The formal governing body of the faculty at the institutional level is the academic senate, a body generally comprised of tenured and tenure-track faculty from the various disciplines and professional schools. The faculty senate and its attendant committees provide elected faculty liaisons to the university board and president. A primary function of the senate is to represent the voice of the faculty in matters of university governance.
Each Institute is under the direction of a dean. A chairperson or department head supervises individual departments of instruction. Faculty members are ranked, in descending order, as professor, associate professor, assistant professor, and instructor. Faculty of various ranks may or may not be tenured, depending on the institution. Faculty members can be dismissed from their posts unless and until they have been granted tenure, a term denoting a measure of academic job security that is earned through a combination of demonstrated teaching, research, and service contributions. The faculty generally has significant influence over the hiring of new faculty members, tenure and promotion procedures, the university curriculum and graduation requirements, and admissions criteria.
While the role of the faculty in governance was at one time largely advisory, over time the faculty has become increasingly engaged in policy formation. In many cases the faculty possesses significant authority over academic affairs. Faculty representatives are often found on governing boards, in formal or informal (non-voting) positions. The formal authority of the faculty may be codified in institutional charters or in the standing rules of institutional governing boards.
A number of other factors and informal agreements shape the degree to which faculty are involved in institutional affairs. Many colleges and ties have a commitment to a process of shared governance that incorporates the faculty in various aspects of institutional decision-making. A collegial relationship between the faculty senate and the president is a key component of shared governance, as is the relationship between the faculty senate and the institutional governing board. Faculty authority is also shaped by the strength and reputation of the institution's academic departments and departmental leadership, as well as the faculty's symbolic importance as teachers and producers of knowledge, and the legitimacy provided by individual faculty member's professional expertise.

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