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During Monday’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs meeting, members discussed scheduling for the upcoming year. The committee also talked about plans to work with Guidepost to establish zero tolerance on campus for sexual and gender-based misconduct.

At a prior meeting on Nov. 9, SACUA members had a conversation about why the Board of Regents bylaw giving the body its powers appears on the bottom of each of SACUA’s meeting minutes. Committee Chair Colleen Conway contacted John Lehman, former SACUA secretary, who in 2001 witnessed a contentious dispute with the administration over SACUA’s involvement in the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics. 

“SACUA wanted to express the rights and authority that it had as representatives of the University Senate and Senate Assembly,” Lehman said. “I think it’s a good reminder.” 

No member had an objection to the bylaw’s place on the minutes. 

MaryJo Banasik, director of the committee, then spoke to the members about the upcoming Davis, Markert and Nickerson Academic Freedom Lecture. The lecture honors three former University faculty members who invoked their constitutional right to not answer questions about their political affiliations during 1954 House Un-American Activities Committee hearings.  

The lecture was originally scheduled for Fall 2020, but with the pandemic, it was rescheduled for Feb. 16, 2021. The lecture will take place virtually from 4 to 6 p.m., and panelists will be available the evening before as well. 

“The committee is looking for opportunities to engage the U of M community with the panelists,” Banasik said. “The committee wants to set up some virtual activities or interactions with students, faculty and other groups on campus.”

Banasik also announced the faculty governance coordinator position was officially posted on Dec. 3 and will be open for one week. The coordinator manages logistics for the Faculty Senate, Senate Assembly and SACUA. SACUA will review the candidates and select a candidate by the new year. 

Conway shared she had a brief call with University President Mark Schlissel about the consulting firm Guidepost Solutions. Conway called the body to close discussion to share her plans on how to utilize their consultants.

The University announced last week it would be contracting Guidepost to advise on building a campus with zero tolerance for sexual and gender-based misconduct and to rebuild trust within the campus community. The hiring came after a WilmerHale report detailed over two decades of sexual misconduct by Martin Philbert, who rose from professor to provost despite upper-level administrators’ knowledge of misconduct allegations. 

“Schlissel wanted to make sure (faculty governance) were getting as much opportunity as we could,” Conway said. “The conversation ended with him saying, ‘If you’re not getting what faculty governance wants out of these consultants, let me know.’ It felt like a very positive interaction.”

SACUA made a unanimous decision to meet again on Jan. 11, even though this date falls before the start of the winter term.  

“I think it’s important in preparation for (the Senate Assembly meeting on January) 25th, because the (Guidepost) consultants are planning on coming back then,” Conway said. “Considering the amount of energy that’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks around the consultants, I feel like we should have this time to meet together.” 

Conway said she also attended last week’s Advisory Board for Intercollegiate Athletics meeting. The board spoke about discussions in sports media surrounding difficult topics such as COVID-19’s effect on college athletics, she said.

“It was definitely a dark conversation around money,” Conway said. “They discussed how we can ensure that the athletes are getting some sort of opportunity to do what they can do while we’re ‘bleeding funds’ because of not being able to sell tickets.” 

Daily Contributor Ashna Mehra can be reached at ashmehra@umich.edu

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