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 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

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 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:

  • The Board of Trustees is the ultimate jurisdictional authority governing Northern Illinois University;
  • The President, with delegated authority from the Board, has the responsibility to develop institutional policy for conducting the day-to-day administration and management of Northern Illinois University; and
  • The University Council has delegated authority with respect to educational and academic policies of the University.

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):

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

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

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.

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 (a) the Board, (b) the President, or (c) University Council, the University General Counsel and Policy Library Committee will be consulted for advice.

IV. Definitions—Resources

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.

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.

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.

The Policy Librarian manages the policy review process, coordinates the Policy Library Committee and maintains NIU’s Online Policy Library. The Policy Librarian shall be appointed by the President.

The Policy Library Committee (PLC) is a standing committee comprised of individuals (or their designee) including the 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 all proposed University-wide policies and revisions. The University’s General Counsel (or designee) will be available at Policy Library Committee meetings to provide advice and consultation.

The Policy Approval Authority may be the Board of Trustees, the President (or his/her designee), or the University Council.

The Responsible Office is tasked with the operational administration of a policy and its related procedures, processes, instructions, and forms.

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.

Shared governance bodies (i.e., University Council, Faculty Senate, Operating Staff Council, Supportive Professional Staff Council, and Student Association) are the primary stakeholders for University policies. Additional stakeholders may include, but are not limited to, an office, department, unit or group of students who will be affected by a proposed policy.

VI. Transition

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

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 approved and revised university policies that go 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 will 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 Committee is charged with identifying and recommending whether a policy, implementing procedure, or a guideline is necessary and consistent with the mission of Northern Illinois University. In addition, this committee will recommend the appropriate Policy Approval Authority for final approval of a policy proposal and the associated Responsible Office to lead policy development and approval. The Committee will also identify, as needed, content experts and other resources needed for policy development, approval, and/or review.

The Policy Library Committee will meet monthly. A representative from the Office of the General Counsel will attend and maintain ex officio status 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/amended University policy to the University community. That means can include a University-wide notice of the policy change, but is not limited to such notice.

The Policy Librarian shall also notify the University Council of University policy approvals made by the President, or notify the President of any University policy changes made by the University Council. The President is responsible for notifying the Board of Trustees of significant policy changes that are approved either by the President or the University Council. At the direction of the President, the Board Liaison and/or the General Counsel, or other designee, can assist the President with notifications to the Board.

The University Council will report substantive policy decisions and changes to its constituencies through its relevant subcommittees, e.g., Resource, Space, and Budget Committee and/or the Rules, Governance, and Elections Committee. The University Council shall also communicate policy changes that impact non-academic issues with its Related Councils, including but not limited to, Operating Staff Council and SPS Council.

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, the University Council, 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. In coordination with the Policy Librarian, it is recommended that the Responsible Office conducts an annual review of policies. All policies must be reviewed once every three years to ensure accuracy and sufficiency of the policy’s content. If the policy needs updating, the Responsible Office is responsible for authoring any revisions, following the procedures described in this policy. The Responsible Office may draft a policy using its own process or with the assistance of the Policy Librarian consistent with the University Policy Template.

X. Procedures—University Policy Development Process

All policy proposals submitted to the Policy Library Committee must use the University Policy Template online and follow approved procedures under this policy. All policy reviews include a 30-day comment period to allow feedback from affected University community members unless an expedited or emergency policy is required. 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:

  • 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.
  • The policy proposal (Policy Impact Statement and University Policy Template) must be submitted by the Sponsor to the Policy Librarian for forwarding to the Policy Library Committee. The Policy Librarian will not forward the submission if the Policy Impact Statement is incomplete and/or lacks the signature of an appropriate Sponsor. 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.
  • If the Policy Library Committee concurs with the need for the new or amended University Policy and approves the Policy Impact Statement, the Policy Library Committee shall identify the appropriate Policy Approval Authority.
  • If the Policy Library Committee rejects a proposed policy, an explanation will be provided. If desired, the policy Sponsor can work with the Policy Librarian to resubmit the policy for another review.
  • The Policy Library Committee will review the policy proposal to determine whether it is ready to be put out for comment to the University Community before being finally approved by an appropriate Policy Approval Authority. The Policy Library Committee 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 Library Committee may recommend methods of disseminating policies, recognize groups that will be affected, and identify issues and intersections with other policies.
  • Once the Policy Library Committee determines that a policy proposal has been developed and vetted properly, the policy proposal must be posted by the Policy Librarian to the Policy Library Website for a minimum of 30 days for review and comment by the University community. 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.
  • 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.
  • The Policy Library Committee will 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.
  • 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.

Per the governing documents of the Board of Trustees of Northern Illinois University, the University Council maintains responsibility for establishing, maintaining and supervising the academic and educational policies of the University. Proposed new University academic policies or proposed changes to existing University academic policies may be initiated by any appropriate Sponsor. All University academic and educational policies must be approved by Faculty Senate and the University Council.

Following approval and prior to its promulgation, a new or amended University academic and educational policy must be referred to the Policy Library Committee for review of the policy's consistency in format and presentation, potential conflicts with other policies, and accordance with laws and external regulations. As the Policy Library Committee conducts its reviews of academic policies through this process, it will give great deference to policies developed through established academic and educational processes. With the approval of the Policy Library Committee and after the 30-day comment period, the University policy will be forwarded to the appropriate Policy Approval Authority for final approval. Upon final approval, the Policy Librarian will post the policy in the Policy Library Website.

If a University policy affecting faculty is to be revised in the summer, the Faculty Senate President shall be notified of the proposed revisions with enough time (not less than three weeks) to convene an ad hoc committee to consider and deliberate. The Faculty Senate, or a group representing the Faculty Senate, will respond to the revision with an acceptance, a rejection, or suggestions for changes in the revisions before they are submitted through the formal policy approval policy described herein.

Per the governing documents of the Board of Trustees, the President has been delegated authority for the approval, development and implementation of University policy that aids in the administration, business and operations of the University. Under this policy, new policies or changes to existing policies may be initiated by an appropriate Sponsor. The Sponsor of the new or amended policy should engage in the drafting process (or delegate appropriate responsibility for this task) and consult with relevant University stakeholders.

If the University policy proposal would significantly affect academic and/or educational issues, faculty and/or students, then the Sponsor must consult with appropriate academic officials, which may include, but are not limited to, the Faculty Senate, Academic Planning Council, Student Association, Graduate Student Council, and the University Council. If the policy proposal’s effect on academic and/or educational issues is significant, the Policy Library Committee may refer the matter to the Academic Policy Approval Process referenced above.

Proposals for new or amended administrative University policies shall be referred to the President, who is authorized to delegate responsibility for policy development to other units or persons of the University. The President serves as the Policy Approval Authority for this policy. Administrative policies with broad university impact should also be reviewed by members of the executive and academic leadership teams.

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

  • All new policies will be scheduled for an initial review within three (3) years of implementation.
  • Subsequent reviews will be scheduled on a three-year cycle unless a shorter review cycle is preferred or needed.
  • Current policies will be posted in their present form.
  • The Policy Library Committee will schedule current policies for a staggered review over a three-year period from the approval of this policy.
  • During this review period, policies will be evaluated to determine continued need, conflicts, and compliance.

XII. Policy Changes

The Board of Trustees or the President may authorize the approval of a policy via an expedited approval process when necessary and in the best interests of the University. Notice and comment will be bypassed; however, notice and comment will not be bypassed when the policy comes up for yearly review. This authority should be used sparingly and not to merely avoid the formal process and procedures outlined in this policy. Special situations where this is likely may include, but are not limited to, a change in federal or state law, a significant and immediate financial opportunity, or a major institutional risk. When the President exercises this authority, the new or amended policy shall be publicly posted on the University’s Policy Library website, along with a written explanation of the reasons for using an expedited process. Policies that are approved under an expedited process must receive formal review through this process within one year of execution.

A temporary policy may be executed by the President, at his or her discretion, without following the process discussed herein when (1) there is an operational need to have interim guidance available to the University community while the full policy development process is carried out, or (2) when the 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 Library Committee must be notified prior to issuance. Temporary policies must receive formal review through this process within one (1) year of execution.

A University policy may be withdrawn by the appropriate Policy Approval Authority. When taking this action, the Policy Approval Authority should take steps to publicly notify the University Community of the policy withdrawal by publishing an intent to withdraw on the Policy Library Website at least 14 days before effectuating the withdrawal. When circumstances do not allow for at least 14 days’ notice, the Policy Approval Authority 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.

Revisions that affect the substance or scope of the policy should follow the policy development and approval process; however, minor revisions and changes in titles, contact information, form, or related information may be made by the Responsible Office and/or the Policy Librarian. For example, there are times when the titles of University employees and departments may change. Such minor editorial changes are required to be posted by the Policy Librarian on the Policy Library Website to allow review by the University community for at least a 30-day comment period, without the need for going through the formal process. Any objections to these minor editorial changes must be filed with the Policy Librarian, who will forward to the Policy Library Committee. The Policy Library Committee has the authority to reverse the minor editorial changes made by the Responsible Office and/or Policy Librarian, and put the changes through the formal process under this policy.

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