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The University of Michigan’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met virtually Monday afternoon to discuss recent COVID-19 Council activity, preparations for the upcoming Faculty Senate and town hall meetings, and recent developments among the individual committees SACUA members oversee. 

The meeting began with SACUA chair Colleen Conway updating the committee on the University’s changes to the winter 2021 schedule and the COVID-19 Council’s concerns before and after the changes were announced. 

“The council is working pretty well, and it’s very diverse,” Conway said. “We really have all ends of the spectrum on that 16-person committee, and it’s allowing them to hear voices from all over campus.”

The council has met twice so far, and at this point, SACUA has yet to formally define its role in relation to the council, Conway said.

“We are them and they are us, however they’re also their own thing,” Conway said. “I think we have a real opportunity here to show that we can put a group together like this and have it be what the administration wants it to be.”

The topic of conversation then shifted to the upcoming Faculty Senate Assembly meeting next Monday. SACUA members voiced concerns about how the Senate Assembly functions in a virtual environment, as opposed to previous years when the meetings were in person. 

LSA professor Neil Marsh spoke about how to best encourage Senate Assembly members to attend the meeting and actively engage in the conversation. He suggested providing the members with pertinent information ahead of time and creating a list of guiding questions for them to consider. 

“Ideally, have people come into the meeting, who are informed, or somewhat informed, or at least know their opinion is going to be asked,” Marsh said. “I always found that was a good way to engage the Senate Assembly that says we actually want you to contribute to this.”

SACUA further addressed concerns about whether or not the proposed Faculty Senate town hall scheduled for Dec. 7 would be advantageous for University faculty. After some debate, SACUA decided the town hall was unnecessary and SACUA unanimously moved to cancel the town hall and replace it with a Faculty Senate Assembly meeting.

The final part of the meeting allowed SACUA members to present their committee liaison reports. Several SACUA members have been tasked with overseeing Faculty Senate committees, and the majority of these committees have met once or twice so far. 

Most of the reports outlined the brainstorming efforts and first steps the various committees will continue to develop as they have more meetings. Information professor Kentaro Toyama, the SACUA liaison for the Student Relations Advisory Committee, shared his committee’s recent endorsement of two important Central Student Government resolutions. 

The first of the two resolutions aims to apply the same grading policy utilized in the winter 2020 semester to the fall 2020 term. If the resolution is adopted by the University, a grade would be masked under a “pass” or “no pass COVID” label unless the student elects to unmask that grade. 

The other proposed CSG resolution would create what Toyama described as “a quasi-spring break” in lieu of the typical spring break which has been removed from the winter 2021 schedule due to COVID-19 related concerns. 

“Basically there would be a week when faculty would pledge not to assign high-intensity assignments or midterms … because that would be useful for mental health,” Toyama said.

The University has already added two one-day “well-being breaks,” which will prohibit scheduled academic activities on Feb. 24 and March 23 for mental health purposes. However, the CSG resolution would go a step further by instituting a week-long break from any exams or high stakes assignments. Toyama reported the SRAC voted to endorse both resolutions as they seek to be adopted by the University. 

Before the meeting transitioned to the executive session, Conway reflected on the value of sharing the various committee liaison reports.

“I know it takes time to hear about the work of all those committees, but I think it helps when you hear what the other committees are doing and you think about what’s going on in your own committee,” Conway said. 

Daily News Contributor Roni Kane can be reached at ronikane@umich.edu. 

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