Topics ranging from the bicentennial anniversary of the University, the Flint water crisis and diversity initiative were on University President Mark Schlissel’s mind when he came to speak at the University Senate Assembly Monday.
Starting with the upcoming bicentennial in 2017, Schlissel said the University is one of few universities who have the opportunity to celebrate 200 years.
“We’re really a pillar of society and that’s pretty exciting to think about,” Schlissel said. “A team has been planning a year or more’s worth of activities to commemorate our 200th, and probably more importantly to look together to what the University is going to be in the years ahead.”
Schlissel said he has appointed faculty members to separate committees to organize three colloquiums celebrating the University’s bicentennial throughout the year. The colloquiums will each focus on a different aspect of the University’s future and involvement in the greater community.
Taking on a topic that has garnered statewide and national media attention and outrage, Schlissel also spoke about the Flint water crisis, highlighting efforts the University’s Flint campus has been making to provide support for their community. He said in addition to installing its own water filter in 2015, the Flint campus has been testing its water since fall 2014 and uses an independent water-testing laboratory to ensure water safety. Schlissel also highlighted UM-Flint’s initiatives in a campus-wide e-mail Monday afternoon.
“We’re quite confident of the safety on campus,” Schlissel said at the meeting. “We’ve been doing ongoing outreach to Flint students. Most of them don’t live in University-owned facilities, some live at home and some in the surrounding communities. We want to make sure that in their own personal living circumstances that they know what’s going on, they have filters on their sources of water, they have access to testing and they’re kept up to date and informed.”
Schlissel said the campus has been working in partnership with the community by offering large-scale filter distribution events, free lead screening and other efforts.
“The University in Flint has been a vibrant part of the community for 60 years,” Schlissel said. “They are a longstanding partner with the community, and I admire the strength I’ve seen in that city’s residents.”
Finally, Schlissel also provided the Assembly with an update on the University's progress toward a campus strategic plan for diversity. The University started a campus-wide initiative this year to address diversity issues on campus and improve campus climate, with the plan serving as a main focus. Currently, units around campus are creating individual plans, to be compiled into an overall plan this fall.
“I met with the leads of this planning process in all the different units last week,” he said. “They’re doing great work, there are good ideas bubbling up to the surface.”
Schlissel said he hopes by creating multiple committees to work on the issue, faculty and students will both be dedicated to the strategic plan.
“We’re looking to get good ideas from as many creative people from as many creative parts of the campus as possible,” Schlissel said. “The second part of this is to get buy-in. We’re much more likely to get true buy-in in ongoing involvement from colleagues involved in the developmental plan themselves and critiquing plans as they emerge.”
The Senate Assembly also voted on a new Nominating Committee for upcoming SACUA elections. SACUA will be losing an unprecedented six members in the coming academic year.
“The Nominating Committee’s task will be to both look at the nominations we have and look at staff nominations,” said Comparative Literature Prof. Silke-Maria Weineck, chair of SACUA. “It will also be to solicit nominations.”
Weineck said she hopes the nominating committee will diversify SACUA, noting that all the body's female members, including herself, are leaving the committee.
The Senate Assembly also voted unanimously to endorse a statement of support to the Muslim community on campus. SACUA, the Assembly's executive arm, endorsed the statement at its last meeting.
“At the last Senate Assembly meeting, we started this discussion of passing a statement in support of the Muslim community at U of M,” Weineck said. “SACUA passed such a resolution of support at our last meeting. But since we started the discussion at the assembly, we wanted to finish this discussion to see if the assembly itself might also want to endorse the statement.”
The statement says that the University’s Senate Advisory Committee supports Muslim members of the community. It also condemns discrimination on campus, regardless of religious, national or ethnic affiliation.