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The Senate Assembly at the University of Michigan met in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building Monday afternoon to discuss their anti-Asian racism statement, prevention education and a potential restructuring of the Faculty Senate.

The Assembly began by reviewing an updated anti-Asian racism resolution aiming to acknowledge the escalation in anti-Asian hate in recent years in the U.S. and calls on the University to establish strategies to address all forms of discrimination.

Assembly members officially passed the statement via an online voting platform.

The Senate Assembly then welcomed Kaaren Williamsen, the director of the Prevention, Education, Assistance and Resources (PEAR) unit of the University’s Equity, Civil Rights & Title IX office, to talk about PEAR, which was founded in fall 2022.

According to Williamsen, she helped found PEAR to offer education on sexual assault prevention to faculty and staff in collaboration with the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center. Williamsen said she began developing PEAR as a separate department to educate faculty and staff on campus.

“The work that we had been doing at SAPAC in a pilot capacity had been going well, but the need (for sexual misconduct education) was great,” Williamsen said. “We really needed a team of folks to be able to do this.”

Anne-Sophie Walters, assistant director of PEAR, also spoke at the Senate Assembly meeting on Monday. She explained that the department is not only intended to be a place for faculty actively experiencing various forms of harassment to receive support. Walters said the department provides preventative training to help faculty and staff members understand how to recognize and combat sexual harassment in the workplace. 

“It’s really (about) trying to empower our community to notice what’s happening, and then to be an active bystander by saying something, or asking for help, or getting a resource for support,” Walters said. “Maybe before that training, (faculty and staff) didn’t know that that behavior was sexual harassment. Then we (connect them with) the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, (with) the people who have the knowledge and the options to help the survivors and the folks that need support.”

Allen Liu, associate professor of mechanical engineering and Senate Assembly chair, then transitioned the conversation to discussing the potential addition of non-tenure track faculty members to the Faculty Senate. This change would expand the Senate to include clinical faculty lecturers specifically. 

Rebekah Modrak, Art & Design professor and assembly member, argued that the inclusion of clinical faculty lecturers would lead to Medical School faculty overpowering the rest of the assembly, even though the proposed plan would cap representatives from the Medical School to 17 seats out of over 75. Modrak said the Senate needs time to discuss different options to include different types of faculty and staff members before coming to a final decision.

“If clinical faculty joined the Senate, the Senate would be controlled by Michigan Medicine administration,” Modrak said. “This is a serious change to faculty autonomy. We need additional discussion about alternatives, such as a four-body senate in which clinical faculty, lecturers, GSIs and TT/research/library faculty each have autonomy while also having representation.”

Liu said the Senate Assembly plans to hold a vote on whether or not non-tenure track faculty will be allowed to run for the Faculty Senate in March. If the Senate Assembly passes the proposal, Liu said it would then be voted on by the full Faculty Senate.

“Depending on the outcome of the vote, it can go to the full Senate, or it may not,” Liu said. “But if nothing changes, nothing changes.” 

Daily Staff Reporter Courtney Plaza can be reached at cbplaza@umich.edu.