The newly elected members of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs attended their first meeting Monday afternoon.
At the Senate Assembly meeting March 16, three professors were elected to serve three-year terms on the committee, Pharmaceutical Sciences Prof. David Smith; William Schultz, professor of mechanical engineering, naval architecture and marine engineering and Silke-Maria Weineck, chair of the Department of Comparative Literature and associate professor of Germanic Languages and Literature.
The committee also held SACUA officer elections for the positions of chair and vice chair. After some discussion and a quick paper ballot, Scott Masten, professor of business economics and public policy, was unanimously elected to the position of SACUA chair, while Astronomy Prof. Sally Oey was unanimously elected to be vice-chair.
SACUA Chair Karen Staller spoke briefly of her private meeting with University President-elect Mark Schlissel on March 14 in which they discussed faculty involvement at the University.
“Overall it was an extremely positive exchange, he’s clearly interested in learning about the University from its faculty … he asked very informed questions,” Staller said. “I’m very optimistic about our ability to form a working relationship with him.”
SACUA took time to discuss Administrative Services Transition, a part of the University’s effort to increase cost-containment. This controversial proposal would merge nearly 300 departmental positions across campus to a separate location on State Street near Wolverine Tower.
Staller said Mark Burns, chair of the department of chemical engineering and member of the AST advisory committee, had expressed interest in faculty input during a recent meeting and is eager to work with the staff in any way he can. Faculty and SACUA members expressed concern over their lack of involvement in the issue last semester.
Staller said he would suggest some time be allotted at a future meeting for SACUA to meet with Burns, however, the rest of SACUA was not receptive to this idea.
“If you meet with somebody who constantly defers and says I can’t really speak about this, it’s a waste of SACUA’s time, you could delegate that to a different committee. You’ve got to get somebody who answers questions,” said John Lehman, SACUA ex-officio and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
Lehman presented an update on the status of acquiring nominations for the Department of Public Safety Oversight Committee, which monitors and advises the University on necessary changes to DPS policy. SACUA is responsible for assembling nominees to the committee.
About 10 self-nominations have been received, and the information about the candidates will go out in April.
An hour of the meeting was spent in executive session with University Provost Martha Pollack to discuss issues relating to staff.
After the conclusion of the executive session, Oey asked Pollack about the state of the search for the next LSA dean. The position is currently filled by interim LSA dean Susan Gelman.
Pollack said the LSA dean search is proceeding well, with a group of finalists who are meeting with University President Mary Sue Coleman, Schlissel and Pollack. There are some external candidates among the finalists.
SACUA member Finn Larsen, associate chair of the physics department, raised a question about the University’s current weather closure standards, and how a consistency in decisions can be established. Pollack said there is a group, which includes Christina Whitman, vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, and Dentistry Prof. Rex Holland, SACUA vice chair, that works with faculty and human resources staff to figure out when the University needs to close.