The University of Michigan Faculty Senate met Monday in the University Lobby of the Alexander G. Ruthven Building to discuss the possibility of partially restructuring the Senate Assembly.
The Faculty Senate currently consists of more than 4,250 members from UM’s three campuses – all tenure-track faculty, research faculty, librarians, senior staff, and deans are members. Currently, only professors, researchers and tenured librarians can run for the Senate Assembly, a more selective body. The Faculty Senate discussed opening the Senate Assembly to lecturers and clinical professors as well.
Silvia Pedraza, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, declared the meeting open and introduced the president of Santa Ono University to the Committee. Ono addressed the Committee and answered questions from members of the Faculty Senate. Ono spoke about his transition to the role of president and the value of faculty governance.
“The University of Michigan is an institution that I have admired for a long time,” Ono said. “This University Senate is a very important body, and I hope you will welcome me back to have these kinds of conversations on a regular basis.”
Ono said academic excellence and building trust in the central administration are two of his top priorities. Ono told the Senate that he is committed to implementing UM faculty feedback to achieve these goals.
“We hope that in a year’s time we will have a clear vision of where we are heading and that we will be rowing in the same direction (as a university),” Ono said.
After Ono’s speech, the Senate discussed the possibility of expanding the Senate Assembly to include lecturers and clinical professors — who often teach medical school and work at Michigan Medicine — in the Senate of the faculty. These professors are currently not permitted to run for Senate Assembly positions.
Pedraza proposed a resolution that would increase the total number of Assembly representatives from 74 to 87, 76 or 78 – a decision that would depend on whether the Faculty Senate votes to approve the addition of professors, clinical professors or of them. No school would lose a seat, but some may have the opportunity to elect additional representatives to the Assembly if one or both groups are allowed to join.
The Senate was divided on whether or not to restructure the Assembly to make room for clinical professors and lecturers. Brian Zink, senior associate dean for faculty and faculty development at the medical school, expressed support for the structural changes.
“Full representation of all the hard-working people who get faculty positions at UM is the right and just thing to do,” Zink said. “Adding faculty from the medical school clinical stream to the Senate would add diversity to the Senate and better represent our entire faculty than our full graduates and research graduates currently do.”
Zink gave two examples of clinical faculty members who might consider joining the Senate as representatives if they are able to run: Laura Hopson, clinical professor and associate chair of the faculty’s Department of Emergency Medicine of medicine, and Gifty Kwakye, a clinical associate. professor of surgery. Zink said the two have expressed an interest in running and will bring a wealth of perspective and knowledge to the Assembly.
“(I say this) to put faces to these concepts and highlight two faculty members from the clinical track who are examples of the type of people we would bring to the Senate,” Zink said.
Micheal Thouless, a professor in the College of Engineering, called on the Faculty Senate to retain the same structure it currently has. Thouless previously served as president of the Faculty Senate from 2007 to 2010. Thouless said there were already enough votes in the large Faculty Senate, so keeping the Assembly smaller is ideal. Instead, he said clinical professors should form their own committee, like SACUA, which works with the Assembly and the Senate, but has separate meetings.
“(The Senate Assembly) is not a club; it addresses the academic issues of different groups,” Thouless said. “Clinical faculty should come together as a group similar to how SACUA works.”
Due to time constraints, the Senate decided to vote on whether or not to vote on the recommendation at Monday’s meeting. They did not reach the necessary two-thirds supermajority, so the Senate decided to continue discussions at a later meeting and will potentially vote on the matter in the future.
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