The Catholic University of America

Frequently Asked Questions regarding policies

Q: What is a University policy?

A. A policy is a guiding or governing principle formally approved to provide assistance in the conduct of University affairs. A University policy is a policy that applies University-wide, which distinguishes it from policies that pertain to only a particular school or department.

Q. How does a policy get drafted?

A. If the policy is academic, a new policy is initiated by the Academic Senate or one of its committees, the Provost or the President. If the policy is an administrative policy, it will be initiated by the President, the Provost or any Vice President. Any member of the University community can propose a policy to the Provost or the appropriate Vice President. A template is available to assist in drafting the policy in the proper format.

Q. How does a policy get revised?

A. Revisions are initiated in the same manner as drafts of new policies as set forth above.

Q. What is the role of the Policy Committee?

A. The Policy Committee supports the President and the Vice Presidents in implementing and disseminating policies, and in identifying a responsible University official and office for each policy. The committee works to ensure consistency in the format and presentation of policies; elimination of conflicts between policies to the extent possible; consistency with laws or other external regulations; identification of necessary policies; proper archiving; mission consistency; and ensuring a process for regular review of all policies.

The committee is not the entity within the University responsible for promulgating the substance of the policy.

Q. How can I tell the difference between a policy and a procedure? And how do standards and guidelines play in to the process?

A. Policies are to procedures what standards are to guidelines.

Policies delineate in broad strokes an organization's goals in a certain area of interest without describing the specifics of how those goals are to be accomplished. The procedures that correspond to the policy describe exactly how the policy is carried out.
 
For example, the University may have a policy that it will maintain current student contact records in Cardinal Station, who will oversee this process, and that it will review these records annually for accuracy. The responsible owner may then draft procedures which specify when the audit will be carried out, who will conduct the audit, how information will be collected, and how exceptions will be processed.
 
Standards are best-practices that are collected, consolidated, and edited into an organization-specific format. Standards may be collected from a variety of authoritative sources, such as other universities, government agencies, etc. Standards are often referenced by policies: "Technology Services will create, maintain, and promulgate best practice standards for information security." Guidelines are then created that will enable the University community to achieve standards in their work. This is especially important for areas in which procedures are difficult to write.
 
For example, the University may collate and draft a standard for maintenance of outdoor sidewalks. The standard may outline construction standards, perhaps from a national campus physical plant organization or standards expected by the District of Columbia, inspection schedules by facilities staff, and appropriate standards for repair or replacement of sidewalks. Guidelines are then drafted to assist facilities maintenance staff, campus public safety officers, environmental health and safety inspectors and others to make intelligent decisions about meeting the standards for sidewalk condition and safety.

Q. What is the process for providing input regarding new policies?

A. The Vice President in whose area the administration of a policy falls is responsible for determining who in the University community should review proposed policies, whether new or revised. Each Vice President and the Provost has a representative to the Policy Committee. Specific input regarding a pending or already drafted policy should be sent to the Responsible Official identified in the policy. If the policy is only in the draft state and a Responsible Official has not yet been identified, input can be sent to the cognizant Vice President.

Q. What is the role of the Responsible Official?

A. The Responsible Official is the University official charged with administration of the policy.

Q. Who is responsible for compliance with the policies?

A. All members of the University community are responsible for compliance with policies.  Individual managers and Vice Presidents are responsible for reinforcing the requirement to comply with policies.

Q. I would like to post a policy on our departmental web page. Are there any rules about what format I need to follow?

A. Only one version of a University-wide policy may exist, and that version resides on the official policies page. This is to ensure proper updating of policies, and consistency in presentation. Any policies referenced on a department web page should link back to the official web page. In other words, do not cut, copy and paste the policy onto the departmental page, but link to the policy that resides on the official policy page.