SACUA debates role of anti-racism committee, creates open-mic hours for Senate Assembly members

Monday, October 19, 2020 - 8:01pm

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Jarett Orr/Daily

The University of Michigan Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met virtually to further discuss the name and charges for the proposed Faculty Senate Committee on Anti-Racism Monday afternoon. The Committee also outlined discussions on new Title IX employee-advisor training for next week’s Senate Assembly meeting. 

The Senate Assembly passed a proposal to create a Committee on Anti-Racism to address racist community members during its Sept. 22 meeting. At the time, there was debate over whether the name and charges of the committee focused more on dissuading individuals from being racist than on tackling institutionalized racism. 

At Monday’s meeting, SACUA Chair Colleen Conway, professor in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, raised the question of whether the title for the Committee on Anti-Racism should be changed and whether the committee should target faculty issues specifically. Conway sensed that the Committee could hold onto the title, as she said the “Committee on Anti-Racism” is not an uncommon title among other governance bodies. 

SACUA member Kentaro Toyama, an Information professor, alluded to prior Senate Assembly concerns that the committee’s charges did not adequately address systemic racism. Toyama said the charges seemed to focus on individual cases of racism rather than the institutional picture of racism.

“I think it could be a little bit more focused on how to identify and address systemic challenges of race at the University,” Toyama said. “Which are not necessarily, you know, single racist events.”

SACUA member Deirdre Spencer, a librarian at the University, said identifying and addressing systemic challenges begin with an emphasis on individual accountability. 

“I find that policies are often implemented by individuals, and it is at the individual level a lot of times where accountability has to happen,” Spencer said. 

SACUA member Sara Ahbel-Rappe, classical studies professor, said the Committee of Anti-Racism should focus its efforts on supporting Black faculty members and students. 

“I think we should let the committee, guided by African American faculty, decide what seems appropriate,” Ahbel-Rappe said. “But I think the idea of just addressing systemic racism is less personal than the need for African American people to feel that this campus is truly open to them, truly welcoming, and a place where they can thrive and succeed.”

The Committee decided to broaden the charges of the Committee on Anti-Racism to also include addressing systemic racism and supporting individuals who experience racism.

The Senate Advisory Committee members also decided how to run the employee-advisor portion of the new Title IX training for next week’s Senate Assembly meeting. Conway stated that SACUA members will lead Zoom breakout rooms to alert other Assembly members to the new Title IX training and check who has effectively completed the training.

Before adjourning, the Committee went over details for the new and upcoming faculty open-mic hours for members of the Senate Assembly. Set to open next week, Senate Assembly members will be able to reach out to SACUA members if they have questions or wish to discuss any issues. 

Daily News Contributor Vanessa Kiefer can be reached at vkiefer@umich.edu


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