The University of Michigan Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs convened in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building Monday afternoon to provide administrative updates and discuss potential changes to the University’s Standard Practice Guide policies.
SACUA chair Tom Braun started by talking about SACUA’s search for individuals to take on new positions, particularly a Faculty Senate Office assistant. The assistant would take on some of the responsibilities of Luke McCarthy, Faculty Senate Office director. McCarthy himself explained the work of the assistant position.
“(The assistant would be) in between the faculty governance coordinator positions, which do a great job of helping all committees’ … operational aspects of keeping the faculty senate moving forward … and keeping various projects going,” McCarthy said.
Braun emphasized the importance of ensuring that SACUA’s workload is equitably distributed.
“There is not enough work for all of the demands,” Braun said. “It would be great if we can have the Provost Office help us fund an additional position.”
Braun then announced his plans to collaborate with the U-M Central Student Government in the future, citing CSG as a valuable partner for exchanging student and faculty opinions.
“They have raised some issues to me, I’ve raised some issues to them, and we’re trying to figure out next steps to work together,” Braun said. “So hopefully a good collaboration moving forward there.”
Prompted by a recent report published by the Generative Artificial Intelligence Advisory Committee, Braun touched on the University’s increased implementation of generative artificial intelligence and how it may affect student and faculty operations moving forward.
“Of course we’re going to use AI,” Braun said. “I think that to some degree, the question is (on) the deeper thoughts moving forward.”
SACUA then moved on to discuss the activities of the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee, which is currently in the process of examining four Standard Practice Guide policies for ableist language. The committee previously recommended creating a separate Faculty Senate committee, which they said may be required in order to properly review all of the SPGs that are currently in place.
In response to AAAC’s recommendation, McCarthy expressed that such a committee may be redundant.
“They’re doing a great job, the energy’s already there,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t make sense to have a dedicated committee that combines faculty and University leadership to do periodic reviews of SPGs.”
Braun rebutted McCarthy by explaining all of the pressing problems the proposed committee would help address, some of which go beyond what the current committee can feasibly accomplish.
“I think there is language in some of these SPGs that could be used against someone, for instance, who has a disability and cannot fulfill the role that they’re supposed to fill,” Braun said. “The worry is that the language is discriminatory against that individual, and that SPG, because it was written 30 years ago. … It’s more than changing pronouns.”
Although he described the problems inherent in the current SPGs, Braun said he was ultimately opposed to the implementation of a new committee to address these problems.
“It’s an important issue and I think having a committee would be great,” Braun said. “But we struggled to get people involved on other interesting topics, and this one wouldn’t rise very high for me.”