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On Monday, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met to discuss the creation of an electronic rules committee, SACUA office hours and an application for a COVID-19 committee. In addition to sharing Faculty Senate Office updates and SACUA chair updates, Provost Susan Collins and Amir Fleischmann, secretary of Graduate Employees’ Organization, joined the committee meeting to discuss how the University plans to move forward next semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
An hour before the meeting, three committee members met with University President Mark Schlissel to discuss moving forward with the applications for the COVID-19 committee. SACUA plans to meet again on Oct. 19 to review and establish their decision about the COVID-19 committee.
SACUA Chair Colleen Conway was one of the three committee members who met with Schlissel prior to the meeting. Schlissel also suggested that SACUA collaborate with Collins to create a survey for University staff to express COVID-19 concerns.
Collins discussed a variety of issues regarding faculty concerns and the University’s winter plans for students regarding the pandemic. She was asked by SACUA member Kentaro Toyama, a professor in the School of Information, about the University’s financial losses. Collins said though there has been uncertainty regarding budget and enrollment, the University feels their financial predictions are relatively on track.
“We’ve done a number of things to try to stabilize financially,” Collins said. “We’re in a more stable place for right now. I think that’s important to highlight.”
Collins said she values input from faculty about the winter semester but believes closing residence halls will not stop students from coming to Ann Arbor and living off campus. She said a decision about the winter semester would need to be somewhat established by November.
“Even if we had no students in our residence halls and all our classes were remote, most of these students would still be living in Ann Arbor,” Collins said. “This difference between having the residence halls closed and all of the instruction remote versus having some hybrid students in a much more controlled environment on our campus, that gap I see somewhat differently than it’s often portrayed.”
Fleischmann discussed the issues GEO is facing following their strike. He noted GEO made progress on many key issues during the strike but they do not feel it was enough.
“GEO is riding high off of the end of the strike, our membership is currently the highest it’s been since the right to work came into effect in Michigan,” Fleischmann said. “We are strong and energized and ready to keep fighting. I have never been as disappointed and disillusioned with our University and academia, in general, as I have been in the aftermath of this strike.”
In response to this statement, Fleischmann was asked by SACUA member Sara Ahbel-Rappe, a professor in LSA, how faculty can best support GEO members. Fleischmann said faculty can play a large role in persuading the University to adopt necessary changes.
“I encourage you all to keep an ear on what’s going on with the all-campus Labor Council, which is another important body at the University that’s another sign of power,” Fleischmann said. “I think just continuing to put pressure on the University as faculty and thinking about what it might mean for you to withhold labor.”
Daily News Contributor Kaitlyn Luckoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org