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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met on Monday to discuss initiatives to better engage Senate Assembly members and incentivize attendance of assembly meetings.

The meeting began with members recapping motions discussed during past meetings this school year, including the upcoming Regents Candidate Forum. On Oct. 15, SACUA will host all the candidates for the University’s governing body to discuss their candidacy and qualifications. 

The key issue on Monday’s agenda was absenteeism among Senate Assembly members during their monthly meetings. As achieving a quorum for each meeting has become a recurring issue, many SACUA members including Sarah Lippert, associate professor of Art History at the U-M Flint, offered suggestions to encourage attendance both during assembly and committee meetings. 

“I’m wondering if there are mechanisms to reinforce lines of communication between the assembly and SACUA,” Lippert said. “Are we inviting them in effective ways to bring issues of their faculty forward?”

SACUA Vice Chair Joy Beatty, associate professor of Management Studies at the U-M Dearborn, recommended a points system to boost attendance among assembly members and increase involvement. Similar to techniques used on students, members agreed that the inclusion of such incentives could produce positive effects among faculty.

Touching on issues of achieving a quorum, the chronic truancy of some assembly members from meetings could stem from a variety of factors. Because quorum was established decades ago, attempts to amend the code have faltered. In order to change the quorum policy within the code, the number must be satisfied at the meeting in which the vote would take place. This continuous issue, in addition to the lack of interest and urgency among members, has contributed to low attendance numbers in recent years. In extreme cases, Beatty said some members do not realize they’re a part of the Senate Assembly.

“(Last meeting) there were 15 or so people that were absent and were ‘no call, no show,’ and this is also happening in our committees,” Beatty said. “The question is, (are we) empowered to remove those people from (these) committee(s)?”

SACUA members then discussed the possibility of substituting current committee members for alternates, which Faculty Senate Secretary David Potter, a professor in the Classical Studies Department, stated is precedented and therefore legitimate.

“The problem is the Senate Assembly has created, technically, this committee so you can’t kick people off the committee, but there’s no reason why, following the parallel of the Senate Assembly, you can’t put in alternates,” Potter said.

SACUA Chair Neil Marsh, a professor of chemistry, suggested further possible strategies to enhance member engagement and participation.  Marsh mentioned the possible inclusion of members in administrative affairs.

“One possibility that I raised was that, in searches for deans and directors … That one of the members of those committees would come from the Senate Assembly,” Marsh said. “That would certainly be a way of adding the voice of the faculty to the appointment of deans, directors and executive officers.”

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