Faculty Governance: On the Agenda
The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) is the executive arm of the University Senate and of the Senate Assembly. On behalf of the Assembly, SACUA advises and consults with the President, Provost, and the Executive Officers of the University on matters of University policy. SACUA works to safeguard faculty interests and to communicate faculty concerns to the University’s central administration. Below is an overview of this year’s agenda, followed by some information faculty might find useful. For a record of SACUA and Senate Assembly meetings, please visit our website www.facultysenate.umich.edu. We welcome feedback, concerns, and suggestions, which you can submit them here.
After the Faculty Senate voted in fall 2015 to delay the public release of student evaluations of teaching (SETs) to ensure a thoughtful process that would release meaningful data only, SACUA worked with student government representatives, the administration, and faculty experts to create a policy that is both responsive to students’ needs and to faculty concerns. After a series of conversations, Provost Pollack accepted the recommendations from two committees, one tasked with choosing a small set of questions designed to help students choose courses, one with formulating guidelines for the release. Beginning in fall 2016, SET responses to nine questions will be released to students only, provided the response rate is either above 50% or at least 30 individual responses per class have been recorded. Responses will not be released during a faculty member’s first three years on campus, and faculty can opt out of release under certain circumstances. The process, we believe, should serve as a model for constructive collaboration between students and faculty. Find the committees’ recommendations and background information here.
SACUA welcomes the change in several policies at the Office for Institutional Equity (OIE), tasked with investigating charges of discrimination and sexual harassment. We particularly approve of the fact that respondents, at SACUA’s request, can now record their interviews. The interview process itself now provides for an initial conversation dedicated solely to the charges and an explanation of OIE policies and procedures, whereas respondents will be able to speak to the substance of a complaint at a second meeting, accompanied by a support person (we strongly recommend a lawyer).
We remain deeply concerned, however, that faculty cannot appeal OIE findings and reports, a basic due process right granted to students faced with misconduct allegations from other students. The Senate Assembly has passed a resolution* strongly urging the University to institute an appeals structure as soon as possible.
After requesting information about OIE investigations into faculty conduct, SACUA learned that OIE received 40 complaints where faculty were the respondents over the last three years. In none of the investigations, faculty were found guilty of having violated SPGs 201.89-0, 201.89-1 or 601.22 (Sexual Harassment, Discrimination, and Harassment, Faculty-Student Relationships). At the same time, we have heard from several faculty members that investigations can last up to a year, and that respondents occur significant costs, both financially (e.g., lawyers’ fees) and in terms of lost research time. We urge the OIE to ensure more timely resolutions. We are also interested to hear from faculty who were disciplined by their school or college administration despite reports of no findings.
Click here for SACUA’s 2015 report on OIE.
SACUA had long been concerned about the “Professional Standards” entry in the Standard Practice guide, which we found to be worrisomely vague and potentially in conflict with the University’s commitment to academic freedom. After protracted discussions with the Provost’s office and the Office of the General Counsel, we are pleased to report that the revised policy,* while affirming faculty’s responsibility to “engage … in a professional manner, with civility and respect,” now envisions disciplinary action only in case of “conduct which hinders other members of the community in the exercise of their professional responsibilities and academic freedoms.” The revised text also reaffirms the University’s strong statement on artistic and academic freedom in SPG 601.01*. We remain concerned, however, that the SPG explicitly allows “schools and colleges” to supplement this policy with unit-specific measures that enhance the policies expressed in this SPG.” SACUA strongly believes that faculty obligations and protections should be the same across the University, and for the time being, we encourage the executive committees in each school and college to exercise strong and meaningful oversight when it comes to “enhanced” policies used to discipline or sanction faculty. In the long run we believe that principles of due process, transparency, and accountability necessitate a central policy regulating faculty sanctions which should be developed jointly by the administration and faculty governance.
In March 2016, SACUA hosted the first national faculty governance conference, attended by representatives from MSU, Berkeley, Northwestern, Rutgers, UCLA,Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Virginia and Wisconsin. Over the course of two days, faculty governance leaders discussed shared concerns and traded strategies and resources with regard to due process, academic freedom, Title IX legislation, and faculty governance’s proper purview. Laura Kipnis delivered the keynote address, “Stupid Sex/Higher Education.”
The Senate Assembly passed two resolutions, which we believe to be beneficial to students. The first one* requests that faculty not schedule final exams during the last week of classes but during the actual finals period. The second one* encourages all schools and colleges to schedule large enrollment classes, particularly those required for popular majors, on Fridays. Research strongly suggests that a five-day workweek significantly reduces alcohol consumption on campus. The resolution also calls for the Deans and the Provost to consider incentivizing such classes. To date, we are unaware of such incentives being offered.
In light of divisive rhetoric in national political discourse, SACUA and the Senate assembly passed a resolution in support of Muslim members of the community, affirming our shared commitment to respect for the dignity of all members of the UM family, regardless of religious affiliation. We were encouraged to President Schlissel express similar sentiments during his Winter Commencement address and were particularly grateful for his reference to the “horrible mistake” the University made in allowing the persecution of three UM faculty members under McCarthyism, two of whom were dismissed permanently, one of whom was dismissed and later reinstated. For more background information, click here
Beginning in Fall 2016, faculty will no longer be able to create new course sites on CTOOLS. If you have not yet familiarized yourself with Canvas, consider contacting your department’s chief administrator to learn what resources are available to you to help with the transition.
In response to several well-publicized data breaches as peer institutions, the University will soon be instituting a two-factor authentication process for all faculty who need to access particularly sensitive data. Two-factor authentication combines a password with a second method of authentication, such as Mtoken, from which most faculty are currently exempt. Most online tasks will not be affected. More information will be forthcoming over the course of the summer.
Address to the Regents
See here for the text of SACUA’s annual address to the Regents.
Address to the Class of 2016
After a hiatus of several years, SACUA is now once again addressing graduating students at commencement ceremonies. See here for the Spring Commencement remarks.
On a personal note
It as been an honor and a pleasure serving as the Chair of SACUA and the Faculty Senate over the last year, and I am happy to pass on the gavel to William Schultz, Professor of Engineering. At a time where the very concepts of public higher education and the liberal arts are under unrelenting attack, broad participation in faculty governance is more important than ever. Please consider volunteering for a Senate Assembly Committee here, and never hesitate to contact SACUA at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find a list of current SACUA members here*.
Yours, Silke-Maria Weineck