The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met virtually Monday afternoon to discuss updates and changes within the Faculty Senate. They discussed possible extensions for tenure promotion and changes to faculty activity reports in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
MaryJo Banasik, director of the Faculty Senate Office, discussed the launch of the new SACUA website on Monday and a thank-you letter campaign to bring awareness to the Senate Assembly’s work.
“The point of that is to bring more visibility to faculty governance and to show people what (the) Senate Assembly did in the past year… so there is more awareness of Senate Assembly among administration and recognition for senate members who’ve participated,” Banasik said.
Banasik reported that SACUA has received guidance from the Office of the Vice President and General Counsel confirming the existing SACUA bylaws do not need to be amended for electronic meetings. Instead, the Faculty Senate Office would be revising the senate rules with OGC to best adapt to the situation.
Banasik concluded by announcing that Senate Assembly committee chairs have until May 8 to provide a recommendation for a fall 2020 chair. In response, Interim Senate SACUA Secretary David Potter, professor of Greek and Roman history, noted that chairs typically hold three-year terms.
“Usually these are three-year terms and it’s really important for the continuity of the relationship with the chair and of the executive officer,” Potter said, “especially with new vice presidents coming in.”
Immediate Past Chair Joy Beatty, associate professor of organizational behavior at U-M Dearborn, said there is no formal rule that determines how long the term for a committee chair would be and how SACUA should work to create rules to clear up confusion on the committee chair nomination process.
Senate Assembly Member Kentaro Toyama, W.K. Kellogg professor of community information and professor of information, added on by sharing his experience as the chair of the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee. Toyama noted he served multiple years as chair before he believed he was an effective chair, and voiced support for creating more guidance for the chairs.
“I agree that it would be great to have more material on paper, not just for the chairs, but also for all committee members. When they come on, we don’t have anything that resembles basic orientation materials,” Toyama said, “A lot of people are just learning through the one meeting a month.”
The committee moved on to discuss providing a one-year extension to the tenure timeline for junior faculty affected by COVID-19.
Toyama was a member of the Tenure Bylaws Working group and helped create a set of recommendations about tenure removal processes. Toyama reported on discussions previously held with the AAAC regarding the subject and noted that the University has an extension petition process already in place, but that there are many junior faculty members who may opt-out of petitioning for an extension due to already requesting the extension for extenuating circumstances such as pregnancy and childcare.
“Ultimately, the committee as a whole concluded that it was better to provide a one-year blanket extension for all junior faculty that are affected by this period and people could individually petition to not get the extension in case they want to stay on the regular clock,” Toyama said.
Toyama then discussed possible concerns that were mentioned in AAAC regarding the extension, and the committee ultimately concluded that the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
Annalisa Manera, Senate Assembly vice chair and professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, agreed with Toyama and said a possible extension will help those who may have faced an unpredictable delay get tenure.
“I tend to think that someone who otherwise would not get tenure who would get tenure with an extra year — I tend to think that’s a very low risk. If someone’s file is weak, if they want an extra year does not necessarily turn it into something strong [sic],” Manera said. “Conversely, if someone truly had a delay because they couldn’t work or the lab was shut down, then an extra year would turn things around.”
SACUA decided to table further discussion regarding tenure extension for the next meeting. The assembly concluded as Conway and Banasik shared information regarding the Faculty Governance Consortium Conference they attended on Friday. The event encouraged discussion between faculty government members from different schools on how each university has reacted to the current COVID-19 situation.
Banasik said they discussed university senate operations in emergency situations, the inclusion of faculty governance in emergency protocol within the University and how to ensure faculty governance can be included in faculty budgetary discussions with University leadership. She said it was interesting seeing commonalities between public and private educational institutions.
“I thought it was really interesting to see how other institutions were handling similar issues even though a lot of these institutions were private,” Banasik said. “They’re still dealing with a lot of the same issues that we’re dealing with.”
Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Zhao can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.