The University of Michigan’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met in the Fleming Administration Building and over Zoom Monday afternoon to review efforts to increase representation for non-tenure-track faculty in the Senate Assembly, as well as job security on all three campuses.
SACUA talked about the Rules Practice and Policy and Davis, Market, and Nickerson Academic Freedom Lecture Committee (DMN) charges. The current RPP charges were not brought to a vote during the Monday meeting.
Multiple SACUA members voiced concerns about the need to define the faculty members who are represented in the senate. SACUA had previously discussed including clinical faculty in the Faculty Senate. Elena Gallo, associate professor of astronomy and SACUA member, said continually expanding who is represented in the senate could potentially become impractical.
“(The inclusivity concept) needs to be founded upon some sort of criteria … in the sense that what defines a member of the faculty senate?” Gallo said. “It’s got to do with someone who contributes to the educational mission of the University. But where does it stop … as you start to broaden the concept then you’re talking about including, effectively, tens of thousands (of people).”
David Potter, interim Senate Assembly secretary and professor of Greek and Roman History, clarified that a previously approved group has been created to assist the development of a more inclusive faculty governance structure.
“They’ve been working on it for three months now,” Potter said. “They are assembling this information. They’ve gotten some level of participation from the (Office of the Provost), which was a positive sign. They’ve developed other channels of communication with units. The work is ongoing.”
SACUA plans to revise the current charges and move forward with them at the next meeting. To address the DMN charges, the committee unanimously voted in favor of finding a speaker for the next annual DMN lecture, which does not affect the current approved budget.
The final point of discussion during Monday’s meeting was the Central Faculty Governance Organization and the Committee for Fairness, Equity, and Inclusion (CFEI), which concerns inclusivity on all three U-M campuses. Caitlin Finlayson, SACUA vice-chair and associate professor of English at U-M Dearborn, expressed concern about job security for tenured professors at the Dearborn and Flint campuses.
“With the current financial issues happening on these two campuses and the decreased enrollments, this is raising a lot of attention (to) issues around promotion and tenure around faculty appointments,” Finlayson said. “What happens if the department is dissolved? What happens to those tenure track faculty members? This is a real concern currently on both regional campuses.”
Finlayson said financial constraints have made it difficult to take sabbaticals, as the Flint and Dearborn campuses don’t necessarily have the resources to hire a specialized replacement when these professors go on leave.
“If you’re the only specialist in the field, like for me, (in) my department, I’m the only person who can teach my courses and I’m not allowed to hire a LEO (Lecturers’ Employee Organization) (member) to cover my courses,” Finlayson said. “We’re looking at the fact that that is becoming more and more of an issue, we have to justify our coverage of courses and if you’re a specialized person in that field, you might not be able to get somebody within your own department to cover those courses.”
SACUA also reviewed Faculty Senate office updates, including the announcement that the DMN had secured Dima Khalidi, founder and director of the Palestine Legal and Cooperating Counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights, as the speaker for the winter 2022 annual DMN academic freedom lecture. The DMN lecture will take place on March 14 in the Law School Honigman Auditorium.
Daily News Contributor Carlin Pendell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.