Courtesy of Roni Kane

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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met in a hybrid format Monday afternoon to discuss logistics for upcoming faculty government meetings. 

Faculty Senate Director MaryJo Banasik said at the beginning of the meeting that she recently toured the in-person locations for the upcoming hybrid Senate Assembly and Faculty Senate meetings. These meetings require larger physical spaces to accommodate the Senate Assembly, which has 74 members

Banasik announced that the Senate Assembly will be congregating in Palmer Commons on Sept. 20, and the entire Faculty Senate will meet in the Law School’s Honigman Auditorium on Oct. 4.

SACUA Chair Allen Liu said he, along with Banasik and Faculty Governance Coordinator Elizabeth Devlin, attended 16 meetings in the past four weeks with each of the chairs of the various Senate Assembly committees. The meetings aimed to specify goals for each committee to accomplish in their annual “charge” and confirm committee rosters to account for new members. Monday afternoon, SACUA unanimously voted to approve all of the charges and committee chair appointments.

Along with the committee meetings, Liu hosted two virtual coffee hours to connect with additional campus faculty members. Based on all of the conversations he had, Liu said he compiled a list of items to discuss with University President Mark Schlissel on behalf of the U-M faculty at an upcoming meeting.

“Between the two (virtual coffee hour) meetings, I had 50 faculty show up and I really enjoyed hearing their experiences and captured all of their comments,” Liu said.

Liu said the virtual coffee hours presented the perfect opportunity to explain SACUA’s role in passing the vaccine and indoor mask mandates on campus.

“I think those are important things that we did over the summer, and wanted to make sure our faculty’s aware of the contributions that they have made to make this happen,” Liu said.

Liu announced he will also be meeting with Provost Susan Collins on Sept. 24 before she is scheduled to attend the Sept. 27 SACUA meeting. Liu encouraged SACUA members to think about the topics they may want to discuss with Collins.

Sara Ahbel-Rappe, SACUA member and professor of Greek and Latin, suggested SACUA resume conversations they previously had with Collins regarding childcare support for faculty members. 

In May, Ann Arbor Public Schools announced they would not be offering before or after-school childcare programs during the 2021-22 school year due to COVID-19-related concerns. Now that AAPS and the University have begun the fall semester, Ahbel-Rappe questioned Liu about how the lack of childcare may be affecting faculty parents.

“Did we follow through talking to her about how childcare was going?” Ahbel-Rappe said. “I know that was one of the things that we talked about trying to anticipate how the fall would be with Ann Arbor schools not having childcare and just issues of child care generally for any parent faculty.”

According to Liu, Collins told him last spring ensuring the childcare needs of every faculty member is a challenge. Liu said SACUA has not followed up with Collins about the childcare situation for faculty parents yet this year, but he feels it would be worth asking about again at their upcoming meeting.

At the conclusion of Monday’s session, SACUA discussed the agenda for next week’s Senate Assembly meeting. Several of the committee members suggested rearranging the order of the agenda items to front-load the meeting with the most important orders of business. 

Kanakadurga Singer, SACUA member and professor of pediatrics, suggested making a breakout group activity gathering faculty feedback on the University’s current COVID-19 classroom policies one of the first items on the itinerary.

“People want to get to business,” Singer said. “Why don’t we have the topic for that breakout group be (COVID-19) and Fall teaching plans?”

In August, hundreds of faculty members and Graduate Student Instructors signed a petition calling for stronger COVID-19 protections. The petition — which wasn’t mentioned during Monday’s SACUA meeting — also demanded a universal remote teaching option as well as more testing and social distancing requirements. 

Liu also decided to move a presentation about the newly restructured Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office to a future Senate Assembly meeting. 

Elena Gallo, SACUA member and professor of astronomy, said she agreed with SACUA member and Information Professor Kentaro Toyama that it would be better to dedicate more time to discussing how the ECRT plans rethink how the University should handle sexual misconduct on campus.

“I second Kentaro’s suggestion to move the ‘handling misconduct on campus’ (agenda item), which deserves its own substantive conversation, to a later meeting,” Gallo said. “Also, I understood correctly, the new umbrella policy is going to be released (soon).”

Because Liu needed time to revise the agenda based on SACUA’s suggestions, he said they would postpone voting on it. Liu said he would send an email with the new itinerary Monday night, which will be officially approved when at least five SACUA members respond to his email in support.

Daily Staff Reporter Roni Kane can be reached at ronikane@umich.edu.