A man speaks at a podium while two people stand behind him holding a banner that says “Umich funds Israeli apartheid. Divest now!”.
Student protesters hold a banner behind Senate Assembly Chair Tom Braun as he speaks during the Senate Assembly Monday. Meleck Eldahshoury/Daily. Buy this photo.

The University of Michigan Senate Assembly met in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building Monday evening to approve the creation of a Senate Nominating Committee, the definition of tenure and transparency with the University’s investments. As discussed at Monday’s meeting, the Nominating Committee will be made up of current Senate Assembly members, likely prioritizing those with the most faculty experience. The committee will aim to select a group that represents diverse faculty interests across schools and will bring up any issues to Senate Assembly Chair Tom Braun.  

Braun expressed his excitement for the proposed committee. 

“We hope that it creates a group with a broad cross-section of the university wisdom,” Braun said. 

The assembly voted unanimously to approve the creation of the Nominating Committee. 

Assembly members also resumed previous faculty government discussions about the definition of tenure at the University. Currently, faculty with appointments on the instructional tenure track are the only ones eligible for tenure. Meanwhile, clinical and research faculty are not able to receive tenure. Daniel Drake, research assistant professor in cardiac surgery, emphasized the importance of considering who tenure is achievable for and who the current definition of tenure excludes. 

“Although I am not a candidate for tenure, in my opinion, preservation of tenured faculty authority and autonomy is an incredibly important topic,” Drake said.  

As the Senate Assembly transitioned to discussing free speech among professors, a group of student protestors entered the room. They spread out around the room and a pair held a banner behind Braun. 

The demonstrators peacefully held banners for several minutes, urging the University to divest from Israel. One of the banners read: “UMich funds Israel Apartheid. Divest Now.” 

Luke McCarthy, director of Faculty Senate Office, described the scene for those attending the meeting virtually and commended the student’s peaceful protest. 

“They’ve got banners up about the issues in the Middle East and they’re being fantastic in exercising their free speech in a very constructive fashion,” McCarthy said. 

Derek Peterson, history professor and Senate Assembly member, commented in the virtual meeting chat that he believes University administration should make the institution’s financial ties with Israel more transparent. 

“The Faculty Senate Assembly asks the University’s leadership to make clear and public the extent and nature of the University’s financial investments in the State of Israel,” Peterson wrote.

Melanie Tanielian, director of the Program in International and Comparative Studies, and Johannes Foufopoulos, associate professor of ecosystem science and management, were among some of the other faculty to second Peterson’s opinion.

In the meeting chat, Jonathan Brennan, an associate professor of linguistics, asked how faculty can distinguish the University’s financial decisions from the institution’s political aims. Brennan also called for increased transparency from the University about not only investments relating to Israel, but also other countries and organizations as well.

“It is very difficult for me to draw the line between the justice-considerations that might motivate this particular request from other types of (important to me!) transparency (e.g. investment in the defense industry, investments in organizations affiliated with Russia or other state actors whose actions are subject to substantial international debate),” Brennan wrote. 

Biomedical engineering professor Brian Love also told the Senate Assembly that he supported Peterson’s call for additional transparency. 

“It’s fair for a body like the Faculty Senate (Assembly) to ask for details like this,” Love said. “It is up to the foundation and the groups in financial affairs to resolve how this is split out.” 

Daily Staff Contributor Violet Boyd can be reached at viboyd@umich.edu