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About 60 of the 74 voting members of the University of Michigan Senate Assembly convened Monday evening to hear University President Mark Schlissel speak about the next steps after University Provost Martha Pollack leaves her position later this academic year.
The assembly also decided who will fill the board for the recently established tri-campus task force, which aims to reduce miscommunication and encourage cooperation among the University’s Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses.
As was announced in November, Pollack will be leaving her position early in April to become president of Cornell University. Schlissel said an interim candidate will be decided on soon while a search committee is being formed to consider candidates for the role permanently.
“I would like to do an open search, which means that we’ll consider both internal candidates as well as outstanding external candidates,” Schlissel said. “We’ll form a search committee in which the faculty will be heavily represented … the student community has already reached out to me requesting some kind of input regarding the search.”
In addition to discussing Pollack’s replacement, Schlissel also discussed the University's response to the election of Donald Trump, which has spurred multiple campus protests and vigils, including one that Schlissel appeared at . A group of students on campus started a petition shortly thereafter in a part about his remarks at the vigil, which included a remark that 90 percent of students had "rejected the kind of hate and the fractiousness and the longing for some kind of idealized version of a non-existent yesterday that was expressed during the campaign."
During Monday's meeting, Schlissel said he felt responsible to have a voice about shared campus values.
“I think it’s important for a leader of a great university not to become a partisan politician, but it is important that I really feel responsible for speaking up for our communal values as an institution and diversity, equity and inclusion are essential,” Schlissel said.
Schlissel also discussed the number of hate crimes that have occurred since the election in Ann Arbor and on the University campus.
“We all have identities and I think for many people those identities feel under threat, and unfortunately sometimes that threat is strongly verbal and we even have a number of these threats being physical — of assaults, actually, based, we think, on race and ethnicity,” he said.
He also noted he has co-signed a letter along with other leadership, in support of students benefitting from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order. The program, first established via an executive order under President Barack Obama, ensures legal action won't be taken against many undocumented immigrants who entered the country before they turned 16, and gives them the opportunity to receive a Social Security number.
“To our country’s leaders we say that DACA should be upheld, continued and expanded,” the letter reads. “We are prepared to meet with you to present our case. This is both a moral imperative and a national necessity. America needs talent — and these students, who have been raised and educated in the United States, are already a part of our national community. They represent what’s best about America, and as scholars and leaders they are essential to our future.”
Moving forward, Schlissel stated that the University will use legal action, if necessary, to protect DACA students.
The Senate Assembly also discussed recent developments with the tri-campus task force. Discussions surrounding the task force have been ongoing since the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs first meeting, during which representatives from UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn were invited to speak on cross-campus miscommunication and issues.
The task force was created in response to concern expressed by professors at the Dearborn and Flint campuses who believe it is increasingly difficult for professors to get involved in governance on these campuses, leading to a culture of disengagement.
Jerry Sanders, associate professor of biology at UM-Flint, is one of the professors who aired his grievances with the current situation at the meeting back in September, stating Flint and Dearborn are suffering from this lack of faculty governance.
“Unfortunately, for many years, support for faculty governance was very limited,” Sanders said. “This has led to a culture where the benefits of faculty governance are not well known, and it is not practiced.”
The assembly voted unanimously in favor of appointing Psychology Prof. Tom Wrobel and History Prof. John Ellis from the Flint campus, History Prof. Gerald Moran and Economics Prof. Natalia Czap from the Dearborn campus, and Emergency Medicine Prof. Rebecca Cunningham and Social Work Prof. Robert Ortega from the Ann Arbor campus to the task force.
The responsibilities of the task force were also officially voted on and unanimously approved by the assembly, but the proposal for the team’s charge was very minimally discussed. David Wright, vice chair of the Senate Assembly and SACUA member, explained that the task force will mainly be conducting research on the effects of faculty governance on all three campuses.
“It’s a fairly broad charge to essentially allow the task force to navigate the waters as it deems fit,” Wright said.