SACUA discusses exclusion of faculty governance and management of finances

Monday, March 11, 2019 - 8:14pm

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs discusses various issues regarding the University at the Fleming Administration Building Monday afternoon.

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs discusses various issues regarding the University at the Fleming Administration Building Monday afternoon. Buy this photo
Kayleah Son/Daily

The University of Michigan’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met Monday at the Fleming Administration Building to discuss including faculty governance in University decisions and management of University finances.

SACUA chair Neil Marsh, professor of chemistry, began the meeting by calling for an approval of the day’s agenda as well as the agenda for the Senate Assembly meeting on March 18. While sharing general announcements, Marsh detailed the meeting that took place over spring break between himself; SACUA Vice Chair Joy Beatty, associate professor of management studies; and University President Mark Schlissel.

“We conveyed (SACUA’s) concerns over the non-participation of faculty governance,” Marsh said. “He was receptive to that and said that he would communicate with his executive officers to emphasize the fact that SACUA faculty government should be consulted more often.”

The committee subsequently considered how to modify a survey to be presented to student and faculty. Keith Riles, professor of physics and chair of the Senate Assembly’s Administration Evaluation Committee came to the meeting to head the discussion of how to best design the survey. Riles mentioned how the survey would help monitor faculty perception of administrative functions within the University Library, the Division of Public Safety and Security and Canvas among other components. Some questions centered on changes in the University’s Standard Practice Guide dictating policy, but several others asked about Senate Assembly resolutions that had already passed, which previous surveys usually did not ask about.

SACUA member Michael Atzmon, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, suggested the survey should ask about SPG revisions relating to faculty-student relationships. The new guidelines ban relationships between students and faculty. Several members of SACUA expressed concern regarding the new policy.  

Concerns come from SMTD professor David Daniels arrest earlier this year on charges of sexual assault and accusations from a SMTD graduate student for drugging and assaulting him.

Beatty described a meeting she had with Sally Churchill, vice president and secretary of the University, about the urgency of the survey.

“Sally Churchill made it extremely clear, as has President Schlissel and Provost Philbert, that the regents wanted (the revisions) in yesterday, and they didn’t particularly care if there was time for debate, review, faculty input, as partly because of issues in the medical area and SMTD (School of Music, Theatre & Dance) when they decided that this was sort of non-negotiable,” Beatty said.

Beatty afterward noted that the University should have followed “the proper process” by consulting faculty when they made the decision to enact the new relationship policy. Atzmon voiced concerns with the new policy and its broad definitions of covered and romantic relationships.

SACUA member Deirdre Spencer, librarian for history of art, described her conversations with a civil rights committee, noting how there was concern with the broad definitions’ restrictions on non-academic communications between faculty and staff.

“You can’t even say, ‘Go Blue,’” Spencer said.

Riles noted how the Dearborn campus was also working on a faculty survey that would differ from the survey for the Ann Arbor and Flint campuses. As this is the first year Dearborn is using a faculty survey, the campus will provide their own questions for the survey.

After discussing changes to the survey, SACUA member Sarah Lippert, associate professor of art history, presented the Tri-Campus Committee resolution on the process of renewing administrators. She noted that one of the Tri-Campus Committee members had a dean on their campus who was approved for renewal without consulting faculty government.

“It’s now become such a snowball of a problem that we’re actually having to redo this person’s contract and redo the whole faculty consultation part a year after,” Lippert said. “We would like to see some minimum standards of faculty consultation, at the very least anonymous consultation of the faculty.”

When Marsh noted how the Ann Arbor campus had an official from University Provost Martin Philbert’s office responsible for communicating with faculty in re-appointing administrators, Lippert replied the Dearborn and Flint campuses should have the same minimum consultation that is present at the Ann Arbor campus.

The committee subsequently hosted Kevin Hegarty, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, to discuss financial operations at the University. After holding several high-level corporate positions, Hegarty was hired as the vice president and chief financial officer of the University of Texas at Austin, his alma mater. He worked there from 2001 to 2015 until he was hired for his current position at the University of Michigan.

Hegarty described how his prior experience informed his position in managing financial operations of the University.

“I was adamant when I came to the University of Texas — just as when I came to the University of Michigan — that I didn’t want to repeat what I saw in corporate. It’s also one of the reasons that I didn’t want to (go) back to corporate,” Hegarty said. “That was a culture that was really driven from the top down,” he said. “CEO says do it, so you do it, and you just get it done … I wanted to come here and connect people to a mission, to what this place really is all about.”

After opening up for questions, Lippert and Beatty requested greater accountability on management of finances, especially for Flint and Dearborn campuses. There was also a focus on getting faculty government more involved in financial operations.

“We have tough choices that we’ve made in the past, and we have tough choices that we need to make going forward, and because these institutions revolve around the people represented by SACUA, the faculty have to have a seat at the table in terms of those major decisions,” Hegarty said.