SACUA talks improvements to faculty and student relations

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By Caroline Baron, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 6, 2014

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs gathered Monday in the Regents Room of the Fleming Administration Building to discuss several ways in which SACUA can support faculty members and students on campus.

SACUA chair Scott Masten, a professor of business economics and public policy in the Ross School of Business, reported on his weekly meeting with University Provost Martha Pollack. Masten said they discussed the Office of Institutional Equity, which works to encourage diversity and opportunity for all members of the University community, their continued attentiveness to issues regarding sexual harassment on campus, and the ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Pollack also asked Masten to propose a new idea to SACUA: that faculty host dinners for newly admitted University students in an effort to engage them on campus immediately after they arrive.

Several SACUA members expressed interest in this idea, saying this opportunity might deter students from immediately gravitating to the “drunken parties” that often take place during the beginning of the school year.

“We want to make sure (new students’) first impressions are not football and alcohol, it’s something more academic — a more positive side of the University,” Masten said.

Another important item on the docket was the recently implemented Fitness For Duty policy. Enacted by a group of the University’s deans, the program assesses situations in which an employee is experiencing observable difficulty safely performing his or her job. SACUA had a few concerns with the new policy, primarily that the deans both refer faculty for FFD evaluation and dictate FFD outcomes.

“All reports go to the dean, who is the final decision-maker, so you have the case of the prosecutor and the judge being the same person,” Masten said.

There were also questions of whether or not faculty should be financially compensated while under FFD review. Ultimately, the committee decided the policy required thorough examination and SACUA voted to continue discussing it at the next meeting.

SACUA acts as a liaison between faculty and a variety of important assembly committees and makes decisions about which issues fall under each committee’s jurisdiction. They discussed Monday the Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty and ways to improve transparency regarding faculty salaries.

University President Mark Schlissel recently told Masten they he had been receiving pushback from the Business school on this initiative. Moving forward, SACUA will consult with Schlissel throughout the semester, and their first official private meeting is scheduled for next Wednesday.