SACUA members attend a Zoom meeting, with several meeting in person in Ruthven Hall and others participating virtually.
Courtesy of Samantha Rich

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The Senate Assembly Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) met in a hybrid format in the Ruthven Building Monday afternoon to discuss public safety, antiracism efforts and representation in faculty governance.

SACUA heard a presentation from Jessica Drake, a representative from 21CP Solutions, and Alexander Pietrantoni, project manager for the Division of Public Safety and Security (DPSS) Advancing Public Safety Task Force. 21CP Solutions is a private consulting firm dedicated to law enforcement reform that the University employed to help DPSS evaluate its internal practices and community outreach. 

Drake began by describing the scope of 21CP Solutions’ work at the University, which includes analyzing and making recommendations on technology services, data collection and dissemination, recruitment and retention and community engagement. Drake also pointed out the unique challenges and opportunities presented by public safety services at universities. 

“We think universities have such an incredible, special space when it comes to public safety,” Drake said. “In order to address community care, (we must consider) what the stakeholders of the University need to feel safe, to feel helped and aided on their campus?”

In response to a question from Simon Cushing, SACUA member and philosophy professor at the University’s Flint campus, Drake provided examples of previous recommendations made to other universities.

“​​Often different departments become siloed in their work and are not collaborating in their mechanisms to serve the community,” Drake said. “Just next door to the Yale public safety building was their mental health building, both of which were serving the community in wonderful ways, both of which were responding to mental health calls, and neither of which were collaborating. And so within a couple of weeks, we had them at the table together, reimagining public safety on campus and how they can create their own version of a co-responder model.”

Drake also mentioned 21CP Solutions’ role in the formation of community advisory boards on public safety on the Harvard and University of Southern California campuses.

Rebekah Modrak, SACUA member and professor in the School of Art & Design, asked Drake to explain how 21CP Solutions is working with Ann Arbor residents who are not directly involved in the University but may still be affected by DPSS and University policy. Drake spoke on the local partnerships the firm is engaged in and how they have applied their work with other universities to their work at the University of Michigan.

“21CP has a broader contract with Southeast Michigan Community Foundation and has long been working with Ann Arbor Police Department and the community oversight board in Ann Arbor,” Drake said. “We’ve been collecting a lot of community public safety knowledge through our previous work on another campus, and the University of Michigan is benefiting from what we’ve learned from the community in that space. More than that, we’ve targeted the community in our interviews on campus at this time.”

SACUA also heard a presentation from the Senate Assembly’s Committee on Antiracism (CAR) regarding a proposed resolution to include acknowledgments of caste discrimination in the University’s anti-discrimination policies. 

Dinesh Pal, CAR member and assistant professor at Michigan Medicine, addressed common misconceptions about the caste system, most notably that it is confined to India and the Hindu religion. Castes, Pal said, are present in other South Asian countries, including Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal and across religions. Pal stressed the importance of including caste in anti-discrimination language, citing a recent example of a violent attack on a man who married a woman of a higher caste.

“What we are asking is that caste be included as another protected category,” Pal said. “It’s not asking for any tangible benefits … but it raises awareness. It gives a voice to those who might get entrapped in such situations.”

Pal added that other institutions have already implemented this language in University policy and said he believes the University is lagging in this respect.

“We always talk about being the Leaders and the Best,” Pal said. “I think we are behind on both on this count because there are so many other institutions who have already done it. We are just following. So we are neither leaders nor best when it comes to identifying caste as one of the protected categories.”

Durga Singer, SACUA member and associate professor at Michigan Medicine, then moved for a vote. The resolution passed unanimously.

SACUA also heard an update from the Clinical Faculty Working Group. Allen Liu, SACUA member and associate professor in the College of Engineering, presented the group’s recommendations for the representation of clinical faculty in faculty governance. These recommendations included the incorporation of clinical faculty at all ranks into the Faculty Senate, increasing the number of Senate Assembly seats in proportion to the number of clinical faculty and making all clinical faculty eligible to run for a SACUA seat. 

Kentaro Toyama, SACUA member and School of Information professor, presented a proposal for the complete restructuring of the Faculty Senate. Toyama proposed having four separate, parallel governing bodies for the Flint campus, the Dearborn campus, the Ann Arbor non-medicine campus and the Michigan Medicine campus. This proposal would also create a centralized body with representatives from all four bodies who would be responsible for communicating with central university administrators, like the president.

Toyama also proposed the incorporation of lecturers and clinical faculty in the Faculty Senate and asked SACUA to consider a system that would record what types of faculty vote on certain resolutions. 

“Any issue up for a Faculty Senate vote should be explicitly put to a relevant subset of the above FS Subgroups,” the proposal reads. “For example, a vote about a policy affecting only Clinical Faculty in Michigan Medicine might only seek votes from Clinical Faculty in Michigan Medicine. A vote affecting all instructors in Dearborn or Flint would seek votes from all instructor types on those two campuses, but not from anyone in Ann Arbor. Votes should of course also be reported accordingly, ‘The Lecturers of the Faculty Senate overwhelming voted for … ,’ or ‘The entire Faculty Senate voted in favor of Resolution X.’”

Silvia Pedraza, SACUA chair and professor of sociology and American culture, raised concerns about the incorporation of lecturers into the Faculty Senate, pointing out that they already have union representation through the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, while clinical faculty does not. 

“I care a lot about the lecturers, but they have the union, and the union represents them,” Pedraza said. “They have to say, and they have to think, what the union says or what the union thinks. So I think that we should talk about clinical faculty and lecturers separately because the issues are very different.” 

Cushing disagreed with Pedraza and pointed out the differences in the benefits provided by unions as compared to faculty governance. 

“Union representation is a very specific kind of representation,” Cushing said. “It has representation regarding salary and legal protections in cases of complaints, but the Faculty Senate isn’t just about those types of issues. So I don’t think that the fact that the lecturers are in a union should be the reason that they don’t get representation.”

Liu suggested the creation of a new Senate Assembly subcommittee to further investigate and improve faculty representation. Pedraza agreed that such a committee would be beneficial and gauged interest from the SACUA members at the meeting to determine who would participate. Based on the members who expressed interest, Pedraza said the committee will include Toyama, Liu, Singer and Cushing, as well as representatives from the Rules, Practices and Policies Committee. Sergio Villalobos Ruminott, SACUA member and Spanish professor, motioned to create the committee. The proposal passed unanimously.

Summer News Editor Samantha Rich can be reached at sammrich@umich.edu