The Senate Assembly voted on new members to replace up to six open positions on the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs at their meeting Monday.
The 10 nominees included Classical Studies Prof. Sara Ahbel-Rappe, Engineering Prof. Michael Atzmon, Radiology Prof. Ruth Carlos, University of Michigan Librarian Beau Case, Kinesiology Prof. Weiyun Chen, Bob Fraser, UM-Dearborn Librarian, Medical School Prof. Paul Kileny, Chemistry Prof. Neil Marsh, Social Work Prof. Robert Ortega and Engineering Prof. Bill Schulz.
At the last Senate Assembly meeting, the assembly voted unanimously to hold a term-blind election, meaning the candidates would not be associated with the term length then want to have. Instead, nominees were ranked by number of votes received. The person who received the most votes will serve for the longest term they are willing to hold, at a maximum of three years. The next candidate with the most votes also got their choices, given there is an available position, and so on.
The candidates in order of most votes were Schulz, Atzmon, Carlos, Marsh and Ortega tied for fourth, Fraser, Kileny, Ahbel-Rappe, Case and Chen.
As of now, there are four slots open for candidates. However, SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck and SACUA member Stefan Szymanski, Sports Management prof., may also be vacating their positions due to sabbaticals, so up to six positions may be available.
Because Marsh and Ortega are tied for fourth, this may lead to a runoff election at the next Senate Assembly, unless Weineck and Szymanski step down as well. If not, Marsh and Ortega will have to face off in a second vote.
Weineck said the assembly will know if another vote is needed at their next meeting on April 18.
The next steps for the nominees are to choose term lengths and fill the positions in order of votes received. This process will be completed when Weineck and Szymanski finalize each of their plans regarding their positions on the committee.
Before the vote took place, candidates discussed their platforms with many saying they felt the role of faculty governance on campus needed to be changed.
“We need to remind our administrators of our values,” Atzmon said.
Third-place candidate Carlos echoed Atzmon’s sentiments and said she did not feel that the University provides the faculty with enough power, instead leaving them in an explicitly advisory role.
“We do not have a strong tradition of centralized practice in the University,” Carlos said.
Marsh said he felt administrators treat faculty as employees and one of his initiatives on the committee would be to change this dynamic.
“More and more, there are administrators who see faculty as not being citizens of academy, as essentially being employees to be managed,” Marsh said.
Schulz, who currently serves on SACUA, said administration will not give SACUA what they want: more governing power.
“We have peers that have much stronger faculty governance than us and that’s not been a recent phenomenon,” Schulz said. “We’ve always been weak, we’ve been more advisory than a real player in shared governance.”
In addition to elections, Weineck also updated the Senate Assembly on the Faculty Governance conference that happened last week. The conference hosted faculty governances from across the country to discuss topics such as due process protections, Title IX, academic freedom and the role of faculty members in higher education. The conference also hosted Northwestern Communications Prof. Laura Kipnis, who delivered her lecture titled “Stupid Sex.“
Overall, Weineck said the conference shed light on weaknesses in the University’s current system.
“The University of Michigan has the weakest faculty governance system of any of the students we talked to,” Weineck said. “Our role is almost entirely advisory, with very few decision making powers.”