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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met in hybrid format at the Ruthven Building on Monday to discuss newly hired staff, a board project and a potential name change for the committee.

SACUA chair Silvia Pedraza, sociology professor, began the meeting by explaining that a new full-time coordinator for SACUA, Eric Vandenberghe, was hired. Vandenberghe comes from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has many years of experience and qualifications to fill the role, including two master’s degrees.

“The big news this time around is that we have hired a new (full time) coordinator, and this is all very important because this office does a phenomenal amount of work and it has been very short-staffed for quite some time now,” Pedraza said. “His name is Eric Vandenberghe. He came across to us in a Zoom interview as being both very capable and quite humble.”

Pedraza also discussed an initiative to alter the grievance reporting process for faculty. 

“I think something that would do the faculty here at the University a great deal of good is for us to examine and consider and see where the holes are in the grievance process,” Pedraza said. “That fact is that the grievance process feels very unsatisfactory when you follow something through … The process itself is very rigorous, but when you get to the end and they say yes there is a grievance, nothing else happens, there are no consequences.”

This process allows faculty members to file a grievance in their department, Pedraza said. Faculty members are able to access multiple resources to do so, including the Equity, Civil Rights & Title IX (ECRT) office and onWHARD, as well as file a grievance or make a legal case. However, SACUA members said there is confusion and difficulties within each level of reporting and around where to start. 

Lucas McCarthy, the recently appointed Faculty Senate Office director, shared his opinion on the overall process of reporting grievances.

“Everybody agrees that (the system) needs to be worked on,” McCarthy said. “Why are we going through the process in the first place? Why don’t we just go and sue? So, it is within the University’s interest to make sure that there is some result that actually serves justice, because otherwise you have to go outside the University.”

Parliamentarian Paul Fossum, a professor in the College of Education, Health, and Human Services at the U-M Dearborn campus, was a guest speaker at Monday’s meeting and transitioned the discussion towards changing the governing body’s name. 

“I’ve observed, in my experience here, some confusion coming up between the identity and what’s between two bodies in particular,” Fossum said, “I think SACUA is pretty clear in people’s minds, that that’s an executive committee … But we have the Senate Assembly and then the University Senate, the latter being a very inclusive body. I suppose to some degree it depends on how one defines faculty and so forth.”

There are three main boards: SACUA, Senate Assembly and the Faculty Senate. Fossum suggested creating a more generic descriptor such as “Office of Faculty Governance.”

McCarthy added that the confusion of naming was also difficult for him when he first joined the governing body. 

“When I was first trying to figure out the system here I was like, ‘Who are we?’” McCarthy said.

The rest of the board continued to discuss the classification and whether the naming was an issue to begin with. SACUA members also acknowledged that changing names would be a more long-term conversation, given the financial demands of doing so.

Daily Staff Reporter Marlee Sacksner can be reached at marleeis@umich.edu.