The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met Monday afternoon to elect new officers for the 2018-19 academic year and to hear concerns from University of Michigan-Flint Faculty Council regarding the Tri-Campus Task Force.
Senate Assembly member Neil Marsh, a professor of chemistry, will replace Robert Ortega, associate professor in the School of Social Work, as Chair of SACUA. Senate Assembly member Joy Beatty, associate professor of management studies at U-M Dearborn, will replace radiology professor Ruth Carlos as Vice Chair of SACUA.
SACUA also listened to concerns from the U-M Flint Faculty Council regarding the potential implementation of a permanent Tri-Campus Task Force, as well as the governance structure of the Flint Faculty Council. The Tri-Campus Task Force serves as a faculty board representing the three University campuses, aiming to improve faculty governance at U-M Flint and U-M Dearborn.
Ricardo Alfaro, professor of mathematics at U-M Flint, read from a letter written to SACUA by members of the Flint Faculty Council, detailing concerns over the possibility of having an unelected governance present at Flint with an unclear jurisdiction.
“Faculty Council, on behalf of the faculty of the Flint campus, does not support the proposal to make the Tri-Campus Task Force permanent,” Alfaro read. “The proposed motion includes language that gives it an open-ended charge, which the Flint Faculty Council finds problematic. Such an open-ended charge could lead to an unelected parallel governance structure at the Flint campus.”
Emily Newberry, associate librarian at U-M Flint, also explained that Flint Faculty Council feels that faculty members are bringing concerns to SACUA before expressing them to their Flint campus governing body.
“I think the position that we’re taking is sometimes the concerns are prematurely brought to SACUA and haven’t been brought to (our) Flint governance,” Newberry said. “In my experience, these concerns were not brought to the lower levels before they were brought to SACUA.”
In the letter written to SACUA, Flint Faculty Council suggested that they, alongside SACUA and U-M Dearborn Faculty Council, gather together to discuss common concerns among faculty governance across the campuses. The council also requested recognition from SACUA as the proper body of faculty governance at the Flint campus.
Ortega explained even though the council still addresses relevant concerns, the Tri-Campus Task Force was never meant to be a permanent fixture.
“The Tri-Campus Task Force was not intended to be a permanent task force,” Ortega said. “Not that (the concerns don’t) exist. They still exist.”
SACUA member Dave Wright, associate professor of accounting, agreed with the idea of better communication in order to prevent discussions focused solely on concerns related to the Ann Arbor campus, but he felt unsure of the effectiveness of an annual meeting.
“I think communication between the three campuses is important,” Wright said. “In six years in being on SACUA and Senate Assembly, there were times where inadvertently I’ve had Ann Arbor-centric opinion and approach towards an issue, simply because I didn’t understand the differences between the campuses. I think an annual meeting is a good idea, but sometimes a bit cumbersome or slow to act.”
Engineering professor William Schultz, immediate past chair of Senate Assembly, claimed SACUA has tried to initiate communication with Flint Faculty Council, but the Faculty Council does not respond.
“There have been attempts by SACUA and I think it’s clear that SACUA is responding to requests, and the queries to SACUA have shown a very fractured faculty,” Schultz said. “As a result, I think we’ve made this effort to have an open discussion because you (Flint Faculty Council) don’t call us. The people that are very angry about the governance or administration do.”
Ortega emphasized that SACUA supports its faculty members, regardless of the campus that members work with.
“No matter what, we always care, no matter what campus you are on,” Ortega said.