By Austen Hufford, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 29, 2012
University President Mary Sue Coleman publicly addressed the recent reorganization of campus security organizations into the Department of Safety and Security for the first time Monday. Coleman spoke candidly at the weekly meeting of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs — the University’s lead faculty governing body — in the Fleming Administration building.
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Coleman said she was pleased with the reaction to the reorganization but also downplayed the uniqueness of the University’s security problems.
“One of the things (the Margolis external audit report) did uncover was some long standing issues, and I understand from colleagues around the country that this is not that unusual,” Coleman told SACUA.
However, in the report among a group of other institutions, the University seemed to have the worst relationship between the Department of Public Safety and Hospital Security. The reported noted at other schools including Ohio State University and the University of Chicago, their security units were more efficient at their work and cooperative in their functions.
General Counsel search almost over
Coleman also noted that possible candidates for the University’s next general counsel have been selected and that the search is in its “final stages.”
In March, Law School Prof. Suellyn Scarnecchia, the University’s former vice president and general counsel announced she was stepping down to take at faculty position at the Law School. Debra Kowich was appointed the interim general counsel in May; previously she served as an associate general counsel leading the public higher education practice group.
University Provost Philip Hanlon also spoke at the meeting and fielded faculty questions. Hanlon and Coleman both mentioned the importance of digital learning and lauded the University’s role in the progress of Coursera, a free online website offering a variety of not-for-credit courses from universities around the world.
“The courses have been really interesting, and the enrollments have run between about 20,000 and 130,000” Hanlon said. “They seem to have attracted quite a bit of interest. I think it’s been really a positive thing for our campus. There’s been a lot of faculty interest; that means that our faculty are creative, thinking of possibilities, and that’s what we expect.”
They noted that while many students signed up for the University’s courses, only 10 to 15 percent have completed them, which Coleman attributes to the need for personal interactions between professors and students.
“When everything is virtual, the physical becomes more precious," Coleman said.
Financial Aid and the University’s Budget
Faculty questioned Hanlon about providing more grant-based financial aid to Detroit students in light of a recent pledge by the University of Chicago to assist students in Chicago.
Hanlon said it was not a fair comparison because while private institutions like the University of Chicago are able to initially charge full tuition for every student and give discounts to those who qualify, the University begins by offering reduced in-state tuition to every resident, utilizing significant portions of funding that could be otherwise allocated toward financial aid.
He added that $100 million is given to students in grants each year, and the discount given to in-state students totals about $440 million.
SACUA members also questioned Hanlon about the budget and the rising cost of tuition, and urged the University to be more transparent about what budget-determination factors and causes of tuition increases.