What is Shared Governance?

Shared governance refers to the inclusive structure in place to govern the College. The 1812 Charter of Hamilton College, issued by the State of New York, entrusts and empowers the Board of Trustees with all matters relating to the College. By amendment in 1904, the Charter stipulates that the “general government and discipline” of the College is delegated to the president and faculty, subject to review and control by the board. In turn, the president can, and has, delegated governance authority for various aspects of the College to officers and divisions. The primary role of the administration, or divisional vice presidents, is to manage general operations in accordance with defined policies, procedures, and strategic goals. Faculty have primary responsibility for the academic curriculum and the educational process.

The succeeding sections describe some of the delegated responsibilities and how they are managed, as well as how the various constituencies of the College seek input and engage in shared governance.

Hamilton’s Commitment

Hamilton is committed to the following principles of shared governance:

  • Communication
  • Inclusion
  • Participation
  • Shared stake in institutional success
  • Efficiency
  • Effectiveness

The College aspires to realize these principles through a governance structure that includes input from trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

Board of Trustees

As the highest governing body entrusted with “all matters of the College,” some of the specific responsibilities of the board include selection of the president, approval of an annual budget, oversight of investments, and upholding the institutional mission.

Hamilton College has 42 voting members of the board, 30 of whom are charter trustees serving renewable six-year terms, and 12 of whom are alumni trustees serving non-renewable four-year terms. In addition, there are a fluctuating number of life, or emeriti, trustees. The board meets four times per year to execute its fiduciary and legal functions. Board members also use their meeting time to build relationships and maintain contact with College constituencies, and to inform themselves on current matters relevant to the College’s effective operation. Committees propose actions to the full board for ratification as warranted.

There are 10 standing committees of the board, including:

  • Committee on Academic Affairs
  • Committee on Buildings, Grounds, and Equipment
  • Committee on Nominations
  • Committee on Budget and Finance
  • Committee on Advancement
  • Committee on Student Affairs
  • Committee on Investments
  • Committee on Board Governance and Affairs
  • Committee on Enrollment
  • Committee on Audit

According to its bylaws (version June 2022), the “Chair of the Board of Trustees shall determine the number and composition of all committees and shall designate the Chair of each, subject to the approval of the Board of Trustees.” All members of the Board of Trustees sit on a maximum of three committees. In addition, a number of invited faculty and students participate in meetings of most of the standing committees of the board with voice but not vote, in order to provide student and faculty perspectives on matters before the committees.

President of the College

The president is responsible for planning and management of the College, including policies, finances, properties, personnel, fundraising, and public affairs. The president sits on the Board of Trustees and has the authority to delegate administrative functions.

The president attends regular meetings of the Faculty and the Staff Assembly and is often asked to give updates on matters of College administration. The president meets regularly with student leaders, such as the editors of the student newspaper and with the president and vice president of Student Assembly, and often invites student leaders to conversations with members of senior staff.

The president hosts open office hours and meetings by appointment. When the president is not available, the chief of staff and executive assistant are generally accessible.

Faculty and Dean of Faculty

Faculty have the central role for setting academic curriculum and programs and their quality, as well as the hiring, promotion, and tenure process of faculty members. The tenure approval process is one example of shared governance that involves faculty, the president, and the board. Faculty determine and conduct the process for evaluating teaching, scholarship, and service for promotion and tenure, while the president and vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty recommend tenure to the board for approval.

A faculty member chairs the college Budget Committee and members of this committee are invited to board Committee on Budget and Finance meetings. The faculty chair reports to the entire faculty at least once a year.

The dean of faculty serves as chief academic officer and is a member and chair of Academic Council.

Faculty Meetings

The assembled faculty meet monthly during the academic year to carry out their shared work, receiving reports, discussing and voting on motions guiding their work with the curriculum and other aspects of faculty work. Faculty meetings are arranged and run by the elected members of Academic Council. Their guiding document is The Faculty Handbook.

Student Life and Dean of Students

The vice president and dean of students is responsible for all aspects of student life operations, such as residence life, student engagement, student health, and community standards. The vice president and dean engages with students by meeting via appointment or during office hours, hosting events, and attending organizational meetings upon request.

Student Life programs and committees invite participation by students, faculty, and staff in myriad ways, such as:

  • New Student Orientation and First-Year Experience (FYE) – Student interns and student leaders provide significant input on goal-setting and design of Orientation for new students and the FYE program. A student-run committee plans a separate orientation for students who enroll beginning with the spring term.
  • Student Life Steering Committee for COVID-19 Response – In 2020 and 2021, students participated in Hamilton’s institutional planning for a safe campus during the COVID-19 pandemic by serving on the president’s COVID-19 Task Force. A new steering committee for Student Life, which included two students, helped assess and communicate student needs to the task force. This steering committee will continue to meet in 2021-22.
  • Days-Massolo Center (DMC) Programming – Students, faculty, and staff are invited to serve on program committees for the DMC, and student interns have input into the programming offered.
  • The director of student activities serves as the Student Assembly advisor, guiding efforts and recommending resources to help the assembly reach its goals.
  • In addition to formal participation on committees, the Dean of Students Office builds opportunities for students to review and to provide input on institutional policy and educational programming (e.g., policies and programming related to Title IX, the COVID-19 Community Agreement, student conduct, and community living).


The board assigns responsibility for student discipline to the president and faculty. In practice, the dean of students has administrative responsibility for student discipline, and the president reserves discretionary authority to decide finally on any student disciplinary matter.

The purpose of the Honor Court is to uphold Hamilton community standards of academic honesty and to ensure protection of students’ rights in questions of alleged violations of the Hamilton College Honor Code. The Honor Court is composed of the non-voting student chair and 10 voting members, consisting of seven students and three faculty members.

The Judicial Board is composed of 15 members: 10 students (three seniors, three juniors, and three sophomores), including a non-voting student chair; three faculty members; and two administrators or staff members.

The Appeals Board ascertains that hearings conducted by the Honor Court, the Sexual Misconduct Board, and the Judicial Board have been conducted fairly, in accordance with defined procedures, and without undue bias. The Appeals Board is composed of three faculty members and two students.

Senior Staff (Administration)

Members of Senior Staff, or vice presidents, report directly to the president and are responsible for administrative operations of their divisions. They generally meet one or more times weekly as a group, and vice presidents meet individually with the president on a regular basis. Vice presidents serve on assigned board committees related to their roles.

Senior staff members strive to be visible and accessible by attending campus events, participating in campus activities, and interacting with students, faculty, and staff in both formal and informal ways. For example, a wide range of student groups are often invited to senior staff meetings for casual conversation and information exchange. The vice presidents welcome appointments and are frequently asked to speak at meetings of the Faculty, Staff Assembly, and Student Assembly to give updates on administrative matters such as budgeting, capital projects, and enrollment.

Library and Information Technology

The Library and Information Technology Committee works to ensure that library resources and information technology are used appropriately and effectively on behalf of teaching and scholarship at the College. Students (LITS ambassadors) serve on this committee along with the vice president for LITS, the registrar, and other members.

Staff Assembly

The Staff Assembly provides a forum where the interests, concerns, needs, and ideas of non-faculty employees can be shared. It aims to promote effective channels of communication, visibility for staff activities, and opportunities for belonging in the life of the College.

The Staff Assembly Council consists of nine staff members elected by the Staff Assembly and seeks representation from all employee classifications. When appropriate, the council co-chairs may invite the faculty and student government to send non-voting representative(s) with speaking privileges to council meetings.

Student Assembly

Student Assembly is split into an Executive Branch and a Judicial Branch. Students elect six officers to represent each class year: one president, one treasurer, and four representatives. Representatives chair standing committees that address specific areas of interest, such as facilities and sustainability, residential life, wellness, and campus safety.

Student Assembly oversees the funding of student organizations and events. A portion of student activities fees forms the assembly’s annual budget. Student organizations submit proposals to the Student Assembly treasurer, who reviews each one with the funding committee. The funding committee recommends proposals to the entire assembly for discussion and approval.

The treasurer of Student Assembly typically serves on the College Budget Committee, participating in the campus-wide budget development process and attending Board of Trustees presentations for approval.

Alumni Council

Approximately 130 alumni serve as members of the Alumni Council, making it the most statistically representative body among Hamilton’s peer institutions. The council meets on campus twice yearly during Fallcoming and Reunion Weekend. Its mission is to support the key needs of the College and its alumni by mobilizing the talent, expertise, time, and financial resources of all alumni. To do this, the Council aims to:

  • Lead all alumni volunteer groups in meeting the needs of the College and its alumni
  • Provide the link between all alumni and all constituencies of the College
  • Identify, recruit, and inspire alumni and future alumni to work in support of the College and each other, and provide recognition for those who do
  • Foster a spirit of loyalty and fellowship among alumni


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