At its first meeting of the academic year, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs passed a resolution condemning the recent anti-Latino graffiti incident, when hate messages were spray painted on the Rock, a campus landmark at the intersection of Hill Street and Washtenaw Avenue on Aug. 31.
The resolution — which passed by a narrow 4-7 margin — states SACUA’s support for Latino community members, their devotion to the equity and inclusion of all ethnic communities, and denounced any acts of hate or messages targeting any ethnic or national community.
However, despite their unanimous condemnation of the bias incident, the members of SACUA were split over the language of the resolution.
In a debate among SACUA members about the wording of the resolution, Michael Atzmon, a professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences who voted against the resolution, emphasized the importance of sending a broad message to include all ethnic communities.
“Discrimination takes many forms, so (the resolution) shouldn’t be narrow,” Atzmon said.
A counterpoint came from Dave Wright, SACUA senate assembly member and associate professor of accounting, saying that the statement should be left as was presented Monday evening.
“I actually like this one better the way it stands,” Wright said. “I think it’s tighter, more direct to the event that happened on August 31st.”
University President Mark Schlissel, who attended the meeting, discussed how to motivate students to see each other as one community rather than their specific identities when these events occur. He also asked SACUA members for advice on how to best reach out to the student body in response to similar incidents.
“It feels like I only reach out to (students) when there is a crisis,” Schlissel said. “I’m thinking about ways to truly purposefully promote conversation about these issues in the absence of an inciting event so that we can promote a shared sense of responsibility for how to react when something bad does happen. I haven’t done an adequate job at this.”
Schlissel also discussed the University’s policy on sexual misconduct and its plan to keep the current policy with no changes.
“There is no reason to alter our policy because we think it is a stable policy,” Schlissel said. “We’d like to keep things in place for a few years, two to three years, and gain experience with it and criticism of it and then modify it based on this experience.”
Schlissel highlighted a part of this policy, which offers a mechanism for those accused of sexual misconduct to appeal. According to Schlissel, this step requires all evidence on file of a sexual misconduct incident be sent to a retired federal judge.
Schlissel also emphasized the importance of a fair and balanced disciplinary process. He assured that the University’s Title IX officers have the utmost training on the University’s policies surrounding sexual misconduct to ensure due process of these incidents.
“The ultimate solution will not come from us around the table … it has to come from the next generation of students themselves,” Schlissel said. “It has to be a social enforcement of a set of standards and mutual respect in how people treat each other … I think that has the best chance of really turning (sexual misconduct) around.”
In the final portion of the meeting, SACUA members unanimously voted to reinstate the Tri-Campus Task Force — a faculty board of representatives from all three University campuses with an aim of improving faculty governance structures at the Flint and Dearborn campuses — for another academic year.
Mechanical engineering professor William Schultz, SACUA senate assembly immediate past chair, raised concerns about the task force not meeting regularly. He further proposed the motion to reinstate the Tri-Campus Task Force for another year.
“My concern is that the Tri-Campus Task Force did not meet regularly, so I am asking for it to be reconstituted with only faculty assembly members so that it can meet at least briefly before or after assembly meetings,” Schultz said.
According to Robert Ortega, SACUA senate assembly chair and associate professor of social work, two faculty assembly representatives from each of the three campuses will form a task force of six members and will be required to meet either before or after every assembly.