At the University of Michigan’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs meeting on Monday, members heard from faculty guests from the University of Michigan-Flint and Dearborn. The individuals were invited for a portion of the meeting to discuss personal concerns relating to their experiences with faculty governance on their respective campuses, focusing on the structure of and faculty role in governance.
Jerry Sanders, UM-Flint associate professor of biology, said due to the lack of a faculty governance body, issues related to academics are often deferred to administrators.
“Unfortunately, for many years, support for faculty governance was very limited,” Sanders. “This has led to a culture where the benefits of faculty governance are not well known, and it is not practiced.”
Sanders noted there was once a faculty senate at UM-Flint, but it was disbanded several years ago. The absence of a governing body, he said, has resulted in power struggles between department heads, deans and faculty members, as well as a lack of professor involvement in policymaking on campus.
While UM-Flint does not have a faculty senate, it has elected faculty bodies at multiple levels, such as a campus-wide elected Faculty Council and several college-specific executive committees.
Quamrul Mazumder, UM-Flint associate professor of mechanical engineering, shared an example in which administrators dismissed faculty concerns as a non-grievable offense.
“The divisive culture of powerlessness has led to widespread faculty disengagement,” Mazumder said.
The representatives from UM-Flint, after addressing the problems on their campus, offered up several potential remedies to the committee.
Sarah Lippert, an associate professor of art history at UM-Flint, said the current UM-Flint Campus Chancellor, Susan Borrego, and Provost Douglas Knerr have been far more cooperative than their predecessors on the issue of faculty governance and input.
“For the first time that many folks on campus can remember, we have a provost and a chancellor that are willing to work with us,” Lippert said.
Lippert asked for faculty leaders from the University’s Ann Arbor and Flint campuses open a dialogue with the provost and chancellor at UM-Flint on the best way to handle faculty grievances and manage disputes between faculty, department chairs and deans.
In response, SACUA member John Lehman, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University’s Ann Arbor campus, suggested that UM-Flint faculty come together to create a cross-campus review of grievance reports and consensus across colleges on the best ways to handle faculty issues.
SACUA Chair William Schultz, professor of mechanical engineering at the University’s Ann Arbor campus, ended the meeting by saying the committee would review the concerns of the UM-Flint faculty and reach a decision in the coming weeks about how to best offer support.