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The University of Michigan Senate Assembly met Monday afternoon to elect three new representatives to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs and vote on the Faculty Statement on Safety, Speech, and Academic Freedom Endorsed by Committee for an Inclusive University.

The Faculty Statement on Safety, Speech, and Academic Freedom Endorsed by Committee for an Inclusive University passed with no opposition and a handful of abstentions. The statement is not a formal policy, but rather a declaration of values. It includes support of rights to safety and free speech, denouncement of hate speech and discrimination and a commitment to activism regarding these issues. The statement is intended to be a starting point for further discussion and activism.

Afterward, the Assembly began the SACUA representative elections. Six assembly members were nominated to fill the three seats being vacated at the end of April by SACUA members Dave Wright and Stefan Szymanski, and SACUA Chair Robert Ortega. All nominated assembly members presented a short speech to the Assembly immediately preceding the vote. Currently, only two women sit on SACUA, but beginning April 30, five of the nine members will be women.

At the close of the meeting, assembly members were given the opportunity to vote, and after the ballots were counted, Colleen Conway, Sarah Lippert and Deirdre Spencer were awarded the three seats.

Conway, professor of music education, noted in her speech that she works in the School of Education as well as in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, which broadens her understanding and connections across the school. She also has student teachers working in schools across the area, which she attributed to her knowledge of the region and offering her additional perspectives.

“I also believe that my work specifically with education crosses over the boundaries,” Conway said. “Most of my colleagues in the School of Music, Theatre and Dance are in the creative arts areas only.”

Lippert, associate professor of art history, and the only nominee from the U-M Flint campus, spoke to the lack of representation from her campus.

“As a matter of fair representation, it is time for Flint to have a seat at the table,” Lippert said.

Lippert is the chair of the Tri-Campus Task Force, a board of representatives from all three University of Michigan campuses aimed at improving faculty governance.

“Recent newsworthy events means that our place within the institution needs to be heard, and we hope that (SACUA) contact will help us overcome our challenges that are unique to the Flint campus, as students and as community partners,” Lippert said.

Deirdre Spencer, librarian for History of Art, emphasized in her speech she always lobbies for resources for the Flint and Dearborn campuses, and highlighted racial tension and bigotry on campus. All three campuses have suffered spates of racist vandalism and bias incidents in year following the 2016 presidential election. 

“Historically, the University of Michigan is a champion for cause of humanity and social justice,” Spencer said. “This has led to the creation of new areas of scholarship, and new programs and services, which have benefitted many. As a university, we have come so far and done so much. But progress is cyclical. Each generation fights new versions of the same battle. For excellence to continue during this period of escalating uncertainty, representative leadership is needed.”

Conway, Lippert and Spencer will serve three-year terms on SACUA. 

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