Dryer elected as first career-line faculty member in history to lead U’s Academic Senate

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor Randy Dryer never shies away from stepping up to the plate to lead.

He served a total of 17 years on the University of Utah Board of Trustees, stepping down in 2011 after working through the era of six different university presidents. He watched as chairman when the U won its first Nobel Prize in 2007 and joined the Pacific Athletic Conference in 2010.  Throughout his tenure, the institution grew into a research powerhouse from the smaller, regional institution it had once been in Dryer’s earlier days on campus as a student in the 1970s.

He spent years in the classroom, mentoring students as a Presidential Honors Professor in the Honors College and as a professor (lecturer) at the College of Law, in recent years filling in as the acting dean of the Honors College while developing innovative new courses across campus. 

As a law student at the College of Law in 1974, Dryer served as student bar association president the year that he and his classmates dealt with the initial shock and denial, and ultimately the horrifying realization, that a fellow college of law student who they all knew and liked —Ted Bundy —was a serial killer. (That notorious piece of Dryer’s history landed him on 20/20 with College of Law alumna  and Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells this winter, as the Bundy case drew renewed interest with a film debut at the Sundance Film Festival and a new Netflix documentary examining the case).

Those diverse experiences will serve Dryer well in his newest leadership position starting on May 15:  president-elect of the Academic Senate, a body at the University of Utah that allows faculty and students  to legislate on matters of educational policy.

Dryer’s election to the position marks the first time in the senate’s 104-year history that a career-line faculty member will serve as president. The opportunity comes after a policy change by the Academic Senate to allow career-line faculty —a group that consists of about 45 percent of faculty on the campus—to serve in a leadership role that previously had been limited to only tenure-line faculty members.

Comprised of 101 faculty members elected by their respective colleges, two deans elected by other deans, and 18 students from student government (ASUU), the Academic Senate in recent months has taken on policy issues related to safety and surveillance, parental leave, and standards for website development. Ten standing committees take a close look at diversity, budget and planning, academic policy, and a host of other issues.

The group will examine several areas of concern in the months ahead, including policies related to the recognition, approval, and governance of institutes, centers, and bureaus on campus. Faculty review standards for tenure-line  and career-line faculty is also on the docket.

“One of the reasons I want to do this now is to meaningfully contribute to the university’s upward trajectory that has resulted from the vision and dynamic leadership of President Watkins. It’s exciting to be a part of the university as it grows its national and international stature,” said Dryer, of taking on his latest role.

Dryer follows a legacy of other College of Law faculty who have previously held the position of Academic Senate president, including professors Leslie Francis, Bob Flores, and Linda Smith. The Senate has also had diverse representation from other parts of campus over the course of its history.

Dryer’s colleagues say he’s the right candidate for the job as the U continues to evolve under President Watkins’ vision and strategy of “OneU.” The university is devoted to preparing students from diverse backgrounds for lives of influences as leaders and citizens, while also advancing discoveries and innovation through research.

“I can’t think of anyone better suited to serve as Senate president than Randy Dryer. He has a career full of experience in solving problems and helping people, and a true passion for the value of higher education,” said Bob Adler, dean of the College of Law.

Added Bob Flores, another professor at the College of Law who also serves as the Academic Senate Policy Liaison: “Speaking as a former Senate president and the longtime Senate Policy Officer, and having worked closely with Professor Dryer for many years in Senate service and in many other contexts, I am confident he will carry out the duties of the Senate presidency with great devotion, skill, and honor. He will be an outstanding representative of the University faculty and a champion of academic freedom and integrity.”

For Dryer, the new role will add to an already impressive legacy of university service. He’ll spend one year as president-elect, one year as president, and one year as past president. Besides his work at the U, he also remains of counsel to Parsons Behle & Latimer, Utah’s oldest and largest law firm.



The Academic Senate acts for University of Utah faculty “in all matters of educational policy, including requirements for admissions, degrees, diplomas, certificates, and curricular matters involving relations between colleges or departments.”  The Senate’s powers include:

  • Receiving and considering reports from all faculty committees, councils, departments, divisions, schools, colleges, faculties, libraries, and other academic units and administrative officers, and to take appropriate action within the scope of this authority;
  • Considering matters of professional interest and faculty welfare and making recommendations to the University president and other administrative officers
  • Proposing amendments or additions to the University regulations for the government of the University to the Board of Trustees
  • Approving policies and procedures for reviewing performance of faculty
  • Approving new degrees and new academic colleges and departments

SOURCE: https://academic-senate.utah.edu/