University President Mark Schlissel joined the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs at their meeting Monday to talk about faculty’s role in undergraduate admissions, as well as to gather input on the ongoing search for a new athletic director.
SACUA discussed whether the Principles of Faculty Involvement in Institutional and Academic Unit Governance — a document outlining the general responsibilities faculty members have in governing the University — should be modified to increase faculty involvement in undergraduate admissions. These guidelines have not been revisited for revision since the Senate Assembly endorsed the second edition of them in 2008.
Though these principles of faculty involvement originally tasked faculty members with the primary responsibility of detailing standards for student admission, Comparative Literature Prof. Silke-Maria Weineck, SACUA chair, said governing faculty members no longer have this responsibility due to a change within the University Board of Regents’ bylaws.
“Admissions are no longer primary faculty responsibility in the [Regents’] bylaws, but [we] were not so much driven by that one aspect,” Weineck said. “We just think it’s a good idea to visit such statements of mutual support because SACUA membership changes, but most importantly we have a new president and we have a new provost, so it seems a good idea to revisit … to reaffirm that we have these principles of shared governance.”
During the meeting, members expressed a desire to revisit the document to discuss the role faculty members play in undergraduate admissions, and whether or not any changes should be implemented in their role. Many faculty members also said the current guidelines are unclear on how faculty members contribute to undergraduate admissions.
In response, Schlissel advised SACUA to meet with Kedra Ishop, asssociate vice president for enrollment management, to further understand the University’s holistic view of undergraduate admissions and faculty involvement.
“Where I think we operate at our highest level is when we take advantage of people who function professionally and blend that with the input of the faculty who teach the students when they arrive,” Schlissel said.
While members did not express any specific issues with the current system or suggest changes, they emphasized the importance of understanding and reevaluating the current state of faculty involvement in admissions.
Biology Prof. John Lehman said the admissions process is currently largely operated by a professional staff and individuals who are hired to read the applications.
“It is certainly the case that faculty have become disengaged, not by choice of the faculty,” Lehman said. “It’s become much more of a non-faculty, professional staff operation.”
Members also said that faculty involvement differs across campus, with higher faculty member input in professional schools.
For example, Art and Design Prof. Anne Mondro pointed out that faculty is more involved in portfolio evaluation for undergraduate students.
Classical Studies Prof. David Potter also attributed the variability in faculty involvement between LSA and more professional schools to the difference between applicants. In professional programs, he said, students have a designated focus whereas in LSA, many apply when they’re still undecided.
“We expect you to be changing programs, finding things you’ve never imagined you’d be interested in,” he said. “You might end up concentrating in something you had no idea existed as a field when you arrived.”
In response, University Provost Martha Pollack, who also attended the meeting, emphasized the challenges associated with the large number of applicants to the University and the need to evaluate each fairly. For the past nine years applications to the University have grown each year, with 51,753 prospective students applying for the 2015 entering class.
She said faculty involvement stems from defining admissions criteria, which she added was an important contribution.
“We have over 50,000 applications a year,” Pollack said. “For fairness, the process of reading has to be professionalized, but I believe we have faculty from engineering and LSA who are involved in defining criteria.”
Following the discussion, SACUA members expressed plans to review the principles for faculty participation in institutional governance, as well as invite Ishop to explore the level of faculty involvement in the current admissions process.
During Monday’s meeting, Schlissel also asked faculty members to share any thoughts, concerns or advice about the search for a new athletic director.
“Who we choose will speak to the values of the institution and how we view athletics in the context of the University,” Schlissel said.
SACUA members’ said their priority in the search for a new athletic director is someone who is concerned with students’ physical and emotional wellness.
“Obviously somebody who will make sure the students are not exploited is very important,” Engineering Prof. Robert Ziff said. “I’m very concerned about the health of students.”
Schlissel emphasized the importance of hiring an athletic director who is open to campus engagement and has a presence on campus. He said he is concerned about the separation between athletics and the rest of campus and would like bridge the divide.
“I want to find someone that’s anxious to personally engage with the campus because I think that’s one of the ways in which things have gone off track in the past, is the lack of adequate engagement through a growing separateness,” he said.
Along with the discussion, SACUA also voted to release a statement of support to the University’s Muslim community.
“A lot of members of the Muslim community have a sense of unease because there’s so much anti-Islamic blanket statements in public discourse,” Weineck said.
The statement’s goal is to extend support and condemn negative actions and discourse toward Muslims.
“Our collective commitment to equity, inclusion, and mutual respect extends to members of religious minorities. We call on all members of the University of Michigan to unequivocally oppose and condemn all attempts to discriminate against, marginalize, or denigrate students, faculty, and staff on the basis of religious faith, national origin, or ethnic belonging,” the statement read.