History Since 1955 - The "Modern Assemblies"

Cornell’s campus government system has undergone a number of transformations since 1955:


The Board of Trustees transferred the responsibility for non-academic matters to the President of the University. Prior to this time, it had been the responsibility of the faculty to make decisions regarding academic as well as non-academic policies and procedures.


Two Presidential Commissions, the Jensen and Snyder Reports, called for greater student participation in non-academic decision-making and for changes to the judicial system.


Members of the Afro-American Society took over Willard Straight Hall and, in conjunction with SDS, called for a mass meeting in Barton Hall which was attended by 7,000 students.


The Board of Trustees instructed the administration to establish the University Senate and requested the President to research establishing a Division of Campus Life.
The University Senate had 132 members: 60 students, 60 faculty, 9 non-faculty employees, as well as administrators and alumni. The first years were spent creating policy that directly responded to the concerns of the community, refining the work of the judicial system, and in reviewing and approving the departmental budgets of the Division of Campus Life. Any single change in the operative budget or program of a department involving more than $3,000 had to be approved by the University Senate. The Senate was said to be the most powerful campus government in the country.


A concensus had grown that the Senate was failing to maintain the interest and dedication of its members or the support of the community. Senate reactions to community concerns are reflected in the following actions:
Resolution on:Vandalism (Senate Action 12), the FBI on Campus (Senate Action 23), Lettuce Boycott (Senate Action, Discrimination Due to Observance of Religious Holidays (Senate Action 42), Air Pollution (Senate Action 50), Local Migrant Labor (Senate Action 6), Day Care Centers (Senate Action 86), Radio Station WHCU (Senate Action 104), and Judicial Restructuring Acts 1971, 1972


The Chester Commission recommended a new form of campus government to be representative of the community and with decision-making power in regards to the judicial system and codes, the academic calendar, and the policies and budgets within the Division of Campus Life. The report also established guidelines defining “administrative decision” and “policy” (these guidelines are still generally accepted by today’s Assemblies).
The Campus Council was formed, consisting of 16 voting members: 7 faculty, 7 students, and 2 employees. Committees of the Council could act unilaterally, and the deliberative function versus legislative authority was stressed. The Council maintained the authority to make rules governing the conduct of community members covered by the Campus of Code of Conduct (exclusive of those areas specified by the Henderson Law) and gave policy-making jurisdiction to its committees and boards. All policies adopted by committees were subject to review by the President, a step that did not exist in the Senate. This system only lasted four years.


After another study of campus governance, proposed alternatives were submitted to a community-wide referendum in the fall of 1980.

1981 to present

The charters of the Assemblies were approved by the Board of Trustees, establishing the Employee Assembly, Faculty Senate, Student Assembly, and University Assembly. The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly received the approval of the Board of Trustees in the spring of 1993. This is the current system of campus governance at Cornell.