At its monthly meeting yesterday, the University of Michigan’s main faculty governing body delayed until next month a vote on a resolution urging University President Mary Sue Coleman to end a practice of offering free trips to football bowl games for faculty members on a student-athlete academic advisory committee.

The Athletic Department currently offers to pay the expenses — including free airfare, hotel accommodations, tickets and meals — of faculty members on the Committee on Academic Performance (APC). The committee reviews academic eligibility cases for Michigan athletes whose grade point average drops below the University’s required 2.0.

An internal University audit from July 2007 said the practice “may appear to be a conflict of interest in (APC members) carrying out their advisory responsibilities on academic performance.”

Physics Prof. Keith Riles renewed discussions about the audit’s findings at the Senate Assembly’s Oct. 27 meeting, when he introduced a resolution that “urges the President to end the practice of reimbursing APC for paid expenses associated with attending bowl games.” An earlier vote on Riles’s resolution slated for the Assembly’s November meeting was moved to December to allow more time for deliberation about the perks practice.

The committee reports to the Office of the Provost regarding reviews, and the Provost’s Office has final authority deciding the eligibility of athletes reviewed by the APC.

The APC is a subcommittee within the broader Advisory Board on Intercollegiate Athletics, a group of faculty, alumni, athletes and University administrators who advise University Athletic Director Bill Martin on major financial and policy issues involving Michigan athletics.

However, after discussions of Riles’s resolution went over their allotted time at yesterday’s Senate Assembly meeting, the vote on the resolution was pushed back until the group’s Jan. 26 meeting.

In a presentation to Assembly members, Riles said the perks practice “gives the appearance that faculty members are beholden to athletic director, even if not true.”

In his presentation, Riles said there’s a chance the perks practice “attracts faculty members included to view big-time football more favorably than other faculty members do.”

There was a good deal of dissent among Assembly members over Riles’s resolution, however, with many faculty saying that the resolution’s passage would send a message that the Senate Assembly doubted the integrity of faculty members on the APC.

In a November letter to members of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, an executive body within the Senate Assembly, Athletic Director Bill Martin said discussions about the potential conflict of interest with the perks practice should be held outside of the Athletic Department and directed to the Office of the Provost.

Apart from Martin, many University officials outside of the Senate Assembly — President Coleman and University Provost Teresa Sullivan, among them — have defended the perks practice, saying that because the APC only serves an advisory role to the Office of the Provost, it eliminates the possibility of a conflict of interest.

While Riles was discussing the merits of his own resolution with Assembly members, Statistics Prof. Edward Rothman went before the Assembly to present a related resolution, which advocated for the dissolution of the APC.

Rothman proposed that, in place of the APC, regular academic advisers within each University school or college make decisions on athlete academic eligibility issues.

The Assembly will also vote on Rothman’s resolution at the Jan. 26 meeting.

FIRST FACULTY-FUNDED SCHOLARSHIP AWARDED

The first-ever University of Michigan Faculty Undergraduate Scholarship was awarded at yesterday’s Senate Assembly.

The scholarship, funded by donations from faculty and matching funds from Coleman, was awarded to LSA freshman Lama Bandar.

A Dearborn Heights native, Bandar thanked Senate Assembly members for the award and said she hoped it would help with her future career plans.

“It means so much to me,” she said. “I plan on pursuing a career in medicine, and this money will be extremely beneficial with that.”

Electrical Engineering Prof. Semyon Meerkov, chair of the scholarship’s selection committee, said the scholarship fund had raised $122,000 so far, but his goal was to reach $500,000 and award four individual scholarships to freshman students.

Right now, the scholarship is worth $3,000 per year, and is renewable over four years if the recipient maintains a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Meerkov said the selection process begins with identifying incoming students who have close to a 4.0 GPA in high school. The finalists are asked to write an essay explaining how the scholarship will help them as students and in their future careers.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.