Governing faculty, as defined in the Board of Regents’ bylaws, currently consists of professors, associate professors and assistant professors. Members discussed creating a working group for clinical faculty at the last Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs meeting. Clinical faculty and lecturer positions are usually used for faculty members who have a stronger commitment to teaching or service than tenure-track positions that prioritize scholarship and research.
Part of this process included an information survey sent to clinical faculty asking about the conditions of their employment, including more narrowly defining how the title “clinical faculty” is being used by the University. At Monday’s meeting, SACUA Chair Allen Liu asked SACUA members to consider whether they would like a parallel working group for lecturers.
Integrating clinical faculty into the Faculty Senate requires updates to the rules committee charge, a document that lays out the goals of the upcoming term’s Rules Committee.
Colleen Conway, last year’s SACUA chair and professor of music education, said deans of the School of Nursing and the School of Dentistry approached SACUA about this issue last September because most of their faculty members are clinical faculty. Conway said SACUA has spoken with clinical faculty about creating a working group this year.
“I feel like we have a responsibility to the people that we told last year that we were going to create a working group,” Conway said.
But SACUA member Elena Gallo, professor of astronomy,said she doesn’t think creating a working group for clinical faculty and lecturers is necessary. This is particularly true for lecturers, she said, because they are already unionized.
“The Faculty Senate is the Faculty Senate,” Gallo said. “I don’t see any compelling reason why we should extend membership. We’re talking about making something that’s already huge, larger.”
The Lecturers’ Employee Organization, the main union representing lecturers, quit their contract with the University of Michigan administration earlier this month for various reasons, their dissatisfaction with the University’s pay increases for lecturers on the Flint and Dearborn campuses. Several SACUA members said at Monday’s meeting that unlike clinical faculty, LEO has never directly asked to have a working group in the Rules Committee. However, President of LEO Kirsten Herold told the Daily that lecturers are interested in expanding governance rights and representation within SACUA, following a similar track as the clinical faculty.
SACUA member and Engineering Professor Michael Atzmon agreed with Gallo. Atzmon said the Faculty Senate cannot assist with clinical faculty’s concerns, like salary negotiations and working conditions, in the way a unionized group would be able to.
Atzmon said tenure issues are the Faculty Senate’s main focus, saying that there are already some non-tenure track individuals who influence these issues despite being unaffected by them. Atzmon said he was concerned about unintended consequences if faculty governance was expanded to represent thousands of additional non-tenure track faculty.
“The Senate deals with tenure issues, and I’m already somewhat uncomfortable about people who are not on a tenured track having a say on tenure issues,” Atzmon said. “There are few librarians and the like, but if the numbers double, then that may change significantly.”
Ultimately, Atzmon said he doesn’t think SACUA is the best way to advocate for the rights of lecturers and clinical faculty.
“We have an ethical responsibility to care about what happens to the lecturers and clinical faculty, but I’m not sure the Senate is the right mechanism,” Atzmon said.
Donald Freeman, SACUA member and professor in the School of Education, acknowledged other members’ concerns but said collecting information on whether to include lecturers and clinical faculty can only be useful.
“All that’s been proposed is to gather information,” Freeman said. “It would seem to me that we would be remiss in faculty governance if we didn’t at least get a handle on what’s going on before we make any decision about whether that group ought to be incorporated into the Faculty Senate structure, or we recommend that they organize a different way.”
Liu said this meeting didn’t finalize any decisions but determined what would be discussed in the next SACUA meeting. He told the Senate he expects a vote on the creation of these Rules Committee working groups for clinical faculty and lecturers to take place at the Aug. 30 meeting.
SACUA members decided to postpone updates from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) faculty task force until the next meeting when more members could be present. The DEI Committee plans to focus on structural changes to create a more inclusive work environment for faculty who are Black, Indigenous and people of color.
Liu also announced that all 17 SACUA committee chairs have been filled for the upcoming year.
Daily Staff Reporter Scarlett Bickerton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.