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In light of the University of Michigan’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs convened Monday on BlueJeans, a virtual meeting platform, to discuss COVID-19 as well as social distancing policies.

Sami Malek, professor of internal medicine at the Medical School, shared with the committee how Michigan Medicine will cope with the large influx of patients coming in the next two to four weeks. He said it is projected that half of all inpatient beds will be occupied by COVID-19 patients. Other laboratory research, the number of outpatient visits and elective surgeries have also been massively reduced. 

Sara Ahbel-Rappe, professor of Greek and Latin, discussed how the virus has impacted assistant professors between the Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses and the possibility for this year being excluded in a professor’s tenure review. 

“If you are an assistant professor here at the Ann Arbor campus, this semester could be counted as part of the exception to your tenure track, but you’d have to apply for it,” Ahbel-Rappe said. “At Dearborn, this year won’t be considered an exclusion and you’d still have access to exceptions, their policies overall seem much looser.” 

In response, Joy Beatty, SACUA chair and associate professor of Management at U-M Dearborn, said it seems the Universities are attempting to prioritize student and teaching issues before moving on to faculty issues, such as student evaluation of teaching and tenure. 

“It’s unfortunate how I have access to all the Dearborn notes which none of the committees get because by comparing both campuses, you get to see more how things are being done on a smaller campus,” Beatty said. “We haven’t gotten to address the issue with assistant professors, because it’s a little further down in our list, under student and teaching issues.” 

Mary Jo Banasik, director of the Faculty Senate Office, added on by recalling a meeting she had with University President Mark Schlissel about the decentralized nature of the Ann Arbor campus and the number of deans, which adds to the difficulty in coordination. 

“If you look at the Dearborn email which addresses assistant professors, all of their teams were on the correspondence,” Banasik said. “But it is much more difficult to get all the deans together on the Ann Arbor campus to agree on how to handle something such as reaching tenure for assistant professors.” 

The discussion about campus decentralization launched the meeting into a discussion of miscommunication in online classes. 

David Potter, secretary of the Faculty Senate and professor of Greek and Roman history, said there are discrepancies between messages from LSA officials and Schlissel. He pointed out that while Schlissel sent out an email saying lecture capture facilities will remain open, LSA sent out an email in response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home announcement that all buildings will be closed. 

Beatty and the committee agreed to continue the Senate Assembly meeting in April regardless of the inability to convene in person. As for working with new interim staff members, the committee noted they are looking forward to working with Acting Provost Susan M. Collins, who will be named interim provost at the upcoming Board of Regents meeting on March 26.

The committee decided to create a Library and Press Open Access Ad Hoc Committee next semester in order to address various concerns and problems the libraries have been facing. The committee said they had to redo the entire front web page due to conflicts with the technology company and their decision to reverse their support for the new website agenda. 

“Our plan is to first plow through and gather data in order to consider the numbers that the new library committee can easily spend in one semester,” Potter said. “The second semester will be spent on making and exploring different pathways and approaches. They will work out different scenarios, lay it out for us and we will work from there.” 

The final discussion for the meeting was the following up on the Medical School Office of Clinical Affairs, which the committee mentioned before moving into executive session.

Contributor Cheryn Hong can be reached at

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