Sociology and American Culture prof. Silvia Pedraza, SACUA/Senate Assembly Chair, at SACUA meeting Monday. Grace Lahti/Daily. Buy this photo.

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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met in a hybrid format in the Ruthven Building on Monday to discuss the faculty grievance system at the University and meet with members of the Office of Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX (ECRT), as well as Rackham Dean Mike Soloman and Christine Gerdes, special counsel to the provost.

SACUA chair Silvia Pedraza, professor of sociology, began the meeting by celebrating the recent publication of an article in the University Record about the Faculty Senate Forum for Board of Regents candidates ahead of Nov. 8 general election. 

“We had a very successful meeting with our friends from the Record,” Pedraza said. “They put the candidates’ forum up on the Record so that people can click on it and watch it, and this morning they told me that 460 people have watched it, which is a lot of folks. So we have the Record to thank for that.”

Lucas McCarthy, the recently appointed director of the Faculty Senate Office, spoke about possible improvements to the ResponsiBLUE app, including an update providing the county’s COVID-19 cases status on the homepage.

Pedraza and McCarthy also discussed recent openings within the Committee for Fairness, Equity, and Inclusion, which works to resolve issues of inclusion on campus. 

“I feel like this committee is falling below its critical mass of (staffers) needed to continue due to a number of drops for different things,” McCarthy said.

SACUA then met with members of the ECRT to discuss changes being made to the faculty grievance system and how the faculty members can be better supported. At the September SACUA meeting, Pedraza decried the lack of teeth in the grievance process as well as confusion therein. McCarthy said his Office and ECRT are embarking on an effort to reform the process.

“(W)e are sort of in … a review process where we’re trying to figure out what changes should be made, and we’re in the very initial step of just gathering information,” McCarthy said. “We have what is probably going to be a multi-year push about what needs to happen to change the system, which everybody keeps saying is broken and doesn’t work well.”

Soloman and Gerdes then joined SACUA for an executive session. Members of SACUA were not able to disclose the content discussed in that meeting.

When The Daily asked about the role of SACUA in reforming the faculty grievance system, McCarthy said although grievance procedures are set by other units, SACUA can provide suggestions for system improvements.   

“All the grievance procedures are set by all the individual units and SACUA is this advisory body that kind of looks over the entire system,” McCarthy said. “And so SACUA actually does not have power to change anything but what they can do is provide suggestions for each of the units to do, to implement changes to the system.” 

SACUA plans to present their ideas about the faulty grievance system to the Senate Assembly at an upcoming meeting on Oct. 24.  

“The discussion is to inform people that SACUA as a body is working on these issues,” Pedraza said. “We would like (people’s) participation, (and) we would like them to tell us and engage.” 

McCarthy said the committee is focused on understanding areas of improvement in the faculty grievance system through discussions with outside committees.

“Right now we’re sort of trying to figure out what are the problems and what’s the way forward …,” McCarthy said. “We’re hoping to initiate a discussion wider than just us with feedback wider than just us.”

Daily News Contributor Laura Hurlburt can be reached at laurhurl@umich.edu.