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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building on Monday to discuss the recently resigned staff and the vacancy election process. The committee also examined the book “Unraveling Faculty Burnout: Pathways to Reckoning and Renewal,” by Elon University professor Rebecca Pope-Ruark.
Sociology professor Silvia Pedraza, SACUA chair, began the meeting by announcing the resignation of Durga Singer Kanakadurga, associate professor in pediatrics, from SACUA following her promotion to assistant social dean of the Medical School.
“We had a long meeting, about an hour, because she was very conflicted about it,” Pedraza said. “(Singer) did not want to leave SACUA. It mattered a lot to her. She invested a lot of effort into it, and at the same time, she wanted to do what she said was the right thing … She was very regretful because she liked working with SACUA.”
Pedraza then discussed the open Ombuds position following University Faculty Ombud Robert Ortega stepping down. At the University of Michigan, the Office of the Ombud was created to offer a space where students can talk in confidence about issues facing the campus. An Ombud acts as a confidential person to help evaluate concerns and plan for the future if necessary. Pedraza said SACUA has completed three out of four interviews for the Ombuds position and that final interviews for the position begin at the end of this week.
“They’re all, like I said before when I talked to you about the applications for the Ombuds — there were eight applications, (and) they were all incredibly strong,” Pedraza said. “I just think that it is very good that we have these eight very strong names and … the seven people who do not get the replacement of Robert Ortega will definitely be in line for other things that open up.”
Lucas McCarthy, director of the Faculty Senate Office, then moved on to discuss the surplus in the SACUA budget.
“I inherited a budget and I’m still trying to figure out what I can do and what I can ask for,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also discussed how he had been working with Medical School professor Dinesh Pal to hold a Committee on Anti-Racism (CAR) speaking event for the Senate Assembly.
“We do have some money saved up, and as part of that I’ve been working with Dinesh; he’s got plans for a CAR event and we have extra funds around,” McCarthy said. “So the FSO is looking at a one-time investment to support a CAR speaking event … I don’t know if that will be able to continue in the future, but I want to help put that money to good use.”
McCarthy then discussed the SACUA vacancy election process. He initially proposed the nominations for SACUA positions to remain open until Dec. 20 and the ballot run from Jan. 3 to 5. However, Engineering professor Michael Atzmon said the current deadline will not be enough time to find qualified candidates.
“I think the deadline is inadequate because only one week will be left till the deadline to submit nominations and statements,” Atzmon said. “It is inadequate because we all need to recruit nominees so we have a good slate of candidates. And that is not an easy process … It is not something that can happen in one day. The nominees don’t appear out of nowhere so one or even two weeks are insufficient at any point in time, let alone during the busiest time of the semester.”
The assembly eventually agreed to extend the deadline for nominations to Jan. 6 and have voting run from Jan. 10 through Jan. 13.
SACUA member Tom Braun, professor of public health, then led a discussion on the book, “Unraveling Faculty Burnout: Pathways to Reckoning and Renewal.”
“(The book) spoke more to me than any books or articles about faculty struggles,” Braun said. “For people who have not read the book, this is written by a woman who was basically clinically diagnosed with burnout, and it is about her reevaluating her whole career and her perspectives on faculty and what’s important to her.”
Pedraza defined the term “burnout” and expressed liking the book, but she also explained how she felt much of the discussion revolved around the author’s choice to accept high amounts of work.
“I liked the book because she was so honest about what had happened to her,” Pedraza said. “I felt like she was essentially validating herself and her identity according to all these external things that are imposed on you to have so many publications, so many citations, so many research grants and awards. I felt a bit like she did not have to accept all of that … I never expected that all of it came from one person only, so I thought that she had overburdened herself.”
Braun responded with a different perspective, saying he felt many faculty members face pressure from the University to overwork in order to receive recognition.
“I am going to push back very heavily on that because we live in an environment where you are supposed to get the best grant, be the best teacher, do the best thing, and it is really hard to live in this University and say, ‘You know, it’s ok if I don’t get that award,’” Braun said.
Pedraza ended the discussion by sharing her opinion on what the University can do to change its structural culture to make life better for its faculty members.
“We do structure everything in terms of individual rewards and individual demands, and it would be nice to allow people from the same department to work together to solve the problem of the lack of collegiality,” Pedraza said. “I think it would be very helpful if we foster collaboration, which we don’t.”
Daily Staff Contributors Miles Anderson and Yu-Hsin Chen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.