The university's governance organization, as provided by the SUNY Policies, was established with the adoption and approval of the Empire State College Bylaws in 1973, and amended over the years. The bylaws call for a university Senate and a number of standing committees.

The standing committees are the Academic Personnel Committee (APC), Committee on Undergraduate Studies and Policies (CUSP), Educational Technology Committee (ETC), Governance Operations Review Committee (GORC), Graduate Studies and Policies Committee (GSPC), Professional Personnel Committee (PPC), Student Affairs Committee (SAC), and Support Staff Committee (SSC). In addition, the Program, Planning and Budget Committee (PPBC) advises the President on university planning and budget matters. Standing committees are committees of the university Senate. Committees make recommendations to the university Senate, which approves, modifies, or disapproves their recommendations and forwards them to the President for final action.

The University Assembly meets once a year at the All University Conference. At a plenary session of the University Assembly, the voting membership receives the annual reports of the President, State University Faculty Senator, University Senate, standing committees and Faculty and Professional Conferences, and proposes or acts upon proposals and amendments to the bylaws.

In addition to the plenary session, specific sessions are designated in the bylaws: a faculty conference and a professional employees conference. The Faculty Conference is made up of all teaching members of the University Assembly, excluding professional and management-confidential employees. The Professional Employees Conference is made up of all professional employees of the university, excluding all teaching members of the Assembly in academic rank, etc. Each conference discusses items of interest and may make recommendations to the university assembly.

Governance units are regional, school, or professional unit based. Each unit may adopt local bylaws, subject to the approval of the President. A copy of bylaws may be obtained from the convener of each governance unit.