Policy on Managing University Policies

The Northern Illinois University Policy on Managing University Policies is the primary document that organizes the University’s policy making procedures and mechanisms. Under State Law, Northern Illinois University is governed by a Board of Trustees that has ultimate policy-making authority for the university. In its role of oversight of the institution, and in accordance with its governing legislation, the Board of Trustees delegates policy-making authority in relation to effective administration and management. In addition, the Board of Trustees, through its governing legislation, delegates authority to establish administrative, educational and academic policies for the University. This Policy on Managing University Policies is not intended to change, replace or subvert those delegations of authority; rather it is, intended to provide structure, consistency, and transparency to the policy-making process at the university level.

I. Differentiating Terms

University Policy

University policies are statements of principles and the associated conduct required of Northern Illinois University in the governance and management of its affairs, consistent with the University’s purpose and mission. As such, all NIU employees and students must abide by University policies. University policies additionally promote operational efficiencies, reduce institutional risk, and establish requirements for compliance. (Note, provisions on local policy development, which do not have university-wide implications, are described later.)


Procedures are the steps used to implement policies and describe how policies will be operationalized. Procedures specify how particular processes should be completed. They include information on tasks to be fulfilled and what steps need to be taken. Procedures that are lengthy or involved may be maintained outside of the Policy Library, but linked to in the procedures section.


Guidelines offer advice on determining a course of action. Following guidelines is encouraged, but not mandatory.

II. Policy Statement, Purpose and Scope

The Policy on Managing University Policies applies to all University-wide policies to be posted on the Policy Library Website.

This policy defines the process for maintaining all university-wide policies. It creates procedures and guidelines for implementing new University policies and reviewing policies to determine need, conflicts, and compliance. The policy is designed to increase efficiencies, facilitate access, maintain consistency, minimize risks, and enhance the University’s mission. It provides a consistent, transparent, and inclusive development process; an identified approval process; a mechanism for regular review of policy needs, compliance, and effectiveness; a consistent policy format; and an accessible electronic policy library website.

Faculty, staff, and students are responsible for knowing, understanding, and complying with policies that relate to their position, employment, or enrollment at the University.

Note: The NIU Constitution and Bylaws are exempt from the procedures contained herein and will follow established shared governance processes.

III. Policy-Making Authority

University-wide policy is defined by (a) relevant federal or state law, (b) relevant regulation promulgated pursuant to federal or state law: and (c) delegation or direction of the Board of Trustees (“Board”). Currently, there are three policy-making authorities at Northern Illinois University:

  1. The Board of Trustees is the ultimate jurisdictional authority governing Northern Illinois University;
  2. The President, with delegated authority from the Board,
  3. Faculty Senate has delegated authority for some academic matters, including approval of university curriculum, standards for student admissions and academic progress, and the process for faculty tenure and promotion.
  4. University Council advises the president and vice presidents on policies affecting the quality of student life on campus and campus planning, building construction and utilization.

Note: This policy does not address policy making and administration for the University’s Board of Trustees.

The policies of Northern Illinois University fall within the following framework and hierarchy and, therefore, are subject to compliance with laws and regulations instituted by higher levels of authority as follows (organized highest to lowest):

  1. Federal laws and regulations.
  2. State laws and regulations.
  3. NIU Board of Trustees Bylaws, Regulations and Policies.
  4. University-wide policies (including academic policies).
  5. Local policies, which include, but are not limited to:
    1. Divisional policies.
    2. College or Administrative Unit policies.
    3. Academic Unit or Center policies.

In the event of a conflict between different levels, the highest level takes precedence.

Local Policy Development

Academic and administrative units (including colleges, schools, and departments) may develop their own policies regarding the business and operations of the respective academic or administrative unit. However, these policies must not conflict with existing law and/or University policy or be inconsistent with the intent of such University policies or the law. In the event of a conflict between a University-wide policy and a campus, school, or departmental policy, the University policy will prevail.

Determination of Policy-making Authority

In most cases, responsibility for policy-making authority is clearly defined by applicable law and in Board of Trustees legislation (e.g., Bylaws, Regulations, NIU Constitution). In addition, past practice and the nature of the policy can help determine the appropriate policy-making authority. If a question arises whether a policy falls under the purview and jurisdiction of the Board, the President, Faculty Senate, or University Council, the University General Counsel and Policy Library Committee will be consulted for advice.

IV. Definitions—Resources

  1. Policy Impact Statement—A short statement that identifies how potential stakeholders may be affected by a policy’s implementation. This will include an identification of stakeholders, workload implications, and, if appropriate, suggested processes/sanctions for non-compliance.
  2. Policy Library Website—The policy library website will serve as the official location for all University-wide policies. The policy documents housed in the policy library website carry the full force of the University. Policies posted on the policy library website supersede policies that exist only on paper and those not located on the policy library website. Additionally, it is the responsibility of the Responsible Office for any University policy that does not exist on the policy library website to submit a copy, immediately upon discovery, to the Policy Librarian for inclusion in the policy library website. The policy library website will also include resources, forms, and templates needed to create, review, and manage the University’s policies.
  3. University Policy Template—The standard template, as formatted and fully completed for posting on the policy library website, should be used for all University policies. This will ensure consistency and facilitate the adoption and review of clear, concise, and uniform University policies. Any associated procedures shall be written in a step-by-step format that is easy to understand.

V. Definitions—Personnel

The following are general summaries of the personnel involved in the policy-making body. Further duties, roles and responsibilities of each personnel listed here can be found throughout this policy.

  1. Policy Librarian—The Policy Librarian manages the policy review process, coordinates the Policy Library Committee and maintains NIU’s Online Policy Library.
  2. Policy Library Committee—The Policy Library Committee (PLC) is a standing committee comprised of individuals (or their designee) including the Policy Librarian, Executive Vice President and Provost; the Vice President for Administration and Finance; the Senior Associate Vice President for Human Resources; the Senior Associate Vice President for Academic Diversity and Chief Diversity Officer; the Executive Secretary of University Council; the chair of the University Council’s Rules, Governance, and Elections Committee; the Presidents of the Operating Staff Council, Supportive Professional Staff Council, and Student Association. The Policy Library Committee, or a subcommittee thereof, participates in the review of proposed University-wide policies and revisions. The University’s General Counsel (or their designee) will be available at Policy Library Committee meetings to provide advice and consultation.
  3. Policy Approval Authority—The Policy Approval Authority may be the Board of Trustees, the President (or their designee), Faculty Senate, and University Council.
  4. Responsible Office—The Responsible Office is tasked with the operational administration of a policy and its related procedures, processes, instructions, and forms.
  5. Sponsor-The Sponsor formally endorses a policy proposal for forwarding to the Policy Library Committee for review and consideration as a University policy. Those persons/entities able to act as Sponsors include the President, any of the Vice Presidents, any of the Deans, and the University Council. Those persons/entities who have recommended policy proposals need to obtain an endorsement from an appropriate Sponsor before the proposal is submitted to the Policy Librarian for review and consideration by the Policy Library Committee.

VI. Transition

All policies currently in effect when this policy is approved will be posted without revision. In the event of a conflict or inconsistency between policies, the Policy Librarian should consult with the Policy Library Committee and the General Counsel to resolve the conflict or further designate who may resolve the conflict. As part of the review cycle, current policies will be scheduled for review within three years of this policy’s approval. The Policy Library Committee will establish a staggered review cycle to manage the process. Upon review, existing policies will be re-written using the University Policy Template.

VII. Roles and Responsibilities of the Policy Librarian and Policy Library Committee

The Policy Librarian maintains, publishes, and notifies the university community of all new, revised, and approved, university policies that are placed into the policy library. In addition, the Policy Librarian will establish a review schedule for all university policies maintained in the policy library, facilitates review cycles, and serves as a reference for the University community for the policy development and management process under this policy. The Policy Librarian shall also be responsible for working closely with the University’s Regional History Center and University Archives to ensure proper archiving of old and outdated University policies.

During the policy creation and review process, the Policy Librarian may receive comments, concerns, and questions about policies. The Policy Librarian will direct feedback and questions regarding specific policies to the associated Responsible Office and follow up to ensure that inquiries are addressed. The Policy Librarian may present policy drafts to the Policy Library Committee for suggestions concerning language, level of detail, readability, and potential impacts on other university policies or practices.

The Policy Library Committee is charged with reviewing new or revised policies and discussing whether the policy has been appropriately vetted by campus, whether an adequate communication plan has been developed, what new resources are required for implementation, and whether the policy is consistent with the university’s mission and state and federal rules and regulations. The Committee may recommend content experts and other resources needed for further policy development, approval, and/or review.

The Policy Library Committee meets on an as needed basis as determined by the Policy Librarian. A representative from the Office of the General Counsel will attend the meetings for advice and consultation.

VIII. Policy Reporting

Once a University policy is approved by the appropriate Policy Approval Authority, the Policy Librarian shall be notified of this approval and shall be responsible for publishing the approved University policy in the Policy Library. In addition, the Policy Librarian shall establish an appropriate means of communicating the new or revised university policy to the university community.

IX. Policy Management and Responsibility

Every policy has a Policy Approval Authority and associated Responsible Office. Depending on the scope of the subject matter, a policy may have more than one Policy Approval Authority and/or Responsible Office. The Policy Approval Authority will either be the President, Faculty Senate and/or the Board of Trustees. The Policy Approval Authority is ultimately responsible for approving the substance of policy proposals and compliance with approved policies under its jurisdiction; and delegating to and overseeing the performance of the Responsible Office assigned to each approved policy.

The Responsible Office is charged with ownership of a specific policy and serves as the point of contact for members of the University community on interpretation and implementation of that policy.

X. Procedures—University Policy Development Process

All policy proposals submitted to the Policy Library Committee must use the University Policy Template and follow approved procedures under this policy. Absent a waiver, policy reviews include a 30-day comment period to allow feedback from University community members. The policy library website will contain information about a University policy that is being developed, revised, or withdrawn, under the direction of the Policy Library Committee and/or Policy Librarian.

Policy proposals or reviews include the following processes:

  1. Recommendations for new or revised policies may be proposed to an appropriate Sponsor by any member of the University community. If the Sponsor concurs with the recommendation, the Sponsor shall become the proponent of the University policy proposal. A Policy Impact Statement must be prepared by or at the direction of the Sponsor, using the format set forth within the Policy Library. In addition, an initial draft of the University Policy Template should be submitted with the Policy Impact Statement, also located within the Policy Library. If the submission is a revision to a currently existing policy, the policy proposal shall include information discussing the changes that were made to the policy. This can be by indicating the changes within the policy or supplementing with a memorandum. The policy proposal (Policy Impact Statement and University Policy Template) must be submitted by the Sponsor to the Policy Librarian. The Policy Librarian will review  the submission to determine if the Policy Impact Statement is complete and to determine whether the policy approval authority is appropriate.
  2. The Policy Librarian will review the policy proposal to determine whether it is ready to be put out for comment to the University Community before being approved by an appropriate Policy Approval Authority. The Policy Librarian may recommend further policy development and/or further consultation with University stakeholders and send the policy proposal back to the Sponsor. In conducting this review, the Policy Librarian may recommend methods of disseminating policies, recognize groups that will be affected, and identify issues and intersections with other policies.
  3. Once the Policy Librarian determines that a policy proposal has been developed and vetted properly, the policy proposal will be posted to the Policy Library Website for a minimum of 30 days for review and comment by the University community. The policy proposal will also be sent to the Policy Library Committee when it is placed for public comment. All comments received during this time will be open to the University community and reviewed by the Policy Librarian and the Responsible Office for the policy. However, there shall not be an expectation that the Policy Librarian and/or Responsible Office will respond to each comment provided. The Policy Librarian shall refer out, as appropriate, any comments that need to be addressed by relevant University community members, other than the Responsible Office. Those written responses shall also be reviewed by the Responsible Office.
  4. The Responsible Office shall consider all comments and written responses from relevant constituencies to determine whether any further edits to the policy proposal need to be made. Once that is completed, the Responsible Office shall submit to the Policy Librarian (for forwarding to the Policy Library Committee) the final version of the policy proposal and a cover letter summarizing, in general, how comments were addressed in the final version. The comments and the written responses from relevant constituencies will be attached and posted online.
  5. After the comment period has expired and at the direction of the Policy Librarian, the Policy Library Committee may convene to review the policy proposal, the written cover letter from the Responsible Office (including attached comments and written responses to comments) and the consultative process that has been undertaken. The Policy Library Committee may invite input from sponsors, stakeholders and other guests. The Policy Library Committee may refer the matter back to any appropriate person or entity if it believes that additional consultation is appropriate. The Policy Library Committee can also determine whether one additional 30-day comment period is necessary.
  6. If no further consultation is necessary, the Policy Librarian shall forward the policy proposal, comments, responses to comments and any additional information that the Policy Library Committee deems necessary to the appropriate Policy Approval Authority for final approval. The Policy Librarian will publish and distribute the final approved University policy to the University community via the Policy Library Website and provide appropriate notices to the University community that a new/amended policy has been added to the policy library.

Issuing a Policy

Once a policy is approved by an appropriate Policy Approval Authority, the Responsible Office oversees the implementation, maintenance and enforcement of the policy. The Policy Librarian places the approved University policy on the Policy Library Website.

XI. Policy Review Cycle

Policies will be scheduled for review within three (3) years after date of approval, whether it is a new or revised policy. The Policy Librarian is responsible for scheduling the review cycle and may consult with the responsible Office regarding need, conflicts, and compliance.

XII. Policy Changes

  1. Waiver. A Policy Sponsor may submit a waiver request to bypass the 30-day comment period under one of the following circumstances:
    1. Sufficient meaningful notice and comment of the policy has been provided.
    2. Policy has been approved by relevant shared governance groups and the Policy Approval Authority.
    3. Changes are editorial, purely housekeeping or stylistic in nature.
    4. State or federal law or regulation requires the immediate change in the policy.
    5. Other unusual or unforeseen circumstance.
    The waiver request must include a circumstance identified above and provide a detailed explanation in support of the request. The Policy Librarian will review the waiver request to determine whether it should be granted. The Policy Librarian may consult with the Policy Library Committee in making such a determination. If the request is granted, the Policy Librarian will coordinate communication to the university community with the policy sponsor. The Policy Librarian will post the policy proposal on the Policy Library for inclusion.
  2. Temporary policies—A temporary policy may be executed by the President, at his or her discretion, without following the process discussed herein under one of the following circumstances:
    1. There is an operational need to have interim guidance available to the University community while the full policy development process is carried out.
    2. A temporary policy is issued for a limited duration to address a temporary condition or matter and is not intended to be permanent university policy.
    The Policy Librarian must be notified prior to issuance. Temporary policies must receive formal review through this process within one (1) year of execution.
  3. Withdrawn policies—A University policy may be withdrawn by the appropriate Policy Approval Authority or Policy Sponsor. When taking this action, the Policy Approval Authority or Policy Sponsor must notify the Policy Librarian who will take steps to publicly notify the University Community of the policy withdrawal. Notice of the withdrawal will take place on the Policy Library Website for at least 14 days before effectuating the withdrawal. When circumstances do not allow for at least 14 days’ notice, the Policy Librarian shall post the withdrawal as soon as practical, with reasons for why the 14 days’ notice requirement could not be met. When policies are withdrawn, the Policy Librarian is responsible for sharing the withdrawn policy and associated information (e.g., revision dates) with the University archivist for indefinite long-term storage.

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