The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs at the University of Michigan met Monday afternoon to discuss student efforts to reduce the effects of climate change on campus and hear several guest speakers including University President Schlissel.

The meeting opened as the assembly addressed Central Student Government’s recent resolution regarding climate change and their request for SACUA to support the goals of the resolution. The resolution calls for carbon neutrality by 2035, intermediate emission reduction goals, increased funding and a Carbon Neutrality Commission made up of students, faculty and community members. The assembly discussed whether or not to agree with the resolution as a whole, or simply the goals CSG is putting forth with this legislation. Subsequently, the assembly voted unanimously in support of the principles outlined in CSG’s resolution.

Senate Assembly Chair Neil Marsh wrote a response to CSG’s request on behalf of SACUA, noting the need for the University as a whole to address issues of climate change and to work toward amending the problems at hand as soon as possible. 

“SACUA joins with the broader University community in recognizing the existential threat posed by climate change and global warming,” Marsh wrote. “SACUA, therefore, supports the goals of the resolution recently passed by Central Student Government.”

The meeting continued as the assembly welcomed Schlissel and asked him about the most pressing issues facing University administration is facing as the Board of Regents will be meeting this Thursday. According to Schlissel, the most important issue that will be discussed at the meeting is sexual misconduct and the efforts to improve the handling of such reports on campus.

“We’re discussing our work around sexual misconduct and finding ways to improve reporting and make it easier to increase support for people who report,” Schlissel said. “The provost has set up a committee to look at various types of faculty-student relationships, and we’ll discuss the emerging advice and direction to go on that.”

Schlissel also noted the recent changes in the Board of Regents which two new members, Jordan Acker and Paul Brown, who will be joining in January. Though they are qualified, Schlissel told the assembly, there is an onboarding process that they will participate in as their terms begin.

“I think I’ve spoken to both (Acker and Brown) and they both recognize their full enthusiasm and ideas, but they recognize they have to learn a lot more before they can really feel comfortable contributing as actively,” Schlissel said.

Schlissel closed by mentioning the upcoming retirement of Jerry May, vice president of Development, and noting his efforts over nearly eight years to raise $5 billion for the University through the Victors for Michigan campaign. Schlissel emphasized the value of hard work by not just the donors, but the back office individuals and employees who also contributed to the success of the campaign.

Chief Diversity Officer Robert Sellers, vice provost for Equity and Inclusion, then spoke to the assembly, sharing recent updates coming from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and answering assembly members’ questions.

Assembly members voiced concerns over the role of the Committee for an Inclusive University. Members claimed as the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion grows, the role of committees that share its goals, like CIU, are ambiguous. Some of the assembly members asked Sellers if he thought CIU was still necessary and if it should be disbanded altogether.

Sellers responded by assuring assembly members that CIU still has a place and purpose within faculty governance, and committees with similar missions to DEI should exist all over campus.

“I think DEI should be in every part of the University, including SACUA,” Sellers said. “Faculty perspective on where the University should be with respect to DEI is extremely important.”

The meeting closed with a discussion pertaining to the expansion of professional development opportunities for faculty leaders, especially on the U-M Flint and Dearborn campuses. Sellers emphasized DEI’s ongoing efforts to find new ways to develop faculty as a whole with the consideration of privilege, class and racial bias among peers.

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