University President Mark Schlissel’s introductions continued Monday at this semester’s first meeting of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs.
Though the University president doesn’t regularly participate in SACUA proceedings, the committee typically invites a senior administrator or notable campus figure to speak at each of its formal meetings. Monday’s main focus, at Schlissel’s request, was discussing faculty concerns that the administration could work to mitigate.
Voicing a need for the administration to increase its transparency, SACUA members asked Schlissel’s opinion regarding where to draw the line between faculty governance and the jurisdiction of the central administration.
Schlissel said faculty should largely take ownership of academic areas of governance, but conceded that responsibility for non-academic areas is more ambiguous.
“The faculty needs to be involved and consulted early in the development of administrative policies … but at the end of the day, administrative things are administrative things,” Schlissel said.
Schlissel said he has made it his goal to reach out to all faculty in some form to make them feel fully represented in the University “machinery,” and to allow the administration to garner more “good input.”
Comparative Literature Prof. Silke-Maria Weineck, a SACUA member, said quality faculty-administration collaboration would hinge on what Schlissel’s interpretation of consulting faculty will look like.
Last year, the University’s launch of the Shared Services Center — which will ultimately relocate more than 100 department-level staff to a central building near Wolverine Tower — prompted vocal criticism from faculty and staff who questioned the administration’s transparency and equity in crafting the plan.
Schlissel provided a few suggestions, including faculty representation in meetings with the deans of the University’s colleges and schools.
The idea was well received, especially in the scope of a comment from Dentistry Prof. Rex Holland, another SACUA member.
Holland said deans of each individual college have jurisdiction over a vast number of departments; for example, an LSA dean manages language, science and literature all at once.
Schlissel said he plans to sit in on the deans’ meetings as a “fly on the wall” to learn more about the bureaucracy within each individual school and to see if there are any areas in need of improvement.
Another contested topic was transparency of administrative salaries. Last spring, a large group of faculty signed a letter denouncing what they saw as high administrative salaries and called for bonus information to be made readily available to the public.
Holland said since administrative salaries are funded with public money, information about bonuses should be public as well.
Pharmaceutical Sciences Prof. David Smith, another SACUA member, said he doesn’t see a reason to keep administrative bonuses private.
“They earn it; they deserve it … fine,” he said. “But I haven’t heard a good argument that says why they shouldn’t (make bonuses public).”
Not posting total salaries, Smith argued, could “give the appearance of something to hide. If you’re going to put it out, then put out the truth.”
Schlissel said Smith’s logic was sound, but added that some of the money that composes salaries cannot be made not public, such as that of the University’s clinical faculty, who may be paid for the medical services they offer. He said the University is in competition with other health care providers and it is important for the institution to retain its clinical staff.
The conversation regarding salaries ultimately segued into a larger talk about making the University a place where everyone — faculty, administration and students alike — can do their best work.
Schlissel asked SACUA members to consider “what it is about our existing environment that contributes to your ability to be a great scholar … and what’s missing.”
This request aligned with Schlissel’s greater goal of making Michigan as good a school as any for the highest academic pursuits. Part of this endeavor, he said, will require the University to further enrich its intellectual environment.
“I’m thrilled that Mary Sue (Coleman) did a lot of physical building,” Schlissel said. “Now maybe, we should be investing in programs and people. And I want to talk about that.”