Senate Assembly discusses anti-bigotry, student-athletes academic performance

Monday, January 22, 2018 - 9:03pm

Ketra Armstrong, Faculty Athletics Representative, discusses student-athlete performance at the University and in the NCAA at Palmer Commons Monday.

Ketra Armstrong, Faculty Athletics Representative, discusses student-athlete performance at the University and in the NCAA at Palmer Commons Monday. Buy this photo
Darby Stipe/Daily

 

At its meeting Monday afternoon, the University of Michigan’s Senate Assembly discussed the Senate Advisory Committee on Undergraduate Affairs’ statement that was released on the Faculty Senate website under the tab on the site entitled Faculty Against Hate, which outlined the Faculty’s position against acts of hatred and bigotry on campus. Senate Assembly chair Robert Ortega asked for comments or concerns regarding the statement.

“The Faculty stand with our students, staff, administration and broader Michigan community in deploring those who seek to inspire violence and division against and within our society,” the statement reads. “Acts that promote hate, prejudice, racism, bigotry, and discrimination are reprehensible.”

Some members of the Assembly raised concerns about the way the first sentence was phrased, saying it could be problematic for the statement to read that the faculty deplored anyone who inspired division in the community. Others took issue with the faculty deploring any individual at all rather than judging their actions separately from the person.

In defense of the statement, SACUA member Stefan Szymanski, professor of sport management, said SACUA was trying their best to appease a large audience.

“I think there are many aspects of this statement that people might not agree with one hundred percent, there are bits of language people might change, so we tried to frame something that we thought would command the widest possible assent without necessarily aspiring to universality,” Szymanski said.

Szymanski also said the statement was an attempt to help and support students who felt extremely isolated and unsupported by faculty in light of the Richard Spencer issue.

English Prof. Anne Curzan, chair of the Academic Performance Committee, and Professor Ketra Armstrong, the Faculty Athletics Representative, also visited the Senate and discussed the academic performance of student-athletes.

Curzan, who served as Faculty Athletics Representative before Armstrong, spoke about how people at the University generalize the student-athlete community, and speak about athletics as a whole when they really mean specific teams.

“One of the things I’ve found while moving around campus is that everyone on campus is that everyone on campus except really our student athletes and the folks in the athletic department forget what large and diverse group students athletes are,” Curzan said.

Curzan also brought up the anxiety many student athletes feel about the attitude towards them on campus.

“The attitude towards student-athletes on this campus is not always positive,” Curzan said. “They feel like they walk into a classroom and there can be an assumption that they are not there to get an education, that they are not a serious student. Some of our student-athletes choose not to self identify as student athletes because they’re worried about the attitudes that faculty or other student in the class may bring.”

Curzan highlighted all the various things that student-athletes at the University have to juggle, and how exhausting it can be.

“If you have a swimmer in your class, and you have an 8:30 a.m. class, that student has already been in the pool for two hours, and they are going back to the pool at 3 or 4 to swim for two more hours,” Curzan said.

Armstrong discussed the various honors that have been awarded to Michigan’s student-athletes, such as the 80 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars, student-athletes that have GPAs of 3.7 or higher, and three student-athletes at the University who were selected as Academic All-Americans.

Curzan also discussed faculty accommodations for students to allow them to represent the University in their athletic competitions while at the same time being able to succeed in their classes. Armstrong spoke about the balance professors have to strike between keeping the integrity of the class while avoiding being punitive to the student.

Business junior Megan Schulte, a member of the women’s lacrosse team, said in an interview with The Daily she felt that juggling being an athlete and a Business student was difficult, but manageable if done efficiently.

“As long as I plan out my day and just stay on top of my work it’s all manageable, but it takes a lot of effort every day to make sure that I am on top of both school and lacrosse,” Schulte said. “The kids in my class have gotten a lot more understanding over the years, and the teachers, if I have to miss a class or anything, they are always so nice. I can make an appointment with them to go see them and figure out what I missed and make up the work as well.”

Toward the end of the meeting, Gina Cervetti, the chair of the Student Relations Advisory Committee, and Erik Wessel, the director of the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, came to discuss the progress made on the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, which is to be amended in the 2018-2019 academic year. The Statement outlines possible behaviors that are not consistent with the values of the University community, and suggests possible responses and sanctions to respond to such behaviors.

Cervetti said they were starting the process early, in order to increase participation and visibility of the amendment process, as well as of the Statement in general.

“I want to acknowledge that this has been a really challenging year for many members of our community, and that many of these challenges have related to campus climate and community norms,” Cervetti said. “I hope that we can approach this amendment cycle as an opportunity to shape the norms of our community in ways that are responsive to current issues on campus. The Statement isn’t all about sanctions. It’s also about who we want to be as a community; it describes a community that is safe, and scholarly, and equitable, and just, and revising the Statement to better conform with those values in the current time seems incredibly important.”

The assembly also nominated members of the Faculty Senate to sit on the nominating committee that will choose faculty to fill the three or four new Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs positions opening up this year. LSA Prof. Christine Aidala, LSA Prof. Elizabeth Bruch, U-M Flint Prof. Laura Friesen and Engineering Prof. Johannes Schwank were nominated.