SACUA discusses new membership and faculty rights

Monday, January 14, 2019 - 7:10pm

Chemistry prof. Neil Marsh, Senate Assembly Chair, at the SACUA meeting at the Fleming Building Monday afternoon.

Chemistry prof. Neil Marsh, Senate Assembly Chair, at the SACUA meeting at the Fleming Building Monday afternoon. Buy this photo
Claire Meingast/Daily

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs met Monday to discuss a diverse agenda, including upcoming elections and faculty due process protections.

SACUA Chair Neil Marsh, professor of chemistry, asked the committee to brainstorm ways to recruit University of Michigan faculty to run for positions on SACUA this spring. There are three outgoing SACUA members, two of whom will serve on a nominating committee for the new committee members. Marsh’s goal is to have at least six members of the Senate Assembly, the University’s largest governing body, run to replace them.

Tom Schneider, director of the Faculty Senate Office, described some of the ongoing difficulties SACUA faces, including a lack of membership interest. Schneider said he hoped new procedures would make membership less of a commitment. The Senate Assembly is currently working on mechanisms for electronic voting to facilitate “remote participation” in committee meetings.

SACUA Vice Chair Joy Beatty, associate professor of organizational behavior at U-M Dearborn, suggested reaching out to the Senate Assembly’s Information Technology Committee to streamline the development and implementation of the aforementioned technology. SACUA member Michael Atzmon, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences, acknowledged the outdated bylaws which call for the electorate to be physically present at meetings.

“Those are philosophical things that either we or the Senate Assembly should be discussing,” Atzmon said.

The committee moved on to discuss a new policy to protect governing faculty’s due process rights as University staff because there are different procedures among lecturers, graduate student instructors and faculty. Lecturers and GSIs are not under the Senate Assembly’s control.

“I believe there are stronger protections for undergraduates … than there are for faculty and staff,” Atzmon said. “All members of the community should be afforded the same level of protection.”

SACUA member Sarah Lippert, associate professor of art history at U-M Flint, revealed inconsistencies in procedures across the University’s campuses.

“We know that there are faculty struggling with receiving due process on all three campuses,” Lippert said.

Atzmon mentioned this policy’s relevancy in light of recent controversy surrounding Associate Prof. John Cheney-Lippold’s refusal to write a letter of recommendation for a student applying to study abroad in Israel. SACUA released a statement Oct. 22 supporting professors’ right to refuse students’ letter requests, saying persecution of Cheney-Lippold sets a dangerous precedent and stunts professors’ freedom to provide their endorsement of students as they so choose.

SACUA member Bill Schultz, professor of mechanical engineering, said he believes a due process policy would be helpful in the wake of this controversy. He stressed the urgency of putting one into place.

“We’d like to think we aren’t breaking new ground here,” Schultz said.

SACUA adopted the Principles of Due Process resolution, and it will be presented at the upcoming Senate Assembly meeting alongside a Tri-Campus Committee resolution standardizing the hierarchy of departments, schools and colleges at the University.