Policy on Policies

How Policies are Developed and Approved at St. Lawrence

President Daniel F. Sullivan—September, 2005
Approved by the Faculty October 2005

This statement intends to make clear how policies—either so-called “University Policies,” that apply throughout the whole university (e.g., the Smoking Policy), or other policies with limited but still very broad applicability (e.g., our Maternity Leave Policy) are to be developed and approved.  We do have good documentation in the Faculty Handbook on how policies regarding matters expressly delegated to the faculty in the University’s Charter and Bylaws are made (see Charter and Bylaws, p. 10, and the Faculty Handbook).  Below is a proposed policy for developing and approving University policies and policies of broad applicability.

Policy for Making University Policies

In simplest terms, candidates for new policies or proposals for revision of existing policies generally emerge from one of the committees in our shared governance system, or from student government and are recommended to the president for his/her approval.  They are usually initiated by a member or group of members of a committee, or when initiated elsewhere have been referred to the appropriate committee by the president, a member of senior staff, Faculty Council, Thelmo, the Administrative Life Committee, or other similar body from which they emerge later, after due deliberation, if the committee concludes that a new policy or policy revision is necessary or desirable. 

It is important to draw a distinction for purposes of this “policy for making policies” between policies and administrative procedures, even if the boundary between them is sometimes fuzzy.  A procedure is an administrative rule that governs business on campus.  Usually narrow in scope, a procedure may be altered on short notice by the administrative office responsible for enforcement or by the President, most often in response to changing federal or state regulations.  Changes in procedures would not have to follow the process for new or changed policies described below.

A policy, on the other hand, is generally a broad guideline or rule for governance of behavior within the campus community.  Establishing or changing policies would generally (see possible exceptions below) require use of the process described below. 

Existing university policies all have what we call a “caretaker,” who is an identified university official or university department, office, council or committee, whose role it is to:

1.      Have the definitive version of the policy, including maintaining the official file of the history of the policy, its distribution(s), and any changes.

2.      Distribute the policy per requirements.

3.      Be consulted in any proposed revisions to the policy.

4.      Prepare revisions as required (for instance, due to a change in law) or as approved per the internal process described here.

Proposed new policies must also have a proposed caretaker.

In most cases, upon receipt of a recommended new policy or policy change, the president will consult with his/her senior staff about the appropriateness of the proposed change, and consult with the caretaker and the originating sponsor.  The president will also seek a legal opinion, if appropriate, and a statement regarding potential financial impact from the Vice President for Finance.  If he/she concludes after this consultation that no change is necessary or desirable, he/she will inform the recommending person or committee of his/her decision giving reasons.  The president will reconsider such decisions upon presentation of good reasons for doing so.

In the event that the president is prepared to support formation of a new policy or a proposed change in policy, he will put the proposal out to the affected members of the St. Lawrence community, either as a whole or as represented by a relevant group, for a specific comment period sufficient to allow views pro and con to be expressed and considered.  At the conclusion of the comment period, the proposed new policy or policy change will go into effect and the community will be so notified unless it is withdrawn by the president or amended in response to comments.

Some new policies or policy changes involve matters subject to specific oversight by the Board of Trustees.  In those cases, having satisfied the above process, the president will seek approval of the Board.

Two exceptions to this “policy for making policies” should be noted:

  1. There will be occasions where, in the judgment of the President, implementation of a new or changed policy should happen immediately, for safety or emergency reasons.  In such cases, the policy would go into effect immediately.  Members of the community who have objections or suggested changes would then be given a formal opportunity to raise them for consideration. 
  1. There will be other occasions where, in the judgment of the President, a needed new policy or policy change is so obvious that it should be treated as if it were an administrative procedure.  Members of the community who disagree can then object and request a broader airing, which the President should try to honor.

Finally, a new policy or policy revision accepted by the president will be sent to the caretaker, who will have custody of the final official version of it and communicate it to the university community as appropriate.  Policies will be available for reading in a designated section of the University’s website.