The University Record, February 4, 2002

White, Courant, Lewis speak to Senate Assembly

By Martin May

Earl Lewis, chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) informed the Senate Assembly that the committee already has received a number of nominations for U-M’s top administrative position. He said he expects the committee to receive approximately 250 nominations by the time the process is complete.

Lewis, dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, and professor of history, and of Afro-American and African Studies, told Assembly members at their Jan. 28 meeting that their input will be valuable to the search process. Lewis said PSAC is soliciting nominations from a wide variety of sources and “will maintain confidentiality throughout the process to maintain the integrity of the process.”

Lewis said that the committee hopes to finish its work by late spring or early summer.

The 16-member PSAC is comprised of faculty, staff, students and alumni. The committee will recommend final candidates to the Presidential Search Committee (PSC), which consists of the Board of Regents in a committee of the whole.

In response to a question from the assembly, Lewis said he expects the final list that PSAC submits to PSC will be an unranked list of 4–5 names.

In terms of process, Lewis said, “This time around, unlike the last presidential search, the PSAC and the PSC can actually meet with one another and talk.”

The PSAC continues to meet with and solicit input from a number of groups within the University. Nominations can be submitted confidentially to PSAC via the Web at

Interim President B. Joseph White and interim provost Paul Courant also addressed the Assembly. “I would really like us to focus and accomplish one or two things together during my term [as interim president],” said White.

White said he intends to remain firm on the University’s institutional commitment to a number of priorities, including faculty recruitment, fund raising, program development and the Life Sciences Initiative. “Staying on course, it seems to me, demonstrates that the commitments we make are institutional not personal,” White stated.

Speaking on the Life Sciences Institute, White said, “the Initiative is indeed a huge commitment and is still in the very early stage of development.” White also touched on his thoughts regarding the decision of Scott D. Emr, a professor of biology, and cellular and molecular medicine at the University of California, San Diego, to not serve as the co-director of the Life Sciences Institute. “While I hoped that Scott Emr would have joined us, it wasn’t in the cards, and I appreciated Scott’s decisiveness,” White said.

White also discussed plans for the Arthur Miller Theater. He said the theater project is being re-planned since the cost estimate had grown to $62 million—up from the original allocation of $20 million.

“I have asked the people closest to the matter—Paul [Courant], Karen [Wolff], Robert Kasdin—to come back to me in a very short time frame and tell me where they think we should go from here.”

Paul Courant said the Senate Assembly and the Provost’s Office share common ground. “We are both concerned about the academic issues that relate to the University as a whole,” he said. Courant stated that although he is new to the position and is interim, he wants to make sure University operations and fiscal needs are in order to help facilitate research and teaching. “The library needs the right books; the labs have to be up-to-date, and the trains still need to run on time,” he said.

Senate Assembly Chair Mojtaba Navaab asked Courant about the current status of the administration’s response to the proposals put forth by the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) on prescription drug benefits. “The administration is just about ready to respond,” Courant replied. For more information about the prescription drug issue, visit the Web at

In other action, the Senate Assembly approved two motions:

  • “The Senate Assembly approves of the Teaching Principles document, and commends it to the Interim Provost for review and comment pending joint endorsement and adoption by the end of the Winter Term 2002.”

  • “The Chair of the Senate Assembly requests the Provost to form a joint faculty and administration committee, comprised of three faculty-appointed and three administration-appointed members, to draft a modification of the grievance procedures to address these apparent shortcomings.”

    More information on these two motions is available on the SACUA Web site,, through links on the agenda for the Jan. 28 Senate Assembly meeting.