At its Monday meeting, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs discussed the Faculty Governance Conference occurring next Monday and Tuesday at the Michigan League. The conference will host faculty governances from universities around the country, including Big Ten schools, the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley.

The conference, featuring speakers, panels and discussions about faculty governance around the country, includes keynote speaker Laura Kipnis, a communications professor at Northwestern University.

Last year, Kipnis published an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education about student-faculty relationships that drew attention from Northwestern administrators. The article critiqued Northwestern’s policies regarding student-faculty relationships and sexual misconduct, citing a lawsuit between a Northwestern philosophy professor and two students who accused him of assault. After a Title IX retaliation complaint was filed against Kipnis, alleging her piece misstated facts and created a hostile environment, the university subsequently opened a formal investigation into the incident. In May 2015, Kipnis was cleared in the investigation, according to The Washington Post.

SACUA chair Silke-Maria Weineck, a professor of comparative literature, said she hopes a nationwide consortium results from the conference.

“We’ve asked the guests to speak about the experiences at their schools, what has come up there, what are the challenges and what are the solutions,” Weineck said. “Each place has so much variance.”

Alongside Kipnis, SACUA members will be directing two-hour sessions with other schools. Session topics include academic freedom, due process protections, the role of faculty members and Title IX, which prevents federally-funded educational programs from discriminating on the basis of sex.

At Monday’s meeting, SACUA decided to allot time at the end of the conference for suggestions and concluding thoughts from the audience.

“Faculty governance is in trouble in so many places, so banding together and moving forward with some kind of shared principles and recommendations would be great,” Weineck said.

Pharmaceutical Sciences Prof. David Smith said a breakout session could allow guests to synthesize all the information they’d discussed together.

“While it’s still fresh in our head, it’d be nice to ask what are the major things we attempted to do, anything we learned and how do we want to move forward with suggestions?” he said. 

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