The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building Monday afternoon to discuss tenure positions at the University of Michigan and land acknowledgments in their first meeting of the winter term.
SACUA members first shared their perspectives on the University’s current tenure tracks and policies. Specifically, members focused on changes they want to see in the 10-year system — the current model under which after instructional tenure track faculty work for the University for a decade, they are generally either granted tenure or let go.
Many committee members expressed their concerns with the tenure track system, and their desire for the University to make institutional changes to the current system. Various members said they believe the University should increase the number of tenure-track faculty appointments. In fall 2021, there were 3,136 tenure-track faculty at the University, up 5% since 2011 when there were 2,983 faculty members on the tenure track.
SACUA then moved on to discuss the University’s land acknowledgments and donations to the Anishinaabeg, Odawa, Ojibwe, Boodewadomi and Wyandot tribes. These indigenous tribes were the ones who originally granted land for the University to build on in 1817 through the Treaty of Fort Meigs.
Land acknowledgements are formal statements recognizing indigenous peoples as the original owners of the land one is inhabiting. It is also intended to take accountability for the generally unethical methods of which land was acquired from indigenous groups.
The University’s land acknowledgment can be seen on Central Campus in the form of a commemorative plaque that has displayed the names of the tribes on campus since 2002. The plaque was a topic of interest for SACUA representatives at Monday’s meeting. Allen Liu, professor of mechanical engineering and SACUA chair expressed his full support for the University’s land acknowledgment, including the presence of the plaque.
“(Land acknowledgments) are non-controversial,” Liu said.
Silvia Pedraza, professor of Sociology and American Culture and former SACUA chair, said she has concerns about the plaque, noting that the plaque may not sufficiently acknowledge the University’s presence on land that used to belong to indigenous tribes.
Pedraza said she felt the land acknowledgment plaque often goes unnoticed, and that she hopes that the acknowledgement can be transformed into something that people take notice of when walking on campus.
“We have a small, bronze plaque somewhere on campus,” Pedraza said. “It is between (the) Kinesiology and the Chemistry building … halfway between the flag and Rackham. … It is very small and most people don’t see it. (A land acknowledgement monument) should be something you can’t pass by and not see.”
SACUA did not make any official decisions about the plaque, but tabled the discussion for future meetings. Liu said he was more than willing to work with Pedraza about her concerns, specifically by creating a proposal or collaborating with the University’s American Culture Department to come up with a potential solution.
Daily Staff Reporter Eryn Stern can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.