Though attendance at the Senate Assembly’s May meeting didn’t garner enough members to reach quorum, the gathering proceeded with reports from several administrative committees.

About 20 members of Senate Assembly — the faculty’s governing body — met for the last time before fall semester to give a brief overview of recent work done by various administrative groups. The assembly hosted several guest speakers in Forum Hall of Palmer Commons Monday afternoon.

Newly elected SACUA Chair Kate Barald, a professor in the Medical School and College of Engineering, said she wanted to proceed with the meeting despite the low turnout because the guest speakers had valuable information to share.

“Leaders and the Best” struggle to maintain average benefits

Charlie Koopmann, professor in the department of Otolaryngology, reported on the activities of the Advisory Task Force on Faculty Involvement in Health Plan Incentives to the Senate Assembly.

The task force — created in Sept. 2010 — has met four times since its inception to outline its recommendations for things like improving the health benefits of employees, which it addressed in Monday’s meeting.

“It’s time for the administration, for the Regents, to put up or shut up in the sense that we want to be competitive,” Koopmann said. “We want to have the facilities that our other institutions have. We think the University should make better investments”

Later in the meeting, Fred Askari, clinical associate professor in the department of Internal Medicine, addressed Senate Assembly members about concerns of the Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty.

Askari said the University is striving to be average rather than among “the leaders and the best” in terms of employee fringe benefits.

“Right now, 50 percent of the faculty will be eligible for retirement in 2013, and our concern is the University is going to be faced with major competition for recruitment retention,” Askari said.

FOIA requests explained to faculty members

In lieu of a recent Freedom of Information Act records request filed with the University by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy — which specifically asks for copies of e-mails sent between faculty members that reference the recent union controversy in Wisconsin — the Senate Assembly had members of the Civil Liberties Board report on the requesting and reporting process.

Pat Sellinger, FOIA coordinator in the office of the vice president for communications, said the University has five business days — which can be extended to up to 10 days — to respond to a FOIA request.

Sellinger said the response involves a two-step process. First, the University must figure out if fees must be charged to process the request and then it must determine exempt from non-exempt materials.

Debbie Kowich, assistant general council in the office of the vice president, said the University does its best to respect the privacy of its employees.

“For the most part, 99.999 percent of the time, we are accepting every exemption available to us and really parsing through the language of those exemptions to determine what is available to us,” Kowich said. “The exemptions are limited in their nature and frankly, they are what they are.”

Faculty aims to protect student rights to dissertations

Continuing with a report on recent committee happenings, David Potter, Arthur Thurnau Professor of Greek and Latin, addressed the Senate Assembly on several issues concerning the Student Relations Advisory Committee and the Secretary of the University Advisory Committee.

Potter said students’ rights to their own dissertations is an issue that is close to his heart. He said that the Rackham Graduate School has a policy against students embargoing work they’ve done while enrolled at the University, but he wishes to reverse this precedent.

“That is, the policy restricts their ability to use the material from their dissertations as the foundation for the publication of a book,” Potter said.

Potter hopes that in the future students can more easily request that the University press not publish their dissertations.

“University presses are not the enemy,” Potter said.

Potter said he wanted to bring the issue to the attention of the Senate Assembly because the committees he works on believe the policy needs to be changed.

Barald said she thinks many science departments at the University would agree with Potter’s proposed changes.

—Haley Goldberg and Sarah Squire contributed to this report

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