The University of Michigan Faculty Senate met Monday in the University Hall in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building to discuss the possibility of partially restructuring the Senate Assembly.
The Faculty Senate currently consists of over 4,250 members from all three U-M campuses — all tenure-track professors, research faculty, librarians, executive officers and deans are members. Currently, only tenure-track faculty, researchers and librarians can run for a spot on the Senate Assembly, a more selective body. The Faculty Senate discussed opening the Senate Assembly up to lecturers and clinical faculty as well.
Silvia Pedraza, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee of University Affairs, called the meeting to order and introduced University President Santa Ono to the Committee. Ono addressed the Committee and answered questions from Faculty Senate members. Ono talked about his transition into the role of president and the value of faculty governance.
“The University of Michigan is an institution that I have admired for a long time,” Ono said. “This University Senate is a very important body, and I hope that you will welcome me back to have these kinds of conversations on a regular basis.”
Ono said academic excellence and building trust in central administration are two of his main priorities. Ono told the Senate he is committed to implementing feedback from U-M faculty in meeting these goals.
“We hope in a year we will have a clear vision of where we are heading and that we will row in the same direction (as a University),” Ono said.
After Ono spoke, the senate discussed the possibility of expanding the Senate Assembly to include lecturers and clinical faculty — who often teach at the Medical School and work at Michigan Medicine — in the Faculty Senate. These faculty are currently not allowed to run for Senate Assembly positions.
Pedraza proposed a resolution that would increase the number of total representatives in the Assembly from 74 to either 87, 76 or 78 — a decision that would depend on if the Faculty Senate votes to approve adding just lecturers, just clinical faculty or both. No schools would lose seats, but some might have the opportunity to elect additional representatives to the Assembly if either or both groups are allowed to join.
The Senate was divided on whether or not to restructure the Assembly to make space for clinical faculty and lecturers. Brian Zink, senior associate dean for faculty and faculty development at the Medical School, expressed his support for the structural changes.
“Full representation for all of the hard-working people who earn faculty appointments at U-M is the fair and right thing to do,” Zink said. “Adding clinical track faculty from the Medical School to the Senate would add diversity to the Senate and better represent our overall faculty than just our tenured and research graduates are doing at this time.”
Zink gave two examples of clinical faculty members who might consider joining the Senate as representatives if they are able to run: Laura Hopson, a clinical professor and the associate chair of the Emergency Medicine department at the Medical School, and Gifty Kwakye, a clinical associate professor of surgery. Zink said both have expressed an interest in running and would bring a wealth of perspective and knowledge to the Assembly.
“(I say this) to put some faces to these concepts and highlight two clinical track faculty members that are examples of the type of people we would be bringing into the Senate,” Zink said.
Micheal Thouless, professor in the College of Engineering, called for the Faculty Senate to keep the same structure that it has now. Thouless previously served as the chair of the Faculty Senate from 2007 to 2010. Thouless said there are already enough voices in the large Faculty Senate, so keeping the Assembly smaller is ideal. Instead, he said clinical faculty should form their own committee, like SACUA, that collaborates with the Assembly and the Senate, but has separate meetings.
“(The Senate Assembly) is not a club; it addresses academic issues from different groups,” Thouless said. “Clinical faculty should get together as a group similar to how SACUA operates.”
Due to time constraints, the Senate decided to vote to determine whether or not they would vote on the recommendation at Monday’s meeting. They fell short of the two-thirds supermajority needed, so the Senate decided to continue discussions at a later meeting and will potentially vote on the matter in the future.
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