The final Senate Assembly meeting of the year took place Monday afternoon, with discussion focused on optimizing information technology processes and status reports from Chairs of Senate Assembly Committees.

The meeting began with a presentation from Chief Information Officer Laura Patterson, vice president for Information and Technology Services, and Dean of Libraries James Hilton, vice provost for Digital Education Initiatives.

Hilton also has a position on the Information Technology Council as the steward of Teaching and Learning and Knowledge Repositories.

The duo introduced the NextGen Michigan project, which aims to optimize the investments the University makes in information technology. The University’s Information Technology Council established a strategic plan to provide tools and an environment that facilitates innovation, engagement and integrative learning on campus.

To accomplish this goal, the University has considered joining a consortium known as Unizin, which would consist of various educational institutions working together with information technology companies.

Unizin would include other universities such as the Indiana University and the University of Florida, and would operate as a whole to negotiate with tech companies and express the unique needs of each institution.

Several technological and service options would be established and made available to the members of Unizin. The University would have the autonomy to select which of these tools would be best implemented with CTools. If the University opted to join Unizin, it would be a three-year process with a $1 million total cost.

Unizin would be in part modeled after Internet2, a computer-networking consortium that the University is a member of, which consists of educational institutions, researchers, companies and government agencies.

After discussing Unizin, status reports from selected chairs of Senate Assembly Committees were presented.

The committee chairs included Annette Haines of the Faculty Perspectives Page, Sherrie Kossoudji of the Scholarship Task Force, Mika Lavaque-Manty of the Academic Affairs Committee, David Potter of the Student Relations and University Secretary Advisory Committees, Douglas Richstone of the Research Policy Committee, Sarah Stoddard of the Government Relations Advisory Committee and Robin Wilson of the Committee on University Values.

Karen Staller, outgoing chair of the Senate Advisory Committee for University Affairs, delivered a speech detailing her experience with University President-elect Mark Schlissel, and discussed her experience with SACUA and the importance of central faculty governance in university administration.

“Today, rather than summarizing on past accomplishments, I would like to focus on the future … in preparation for my meeting with the President-elect in March, he expressed that what he’s really interested in are two things: what issues most important to University faculty, and how might we best work together,” Staller said. “Mark expressed eagerness to experiment with different ways of interacting with faculty and soliciting ideas. It was clear from the start that he mostly wanted to listen and learn.”

Staller referenced the strength of the faculty senate at University of California, Berkeley, where Schlissel was a professor and dean. At UC Berkeley, deans’ offices have less power and faculty governance plays very central role. In contrast, the University of Michigan has a more prominent dean system, with faculty governance playing a more modest role.

She also discussed the vitality of a central government that operates with consensus and unity.

“Central faculty governance often concerns itself with a question that boils down to this,” Staller said. “When is the common good at stake such that it ought to trump unit-specific interests?”

Before adjourning the meeting, Scott Masten, the incoming SACUA chair, expressed his and his fellow SACUA members’ appreciation for Staller’s work throughout the year.

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