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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met Monday afternoon to discuss SACUA procedures on handling endorsement requests, a resolution on post-tenure at the U-M Flint campus, and a request on the presidential search position. 

Kentaro Toyama, SACUA member and professor of community information, brought forward a two-page paper on the presidential search position, calling on Interim University President Mary Sue Coleman’s administration to have an open process when searching for the new University President. Toyama said the goal is to allow more members of the community to understand the decision processes that occur. 

“At this point we heard from Regent Acker that they are likely to constitute a super committee that is reasonably inclusive,” Toyama said. “I actually heard from (the) Central Student Government that they’re going to have one undergrad and a graduate student on it. I heard from LEO that it sounds like they are expected in some form to be included … Increasingly, universities around the country are moving to a model where everything is kept quite secret until they announce the one person that the regents wanted to appoint.”

Toyama said the paper calls for some form of transparency, even if the names of the candidates cannot be publicly named. 

“If the names cannot be made public then (there is) at least some chance for more members of the community to be able to interact with the small number of finalists,” Toyama said. “There’s no real hard request that’s made. It’s basically saying we would like this, and if not that then this and if not that then this.”

The paper will be voted on at the next SACUA meeting.

SACUA then went on to discuss requests for SACUA to endorse resolutions, petitions or positions on various topics from a variety of constituents. SACUA vice chair Caitlin Finlayson, associate professor of English literature at U-M Dearborn, said the new endorsement policy would allow for more objectivity and a collective power from SACUA. She added that the current endorsement procedure includes making decisions about what requests are read and addressed, something she believes needs to change.

“Then, the question is are we being objective in a lot of important things?” Finlayson said. “Do we want to keep signing on to other people’s avenues of influence or do we want to be yet another strong voice coming from its own avenue of influence when it is an important issue?”

Toyama also raised some concerns over the dissociation of SACUA from the Senate Assembly and other faculty groups. Toyama said SACUA does not need to relay statements separately to make a stronger voice and the dissociation from other faculty groups may be unnecessary. 

“We shouldn’t treat (the Senate Assembly) as some kind of weird body that we are different from and we need to establish a voice independent of them,” Toyama said. “They’re intersecting with us. I’m not as convinced that we need to necessarily have a strong, independent voice every time we endorse something. Although I do also believe there will be times when we want to have a separate statement about some issue, even if we agree with the other statement.” 

SACUA ultimately passed the new endorsement procedure with a few amendments, adding options that allow SACUA to release a short sentence saying that SACUA will endorse a document, position or co-sponsor a statement.

Finlayson also introduced a resolution related to post-tenure review, a five-year performance review process after being awarded tenure, for the U-M Flint campus. The resolution would give administration the ability to change the nature of post-tenure contracts. The resolution was written after the U-M Flint Provost put forward a post-tenure review proposal in December 2021.

“There’s obviously a number of issues that the workload document raises,” Finlayson said. “One of the key ones here is that faculty is dividing up service, research and teaching along percentage lines that a number of disciplines and departments don’t actually feel reflect their discipline department and their traditional divisions between teaching, research and service.”

Finlayson also addressed the ability of the administration to change the nature of post-tenure contracts without the permission of the professor. She explained that this new document would disincentivize professors to do research because they might be assigned more courses to teach.

“The second (concern) that they’re saying is that they have all these associate professors and we need to get them to full, and that’s part of the reasoning here, but what they’re saying is that if you are not high performing, you can be given more courses,” Finlayson said. “I think the real key point here, though, is the idea that post tenure, your contract could be changed because somebody deems you not productive enough, and that might also dampen academic freedom.”

After reviewing Finlayson’s draft, SACUA passed the resolution regarding the post-tenure review policy on the Flint campus.

MaryJo Banasik, director of the Faculty Senate Office, also updated SACUA on who will speak at the Davis, Markert, and Nickerson Academic and Intellectual Freedom Lecture and the search for a new faculty governance coordinator. 

“One exciting development is that President Mary Sue Coleman has agreed to give opening remarks at the DMN lecture,” Banasik said. “The other update is that we conducted four interviews last week (for a new faculty governance coordinator), and we’re actually conducting our final interviews this week. So hopefully we’ll have some more information soon about a new faculty governance coordinator.”

Finlayson gave the next update regarding her future with SACUA. She said that she will be temporarily stepping down from SACUA next year.

“I will be stepping off of SACUA next year,” Finlayson said. “I have a full year (of) research leave … so I am sorry to say I won’t be with you guys next year. I’ll be happy in the archives. I’m excited.”

SACUA chair Allen Liu, associate professor of Engineering, said that Finlayson’s leave opens an opportunity for U-M Dearborn faculty to run for Finlayson’s temporarily open position on SACUA.

“So, the one thing that this will impact is now the Dearborn faculty will be eligible to run for SACUA,” Liu said. “So we’ll have an email that goes out tomorrow to the faculty letting them know about being eligible for SACUA.”

Liu also noted a recent meeting with Provost Susan Collins to discuss the survey results that went out to the Faculty Senate Assembly to gauge issues that faculty members at the University have faced during the pandemic, such as childcare services.

“One of the main topics was to talk to her about the survey results that we had gathered, I guess now it’s probably a couple of weeks now,” Liu said. “I wanted her to address the faculty with childcare responsibility and also retaliation …. I think she’s just unwilling to have a policy that will allow flexibility for instructional faculty to have temporary online modality when your kid is out sick.”

Daily Staff Writer Rachel Mintz can be reached at mintzrac@umich.edu.