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Definitions of Governance Documents

What is a Governance Document?

In the broadest sense, governance documents are the officially adopted rules and regulations necessary to govern human interaction. They are essential for the orderly functioning of any large, complex organization such as an institution of higher education.

Governance documents go by many names. Among them are by-law, contract, custom, directive, executive action (or order), guideline, instruction, law, plan, policy, practice, procedure, recommendation, regulation, rule, statement, statute, and many others.

Each term has a different meaning -- however slight it may be -- but the terms are often used interchangeably, thereby creating confusion.

To lessen the possibilities for misinterpretation, Rhode Island College has adopted the following taxonomy of governance documents:

Academic Policy:

A policy that addresses issues pursuant to the following articles of the Adobe PDF By-Laws of the Council of Rhode Island College:

  • Article VI - Committee on Academic Policies and Procedures
  • Article VII – Academic Standing Committee
  • Article IX – Academic Technology Advisory Committee
  • Article XIII – Committee on Convocations
  • Article VIII – Graduate Committee
  • Article XX – Library Advisory Committee
  • Article XXIV – Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Admissions Policy

Administrative Policy:

Any policy, other than an academic policy, governing the operation of the college or subordinate unit thereof, that has broad application beyond a single department or office, and that meets one or both of the following criteria: a) it helps achieve compliance with applicable laws and regulations, promotes operational efficiencies, enhances the college’s mission, or reduces institutional risks; or b) it mandates actions or constraints and contains specific procedures for compliance.

Executive Action:

Pursuant to Outside Link R.I.G.L. § 16-59-4, which states the president “shall be the chief administrative and executive officer…” of each public institution of higher education, the president may issue an executive action in order to fulfill the administrative and executive responsibilities of the office. Such directives may be issued under extraordinary circumstances where timely action is required, or at any other time deemed necessary by the president. An executive action remains in effect until it is altered or rescinded by a subsequent executive action, or until such date as specified within the executive action itself.


Procedures prescribe a series of steps necessary in order to carry out a policy. Policies are often appended with procedures, although procedural documents can also stand alone. All new procedures or material amendment(s) thereof must be approved at the vice presidential level; however, whenever the procedure or amendment affects more than one college division, review and approval must be obtained at the level of the President’s Executive Cabinet (P.E.C.)


Guidelines provide recommendations and advice that allow some Outside Link discretion or leeway in interpretation, implementation, or use. They often reflect best current practices. Guidelines may be appended to policies or procedures, and can also stand alone. Guidelines must be reviewed and approved at one administrative level above their point of origin.


Statements are formally adopted or issued declarations from an officer, committee, or other organized college entity that express an official viewpoint. They do not require review or approval; however, all statements adopted by a committee or organized group should reflect the documented viewpoint of a majority of members.


Practices are customary approaches to actions or events that occur on a regular basis. To assist in future planning, practices involving more than one division, office, department, or unit should be appropriately documented. Practices are always subject to change as circumstances warrant, but any change in an established practice must be communicated to all those affected.​​​​

Page last updated: September 06, 2016