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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met virtually Monday afternoon to discuss cultivating a set of “value statements” to better the University of Michigan campus community, as well as hear from Athletic Director Warde Manuel on gender inequities in sports and athlete freedom. 

Sonya Jacobs, chief organizational learning officer for University Human Resources, began by briefing SACUA on a case study focused on communal working environments at Michigan Medicine that involved over 1,000 members of the Michigan Medicine community. Participants were asked to identify attributes of their desired workplace culture, which were used to craft formal value statements for the entire University community. 

“One thing that was well defined (in the case study) was a culture where everyone felt psychologically, socially and physically safe, where they could learn, they could practice, they could research and educate,” Jacobs said. “With that context, we embarked upon our culture change journey there.” 

Jacobs also asked for feedback from SACUA representatives in an effort to increase engagement from the U-M community in implementing value statements. 

“One of the things that is really important to note, and we were mindful of, (is that) this does not happen overnight,” Jacobs said. “It requires significant engagement with our community.”

Jacobs also said she hoped SACUA could be involved directly with the implementation of the value statements.

“One of the things I would hope is that we could have a SACUA representative on the working group that we’re looking to convene to help us really craft the roadmap, engage the community and then make recommendations on the value statements,” Jacobs said.

SACUA also hosted Manuel and Faculty Athletics Representative Ketra Armstrong for a discussion on the impact of sports betting, gender inequities in sports and professionalism in college athletics. 

Regarding the increasing press coverage around betting during the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s basketball championship, Manuel said that sports betting — which is when spectators predict sports outcomes and place bets — has become a concern to him and athletes because bettors often try to get ahead by pressuring student athletes and staff for information. 

“People are always looking for (an) edge and more information,” Manuel said. “I’m concerned about it from that aspect and both the impact on the young people at our university, and the … potential impact on competition.”

One of the questions prepared by SACUA members asked Manuel to comment on gender inequities in college sports, specifically referencing the recent controversy over disparities in the NCCA’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. Videos and photographs released mid-March showed power racks and Olympic bars and weights in the men’s facilities, while the women’s facilities only included a few dumbbells and yoga mats. The differences in equipment sparked criticism from athletes and activists.

“I think we have an opportunity to get to a point where both of those tournaments are on the same footing,” Manuel said. “They should have been before. But I think now, more than ever, there’s a lot of pressure put on because of the differences that were shown in that brief video.”

Manuel said he believes athletes themselves should have control over how their “name, image and likeness” is used rather than giving that power to the universities and colleges the athletes play for. 

“I am a proponent of student athletes’ name, image and likeness. Always have, always will,” Manuel said. “I’ve never believed that the institution controlled the name, image and likeness of our student athletes. I think it’s high time that we got out of all of that.”

Manuel said despite this belief of his, it is important to maintain the University’s brand while still allowing students the opportunity to use their name to pursue brand deals and other sources of income.

“Times have changed, there’s just so, so many ways that their name, image and likeness can be out there, but we are going to protect the University of Michigan brand,” Manuel said.

Ivo Dinov, SACUA member and professor in the Medical School, said while he agreed a student should own their name, image and likeness, he was cautious about blurring the lines between professional athletes and student athletes.

“There is a difference between professional athletes that go to college and full-time students that are athletes at the same time,” Dinov said. “We have to be careful not to professionalize the act of going to college.”

Manuel agreed with Dinov, adding that he believes college athletes are students and should not become professional employees. Manuel said he does not believe the University should be paying students to play. 

“I want to make it clear — name, image and likeness, I support,” Manuel said. “Paying kids to be athletes and make them professionals and employees of the University, I am not supportive of that.” 

Mechanical Engineering Professor Allen Liu and Information Professor Kentaro Toyama, both SACUA representatives, also announced their candidacies for SACUA chair. J. Caitlin Finlayson, English professor at U-M Dearborn, announced she will run for SACUA vice chair. 

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