The University of Michigan’s University Council — a group of executives from student governments across campus — convened Monday night to discuss further development of the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities, the elimination of Michigan Time this coming May and a resolution regarding the academic calendar of the 2020-2021 school year.
The meeting began with Education prof. Gina Cervetti who introduced the role of the Statement on campus, functioning as a document created by students to handle complaints on campus. Gervetti outlined the editing process of the Statement, explaining the amendment cycle takes place every three years, and any member of the community who wants to contribute an amendment can propose it.
Last semester, students began to organize around including a clause expressly prohibiting bias-motivated incidents in the Statement, to ensure perpetrators can be held accountable through OSCR.
These amendments are routed through CSG and other student resources to the Student Relations Advisory Committee, and later to the University President.
Cervetti stressed that in order to make the document truly effective, student participation is crucial. According to Cervetti, this process is starting early to truly capture community and student opinion.
“I really want it to be a vigorous amendment cycle, and I want to acknowledge that for a lot of people in our campus community, this has been a challenging time,” Cervetti said. “Some of those challenges have been related to issues of campus climate and the norms by which we treat each other, and this is the document that describes those norms.”
The Statement is available through the Office of Student Conflict Resolution, which also provides a page regarding the amendment process and how to get involved.
Members were urged to share this information with their schools, and CSG Vice President Nadine Jawad, a Public Policy senior, suggested posting a video about the Statement on Rediscovering Resources, a YouTube channel run by CSG for the student body.
The next guest speakers were Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones and Rick Fitzgerald, assistant vice president for Public Affairs. They discussed the decision to shift away from Michigan Time, encouraging UC members to express their thoughts on the decision to make the transition smoothly on campus.
While Michigan Time is perceived as a unique tradition at the University, Jones and Fitzgerald said there is a certain amount of inconsistency between schools, such as the School of Nursing and the Law School. They also cited the possible difficulty for students to adjust to arriving at other commitments, such as clubs or committees, on the hour because of Michigan Time.
“Why now? I think it’s that critical mass of more and more interdisciplinary classes and offerings and curriculums so that the need for those classrooms has gotten tighter and tighter,” Fitzgerald said. “Trying to keep cost of tuition down by not building additional classrooms needlessly is a really important aspect.”
Several members voiced concern over the ability to hold faculty accountable to ending class 10 minutes early, as well as the accommodations to the bus scheduling of both The Ride and U-M buses in relation to class times. The main critique of the decision stemmed from a general lack of knowledge about the shift by the student body and faculty before the decision was made, despite claims it has been in discussion for many years. Members expressed interest in collecting data on student viewpoints.
“None of the presidents of the School of College Governments, whose sole involvement is purely academic for the most part, and dealing with academic questions, were included in this discussion,” LSA senior Nicholas Fadanelli, LSA Student Government President, said.
UC continued to vote on a resolution co-sponsored by Fadanelli and Engineering junior AJ Ashman. This resolution explored the issues regarding the academic calendar for 2020-2021, explaining if the semester begins after Labor Day, exams would reach as far as Dec. 24. Ashman is currently running for CSG president.
Like the majority of other Big Ten schools, the resolution suggested the University begin before Labor Day in order to give students Fall Break, Election Day and the Wednesday before Thanksgiving off.
“It’s very important for student leaders on this campus, especially those representing the student bodies of all the individual academic units, to have a say and be involved in conversations involving the way classes are taught, the schedule it’s taught on and more importantly the academic calendar itself because it has such a big impact,” Fadanelli said. “Students have complained for years about the winter break beginning way too late and essentially not existing, as well as the fact that exams seem to go later and later every year.”
The resolution passed unanimously, marking the first resolution passed by University Council this year.
“Having student voice in this conversation and making sure that we can have an impact on this decision and use this opportunity to change it moving forward can have a tremendous value,” Fadanelli said. “Not just for the student body involving this issue, but also student governments moving forward to have a stake in these conversations.”