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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs held its weekly meeting Monday afternoon, discussing recent changes to the University of Michigan’s Standard Practice Guide and the introduction of electronic voting into Senate Assembly. SACUA also hosted University Provost Martin Philibert to speak on the new Biosciences Initiative.
SACUA Chair Neil Marsh, professor of chemistry, urged committee members to help with the nomination of candidates for SACUA in the upcoming election. According to the committee, only three out of the six needed nominations have been made.
“One engineering,” Director Tom Schneider said. “And two LS&A’s.”
Marsh then updated the committee on the discussion he and Senate Secretary David Potter had with the Vice Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs Christine Gerdes regarding the committee’s concern and suggested revisions about the new Faculty-Student Relationships Standard Practice Guide.
“Those concerns were transmitted to the Provost’s Office,” Marsh said. “David and I also had a meeting with Christine Gerdes about some of the revisions. In general, most of those revisions are positively received.”
SACUA then welcomed University Provost Martin Philbert, who informed the committee about the new Biosciences Initiative, which aims to create better access to on-campus core researching facilities for students and faculties.
“This idea would be for all sorts of cores, instrumentation, capability and all sorts of expertise that’s distributed across the campus,” Philbert said. “Some of it rare, some of it relatively abundant, but not worth any individual investigator investigating. The intention is to make them more readily navigable and available.”
The committee then discussed the most recent SPG changes regarding felony charge reporting and faculty-student relationships. The committee expressed concern regarding their lack of involvement in the process of the creation and passing of these changes to the provost.
Committee members said they feel disappointed not having involvement or a voice every time a specially appointed committee is formed without their knowledge.
SACUA member William Schultz, a professor of mechanical engineering, was the first to express the committee’s feelings.
“We have been trying pretty hard to get a little bit more say earlier in the process,” Schultz said. “I think one of the principles of shared governance is that faculty should be involved early on. Many of these SPG’s were formed by committees where we have little or no say.”
Philbert said the University takes their concern into account when making changes to University policy, but must also move quickly to address relevant issues on campus.
“There are occasions like the two SPG’s you are probably referring to, where the secular trend is moving so fast, and as a public university, and as a leader among our peers, we have to move swiftly,” Philbert said.
SACUA member Sarah Lippert, an associate professor of art history at U-M Flint, disagreed with Philbert’s response. She said she believes that, as a branch of the shared governance, SACUA has the right and the responsibility to be involved in the decision-making process early on.
“Part of faculty shared governance is to give each branch enough time to respond through their weekly meetings,” Lippert responded. “Not faculties appointed by the administrations, but faculties elected.”
The committee was concerned about the distinction between reporting felony charges or felony convictions. They are also worried the new felony reporting policies might cause biases or discrimination toward certain groups.
“Disclosure is not discipline,” Philbert said. “We have to trust the process, the oversight of the system and the discretion.”
Philbert continued to explain the new felony reporting system enables the University to review each case individually and make decisions on a case by case basis.
The committee also discussed the new faculty-student relationship policy with Philbert. Schultz questioned the changes to the SPG.
“Have there been incidents where previous student-faculty relation SPG failed miserably?” Schultz asked Philbert.
Lippert also worried the vague language of the SPG additions might make members of the LGBTQ community, minorities and women more likely to suffer from biases and discrimination.
“I am mostly concerned about how the SPG is articulated,” Lippert said. “I would like to see more research about faculty governance issues. There is a lot of literature on best practices on how to ban faculty behavior and language regarding dismissals and sanctions. Maybe it was there, but I didn’t see it reflected in the way the SPG was written. My main comment is that without those protections, I want to express the concern that the SPG without change, hopefully there will be modifications but without change, I feel like the members of the LGBTQ community, minorities and women are likely to suffer false accusations based on those categories.”
After the provost left, the committee debriefed the discussion and said they were pleased with Philbert’s information. SACUA member Joy Beatty, an associate professor of management studies at U-M Dearborn, was appreciative of how open the provost has been with the committee.
“I thought it was a good meeting,” Beatty said. “I think there are still some questions on when and how faculties are involved, could it be better, but he was very forthcoming.”
After discussing the possibility of instituting electronic voting in the Senate Assembly, SACUA moved into an executive session.