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The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs convened in a hybrid format on Monday to discuss newsletter formatting, the use of the Zoom chat in faculty meetings and ensuring all important issues are covered in weekly meetings. 

MaryJo Banasik, director of the Faculty Senate Office, started the meeting by describing the new newsletter template SACUA will be using to communicate information and upcoming dates  within the committee. Banasik also discussed a new database she is creating to store SACUA participants’ contact information. 

“We’re still working on developing a database with all of our information with faculty governance participants,” Banasik said. “(The database) will be really helpful to draw information later.”

Allen Liu, SACUA chair and Engineering associate professor, reiterated the database’s importance as a hub of contacts. 

“The database will be super helpful,” Liu said. “(The database) will definitely help our work in terms of finding potential volunteers in the future.” 

Liu also shared an update on his meeting with University Provost Susan Collins, where he said they discussed the formation of a council to address the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, something that was widely criticized by the campus community. According to Liu, the group would include the Provost, University President Mark Schlissel and faculty members. 

This comes after five motions were voted on in the Oct. 4 SACUA meeting, which called for stronger protections for faculty who want to teach remotely, more testing protocols, close contact notifications and more faculty input in regards to in person protocols. 

Liu also referenced a debate regarding the use of the Zoom chat function during SACUA and other virtual faculty meetings at the University, explaining he knows it is a valuable tool for community members to share their views and opinions but thinks speaking should be the main form of communication. 

“I can see in the future that we might be able to return to an in-person meeting where chat is not (a possible) way of sharing information anyway,” Liu said. 

J. Caitlin Finlayson, Senate Assembly vice-chair and U-M Dearborn associate professor of English Literature, proposed that SACUA hold an executive session the half-hour prior to each meeting to discuss important timely issues and ensure they are given adequate time and attention. Finlayson said because there are issues not included on the weekly agenda but that are still relevant to the University, this time is necessary.

“If we all just marked it in our calendars and knew that we might be called in early to the SACUA meeting, then we can earmark that time,” Finlayson said.

At the meeting, SACUA also welcomed Diedre Spencer, History of Art librarian, into her new role as SACUA secretary.  

Daily News Contributor Jessica Gurvitz can be reached at jgurvitz@umich.edu.