The University of Michigan Senate Assembly gathered on Monday to elect three new representatives to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs and further discuss its official statement regarding the University’s views on transgender bathroom policies.

The meeting began with a presentation of the resolution SACUA drafted earlier this month that states all members of the campus community should have the right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

The Assembly was given the opportunity to discuss, amend and vote on whether they wanted to support the resolution. 

Assembly members brought up several changes they’d like to see made, such as a statement about visitors, and others wanted to broaden the language of the resolution.

Engineering Prof. Doug Noll spoke up, stating he was uncertain about the explicit promotion of safe spaces in the statement’s first sentence, which states: “The University faculty governance is committed to working to create a safe and inclusive space for all people. We support a policy that allows all members of our campus to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.”

“I’m a little concerned about the first sentence,” Noll said. “You might read that to say that we’re endorsing safe spaces generically, and I’m not sure I would be in favor of creating safe spaces where you can’t have robust discussions.”

Further discussion led to the Assembly to remove the entire first sentence of the resolution, leaving them with a statement solely about bathrooms.

The amended version of the resolution read: “The University faculty governance supports a policy that allows all members and visitors to our campus to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.”

It passed unanimously.

The Assembly then moved into elections of the next SACUA representatives. LSA Prof. Silke-Maria Weineck, LSA Prof. John Lehman and Pharmacy Prof. David Smith will all end their terms as SACUA representatives this April. Six faculty members were nominated from the Assembly to fill their seats, and three were elected.

Four of the nominees from the Ann Arbor campus were LSA Profs. Andreas Gailus and Neil Marsh and Medical School Profs. Kathryn Eaton and Sami Malek. Business Prof. Joy Beatty was nominated from the Dearborn campus and History Prof. John Ellis was nominated from the Flint campus. 

Each candidate was given time to speak to the Assembly about why they wanted to serve on SACUA.

Some candidates felt their field expertise would be helpful in this new position. Beatty submitted a video with her statement, as she is on sabbatical in New Zealand. She stressed to Assembly members that she felt her organizational studies background would help make SACUA communicate better and run in a smoother fashion.

“What I like to think I can contribute, if I were elected, is that I have organizational expertise, which helps me be in tune to organizational processes,” Beatty said. “I think faculty governance is a tradition we should cherish.”

Communication was a popular theme among candidates. Ellis said his main goal if elected would be to increase communication and cooperation among all three of the University’s campuses.

“We should continue to press for more integration of Flint and Dearborn into a single University system and promote communication,” Ellis said. “A lot of times, things that happen in SACUA tend to just appear in Flint … I think in the end, we will be stronger as one faculty, in reality, than we would be as three different campuses doing the same thing.”

Malek and Gaius both shared the view that faculty governance has a duty to protect the institution of the University. If elected, Malek promised to hold on to traditional academic values.

“I have fundamentally stood for traditional academic behavior … and commerce and less bottom-line decisions,” Malek said. “I think relationship-building and honesty are how you get people to listen to you, and that’s what I’m going to try to do for all of you.”

Marsh rounded out the speeches. He said he wanted to work on expanding the current work of SACUA, as well as making faculty governance more reachable to and communicative with the greater University community.

“If I am elected, I would like to be a builder,” he said. “I’d like to build on the important work that SACUA is doing. I’d like to build support, enthusiasm and better channels of communication to the broader faculty. I want to build bridges (to) the administration and bridges outside the administration. We don’t need to be building walls, and we certainly don’t need to be living in our ivory tower.”

Once all the speeches were heard, Assembly members voted for the three candidates they wanted to serve as SACUA representatives. The votes were tallied, and though it was a close election, it was announced that Beatty, Malek and Marsh had been chosen to serve. Their terms will begin this May.

The meeting, which was the second-to-last Assembly meeting of the academic year, ended with SACUA President Bill Schultz, professor of mechanical engineering, welcoming the new members into the committee. He will give an official end-of-year statement at next month’s meeting, but he said a quick thanks to the body for a good year and mentioned the elections for a new president will be held soon.  

“It’s been a pleasure to serve you, but it’s time to pass the torch to someone else,” Schultz said. “We hope to have that election in the not-so-distant future. That’s chosen by the present members of SACUA.”

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