The University of Michigan Senate Assembly met Monday afternoon at the Michigan League to discuss the structure of faculty governance, changes to policy regarding faculty pay during University misconduct trials, the status of U-M Flint and the purpose of University Ombuds. The Ombuds is an independent body working to resolve conflicts between faculty members. 

MaryJo Banasik, director of the University’s Faculty Senate Office, began with a presentation explaining the structure of the University’s faculty governance. 

“There’s an opportunity for the faculty to reach all these different levels of administration, but it really needs to be done through central faculty government,” Banasik said. “So when people do get involved — when they participate in faculty governments — that’s when faculty voices can be heard the most.” 

Ann Sales, a professor of Learning Health Sciences in the Medical School, raised concerns with the lack of representation of University staff on faculty governance. 

“When we went through the list of who was involved in faculty governance as it’s currently set up, there are clearly some important groups missing,” Sales said. “So critical faculty are missing, as are lecturers and other adjunct roles, and I’m sure this gets addressed frequently, but are there mechanisms for this ongoing discussion?” 

Information professor Kentaro Toyama, chair of the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee, presented updates on resolved and ongoing policy debates between the AAAC and the Office of the Provost. 

Toyoma discussed how issues of expediting tenure trials and cutting pay for egregious faculty misconduct have split the committee. He said he errs on the side of protecting faculty rights while recognizing the need to sanction harmful faculty. 

“(Faculty members) are paid through the time of the hearing until the final decision is made by the University whether to terminate them or not,” Toyama said. “Now, this is generally okay if the case of the situation is someone hasn’t been able to teach very well, maybe they haven’t been able to fulfill their teaching duties, but it looks particularly bad when maybe they are, say, a sexual predator.” 

As part of the Senate Assembly’s ongoing effort to better connect the University’s disparate schools and programs, Greg Laurence, associate professor of management at U-M Flint, highlighted U-M Flint’s successes in hosting Yo-Yo Ma and Dr. Jane Goodall. He also touched on concerns with falling enrollment due to rapid population decline in Flint and surrounding areas.

“We are experiencing now four years of enrollment decline,” Laurence said. “Some of that may be attributed to the water crisis, and people around the state’s reaction to that. Systemically, however, if you look at demographics maps of the state, in a state of declining population, especially in the five counties that touch it, where 75 percent of our students come from, the population of those parts of the state is decreasing faster than elsewhere in the state.” 

Faculty Co-Ombuds Robert M. Ortega, associate professor of social work, and Michele Hannoosh, associate professor of French, ended the meeting with a presentation on the purpose and structure of the University Ombuds.

Ortega and Hannoosh led the assembly through their website and reminded them that the Ombuds can be a first step in resolving problems related to a conflict between faculty or concerns about University policy.

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