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At a meeting of the Senate Assembly Committee on University Affairs Monday, the members reviewed the work being done in various senate committees, as well as the committee formation procedure process by which these committees are created. SACUA Chair Robert Ortega, professor of social work, began the meeting by discussing his recent meeting with the Administration Evaluation Committee to discuss the 2017-2018 Opinion of Faculty Survey, an annual faculty evaluation of University administration.

The AEC reviewed last year’s survey and attempted to make any necessary changes. Ortega presented the draft form of the questions for the survey, and the questions were met with some hesitation from SACUA members. Chemistry professor Neil Marsh expressed concerns about the survey asking too many questions, which might deter participants and lead to a lower response rate.

“I wonder how the response rate varies in relation to where the questions appear on the survey,” Marsh said. “Some people might start the survey and then say, okay I’m done with this, and that kind of tells you how long it should be if the last 10 questions get notably less answers than the first 10 questions.”

Addressing Marsh’s concern, Ortega said it was a standard number of questions, and this issue of having people respond to only the first set of questions hasn’t been a problem in the past. However, he did say there were issues in the past in getting faculty to respond to the survey.

“The response rate is 30 percent, so what they did last year is they asked (University) president (Mark) Schlissel to promote the survey in order to boost the response rate,” Ortega said.  

He also said the survey should be promoted at Senate Assembly in order to remind people to fill it out.

SACUA then moved to discuss its committees. Faculty members serve as liaisons to various committees, and reported their recent work and progress as such.

Nuclear Engineering professor Michael Atzmon, a liaison to the Information Technology Committee, said they discussed student requests for certain provisions on campus that the ITC supports.

“Students want Wi-Fi on the Diag, gunshot sensors and other various IT needs, and they met with the CIO and didn’t get much traction,” Atzmon said.

Joy Beatty, associate professor of management studies at U-M Flint, who is the liaison to Secretary Advisory Committee, said in her meeting most of their time was spent discussing Larry Nassar, the former Michigan State University doctor who was found guilty of sexual abuse of hundreds of patients. The University is currently engaged in an external review of its sexual misconduct policies around reporting and punitive action.  

“We had a list of questions, and this was right after the Nassar story had broken,” Beatty said. “And so we talked about sexual harassment reporting, and that took up a lot of oxygen in the room.”

However, a lot of the SACUA members were unable to attend their committee’s meetings, and the issue of attendance was discussed later in the meeting as well.

Robyn Snyder, project coordinator of the Faculty Senate Office, presented a spreadsheet detailing how the committees are made. She said there is no shortage of volunteers to be a part of the committees, yet various SACUA members emphasized issues with attendance.

Kinesiology professor Stefan Szymanski said he is unable to attend his committee because the meetings are scheduled while he is teaching a class. Marsh had also experienced issues with attendance in the past.

“Several years ago, there were only 3 or 4 of us that would show up to a committee that was supposed to be a dozen of us,” Marsh said.

Ortega agreed attendance has been an issue and asked for suggestions on how to fix it. Some members suggested taking attendance or having alternates, but no conclusive strategies were adopted.

Snyder and Ortega said they hoped creating the committees earlier in the year could help to avoid these sort of scheduling conflicts.

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