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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met virtually on Monday to discuss supporting a future study into pay disparities of University of Michigan faculty based on both gender and race. SACUA also talked about recently passed motions on COVID-19 protocols and sexual assault misconduct policies on campus.

The meeting started out by discussing the Committee on Anti-Racism’s request for data on salary disparities. Previous studies have been done on pay disparities at the University, though the studies have focused more on gender, provoking conversations about the need for a study that looked at the same issue concerning race and ethnicity. In April 2021, The Michigan Daily found pay disparities between the College of LSA and the College of Engineering as well as historically large salary disparities between the three University campuses.

Damani Partridge, Senate Assembly member and associate professor of anthropology and Afroamerican and African studies, explained why there was a dire need for such a request. 

“When I was chairing the Anti-Racism Committee, the issue of pay and pay equity came up,” Partridge said. “In some departments, we found out there was already some kind of disparity between faculty, and that in this one department, all the Black faculty were the lowest paid.”

Kentaro Toyama, Senate Assembly member and professor of information, said a broader, more comprehensive study should be done on the issue of pay equity and disparities within the University to satisfy concerns about this issue.

“The University should commission a study of salary,” Toyama said. “Pay some set of our faculty (to conduct this study because) many of them are more than capable of doing an incredible job of doing this kind of survey and ensure that the dimensions that we care about, which I think include gender and race, are taken into account.”

Allen Liu, SACUA chair and Engineering associate professor, committed to asking Provost Susan Collins for further research on this subject, especially in the context of commissioning a study to gather data on disparities in pay at the University based on both gender and race.

The meeting then turned to discuss the motions presented at the Oct. 4 Faculty Senate meeting, citing concerns over if these new motions would be properly implemented.

During the Oct. 4 Faculty Senate meeting, the body discussed five motions regarding the lack of remote teaching options, protocols for COVID-19 on campus and the University’s response to sexual misconduct. Prior to the meeting, University President Mark Schlissel responded to the motions, defending the University’s COVID-19 policies and new sexual misconduct protocols. All five motions were passed by the Faculty Senate. 

Michael Atzmon, Senate Assembly member and Engineering professor, said he is concerned over whether or not implementing these motions seemed like a priority to the University administration due to the current position of the COVID-19 Faculty Council.

“I think it’s pretty clear that (University) President (Mark) Schlissel is not that intent on implementing the motions,” Atzmon said. “So, if the (COVID-19) Council doesn’t seem to act in a prompt manner, maybe we should think about what else we could do.”

The University ended COVID-19 classroom notifications Sept. 14, citing concerns of the notifications being “confusing and of limited benefit” but have maintained close contact notifications. Faculty members and graduate student instructors voiced their concerns for COVID-19 protections from the University after many were denied the option to teach remotely in the fall semester. According to University President Mark Schlissel in an email obtained by The Daily, 28 requests for remote teaching were submitted through Work Connections –– the University’s disability management program. Of those requests, 20 were denied and 4 were accepted.

Liu said he would discuss their concerns about implementing the motions, specifically the motion asking for the return of COVID-19 classroom notifications and mandatory COVID-19 testing for everyone at the University, with Collins.

SACUA then discussed the fourth motion,SACUA then discussed the fourth motion, which consisted of updates in the University’s handling of sexual misconduct. Motion 4 included several of the recommendations of the female survivors of former Provost Martin Philbert’s misconduct, which lasted for two decades, which lasted for two decades, including the formation of a committee of survivors of survivors to make future policy recommendations on the handling of sexual misconduct. The motion also requires members of search committees for faculty and administrative positions to sign a written statement confirming they have communicated knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations against potential appointees. 

The motion also requires members of search committees for faculty and administrative positions to sign a written statement confirming they have communicated knowledge of sexual misconduct allegations against potential appointees. 

Sara Ahbel-Rappe, Senate Assembly member and LSA professor, said she is concerned about whether the new requirements will be implemented and the need for these policies to have SACUA’s support.

“It seems like some of these things, these points, are falling into the abyss,” Ahbel-Rappe stated, “Slowly, we’re getting back to the point of zero, or ground zero.”

The University finalized a new sexual misconduct policy in September which took effect Oct. 1. The new policy, which replaced the umbrella policy that had been in place since August 2020,  clarifies ways to report misconduct, creates common definitions for prohibited conduct and explicitly prohibits supervisor-employee relationships. 

Though the motion was specific to allegations against Philbert, the University has seen many instances of sexual misconduct in recent years. In the Computer Science and Engineering Department, Jason Mars is still working at the University despite concerns from students, and Peter Chen is facing trial in January for first degree criminal sexual misconduct. Additionally, Stephen Shipps and David Daniels, both former professors in the School of Music, Theater and Dance, have been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple individuals at the University. The University fired Daniels in March 2020. 

The University finalized a new sexual misconduct policy in September which took effect Oct. 1. The new policy, which replaced the umbrella policy that had been in place since August 2020,  clarifies ways to report misconduct, creates common definitions for prohibited conduct and explicitly prohibits supervisor-employee relationships. 

Though the motion was specific to allegations against Philbert, the University has seen many instances of sexual misconduct in recent years. In the Computer Science and Engineering Department, Jason Mars is still working at the University despite concerns from students, and Peter Chen is facing trial in January for first degree criminal sexual misconduct. Additionally, Stephen Shipps and David Daniels, both former professors in the School of Music, Theater and Dance, have been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple individuals at the University. The University fired Daniels in March 2020. 

Liu said SACUA would back Motion 4 and continue to express their support for the motion. Liu added that the committee will continue to discuss further updates to sexual misconduct policies at the University.

“This will be on the agenda for SACUA regularly,” Liu said, “We’ll continue to revisit and make sure that we are on top of these things”.

Daily News Contributor Riley Hodder can be reached at rehodder@umich.edu.