Policy Development and Approval

Policy number02-01
Responsible officeGeneral Counsel
Enforcement officialWMU Policy Committee
ClassificationBoard of Trustees Policy
Category02. University Organization and Authority

Statement of policy

The Western Michigan University (WMU or University) Policy Development and Approval Policy (a.k.a., Policy on Policies) defines the phrase “University Policy” and outlines the required processes for developing, drafting, and obtaining approval of University Policies.

Summary of contents/major changes

This Policy establishes the University’s system for development, review, and approval of new or existing University Policies.  All University Policies must be developed, approved, and distributed in compliance with the standards and format set forth in this Policy.  Revised to make technical changes; move procedures out of Policy; slightly revise order of Policy review.

1. Purpose of Policy

All University Policies must be developed, approved, and distributed in compliance with the standards and format set forth in this Policy. When Policies conform to the approved format, they promote WMU’s Mission, establish and maintain accountability, and provide transparency with respect to WMU activities and processes.  Similarly, using the approved format will provide speed to the review and approval process.  Only those Policies that meet the requirements set forth herein have the force and effect of a University Policy.

2. For Whom Policy is Most Applicable

This Policy is applicable to any individual or unit that wishes to either propose a new University Policy or revise an existing University Policy.

3. Key Definitions

  • 3.1. University Policy
    A written statement or set of statements that describe principles, requirements, or limitations that apply University-wide.  A University Policy will be either a Board Policy or a Board-Delegated (Vice-President-or equivalent-approved) Policy.  These Policies indicate “what” needs to be done rather than how to do it.  University Policies further establish campus-wide rights, requirements, and responsibilities. A University Policy takes precedence over all divisional and unit Procedures or Guidelines.  If there is a conflict, the University Policy shall control.  
  • 3.2. Board of Trustees (BOT) Policy
    A University Policy that is approved by the BOT and that governs the conduct of University affairs.
    • Example: The WMU Board of Trustees passed a Sexual Assault and Misconduct Policy.
  • 3.3. Board-Delegated Policy
    A University Policy originating from the Board-delegated responsibility given to the President, a Vice President, or equivalent, which guides and governs the operations and conduct of the University and its personnel.
    • Example: The University’s IT Executive Board passed a Mass Email Policy.
  • 3.4. Academic Policy
    University-level Policies that broadly affect the educational practice at WMU. For Purposes of this Policy, an Academic Policy may be either a BOT Policy or a Board-delegated Policy, depending on who ultimately approves it. Academic Policies are either those items that require Academic Affairs-wide participation in their creation and implementation and address Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and Department of Education requirements or items of academic shared governance with significant University-wide implications.
    • Examples: Appointments of Emeriti; approval of sabbatical leave for former administrators; Curricular Review Policy; Honorary Degree Policy; Provisional Acceptance Policy.
  • 3.5. Procedure
    Official statements of Policy implementation or clarification providing specific “how to” information. Procedures will normally be developed by the office responsible for administering a University Policy.
    • Example: The Office of Institutional Equity has a standard, established procedure that they follow when conducting internal investigations arising out of the University’s Sexual Assault and Misconduct Policy.
  • 3.6. Guideline
    Guidance that further explains Policies or Procedures. These are generally characterized by narrative descriptions or examples that serve as aids in interpreting and applying the related Policy or Procedure.
    • Example: The Office of Institutional Equity has internal documents and flowcharts to describe and guide investigations related to the Sexual Assault and Misconduct Policy.
  • 3.7. Responsible Enforcement Official (REO)
    The individual designated by the head of the division in which a Policy resides who is responsible for implementing, overseeing, administering, and enforcing a specific University Policy or Policies.
  • 3.8. WMU Policy Committee
    A standing committee that oversees the process of Policy standardization, organization, distribution and communication. A representative from the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) will Chair the WMU Policy Committee. The Chair reports directly to the President. Executive leadership must delegate a representative from their divisional area to serve on the Policy Committee. The Policy Committee will also have a representative from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, who will advise on Higher Learning Commission requirements, and a representative from the Faculty Senate.

4. Policy

4.1. Delegations of Authority

  • 4.1.1. Board of Trustees Policies
    Pursuant to the BOT Bylaws, the Board has authority over many “policies and processes.” For example, the Board has reserved to itself the authority to create Policies regarding the following:
    • Name facilities and memorials.
    • Establish, review or rescind all fees.
    • Accept all private, state, federal, and institutional grants and gifts to the university.
    • Establish endowments and make decisions to return endowment gifts or to seek changes in restrictions imposed by the gift instrument.
    • Establish investment policies.
    • Authorize the sale and purchase of real property.
    • Establish the contracting authority policy for university personnel.
    • Approve policy governing intercollegiate programs, including intercollegiate athletics.
    • Approve policies pertaining to students.
    • Approve admissions and retention policies.

      For a more complete listing of the Board’s Rights and Responsibilities, please see WMU Board of Trustees, Bylaws, Art. III, §2 (2002), available at http://wmich.edu/trustees/bylaws. Board Policies are those Policies that require a vote of the Board of Trustees for approval.
  • 4.1.2. Board-Delegated Policies

    At their core, all University Policies arise from the authority of the Board of Trustees.  However, where there are University Policies that do not directly relate to those actions identified in the Board’s Bylaws or that are more operational in nature, the Board has delegated to the President and executive leadership the authority to approve new Policies or Policy amendments.  For purposes of this Policy, these are referred to as Board-delegated Policies.

  • 4.1.3. Academic Policies

    For purposes of this Policy, Academic Policies may either be categorized as Academic
    Affairs or Academic Programs and Requirements.  Academic Affairs Policies are generally those for which the Board has delegated to the Provost the authority to develop and oversee.  The Faculty Senate is the Board-appointed body responsible for development and administration of Academic Programs and Requirements. 

    Academic Programs and Requirements generally include those items of academic shared
    governance over which the Faculty Senate shares responsibility for review and dissemination.  Those items originate through established Faculty Senate guidelines and procedures. See http://wmich.edu/facultysenate/about. (Faculty Senate review and approval guidelines are outside the scope of this Policy.)  Once Faculty Senate recommends a proposed Policy to the Administration or the Board, per the Faculty Senate Constitution and Bylaws, the proposed Policy then follows the process stated in this Policy for ultimate approval and implementation. 

4.2. Drafting, Submission, and Approval Process

  • 4.2.1. Policy Categories and Numbering
    University Policies are categorized into the following numbered chapters:
    1. Powers and Limitations of the Board (only the Board may create such Policies)
    2. University Organization and Authority
    3. Academic Affairs
    4. Academic Programs and Requirements
    5. Admissions and Financial Aid
    6. Business, Finance, and Auxiliary Operations
    7. Clinical Training and Operations
    8. Development and Alumni
    9. Employment: Faculty and Staff
    10. Facilities and Environmental Management
    11. Federal and State Civil Protections
    12. Information Technology and Data Security
    13. Intercollegiate Athletics
    14. International Activities
    15. Marketing and Communications
    16. Public Safety and Parking
    17. Research and Intellectual Property
    18. Student Affairs and Residence Life

      The division that is drafting or revising a Policy will select the category into which it fits best. Although a Policy may fit into more than one category, only one category number will be assigned. Within categories, the Policy Committee will ensure that Policies are numbered sequentially or by subcategory.
  • 4.2.2. Content/Format Requirements
    • All University Policies adopted after the effective date of this Policy must use the Policy Template.
    • The Policy Template and additional Guidance on content and formatting requirements may be found on the Policy Committee’s webpage at https:wmich.edu/policies.
  • 4.2.3. Policy Review and Approval
    • Review of New Policies
      • Upon receiving or identifying a Policy proposal for review, the appropriate Vice President will appoint an REO to oversee Policy development and implementation.
      • The REO will work with stakeholders to draft the Policy in accordance with this Policy and in related Procedures and Guidelines.
      • If the REO and Vice President have any questions regarding legal requirements related to the Policy, they should contact OGC before submitting the Policy to the UPC for review. 
      • Once the REO and Vice President approve the substance of the Policy, the REO will submit the Policy to the UPC for review.
    • Review and Revise Existing Policies 
    • A Vice President or delegate may revise an existing Policy consistent with the procedures on the UPC's web page. 

4.3. WMU Policy Committee

  • 4.3.1. The WMU Policy Committee will ensure that all Policies align with Western Michigan University’s mission and vision.
  • 4.3.2. The Committee shall be charged with the following:
    1. Develop and maintain a clear process for proposing, approving, and distributing Policies;
    2. Review University Policies for formatting and content;
    3. Identify and eliminate Policy conflicts and duplication;
    4. Work with Departments to establish and maintain legally required or externally mandated Policies;
    5. Implement and conduct a full inventory of WMU Policies;
    6. Ensure that the inventory remains comprehensive, up-to-date, and publicly available;
    7. Remove and archive duplicate, superseded, or obsolete WMU Policies;
    8. Develop Guidelines and Procedures for managing web and print distribution of policies, to include ensuring that Policies in the central electronic repository are accessible to individuals with disabilities;
  • 4.3.3. The Policy Committee will develop Procedures and Guidelines to implement the review process. These will include instructions for levels of required review, individuals responsible for various subject matter, and process for archiving rescinded Policies.
  • 4.3.4. The Policy Committee does not have the authority to create new Policies or make substantive changes to existing Policies. Either the Board, the President, or the appropriate Vice President must approve any substantive Policy changes.

5. Review Requirements 

5.1. Effective/Renewal/Review Dates

                • 5.1.1. Unless otherwise stated on the Policy, a Policy shall become effective on the day it receives Board, Presidential, or Vice Presidential signature. 
                • 5.1.2. The REO must review Policies no less than every three years.  Reasons to review/revise a Policy prior to the stated review date may include a change in legal requirements or landscape, change in technology, change in programmatic requirements, or change in social landscape.

6. Supporting Information to be Provided with Policy Proposal

The Policy Committee will develop Guidelines for what types of supporting information must be submitted with any new or revised Policy proposal.  Examples of required supporting information may include proposed or actual funding source or review procedures and enforcement procedures. 

7. Distributing/Communicating Policies

7.1. Electronic Publication

The appropriate REO and the Policy Committee must ensure that all University Policies are published on the official WMU Policy website: http://wmich.edu/policies. Any department, college, or division web pages that wish to include Policies may link to the Policy on the official WMU Policy Website. They may not locally host any University Policy. This is to ensure version control and that any changes are universally distributed. To minimize confusion, WMU discourages printing copies of Policies. If a Policy must be printed, please be sure the Policy date and version are visible on the document.

7.2. WMU Catalog

While University Policies may be referenced in the WMU Catalog, as of the approval date of this Policy, the Catalog is not the originating source of University Policies; nor is it the official repository of non-academic University Policies. The WMU Policy page is the sole repository for all non-academic University Policies.

8. Accountability

                • 8.1. Enforcement: Only the current version of a Policy is enforceable.
                  • 8.1.1. For University Policies that were created or revised after March 14, 2018, University administration will only enforce those that were implemented using the process herein.
                  • 8.1.2. Existing, approved University Policies that predate this Policy will continue to be enforced unless rescinded or otherwise stated.
                • 8.2. University Liability
                  Any action taken or complaint made based on an unapproved Policy opens the University up to complaints from individuals, the state, the federal government, or from accrediting bodies.  Failure to have or enforce existing Policies carries the same risk.
                • 8.3. Individual Consequences
                  Each Policy will set forth a range of individual consequences for failure to comply with the Policy. Those consequences could include one or more of the following:
                  • 8.3.1. Employee discipline
                  • 8.3.2. Student conduct
                  • 8.3.3. Contractual consequences
                • 8.4. Be aware that individuals attempting to enforce unapproved Policies may be subject to personal legal liability as a result of acting outside the scope of their employment.

9. Reporting and Monitoring

                • 9.1. Vice Presidents must delegate an REO to all existing University Policies and to any new Policies.
                • 9.2. The delegated REO will oversee a Policy or Policies. In the event that the delegated REO is unavailable or no longer in the responsible division, the Vice President for that division will become the REO until a new REO is delegated. An REO may administer more than one Policy.

10. Interim Policies

                • 10.1. The President, Provost, or a Vice President may implement an interim Policy in circumstances where a University Policy must be established in a timeframe that is 

                   too short to conform to the Policy Development and Approval.  Interim Policies expire six months from their effective date unless the Board of Trustees, President, or Vice President involved identifies an earlier expiration date.

                • 10.2. An expired interim Policy will not be enforced.

11. Related Procedures and Guidelines

                • 11.1. Units or divisions should develop Procedures or Guidelines that provide implementation and application instructions for University Policies. Procedures and Guidelines do not need to follow the process set forth in this Policy.
                • 11.2. Each Policy should reference applicable Procedures or Guidelines. The Policy Committee may review the Procedures and Guidelines to ensure scope and compliance with University Policies.
                • 11.3. Unless unavoidable, units and departments should not name or refer to their Procedures or Guidelines as “Policies.”

12. Additional Information

                • 12.1. WMU’s Policy Development and Approval is a work-in progress. Therefore, this Policy, the University Policy Template, and related Procedures and Guidelines are subject to change as we continue learning and refining this process. Although the Policy Committee will do its best to communicate any changes to the University at large, only the Policy website is guaranteed to have the most up-to-date Policies, Procedures and Guidelines. 

13. FAQs

                • 13.1. How do University Policies relate to/interact with the collective bargaining agreements?
                  • As stated in the collective bargaining agreements, the University maintains the right to manage, direct, and control the University and its programs.  University Policies fall under that right.  Copies of the bargaining agreements will be available on the Policy Committee webpage.  If you believe that a University Policy conflicts with a provision of a collective bargaining unit, please work with your unit to contact the REO assigned to the Policy in question.
                • 13.2. Whom do I contact if I have a question about a specific Policy?
                  • Please contact the REO listed on the cover page of the Policy.
                • 13.3. I still do not understand when to call something a University Policy. Will you please clarify?
                  • Ultimately, the determination of whether something is a University Policy remains with the Board or the Vice President who oversees it. Please reach out to your division’s delegate on the Policy Committee if you have specific questions.
                • 13.4. Can and do colleges and departments have “policies?”
                  • As used in this Policy, the short answer is “no.” However, there may be instances in which a college or department will need to issue a binding statement on certain matters (i.e., college travel reimbursement procedures). While colleges and department may use a modifier with the unit (i.e., “college policy” or “department policy”), try to use a different terminology. In most cases, such policies are really procedures that are iterations of University Policies. Suggested terminologies include the following:
                    • Directives: Written statement or set of statements that describe principles, requirements, and limitations that emanate from the academic colleges and other units administered by deans or associate provosts. Directives may establish College-level or Associate Provost-level rights, requirements, and responsibilities. These Directives take precedence over all unit procedures or guidelines, and if there is a contradiction, the College or Associate Provost-level Directive is the final authority. Example: The College of Arts and Sciences has an absence from class directive that applies to all departments and faculty in the college.
                    • Departmental Practices: Written statement or set of statements that describe principles, requirements, and limitations that emanate from the units administered by chairs/directors (i.e., departments and interdisciplinary units). These Practices may establish departmental-level rights, requirements, and responsibilities. Example: Each department must articulate minimum faculty qualifications in accordance with HLC criteria and expectations. Note: This is separate from Departmental Policy Statements, which are governed by the WMU/AAUP Agreement.
                • 13.5. Can I be subject to disciplinary action if I have not read/do not know that a particular applicable Policy exists?
                  • Yes. You are responsible for informing yourself of any existing University Policies.
                • 13.6. Is a rescinded Policy enforceable?
                  • A rescinded Policy is only enforceable during the period in which it was effective. For example, if a Policy was rescinded in 2018, but the action at issue took place in 2017, the Policy as it existed in 2017 is applicable to the situation.
                • 13.7. Do I need BOT/Presidential/VP approval to draft or revise departmental Procedures and Guidelines?
                  • No. However, the Policy Committee is always willing to review them to ensure compliance with this Policy.
                • 13.8. Will the University enforce divisional Procedures and Guidelines even if they are not “Policies”?
                  • Yes. The primary difference between a Policy and Procedures/Guidelines is the level of institutional review required before implementation and the scope of whom they affect. Units and divisions will continue to enforce Procedures and Guidelines the same as they always have.
                • 13.9. I have a wagonload of documents that probably should be reclassified as Policies. Do I have to immediately identify and revise all of them to come into compliance with this Policy?
                  • The Policy Project is an ongoing initiative. We envision that the change will be gradual. As you identify a Policy (or Procedure or Guideline) that should be revised, the Committee is available to work with you to determine if it should be classified as a Policy and, if so, to put it into the correct format. You do not need to revise all of your existing guidance at one time.



Effective date of current versionSeptember 11, 2019
Date first adoptedMarch 14, 2018
Proposed date of next reviewSeptember 11, 2022


Certified by

Kahler B. Schuemann, Secretary to the Board of Trustees

At the direction of

The Board of Trustees of Western Michigan University