A Brief History
At the founding of the University of Chicago, the fostering of close relationships between the University and its alumni, between its faculty and Trustees, and between the University and the city of Chicago, was entrusted to the University Congregation. The Congregation, however, proved inadequate for this task, and in October 1920, it was dissolved in favor of 14 “Commissions,” representing each of the existing departments and groups on campus.
Alumni, faculty, citizens, and Trustees were equally represented on the Commissions, which met quarterly (including an annual meeting with the entire faculty of each relevant department) and were charged with advising the Board of Trustees on ways to improve each department or group. In 1938, this system was found to be too elaborate, and the article in the Bylaws that had created the Commissions was repealed.
In 1948, the University’s Board of Trustees revisited the idea of creating groups that would serve as advocates for the academic units, through the implementation of “Visiting Committees,” which would serve the following units: the College; the Biological Sciences Division; the Physical Sciences Division; the Social Sciences Division, the Graduate School of Business, the Law School and the School of Social Service Administration; and the Library School and Libraries.
Though initial consideration of this issue led to the creation of only two Visiting Committees (serving the Biological Sciences Division and the Law School), these were soon followed by Visiting Committees to the College, the Social Sciences Division, the Humanities Division, the School of Social Service Administration, the Graduate School of Business, and the Oriental Institute. The article currently in place in the Bylaws that provides for Visiting Committees as Standing Committees of the Board of Trustees at the University was adopted in 1966; minor amendments have been enacted since that time.
The number of active Visiting Committees and Councils currently stands at 14. Some committees have formed and dissolved over time depending on institutional and Board needs.
The current Visiting Committees at the University are:
- The Visiting Committee to the Division of the Biological Sciences and the Pritzker School of Medicine (established in 1962)
- The Council on Chicago Booth (established as the Council on the Graduate School of Business in 1963)
- The Visiting Committee on the College and Student Activities (established in 1963)
- The Visiting Committee to the Divinity School (established in 1964)
- The Graham School Council (established in 2010)
- The Visiting Committee to the Division of the Humanities (established in 1963)
- The Visiting Committee to the Institute for Molecular Engineering (established in 2015)
- The Visiting Committee to the Law School (established in 1962)
- The Visiting Committee to the Library (established in 1973)
- The Visiting Committee to the Oriental Institute (established in 1963)
- The Visiting Committee to the Division of the Physical Sciences (established in 1964)
- The Council on the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy Studies (established in 1976 as the Visiting Committee to the Committee on Public Policy Studies)
- The Visiting Committee to the Division of the Social Sciences (established in 1963)
- The Visiting Committee to the School of Social Service Administration (established in 1963)