Faculty concern over the release of course evaluation data continues to grow.

After last week’s meeting, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs received an e-mail invitation from University Provost Martha Pollack to appoint a member to a task force being formed to evaluate the possibility of releasing the data. Members of student government have also been invited to appoint a member.

“It’s important that both students and faculty have a strong voice on this task force and are not just decorative items,” SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck, a professor of comparative literature, said in an interview following the meeting Monday.

At last week’s meeting, SACUA members were surprised to learn from James Holloway, the vice provost for Global and Engaged Education, that the University was planning to release course evaluation data as soon as this semester.

Biology Prof. John Lehman, a SACUA member, suggested constructing a second committee comprised solely of students, faculty and survey experts. Lehman said the student government representatives he has spoken to are receptive to faculty concerns, and are willing to create new evaluation questions that better suit faculty and student needs.

“There are no students who feel as passionately about the need for those particular questions to be public as to the degree of passion that was expressed by some faculty against it, and that’s widely recognized, that’s so clear,” Lehman said. “There’s no coalition more important at a University than between the faculty and the students. And any time you have the opportunity to demonstrate that, you demonstrate it.”

Ultimately, the committee decided it would be too confusing to implement a second task force.

“The sense of most people in the room was we are totally in favor of students and faculty working together on this, but we are already asking for this, and now to have a separate version would muddy the waters,” Weineck said after the meeting.

SACUA members also discussed University President Mark Schlissel’s decision to continue to publicly release only the base salaries of University faculty, administration and staff members. His announcement follows a review of the University’s compensation practices by the institution’s human resources office and a private consulting firm.

“This feels right to me in striking the balance between continuing our competitive edge for the best administrative talent and being fiscally responsible, especially given the scale and complexity at Michigan,” Schlissel said in a statement.

The review, which looked at executive compensation levels, the use of non-base pay and practices on public disclosure of compensation for all employees, found compensation for executives at the University ranks high in comparison to peer public institutions and falls in the median when compared with private peer institutions.

Under Michigan state law, the University is required to release base salaries, but not total compensation, which includes bonuses.

Weineck said faculty members were hoping the University would decide to release the full compensation data, but have decided not to pursue the matter now that Schlissel has made his decision.

“There was a general consensus among many faculty that they would like the actual compensation data to be released, not just the base salaries because that can paint a misleading picture,” she said. “We had hope that this was an ethical decision and the ethical decision was to be transparent. We’re disappointed but we’re not contemplating any further action.”

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