The University Record, December 3, 2001

Time for bylaws changes is ‘too short’

Editor’s note: The proposed bylaws changes discussed here will come before the Regents at their December meeting. When the Record posted the proposed changes in the Nov. 19 issue, some items that should have been italicized or crossed out were not. The correct versions are available for review online at www.umich.edu/~urecord/0102/Nov19_01/9.htm and at www.umich.edu/~urecord/0102/Nov19_01/6.htm.


By Theresa Maddix

Proposed changes in the Regents’ bylaws drew fire Nov. 26 as the Senate Assembly reviewed what they would mean for the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics (BICIA) and for the Life Sciences Institute. Chair Mojtaba Navvab said, “We are not in favor of these changes, not just because of technical details.”

President Lee C. Bollinger explained his “guiding principles” regarding the BICIA bylaw changes. The Assembly passed three motions: one for each of the bylaws and one to endorse the President’s Commission on Copyright Policy.

Referring to the BICIA bylaw changes, Navvab asked Bollinger, “Why these changes at this time?”

Bollinger said, “Responsibility for the Athletic Department in all respects should rest with the President of the University. That theme is renewed in the most recent Knight Commission report. It’s very much at the heart of the Big Ten philosophy.

“I don’t think that the faculty on an advisory board or a board in control have the ongoing knowledge about the issues that emerge from and are integral to athletics. It’s a matter of expertise, focus of responsibility and nature of issues.

“Just as you hold the President responsible for what happens in the Medical Center and in other parts of the University, so, too, you want the President to have the responsibility for the Athletic Department.”

Bollinger divided control of the Athletic Department into two parts: eligibility and academic requirements; and all other areas, including financial, space and physical facilities.

He said, “Any sensible president is going to delegate responsibility for academics to the advisory board.”

John Riebesell, member of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), said, “I’m concerned that this has gone too far. It’s going from saying the board is in control to saying that it’s just advisory to the athletic director without recognizing that there are still some responsibilities that belong to the advisory board.”

Senate Secretary John Lehman said, “For many years, the faculty senate dealt with academic affairs of the student athletes. We had a faculty representative who sought the advice of the Senate Assembly and SACUA. I think the document, as proposed, is relatively silent on how the faculty representative should interact with the faculty.”

Vice Chair of SACUA John Gobetti, said, “I don’t agree with the changes. The present bylaws allow faculty governance. It is the ‘board in control.’ There are a lot of rights that are being crossed out. Right now SACUA appoints the people. The changes allow the athletic director to pick four faculty names and give them to the President. That’s wolves guarding the sheep.”

Assembly member Donald Deskins, who serves on the BICIA, said, “If you look at the membership on the board, they are elected constituencies. There is no parallel with the athletic director appointing someone if they’re not elected.”

Discussion on SACUA and the Assembly’s response to the bylaw change continued after Bollinger left. The Senate passed a motion, revised from its SACUA version, to form a committee to draft new bylaw language for the Regents.

The proposed new bylaw for the Life Sciences Institute also met with criticism from the Assembly. Lehman said that despite the designation as an academic unit, “its executive committee will consist of no elected members. It will be heavily weighted with top administrators and four appointed faculty.”

Riebesell said, “As an institute it wouldn’t have the same faculty governance as academic units. Directors of the Life Sciences Institute will report directly to the president. This is unusual. Schools and colleges usually report to the provost, who in turn reports to the president. It just seems it’s very different from other academic units on campus.”

The Assembly approved the recommendation of SACUA regarding the Life Sciences Institute bylaw.


BICIA Motion

The Senate Assembly authorizes SACUA to form an ad hoc committee in consultation with past and present members of the BICIA, MSA and the Alumni Association to draft alternative language for the proposed bylaw amendment that a) addresses the concerns about business and financial matters; and b) preserves the oversight and governance functions of the BICIA, in conformity of existing rules of the Big Ten Conference.


Life Sciences Institute Motion

SACUA advises the Senate Assembly that extensive additional discussion is needed before Bylaw 13.15 is brought to the Regents for adoption. In part, the proposed governance structure does not conform to that of other academic units and therefore the proposal requires additional study and evaluation.