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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs approved to write a statement on Monday to support University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel’s remarks defending international students in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order passed last weekend. The order banned immigration and travel from several Muslim-majority countries such as Syria and Somalia, resulting in multiple protests in Michigan and nationwide.
The resolution was drafted by SACUA member Silke-Maria Weineck, professor of comparative literature and German studies.
SACUA member Robert Ortega, associate professor of social work, explored the possibility of adding statistics about the number of foreign faculty and students to the statement in order to emphasize the prevalence of the international community, but later decided it was unnecessary, given the evidence of the community’s importance to the academic environment.
“It’s incontrovertible that it’s a problem, not just with students, but we have faculty, we have families that are also experiencing some extreme angst,” he said.
The resolution was passed unanimously.
There was discussion regarding whether or not SACUA should bring attention to the existence of a petition that calls for Trump to reconsider his immigration order, but there was no motion to extend that debate.
Aside from the petition, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor has also spoken out against Trump’s ban on his Facebook page.
“Trump and his supporters have polluted something beautiful — the honor of the United States and its people,” Taylor wrote. “The world looking in, ourselves looking about us, we must now reasonably question the continued truth of that reputation. Are we in fact a decent and just people? Is the United States of America a force for good? Do we as a people have the courage to try to make the world a better place, or are we debilitated by weakness and fear?”
In addition to endorsing the statement, SACUA heard from Kelli Trosvig, University vice president for information technology, about her plans for her new position. Trosvig received a five-year appointment to the position of vice president for information technology on Nov. 14 of last year.
Trosvig said moving forward at the University she has her concerns about the availability of anonymous patient data to health care providers and researchers, especially in light of the possible revocation of former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Trosvig said the most important aspect of her position, especially concerning the interaction between IT and research, is constant review of the utility of programs.
“You can’t say, ‘this is a great service’ and leave it,” Trosvig said. “You need to do assessments every two or three years, say ‘is this still cost effective? Is this still the same way we do it? Is this still the best way to do it?’ You need to continually assess your services.”
Engineering sophomore AJ Ashman, senior policy advisor for Central Student Government, came to the meeting to talk about efforts to reduce textbook prices.
Ashman presented information about his and the University libraries’ efforts and answered questions concerning library resources that attempt to alleviate a portion of the cost of college textbooks. One such resource that Ashman is working to expand is the University Library course reserves, which keeps course materials on reserves at the library for students to use in four-hour increments.
Ashman said, according to research, about 30 percent of students often do not purchase textbooks for financial reasons, despite the impact that may have on their performance in the course.
“Textbooks are a hidden cost of college, but they’re crucial to succeeding,” he said. “And if we’re going to be taking kids here who are socioeconomically of lower statuses, we’re not giving them that opportunity without the books to succeed in the class … We’re really pricing kids out of a quality education.”
Ashman also discussed efforts to incorporate programs similar to those at the University of Indiana, which include increased usage of online textbooks at a lower cost to students.
He said these efforts represent the libraries’ efforts to be as relevant to students as possible, given the prevalence of technology.
“We have all these books on the shelves, that’s great,” Ashman said. “But are students really using them and are we catering to those needs? They’re as eager as I am to make themselves more relevant to students today.”
Ashman appealed to SACUA to help spread information about library resources to other faculty members and students. SACUA Chair William Schultz, professor of mechanical engineering, agreed, requesting specific documents of the resources Ashman had in order to disseminate the information more accurately.