The University Record, October 15, 2001

Faculty ask Regents for voice in searches

Editor’s Note: The following communication was given to the Board of Regents Oct. 5 from the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) and Senate Assembly.

We write to you under the authority vested in the faculty and their elected representatives by Section 4 of your bylaws. A compact exists between the Regents and the faculty binding us both to guarantee the vitality and excellence of this great public university.

The departures of President Bollinger and Provost Cantor force upon us all the need to attend to the health and structure of the administration. These departures, and the potential that others may follow, underscore the truth that senior and valued administrative officers do come and go. The lifeblood of the institution can be found in its numerous and loyal faculty, committed to enduring excellence and service. The Regents, by virtue of the public trust, and the faculty by virtue of their lasting commitment to academic ideals, share common cause.

You have endowed the faculty with substantive responsibilities to advise all of the executive officers in the creation and implementation of policy, and in all aspects of decision-making. The Senate Assembly and its appointed committees will continue to advise the executive officers as we all move ahead. Section 4.04 of your bylaws provides our guiding principles.

The faculty representatives now offer active partnership with the Board of Regents to fill such executive officer positions as may prove necessary, and to assist the smooth and productive work of those offices under interim candidates. In recent years, there has been an unfortunate drift within many of these offices toward reliance on internally constructed, administratively-appointed advisory committees. While such bodies may seem to be efficient, the institution is best served in the long run when your bylaws are strictly observed.

Similarly, closer collaborations and governing partnerships are needed across the colleges and schools of our University during this crucial time. Membership within the Academic Programs Group, consisting now only of deans and the interim provost, should be returned to its customary composition by including the elected chair and/or vice chair of the faculty.

Pending deliberation and actions by the full Senate Assembly, the legislative arm of faculty governance at the University of Michigan, we offer the following recommendations to the Board of Regents.

1) The search for a new University president must supercede the search for a new vice president for academic affairs and provost. Competent interim officers, assisted by the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee and the Tenure Committee of the Senate Assembly, can perform the necessary functions of this office now.

2) Those principles delegated to the faculty for the functioning of our University as an institution of higher learning, and to its obligations to the state, should help guide the presidential search. To this end, SACUA is prepared to serve among the advisors to the Regents, as was its practice in past years.

3) The policy recommendations and reports developed by the Senate Assembly and its committees over the past year must not languish. A mutual partnership of interim administrators and elected faculty governance leaders, under the watchful oversight of the Board of Regents, will ensure vigorous and robust policy development through open and honest deliberation.

With the almost simultaneous departure of two colleagues as central and respected as Lee Bollinger and Nancy Cantor, you must perform one of your cardinal duties under the law. We stand ready to join you in ensuring the success of our common purpose, the lasting success of our great University.