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Eleven SACUA board members held their weekly meeting Monday afternoon in the Fleming Administration Building, addressing issues facing the University of Michigan faculty and student body. University President Mark Schlissel was in attendance for the first half hour of the session, speaking on issues of curbing vape use and improving parking at the University.

Schlissel said the issue of vaping has been on his radar for several years, and administrators have, on several occasions, considered crafting a ban on tobacco products on campus.

“A year or two ago, Preeti Malani, who’s our Chief Health Officer from the health system who has this advisory role to me, said, ‘You know, Mark, we should really consider making the campus not just no smoking, but tobacco free,’” Schlissel said. “And by common usage, vaping falls under tobacco, be that as it may.”

However, according to Schlissel, the scientific data has been insufficient for the University to introduce any campus-wide ban.

“What I was concerned about is there is not great data about the health effects of vaping,” Schlissel said. “If you have the stuff laced with CBD or something, then that’s a different beast, but commercial vaping things, it could be a pathway to addiction, but it’s also a prescribed treatment to get people off cigarettes.”

Vaping has become a particularly pertinent issue to University students after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banned sales of flavored e-cigarettes in early September. The new ban attempts to limit underage kids’ access to Juuls and other devices that are seen as a gateway to cigarettes and tobacco products. Earlier this month, the Trump administration enforced a similar policy, cracking down on e-cigarette companies marketing to children.

Schlissel said the University would not make a similar mandate due to problems with the enforceability of a potential ban of nicotine products on campus.

“These things are so tiny and discreet that it’s very hard to enforce a ban,” Schlissel said. “Who’s going to be the vaping police? And in your class, do you want to spend your time scanning every person and saying ‘Is that a piece of candy you’re popping in your mouth or are you taking a puff on some electronic device?’ And if you make these rules that aren’t enforceable, it kind of decreases respect for the law.”

Schlissel also referenced efforts to improve parking and transportation for U-M health center patients and nursing staff unable to make appointments due to parking. Schlissel said the University has proposed several projects which would make parking and transportation to North Campus easier.

“There’s a construction project for a thousand spots of parking right next to the Wall Street garage which is three minutes from the health system, so that will be very helpful,” Schlissel said.

Another possible proposed solution was a new shuttle that runs on its own path separate from the roadways that would decrease commute time. Schlissel said this project is still in the works, but could begin to be developed within the next few years.

“We’re working, but not ready for public consumption, on a high-volume, high-speed connector, that will go from Central Campus, right in front of the health system, up to the North Campus and onto the NCRC,” Schlissel said. “It would have a high enough capacity and a regular enough frequency that it would help a lot.”

Schlissel said this proposal was crafted in response to frequent congestion and slow-moving traffic on Fuller Street, leading to North Campus. This traffic largely affects University faculty who make the commute, either in their own car or via Blue Bus, to North Campus every day.

Another point of discussion for board members was the use of electronic voting for the Senate Assembly, a method that members say has been adopted by multiple other universities.

Ivo Dinov, SACUA board member and bioinformatics professor, wrote the report on introducing electronic voting to Senate Assembly, and said using this technology to gauge support for certain policies can eliminate complications involved with voting in person.

“If you only insist on having people that meet the minimum critical requirement, that 100 people — Senate members, show up to vote — is this a better situation than having everybody have a chance to vote even if they did not hear the argument?” Dinov said. “So it’s one of those things where you have to be careful because a lot of people travel, and they’re just not going to be here. So, having the opportunity to vote asynchronously is a huge plus.”

Director of U-M’s Faculty Senate Office, MaryJo Banasik, spoke with a Senate Assembly member at the University of Minnesota, who claimed that electronic voting has streamlined the process of making faculty decisions. Banasik said ideally the University would purchase software such as Qualtrics or Simply Voting to expedite the voting process.

“They actually use it [Simply Voting] if they cannot get a quorum,” Banasik said. “So, they have a deliberative meeting in person first to discuss the issues and the next meeting they hold the vote in person, and if they don’t have enough people to make the quorum for that vote, then they turn to electronic voting.”


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