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Throughout this semester, there has been ongoing discussion at Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs meetings over the creation of a tri-campus task force between the different faculty governance structures at the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn campuses. Details regarding the task force, including membership, may be determined at the next Senate Assembly meeting on Nov. 21.
SACUA member Silke-Maria Weineck, chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, said on Nov. 9 in an interview discussion for the creation of a tri-campus task force began this semester due to concerns from representatives of Flint and Dearborn regarding governance issues at their respective campuses. In particular, she said there is confusion over how the faculty governance structures at each campus should interact with each other.
At the first meeting of the semester, several members of faculty governance at the satellite campuses — including Jerry Sanders, UM-Flint associate professor of biology, Sarah Lippert, an associate professor of art history at UM-Flint and Quamrul Mazumder, UM-Flint associate professor of mechanical engineering — discussed concerns about the structure of and faculty role in governance. Of the faculty members in attendance was Robert Fraser, associate director of graduate programs, research and scholarly communication at UM-Dearborn.
In an interview Tuesday, Fraser reiterated the discrepancies that arise due to differences in governance structures at each campus. He noted the University Senate Assembly in Ann Arbor is composed of all the voting-eligible faculty from the University, which includes all three campuses. According to the board’s bylaws, decisions made by the Senate Assembly are binding actions on the three university faculties. However, Fraser noted that decisions made at this level often do not extend to the Flint and Dearborn campuses due to miscommunication.
“If at the University Senate Assembly in Ann Arbor … everybody votes for a particular proposition over which we have authority, jurisdiction, binding action. In the Ann Arbor structure, it is enabled usually within a very short period of time,” Fraser said. “Often at Dearborn and Flint, the communication is not made or the authority is not recognized, and there is no effect on either Dearborn or Flint with their faculty governance.”
Weineck said while SACUA and the Senate Assembly are meant to cover all three campuses, representation is mostly from Ann Arbor faculty. Additionally, Ann Arbor does not have a separate faculty governance structure like the Flint and Dearborn campuses do.
In part because of this, the tri-campus task force will assess differences in the governance structures and determine how the three campuses can better work together, Weineck said.
“We’ll look at two things: first, have a task force with representation from all three campuses that explores how faculty governance works at the three campuses and whether there’s room for improvement, either in structure or in practice,” Weineck said. “Second, to explore how the faculty governance organizations on the three campuses can strengthen each other, perhaps better, and work with each other and whether we need to maybe reconsider or make suggestions on how to change the current structure.”
UM-Dearborn Associate Economics Prof. Chris Douglas, chair of the Faculty Council at UM-Flint, said in an interview Tuesday he hopes the task force will strengthen the governance ties between the three campuses.
“We’re separate universities, but we’re all in the Michigan system, so I think we’re looking for ways to work more closely together on issues related to the faculty governance,” Douglas said.