Courtesy of Matthew Shanbom

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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) met in a hybrid meeting Monday afternoon and was joined by Interim University President Mary Sue Coleman to discuss faculty concerns including gender-based and sexual misconduct and the ongoing provost search.

During her opening remarks, Coleman said there are plans to announce the Interim Provost nomination in March. Current University Provost Susan Collins plans to leave the University in June to start her new role as president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank in Boston. 

Information professor Kentaro Toyama suggested expanding dialogue between the faculty governance and the Board of Regents to rebuild trust with the administration, particularly noting concerns with faculty representation during former University President Mark Schlissel’s tenure.

“The faculty have no regular time slot at the regents meetings unlike, for example, student government,” Toyama said. “There was information that arguably the faculty knew that was not reaching the regents because President Schissel’s administration very tightly controlled the information flow to the regents.”

Several faculty members, including engineering professor Michael Atzmon, expressed concern of a possible premature end to the mask mandate on campus. The Washtenaw County health department announced on Feb. 11 that the mask mandate will be lifted effective Feb. 28 in K-12 schools. However, the Ann Arbor Public Schools district will continue to require masking in classrooms and on school buses.

“The (case) numbers have decreased sharply, but they’re still very high,” Atzmon said. “I think it would be prudent to not rush and be careful about relaxing any mandates at this point.”

SACUA vice chair Caitlin Finlayson also shared this sentiment as a parent with children who are not yet eligible for vaccination. 

“Let’s be slow,” Finlayson said. “Not the first out of the gate, not the last.”

Toyama also raised concerns that the University, specifically the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX (ECRT) office, is not adequately addressing the University’s wrongdoing in handling sexual and gender-based misconduct.

“(Colleen Conway and I were) just in a meeting with one of the members of the ECRT staff and we’re not perceiving any sense that they believe anything has ever happened wrongly at the University,” Toyama said. “As long as that belief holds within the administration, it’s hard for us to believe that anything dramatic is going to change with respect to the handling of sexual misconduct.”

Coleman said she did not share the same experience with ECRT, but did accept wrongdoing on behalf of the University.

“That’s not the experience I’ve had (with ECRT),” Coleman said. “I do believe that the University has been very forthright about accepting blame and I’ve done this on behalf of the University.”

Sociology professor Silvia Pedraza was concerned about the source of the $490 million settlement of survivors of the late Dr. Robert Anderson, a former University athletic doctor who was accused of sexual assault, by over 1,000 former students, for over 37 years. In May 2021, an independent investigation conducted by WilmerHale found the allegations to be credible. 

“I have a concern about the phenomenal amount of money that the University of Michigan is paying to the survivors of sexual abuse,” Pedraza said. “Does (the settlement) hurt tuition and financial aid for students?” 

Coleman reiterated that the settlement will not affect tuition and financial aid.

“Part of (the settlement) will be covered by insurance,” Coleman said. “Part of it will be covered by reserves. I have no indication that this will affect tuition or financial aid.”

Coleman encouraged faculty to attend a listening session for the ongoing presidential search. Listening sessions are open to all University faculty, students and staff.

“I know (the Presidential Search Committee is) listening,” Coleman said. “I know they want the opinions about what are the qualities of any president that we need to make sure are embodied by the candidate that was selected.”

Last week, SACUA passed a resolution 31-20 recommending the regents expand the size of the Presidential Search Committee. The regents did not follow this recommendation and instead, recommended faculty attend a listening session.

Daily Staff Reporter Matthew Shanbom can be reached at shanbom@umich.edu.