Monday afternoon, the University of Michigan’s Senate Advisory Council on University Affairs met for the last time this semester in the Fleming Administration Building to discuss an updated form where faculty members can bring forth their grievances against administrators or other staff. They also paid tribute to Sarah Lippert, SACUA member and associate professor of art history at the University’s Flint campus, who passed away last week.
Last Monday, new officers were elected. Those newly elected will set into effect the next time the assembly reconvenes. SACUA chair Neil Marsh, professor of chemistry, began the meeting with a celebratory message on the matter.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the retiring members of the committee … for their considerable work over the last three years on a number of issues,” Marsh said. “Thank you for all of your contributions and service. I look forward to the new committee members. There will be fun things to do next year, don’t worry.”
Marsh then called on SACUA members Bill Schultz, professor of mechanical engineering, and Sami Malek, professor of internal medicine, to read statements they had written on Lippert’s passing.
“She was the champion of the underdog, challenging administrators and faculty alike that did not have her depth of knowledge on University governance and regulations, procedures and best practices,” Schultz said. “She was professional, ethical, passionate and tireless. She is admired and missed by many, even by those with whom she had differences. She left us far too early, leaving big shoes to fill.”
The assembly conducted a moment of silence in Lippert’s honor and unanimously adopted the statements from Schultz and Malek as resolutions in memoriam.
The assembly spent the remainder of their time debating the merits of a newly drafted faculty grievance report. After their review, SACUA will compile a list of recommended changes to send to University Provost Martin Philbert.
SACUA member and University librarian, Deirdre Spencer, said many of the provisions SACUA previously supported were missing from this version. Most notably, the draft eliminated a requirement that would compel administrators to hold a hearing in order to determine the viability of a complaint before dismissing it or engaging in a trial.
“SACUA had fought for these rights, and it would not be a good idea to get rid of them,” Spencer said.
Other members believed the provision’s elimination was harmless and would speed up the process. However, the group came to no definitive conclusion.
Another issue members noted in the grievance report draft was a lack of understanding over who would be presiding over grievance hearings should they move past the preliminary qualification. As it exists now, various committees exist for separate schools within the University. Instead, the new draft proposes a standing committee of members representing all University schools to be appointed and then serve for a set term.
SACUA member Colleen Conway, professor of music education, said a standing committee would be favorable to the case-by-case process in place now because it would be easier to train the representatives.
“You could really prepare them, and they could learn how to do the work, which is different from the way it is now,” Conway said.
The assembly also discussed the potential for implementing SACUA-run training to supplement the already instated procedures that representatives receive from the University’s Academic Human Resources department before serving on the grievance board.
“It should be all about clean processes,” Malek said. “It should be clean and transparent and fair.”
As the meeting came to a close, Marsh determined the assembly would need more time and research before finalizing their recommendations for the provost. He tabled the discussion until SACUA’s next meeting.