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Nearly 60 members from the University of Michigan’s Senate Assembly met via Zoom on Monday to discuss updates on the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. The members acknowledged recent Senate Assembly committee accomplishments and debated an updated syllabus statement for the Office of Service for Students with Disabilities.

Faculty Senate Director MaryJo Banasik began the meeting by providing updates for a variety of senate committees, most notably the first meeting of the newly formed anti-racism committee. Banasik said a thorough report of COVID-19 committee findings will be available in January, which will analyze the effects of the pandemic on all faculty.

Several committees have been looking at this from different angles,” Banasik said. “This includes the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee, which is examining how the impact of  COVID-19 may be considered during a promotion and tenure process in the future, and the fairness, equity and inclusion committee on how it may have impacts on different faculty groups on campus.” 

SACUA chair Colleen Conway, professor in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, then shifted the conversation towards recent SACUA developments, specifically SACUA's increased communication with members of the University administration. Conway also said SACUA’s open-mic hours would be open to all members of Senate Assembly committees next semester.

Much of the conversation centered around whether or not the assembly was going to endorse a revised OSSD syllabus statement that would increase overall flexibility in conversations between students and professors about disability accommodations.

The revised syllabus statement, proposed by members of LSA Student Government, provides students with the opportunity to come to their professor with a disability concern after the first day of classes. It also notes that professors aren’t required to provide accommodations they deem unfair or too last minute. 

LSA junior Divya Manikandan, vice chair for LSA SG’s Academics Affairs Committee, attended the meeting and spoke about the goals behind the statement. Manikandan said the committee hopes the statement will increase disability inclusiveness across campus. 

“I was approached by a student who said they were having a tough time navigating the entire  disability accommodations,” Manikandan said. “(The statement) comes as part of a larger campaign to make the life of individuals easier, and increasing inclusivity.”

The responses to the revised statement were largely positive. However, the statement faced some criticism since it still requires students to obtain a Verified Individualized Services and Accommodations form before obtaining specific accommodations, such as alternate testing time or location. 

Amy Hughes, associate professor at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, said this form might not be attainable to some students. 

My main worry about this statement is the emphasis on the VISA form,” said Hughes. “If that is not achievable or attainable, it creates an obstacle in students getting accommodations.” 

Manikandan reiterated Hughes' concern, noting that the requirement for the VISA form could create obstacles for students if an emergency situation came up where they couldn’t get a doctor's note right away or faced affordability issues from having to obtain a doctor's note. Manikandan said LSA SG will work to address this issue.

The Senate Assembly then motioned to vote on the statement. The motion passed with 33 voting in favor, two voting against and one abstaining. 

Another version of the syllabus statement, with similar amendments, will be voted on at the January Senate Assembly Meeting. 

Daily Staff Reporter George Weykamp can be reached at gweykamp@umich.edu