New SACUA members set year's agenda

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 8:40pm

Former SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck speaks at a SACUA meeting at Fletcher Administrative Building on Monday.

Former SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck speaks at a SACUA meeting at Fletcher Administrative Building on Monday. Buy this photo
Andrew Rabah/Daily


The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs hosted its first meeting under the new leadership of Chair William Schultz, professor of mechanical engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering. During the meeting, new members were introduced, and the committee discussed topics for the upcoming year’s agenda, including mental health on campus.

New members to SACUA include Michael Atzmon, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences; Radiology Prof. Ruth Carlos; and Social Work Prof. Robert Ortega.

Atzmon began working in faculty governance last fall through the Senate Assembly. He said he aims to communicate the positions of the faculty to the administration during his tenure on SACUA.

“One of the things I care about most is cases where administrative leaders forget what it is like to be in the trenches,” Atzmon said. “Our role is to remind them of what our values are.”

Carlos said she wants to increase the interaction between the Medical School and the rest of the campus community.

“The Medical School, because of its size and connection with the hospital, sometimes overlooks, in my opinion, its obligation to the campus at large,” she said. “I’d like to see more conversation between the two.”

Ortega was not present at the meeting.

During the meeting, Schultz provided a tentative agenda for the year, including the Office of Institutional Equity appeals — which handles discrimination and harassment complaints —, the tenure process — which has been a subjet of debate in previous meetings — and the Standard Practice Guide, which is a set of policies made by the University of Michigan for faculty to follow. Schultz then opened up discussion for members to propose additional topics.

Former SACUA Chair Silke-Maria Weineck, chair of the department of comparative literature and a German studies professor, suggested the addition of mental health of both students and faculty to the list.

She said mental health disorders should be treated with the same level of seriousness as other physical medical conditions.

“Depression and anxiety are illnesses,” Weineck said. “They should be treated like cancer … I don’t think they should be demoted to general unwellness.”

Students have recently been calling for improved mental health services on campus through discussions with the Board of Regents and events aimed at raising awareness for the issue.

Pharmacy Prof. David Smith raised concern over the overlap between faculty mental health and the Fitness for Duty policy, which ensures faculty members are able to perform the duties of their positions as part of the SPG. He said he wanted to make sure no one is unfairly laid off because of this clause.

“(I want) to make sure that nobody who suffers from this kind of illness is going to be removed because of Fitness of Duty,” he said. “It’s not going to be abused.”

Carlos suggested adding other staff members to the discussion to address the mental health of residents in the Medical School.

The members also discussed upcoming guest speakers, including Central Student Government president David Schafer and vice President micah Griggs, LSA rising seniors, who plan to meet with SACUA later in May.