Courtesy of Rachel Mintz.

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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met Monday to discuss putting aside time for unanticipated issues during their meetings, the Faculty Governance Consortium and drafting rules of engagement for SACUA-appointed committees or task forces. 

J. Caitlin Finlayson, English professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and SACUA vice chair, proposed allocating time during each SACUA meeting to address issues not on the agenda. 

“I think everyone during this year has felt like there’s been a discussion that they still have things to say or (that) they thought was unresolved, but … we ended up moving on,” Finlayson said. “So, the question is just really whether people have that half-hour slot available that they can set aside (each week), and then we would only use it if we have an issue.” 

Finlayson then updated SACUA on the most recent Faculty Governance Consortium meetings she attended. These meetings of faculty governance members from academic institutions across the country have been occurring monthly and virtually since the beginning of the pandemic. Finlayson announced that the meetings would be moving to a tentative, monthly in-person format in the future, with Zoom meetings occurring once every two months.  

“At this last meeting, we were mainly talking about things like the COVID impact statements that we used at Ann Arbor with P and T (promotion and tenure),” Finlayson said. “How is this (the COVID-19 pandemic) being factored into P and T, and how various P and Ts are being handled across different universities in terms of accommodating, or not, for issues around COVID.”

Finlayson noted that very few universities, including the UM-Ann Arbor campus, have procedures for putting in place a COVID-19 impact statement. These are optional additions faculty members can make to their annual promotion review materials that would describe the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on their professional lives. 

Finlayson added that she would circulate the COVID-19 impact statement forms from the UM-Dearborn campus for the faculty of UM-Ann Arbor to use since there is no formalized procedure in place. 

Allen Liu, Engineering professor at UM-Ann Arbor and SACUA chair, addressed the lack of a COVID-19 impact statement form on the University’s Ann Arbor campus and said he thought one was necessary. 

“Honestly, I think that is exactly what ought to happen, to be proactive from the provost level directly to faculty,” Liu said. “Because what’s happening, I think, is that people are not getting information.” 

Kanakadurga Singer, Medical School professor and SACUA member, said the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee debated about COVID-19 impact statements in 2020.

SACUA members decided to bring the issue of not having a formal COVID-19 impact statement at the Ann Arbor campus to the Senate Assembly at their next meeting.

Liu then shared the draft for the rules of engagement for SACUA-appointed committees and task forces that was sent to Provost Susan Collins. Liu said he got the idea for creating rules of engagement after talking with the provost about forming a working group for work connections.

“The main points are compensation and confidentiality,” Liu said. “We want to talk about what confidentiality means — that the content discussed in a meeting will not be shared with others outside of the meeting.”

SACUA members discussed the language of the document, which will be presented to the Senate Assembly at a future meeting. The main concern was making sure confidentiality was ensured while still allowing subcommittees to report back to SACUA outside of meetings.

Finlayson said SACUA wanted to encourage transparent relationships with subcommittees and working groups.

“It’s confidential, so keep it confidential,” Finlayson said. “It’s kind of obvious, but I think it’s about having that reminder at the committee meetings, that this is part of how the committee’s work.”

Sara L Ahbel-Rappe, LSA professor at UM-Ann Arbor and SACUA member, expressed concern about the draft sections that allowed task force participants to terminate meetings and remove “offending members” of the committee. She also said the draft’s rules could be used by committee members who feel attacked by an opposing argument or by some disagreement between members to disregard that argument. 

“I understand that we need to have a meeting where there’s honesty, but I’m also worried that we’re getting to the point of the tone police,” Ahbel-Rappe said. 

SACUA members are still revising their draft of the rules of engagement for its presentation to the Senate Assembly. 

Daily Staff Reporter Rachel Mintz can be reached at mintzrac@umich.edu.