Courtesy of Teagan Stebbins. Buy this photo.

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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met virtually on Monday to discuss the annual SACUA retreat in August and the formation of a new rules committee.

Faculty Senate director MaryJo Banasik also announced the Senate Assembly had successfully reserved space inside the Palmer Commons for in-person meetings in the upcoming Fall semester, the first of which will take place on Sep. 20. SACUA, the Senate Assembly and various Senate Assembly committees frequently held their sessions in the Palmer Commons prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the U-M shutdown last March.

“We’re hopeful we will be able to have Senate Assembly meetings in person in the Fall, but we will just have to see what the University’s guidelines are at the time,” Banasik said.

Deirdre Spencer, librarian and former SACUA member, gave updates on the Library Ad Hoc Committee, which she chaired during her 2020-2021 SACUA term. The Ad Hoc Committee, which was approved by SACUA in May 2020, was charged with evaluating the influence of Open Access (OA) on the publishing process as well as evaluating the impact of OA on the University Press’ financial operations.

Open Access refers to the practice of allowing anyone with internet access to view and share published materials at no cost without worrying about copyrights or licensing issues. OA is most commonly used when publishing academic journals, but the University Press has additionally been publishing academic books with OA for the past decade.

Spencer told SACUA she is currently working on editing the final report for the Library Ad Hoc Committee and emphasized difficulties associated with discussing OA. In particular, Spencer said new book deals between authors, publishers and libraries can be complicated by OA in some cases.

“We are looking at a situation in flux,” Spencer said. “We had COVID and now new deals are being made for Open Access. Libraries and publishers are re-evaluating not making new offers. This topic is sort of a moving target.”

SACUA chair Allen Liu transitioned the discussion to the annual SACUA retreat. The retreat, which takes place before the start of the academic year, is a meeting where SACUA members contemplate topics and issues to address during the academic year. 

SACUA concluded Monday’s session by discussing the current goals of the Faculty Senate’s Rules Committee, which discusses potential changes to faculty government bylaws. SACUA has yet to draft and vote on a revised charge for the Rules Committee, which will specify what the Rules Committee should be working to accomplish during the coming term.

“I think it is important that we have certain rules and procedures in place for our large meetings in the fall,” Liu said. “For both Senate Assembly meetings and also for Faculty Senate meetings, we (should) have systems in place.”

Liu said the Rules Committee might also help decide whether clinical faculty — faculty without research responsibilities — should have their own representation in the Faculty Senate. Clinical faculty work within all of the University’s schools and colleges, but unlike their colleagues participating in research, clinical professors do not have the opportunity to earn tenure. Clinical faculty are not currently part of a union and are not directly represented within the Faculty Senate. 

U-M graduate student instructors are able to organize within the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), and lecturers unionize within the Lecturers’ Employee Organization (LEO). Both GEO and LEO advocate on behalf of their members to University administration. Liu and several other SACUA members noted the increase in the number of clinical faculty members working in each U-M school and college over the past 15 years.

“In the medical school there are 950 tenure track faculty and over 1,600 clinical faculty,” Liu said. “So that’s 60% more than the tenure track faculty (in the medical school).”

SACUA members also discussed how inviting clinical faculty to represent themselves in faculty government might alter power dynamics in the Faculty Senate, which is currently dominated by tenured or tenure track faculty. Kentaro Toyama, SACUA member and Professor of Information, said including clinical faculty in the Senate Assembly could introduce new perspectives into Assembly discussions. Toyama also suggested clinical faculty representatives might help call attention to new issues for the Assembly to work to resolve.

“At some level it’s such low stakes because we have so little power — what does it mean if we add a whole bunch of other people who have equally as little power?” Toyama said. “On the other hand, I think, because (the clinical faculty) are such a large number of people, that it will fundamentally alter our agenda. That’s worth thinking about and maybe that’s a good thing.”

Daily Staff Reporter Teagan Stebbins can be reached at teagans@umich.edu.