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The University of Michigan’s Senate Assembly met on Monday at Palmer Commons for their first meeting of the semester to get to know one another and discuss their vision for the year. 

Joy Beatty, Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs chair and U-M Dearborn associate professor of organizational behavior, began the meeting by introducing MaryJo Banasik, the new director of the Faculty Senate Office. Beatty also told the audience SACUA has been busy this summer dealing with a dismissal of tenured faculty.

Following approval of the agenda, Beatty led the Senate Assembly in a “human bingo” activity. Members asked each other icebreaker questions to try to find enough people who fit the descriptions on their given board to win a bingo.

After the activity, Beatty reminded members the Senate Assembly exists to represent the interests of faculty. Members then participated in a vision exercise, in which they looked at various stock photos and discussed how each could represent the success of the Senate Assembly by the end of the year. 

Colleen Conway, SACUA vice chair and professor of music education, said her table determined the role of the Senate Assembly is to protect faculty from any initiatives that may not be in their best interest. 

“We struggled with this balance of creating positive relationships, so there isn’t this ‘us’ and ‘them’ feel with administration versus the Senate,” Conway said. “But we also don’t want to just have skin in the game, but teeth in the game. So we need that balance of fighting back when we feel like we need to without being perceived as incredibly problematic.”

SACUA member Deirdre Spencer, librarian for history of art, said a picture with many different colors reminded her the Senate Assembly’s role is to be skeptical of the administration and to have principled questions.

“The fact (is) that the administration is not the most diverse,” Spencer said. “And we’re not just talking about race and gender diversity — there’s age, there’s all kinds of ways in which we differ from each other.”

David Potter, faculty senate secretary and professor of Greek and Roman history, said the pictures at his table reminded them of travel, which led them to discuss problems connected to federal interference with international research efforts.

“A group of us from a series of different units all found we had the same concerns, which is one of the great things about Senate Assembly, is meeting people from around campus and starting to talk,” Potter said. 

When asked by a Senate Assembly member about her goals for the year, Beatty shared that as an organizational studies professor, she hopes to better integrate the Senate Assembly as an organization. 

“Do we know what the 20 committees are doing?” Beatty said. “Do the 20 committees hear from us? Do we hear from them? How are we using those committees to get items through to the executive officers?”

Despite the issues raised, Spencer shared her excitement for the year’s work ahead. 

“We are really working on it, and we have so many great plans for the year to take SACUA in a direction that we are proud of,” Spencer said. “I just feel like we are so ready to go.”

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