On October 22, 1890, just one week after the founding of the college, the faculty of the North Dakota Agricultural College [NDAC] held their first meeting. They were responsible for making and upholding the rules of the college and regulating student labor, study, meals, events, and duties. The faculty consisted of the president and all teachers and instructors. They reported directly to the governing body of the college, known as the Board of Trustees, which appointed, assigned duties to, and determined the salaries of faculty members.
On April 14, 1914, the Board of Trustees adopted a resolution that created the College Council. The Council maintained jurisdiction over all matters regarding NDAC policies not reserved to the Board or the college president. It consisted of the president and a group of fourteen or fewer faculty members selected by and accountable to the Board.
The Board of Trustees was succeeded by the Board of Regents in 1916, the Board of Administration in 1920, and finally the State Board of Higher Education in 1939. Supervised by each of these boards, the Council held legislative powers until 1960.
The Council sustained only minor changes until 1948, when it adopted a revised constitution. It now became the legislative body of the Division of Resident Instruction, excluding the faculty and staff of the agricultural experiment station and the cooperative extension service, although the directors of the agricultural experiment station and cooperative extension service remained members of the council. For the first time Council membership extended to faculty members below the rank of associate professor. One assistant professor or instructor from each of the six schools with two or more years of service to the NDAC were elected to serve two-year terms as representatives of the junior faculty.
In 1960, the College Council became the University Council, reflecting the fact that the NDAC became North Dakota State University [NDSU] in December of that year. When another revised constitution was adopted in 1963, the Council was renamed the University Senate. The Senate was responsible for determining policies and regulations in the areas of resident instruction, research, and extension. However, each division, college, and school now governed itself; and answered to the Senate only when its actions conflicted with university-wide policies or regulations. The new constitution also addressed the organization and operating rules of the Senate and its committees more thoroughly than those preceding it. For instance, the constitution established rules regarding proper meeting conduct and the preparation and distribution of agendas and minutes.
In November, 1973, the University Senate became the Faculty Senate. Changes that accompanied this move included the admission of elected students as Senate members if the Senate deemed student participation necessary to carrying out its responsibilities. In addition, the presiding officer of the Senate could no longer be the president of the university; this officer was now elected by the Senate from the membership of the Executive Committee.
In December, 1989, the Faculty Senate returned to the name University Senate. Four staff members were selected by the then new Staff Senate (established January 1, 1990) to serve on four University Senate committees. They also represented the staff on the University Senate, having the full rights of elected senators. Several student members from Student Government also were members with full standing.
Given NDSU's growth and development into a national research and teaching institution, the University Senate's membership diversity became too impractical to be efficient, especially since the faculty had no independent body to represent its specific interests and some issues being decided by the University Senate applied solely to faculty concerns, such as faculty governance. In 2010, the University Senate became the Faculty Senate once again with a new constitution and set of bylaws. Since that time, there has been an ever increasing emphasis on faculty governance in curriculum, teaching, research, and service, as well as collaboration with NDSU administration to efficaciously pursue NDSU's land-grant mission in the 21st Century.