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The University of Michigan Senate Assembly held its monthly meeting Monday, Oct. 21, in the Michigan League. There were approximately 30 faculty assembly members present and the Assembly was chaired by Joy Beatty, member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs.
The assembly members discussed open access to research, the third floor Shapiro Undergraduate Library renovation, highlights from a Big 10 academic conference and the University voting on revising two bylaws in its tenure policy. The first deadline to recommend revisions to University President Mark Schlissel is Nov. 15. Kentaro Toyama, a School of Information professor, spoke on this subject as the chair of the Academic Affairs Advisory Council.
Toyama expressed the need for a revision of this policy because it was established shortly after the McCarthy era (1940s-1950s). During this time, policy makers attempted to be apolitical on the issue of who teaches at the University. This policy states until proven guilty of an offense, a tenured faculty member will receive compensation and benefits from the University. If the University decides to let tenured faculty go, the University must pay the faculty a full year’s worth of compensation, as well as providing an additional year of benefits.
“Now that might seem a little bit extreme to all of us, but the original intent of those bylaws were apparently written very soon after the McCarthy era,” Toyama said. “The idea was to really thoroughly ensure that faculty who might have been going through this process for political reasons were still protected on their academic freedom and the process is meant to have a pretty high bar against removing tenure.”
The Senate Assembly also discussed the University’s library system. Meredith Kahn, librarian for Gender & Sexuality Studies, and James Hilton, University Librarian and Dean of Libraries, said the University library system saw 4,239,355 visitors in 2017-2018 and have 14,217,179 volumes total. Hilton also announced the renovation of the Shapiro Undergraduate Library’s third floor.
Kahn spoke about how the librarians are treated differently than the rest of the faculty even though they also oversee students. She noted how librarians work 12 months a year and cannot receive tenure.
“While we don’t have students in the same way that your academic units do, all of your students are our students as well,” Kahn said. “We teach our students how to do research, how to find and evaluate new sources, and we provide collections and services relevant to their academic pursuits. Also, our spaces offer students physical, technical and practical needs to accomplish their educational goals.”
Hilton also discussed open access of University resources for press use, and how as a press company, they are unable to profit due to the internet. He attributed a great deal of this to Amazon, as well as other online competitors changing a library functions.
Despite this zeroed profit, Hilton noted the University library system does well. Kahn encouraged members of the community to learn about its services and ended her statement with a nod to the future.
“We’d like you to know that in the future, even though we might not keep as many physical items at the heart of campus, our collections, our services, our spaces, our people will still be absolutely central to the mission of the university,” Kahn said. “There’s a reason that universities are always built around libraries, archives, museums, collections, and that’s always going to be the case no matter what format those collections take.”
The University hosted the Big 10 Academic Alliance Faculty Governance Conference this past weekend. Beatty spoke of the collaboration, comparison and conversation that occured during this event and spoke to the wealth of information an event like this gives the University. Additionally, Colleen Conway, professor of music education and vice chair of Senate Assembly, said this event allows for positive communication between Big 10 institutions.
“I think one of the really great things that came from the weekend was that there was a lot of communication across the institutions, that I’m not sure we’ve had in the Big 10 before,” Beatty said. “I think the communication at this event got a lot stronger than it has been in the past which means we can start to lean on those other institutions so that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time we’re coming up with something.”
J. Caitlin Finlayson, associate professor of English Literature at the U-M Dearborn campus, gave a “Snapshot of UM Dearborn 2019,” when she described U-M Dearborn’s reality as a regional campus with few art classes being offered and only four colleges. This is especially difficult because many of the U-M Dearborn students are “non-traditional,” Finlayson said.
U-M Dearborn consists of mostly in-state students with only 6 percent students coming from out of state. Most students who graduate from U-M Dearborn stay in Michigan, which Finlayson said helps the Michigan economy.
In regard to the non-traditional student population at U-M Dearborn, many are first generation students, working full time jobs or didn’t learn English as a first language, Finlayson said.
“I almost never have a student who isn't also holding down a job, right, sometimes part time, often full time,” Finlayson said. “A typical English classroom for me, a quarter of my students will be first generation. About a third of my students are going to be working parents, who are usually in their late 20s, early 30s coming back to get a degree after having several children. So they’ve got family responsibilities, and they’re usually working as well. And so that’s the other thing about our non-traditional students, they usually fit multiple categories of non-traditional.”