Policy on Policies | Policies

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Policy on Policies

Policy on adoption, revision and maintenance of Teachers College policies.

Owner: General Counsel

 I.          Policy Statement.   Teachers College, Columbia University establishes College policies to guide and govern institutional operations and to set standards and expectations across the College. The College seeks to bring consistency to creating and adopting College-wide policies, which will help the College maintain accountability and bring transparency to the process of policy adoption and review. The College also seeks to provide members of the community with a clearer explanation of what governing principles and standards apply College-wide, rather than only to specific departments or units.  In keeping with this goal, the Office of General Counsel shall develop and maintain a Policy Library website (www.tc.edu/policylibrary) that will either contain or link to policies that affect the community.


II.        Applicability This Policy applies to creating, adopting, and amending policies that are intended to apply College-wide or that will affect a substantial portion of the College community.


III.       Definitions.  

College Policy – formally approved guiding or governing principle(s) regarding the conduct of College affairs. This definition includes policies that apply College-wide or that impact a substantial portion of the college community, not department or other protocols, rules, or guidelines, even if they are labeled “policies.” In the event of a conflict between a College policy and a school or department “policy,” the College policy will prevail.


Procedure – a set of detailed rules or specific actions that implement a College Policy.


Related Policies – those policies that are cross-referenced or substantially affected (but not contradicted) by a College policy.


Responsible Office – the College office responsible for maintaining and updating a College policy.


Responsible Senior Staff Member– the Senior Staff member ultimately responsible for a particular College policy, typically but not always the Senior Staff Member who supervises the Responsible Office.


IV.       POLICY


A.                All College Policies and Procedures should be:

1.                  Formally approved according to the process described  below

2.                  Maintained, regularly reviewed, and updated by the Responsible Office, as necessary

3.                  Accessible to affected members of the TC community and, when necessary, to those doing business with TC

4.                  Distributed to all affected individuals in a timely manner

5.                  Available in the College’s Policy Library (www.tc.edu/policylibrary)


B.                 Format.   College Policies need not have identical format, but should contain the following standard elements:

1.                  Policy Title

2.                  Approval Date and Effective Date (if different)

3.                  Revision Date(s) (if applicable)

4.                  Name and Title of the individual/entity who approved the policy and can revise the policy

5.                  The Responsible Office

Existing policies predating this Policy may not be in the standard format. Over time, these policies should be reviewed and converted to the standard format.


C.        Department and other Unit-Specific Guidelines, Rules, or Protocols

There are department-specific and other unit-specific “policies” that do not meet the criteria for a College Policy. These should be identified as only pertaining to a certain department or program and the term “policy” should not be used as a label for them; rather, departments and schools should use terms such as “rules,” “guidelines,” “protocols,” or “standard operating procedures.” Department or program-specific guidance documents should not conflict with College Policies.




A.        New Policies.   Recommendations for new policies may be made (in the format noted above) to the Senior Staff Member responsible for the appropriate area:


  • Academic and faculty matters (including matters of academic administration) to the Provost or Vice Provost;  
  • Employment, fiscal and non-academic administrative matters to the Vice President for Finance and Administration;
  • Student matters to the Vice Provost;
  • Alumni and external relations matters to the Vice President for Development and External Affairs.
  • Diversity or Community related matters to the Vice President for Diversity and Community Affairs.
  • Legal matters, this policy, and proposed policies not falling within any other area to the General Counsel


The Senior Staff Member shall review the proposed policy, assign a Responsible Office, request further work from the Responsible Office or others if needed, ensure that appropriate offices and constituencies (e.g., the Management Network, Faculty Executive Committee, Professional Staff Executive Committee, Committee on Community and Diversity) have been consulted, and consult with senior staff as appropriate. 

Once a proposed policy has been reviewed and received approval from the Responsible Senior Staff Member, it will either be effective upon the date noted (if administrative approval is sufficient) or sent for approval to the relevant office or entity (e.g., Faculty, Board of Trustees). 

All policies must be consistent with the Statutes and Bylaws of Teacher College, including those aspects of the Statutes that assign certain rights and responsibilities to the Faculty or the Board of Trustees.


B.        Interim Policies.   

The President or a Vice President may establish an Interim Policy where there is a need for a College policy in a time frame too short for completion of the formal process described above. In such a situation, the Interim Policy will remain in force as long as necessary until a formally approved policy becomes effective.


C.        Revisions

Recommendations for revisions to existing policies should be made to either: 1) the person/entity who approved the most recent version of the policy; or 2) the Responsible Office for the existing policy.

Substantive revisions/amendments must be approved using the same process for adoption of new policies described above.

Such as corrections to reflect the new name of a department or new title of an individual; clarifications of grammar or syntax; and typographical errors, minor “clerical” corrections may be made by the Responsible Office without further approval..

The date of the most recent revision should be noted at the top of the policy.  All substantive revisions and “clerical” revisions altering names or titles should be annotated in a separate section at the end of the policy. These annotations should include the date the revision/correction was approved, as well as a brief summary of the nature of the changes.


D. Notifications

The Responsible Office should notify the affected constituents within the College of a new or revised policy. The notification should generally occur through a posting on the Office’s webpage, direct email or hardcopy delivery, or some similarly suitable means of dissemination. Notification of a new/revised policy and its URL, if any, should also be sent to the Office of General Counsel, so that it may be included on or linked from the Policy Library webpage.



This Policy on Policies covers all institution-wide policies and makes the policy process more flexible. It is modified by the General Counsel in consultation with a working group on compliance and policies and approved by Senior Staff.  It can by further modified by the General Counsel with the approval of Senior Staff.


Responsible Office: General Counsel

Effective Date: August 1, 2011

Last Updated: January 2015

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