University Provost Martha Pollack joined the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs for its second meeting of the month to explain the administration’s progress on several policy projects and answer questions by members.

Pollack began her discussion on a positive note, expressing her enthusiasm about Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s push to increase funding for universities in the state of Michigan by 6.1 percent.

“We are delighted that the state is expressing the importance of higher education, and this is really good for us,” Pollack said.

The proposed increase still has to receive approval from the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature.

During her previous visit to SACUA Jan. 13, Pollack referred to the formation of several faculty committees that would look to address various issues within the University. Pollack said progress has been made, and the leaders of these committees have been selected, though she did not elaborate further.

Astronomy Prof. Joel Bregman will lead the committee on Having Faculty in the 21st Century. Psychology Prof. Rob Sellers will lead the committee on Diversity, Equity and Campus Climate.

The final new committee, the Financial Models for Higher Education Committee, will be formed down the road to foster collaboration once the other committees have had a chance to begin making headway.

Pollack also spoke about the University’s response to recent campaigns pushing for increased diversity on campus. In November, the University’s Black Student Union launched the #BBUM Twitter campaign to shed light on the experiences of Black students on campus. Since then, the group has held several demonstrations calling for increased diversity on campus, culminating in its issuance of seven demands for the University’s administration. Goals ranged from increasing Black undergraduate enrollment to ten percent to increased funding for the Trotter Multicultural Center.

Along with Elizabeth Barry, special counsel to the president, and Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones, Pollack has met with students to engage in dialogue about student concerns and demands.

The University has granted $300,000 for renovations of the Trotter Multicultural Center and has also agreed to look for property on or near central campus to relocate the Center in the future. There is no specific date for completion, but in the meantime, the existing location will be repaired and modernized.

Furthermore, efforts are being made to increase accessibility for emergency funds to make it easier for students in need. Terry McDonald, director of the Bentley Historical Library, is working to increase students’ access to documents related to race in the Bentley library, as the BSU requested.

Pollack said students are also seeking to modify current race and ethnicity requirements in the curriculum and to implement them in schools such as the College of Engineering, where such courses are not required.

Otorhinolaryngology Prof. Charlie Koopmann, a SACUA member, voiced concerns about such changes in curriculum.

“I don’t think students should be required to take that course,” Koopmann said. “It should be an elective. I think it’s one thing to express interest; I think it’s another to have demands. I don’t think the school should discuss demands; I think the school should talk about concerns.”

Before the Provost’s arrival, SACUA discussed the need to establish two nominating committees that would be in charge of identifying potential candidates for open positions.

SACUA Vice Chair Rex Holland was selected to head the committee in charge of the Department of Public Safety Oversight. Business Economics Prof. Scott Masten, a member of SACUA, will lead the search committee for a senate secretary.

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