).
Senate Commissions (8) (part of and whose policy recommendations are made to one of the senates):
Administrative and Professional Faculty Senate
Graduate and Professional Student Senate
Undergraduate Student Senate
University Standing Committees (9) are constituted on a continuing basis by the president on recommendation of the University Council for matters of university-wide interest. Memberships on are set forth in the University Council Constitution.
Budgeting and Planning Campus Development
Climate Action, Sustainability, and Energy Commencement
Employee Benefits Faculty Honorifics
Information Technology Services and Systems Intellectual Property
Transportation and Parking
University Curriculum Committee for General Education
The Council of College Deans is a consultative body to the University Council and elects a member to the University Council Cabinet.
The Department Heads Council is a consultative body to the University Council and elects a member to the University Council Cabinet.
The faculty associations are organized in the colleges of agriculture and life sciences; architecture, arts, and design; engineering; liberal arts and human sciences; natural resources and environment; science; veterinary medicine; University Libraries; and Virginia Cooperative Extension (“Extension”). These associations have constitutions that designate the purposes of the association, membership, officers, election procedures, standing committees and their duties, and other organizational and procedural matters. The Pamplin College of Business vests similar rights and responsibilities on its faculty members through a less formal structure. The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine (VTCSOM) faculty are formally organized in a faculty assembly the composition of which is determined by the school’s bylaws.
The Office of the Vice President for Policy and Governance (OVPPG) administers the processes and procedures that support the university’s shared governance system. The OVPPG supports the university council and cabinet, the senates, commissions, and university committees. The OVPPG manages the processes of approval for policy resolutions and all matters that ultimately go to the university’s Board of Visitors for review and approval. In addition, the (OVPPG) serves as the policy manager for the university and administers the policy review process, coordinates communication of new and revised policies to the university community and maintains the official university policy archive including the university’s official list of policies and policy numbers. The OVPPG maintains the university policies website, which is the official repository of record for university policies.
In addition to policies outlined in the Faculty Handbook, university policies are generally applicable to more than one office or department of the university. University Council and the university commissions constitute the main resident bodies for university policy formation. The university commissions formulate and recommend policies to the University Council, which in turn, makes recommendations to the university president. Final authority rests with the university president and the Board of Visitors.
Administrative policies address operational matters and include policies required for federal, state, or other regulatory and legal mandates. Administrative policies do not address matters that traditionally are primarily within the purview of the faculty, including but not limited to curricular changes, professional ethics and conduct, promotion and tenure, and faculty classes and categories. Administrative policies are issued by the vice presidents who are responsible for the accuracy and timeliness of policies and procedures relating to their areas. This responsibility includes conducting a review of policies at least every four years and issuing proper notification of changes and updates to policies and procedures.
Presidential policy memoranda provide information regarding policies and procedures that apply to specific situations, groups or individuals. Presidential policy memoranda are issued by the university president and are available on the university’s policy website.
The president may approve exceptions to any policy excluding matters prescribed by state or federal law or those policies that require approval by the Board of Visitors.
The university’s central administration includes the president, executive vice president and provost, executive senior vice president and chief operating officer, administrative and academic vice presidents, and academic deans.
Virginia Tech’s president is appointed by the Board of Visitors to initiate proposed policies, to execute approved policies, and to administer the university. The president serves as the authorized officer through whom communication takes place between the board and the other employees of the university. The board, as the governing authority of the university, delegates authority to the president to oversee and to administer the policies of the board and manage the administrative, instructional, research, and public service programs of the university.
The president’s direct reports include: executive vice president and provost; executive vice president and chief operating officer; vice president for advancement; vice president for strategic initiatives/special assistant to the president; the vice president and executive director, innovation campus; and vice president for governmental and community relations. Additional direct reports to the president include the director of athletics; university legal counsel; and the university ombuds. The vice president for diversity, inclusion and strategic affairs and diversity has a dual reporting line to the president and executive vice president and provost. The director of audit, risk, and compliance has a dual reporting line to the president and Board of Visitors.
The President’s Cabinet includes senior university leaders and serves in an advisory capacity to the president. Members of the cabinet also serve on the President’s Council, which is focused on continuous strategic planning and priorities that support the university’s strategic plan. The President’s Advisory Group expresses the voices of the university’s constituents to the president regarding academic, organizational, and operational matters.
The executive vice president and provost is a senior level administrator responsible for creating, guiding and achieving institutional priorities and strategies. The executive vice president and provost provides executive and strategic leadership to academic areas and has multiple vice presidents and /or senior vice presidents within their organizational structure. The executive vice president and provost is a strategic leader within the university and has broad operational, administrative, and financial authority. The executive vice president and provost has frequent interaction with the university president, Board of Visitors, and other senior-level stakeholders and constituents.
The executive vice president and provost reports directly to the university president. Appointment to this role is approved by the university president and Board of Visitors.
The executive vice president and chief operating officer (EVPCOO) is the university’s chief financial, administrative, and operations officer. The EVPCOO is responsible for the financial, administrative, physical, technological, and operational infrastructure of the university and leads these areas in support of its teaching, research, and outreach missions. The EVPCOO partners with the president, executive vice president and provost, the president’s executive team, and other university leaders to advance the university’s priorities.
The executive vice president and chief operating officer reports directly to the university president. Appointment to this role is approved by the university president and Board of Visitors.
A senior vice president is a senior-level administrator responsible for providing executive and operational leadership for one or more divisions or major operating units within the university. The scope, portfolio, responsibilities, and complexity of the position are at the highest level and warrant the appointment of senior vice president. A senior vice president typically reports to the university president. A senior vice president provides executive and operational leadership for at least one vice president within their reporting structure and has broad operational responsibility across the university.
Appointment to the rank of senior vice president is approved by the university president and Board of Visitors.
A vice president is a senior-level administrator responsible for providing operational and managerial leadership for a specific administrative and/or academic function or unit within the university. A vice president has broad discretion and decision-making authority relative to their assigned function and / or unit. A vice president reports to the university president, executive vice president and provost, executive vice president and chief operating officer, or other senior vice president and serves as a member of the president’s council. A vice president may have operational responsibility or serve in a senior advisory role to the university president. Appointments to the rank of vice president are approved by the university president and Board of Visitors.
The college and academic deans report to the executive vice president and provost and are responsible for the academic activities of their respective college or academic unit. These responsibilities include the allocation and administration of resources, appointment and evaluation of faculty and support staff, and curriculum development. Department heads, chairs, and school directors report directly to their respective dean for all matters related to the programs of the college.
For purposes of accreditation, the academic deans, or their designees, are responsible for ensuring compliance with any college-level “substantive change” as defined by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). The deans are responsible and accountable for monitoring and timely reporting of all actions that may require a substantive change notification and/or approval. Examples of substantive changes are outlined in Policy 6500, “Academic Programs: Creation, Discontinuance and Delivery Site”.
College deans are appointed by the executive vice president and provost, approved by the university president and Board of Visitors, and may be reappointed indefinitely. Periodic evaluations of their effectiveness in this capacity occur every five years. The university’s nine colleges are:
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
College of Architecture, Arts, and Design
Pamplin College of Business
College of Engineering
College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
College of Natural Resources and Environment
College of Science
Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine
Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
Academic deans are appointed by the executive vice president and provost, approved by the university president and Board of Visitors and may be reappointed indefinitely. Periodic evaluations of their effectiveness in this capacity occur every five years.
The dean of University Libraries directs the University Libraries in providing the university with information, collections, and services necessary to support the learning, discovery, and engagement programs of the university. The dean allocates and administers resources, and appoints and evaluates faculty and staff in support of the goals of the University Libraries.
The dean of the Honors College directs the college in its mission to provide extraordinary educational opportunities for students of exceptional motivation and ability. The dean allocates and administers resources in support of the goals of the Honors College.
The dean for graduate education directs the university’s Graduate School, Graduate Life Center (GLC), and leads strategic graduate academic initiatives that advance a strong, diverse, and inclusive graduate and professional student community.
The colleges are comprised of academic departments, and/or schools. Departments and schools are under the supervision of department heads, chairs, and school directors who report to the dean of the college. Department heads, chairs, and school directors are responsible for the growth and vigor of academic programs, recruitment and retention of faculty, administration of the curriculum, and the budget of their department or school. In certain cases, some of these responsibilities may be delegated.
Department heads, chairs, and school directors serve for terms specified by the dean. The president or the provost authorizes the appointment. The dean, in consultation with department or school faculty, analyzes the results of reviews conducted prior to reappointment and decides the length of term and procedures for renewal.
Faculty committees are integral to departmental, school, and college governance and are formed to make recommendations and otherwise assist the head, chair, or school director in curricular modification, in the selection of new faculty, and in the determination and application of policies.
The director of Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) reports to the dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and is responsible for the administration of VCE programs in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and state and local governments, and the Cooperative Extension Service Program at Virginia State University. The director is responsible for VCE programs in agriculture, community and leadership, family, food and health, lawn and garden, natural resources, and 4-H/youth. VCE programs are offered in three of the university colleges and the director administers these programs under the guidance of a committee chaired by the provost. The committee includes the vice president for finance, vice president for outreach and international affairs, senior vice president for research and innovation, director of VCE, director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, and deans of the colleges of agriculture and life sciences, natural resources and environment, and veterinary medicine.