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The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met virtually Monday to discuss Faculty Senate Office (FSO) and SACUA chair announcements, receive updates from the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office (ECRT) Committee and the Rules, Practice and Policies (RPP) Committee. The faculty governing body also discussed next steps for faculty governance resolutions on academic freedom.

Engineering professor Allen Liu, SACUA chair, started the meeting by introducing Mary Jo Banasik, director of the FSO, who reminded SACUA members to nominate a faculty member for the Distinguished Faculty Governance Award by May 1. The award honors faculty members who have shown consistent commitment to the University over an extended period of time. Banasik then announced that she submitted her resignation, and her last day would be April 15. Banasik did not explain her reasons for resigning.

Liu said he would like to work with U-M Human Resources in his remaining time as chair to find a replacement for Banasik. Several faculty members, including sociology professor Silvia Pedraza, expressed their dismay in regard to Banasik’s resignation in the Zoom chat.

“Before my time as chair is over, I would like to find someone to replace Mary Jo,” Liu said. “I’m sure all of you have many reactions to the news (of Banasik’s resignation), and she will be missed by the Committee.”

“We will truly be lesser without (Banasik),” Pedraza said. “I am sad to see (Banasik) go and hope we can work to find a new member.”

After reviewing the FSO updates, Liu asked the new SACUA members to introduce themselves. New members include Public Health professor Tom Braun, Art & Design professor Rebekah Modrak and Simon Cushing, U-M Flint philosophy associate professor.

Liu then announced he will be running for SACUA chair along with Pedraza at the upcoming election to take place at their next meeting on April 11.

“I will be on a single ticket with Silvia Pedraza for the upcoming election,” Liu said. “(Pedraza) will be chair for the first eight months, and then I will be chair for the following four months.”

The committee then proceeded to have a closed-door executive session regarding an update from the ECRT Advisory Committee and RPP Committee.

Following the executive session, the committee addressed an email chain that was circulating between the BIG10 Academic Alliance group regarding faculty senate resolutions on academic freedom and teaching race in the classroom. The resolutions protect the ability of staff and faculty to openly teach about critical race theory — an academic concept arguing that race is socially constructed deeply embedded in policies and legal systems — and gender in the classroom. Other institutions, including Michigan State University and Penn State University, have also issued resolutions in support of academic freedom.

Michael Atzmon, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, relayed this information from the Academic Alliance group to the other SACUA members. 

“I generally agree with the spirit of these conclusions,” Atzmon said. “People put a lot of work into them. I read the Ohio State statement more carefully, and I think we should consider expressing our support. We may want to invite the VP of Government Relations (Chris Kolb) because he follows what goes on in Lansing.”

Atzmon continued by saying he believes that two major resolutions shouldn’t come out at the same time, in reference to both the academic freedom resolution and the ECRT resolution discussed in the executive session. 

Pedraza said she thinks the committee should reach out to the chairs of American Culture and Afroamerican and African Studies. This resolution affects them in a more particular way, Pedraza said. 

“This issue is not something that touches everyone the same way on campus,” Pedraza said. “It really does actually belong to a particular subset of the faculty that spills their blood, sweat and tears.”

To address the statements that were shared by committee members, Liu said one resolution at a time would be a wise choice.

“We have to look for some volunteers to create a resolution that is specific to the faculty at the University of Michigan,” Liu said. “Then we will go from there; it will take a slightly longer trajectory than we talked about.”

The rest of the meeting was held in a closed-door executive session to discuss matters more fully.

Daily Staff Reporter Sejal Patil can be reached at sejpatil@umich.edu.