SACUA chair: Faculty and administration working together, but challenges remain
Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) Chair Dr. Charles Koopmann Jr. said relations between U-M administration and faculty have continued to be collegial and productive as the University focuses on and completes tasks important to the institution.
But there are challenges ahead for President Mary Sue Coleman, the regents, and the University's faculty, staff and students, Koopmannassociate chair of the Otorhinolaryngology Departmentsaid Nov. 20 in the annual SACUA report to the Board of Regents.
Koopmann updated the board on SACUA's agenda. Among the successes he noted:
• Revision of the Teaching Principles and Responsibilities document, designed to discuss the importance of teaching at U-M and to be a guide for faculty and administration (http://www.umich.edu/~sacua/AcadAff/teaching.htm);
• Development of a task force to deal with the issue of child care for students, faculty and staff. "This issue is very real for many at U-M, both due to the cost and difficulty in finding adequate facilities," he said;
• Provost Paul N. Courant's implementation of SACUA's proposal to create a central faculty ombuds position that will address potential grievances or areas of concern to faculty members. "This is an example of how the faculty and administration can work together to accomplish positive results," Koopmann said;
• Completion of a survey on the reaction of faculty to the AdvancePCS prescription drug program, he said.
"Unfortunately, everything is not rosy," Koopmann said. "The continued reality of decreasing support from the state of Michigan poses a very real threat to our ability to fulfill the phrase leader and best.' In fact, we have some areas where this phrase simply does not apply."
Koopmann said challenges facing the University include:
• The continued change in faculty composition with the increase of non-tenure track personnel. "It has important ramifications not only for the faculty but also the University," he said. "It is a topic that simply must be addressed";
• The issue of benefits for active and retired faculty and staff. "It will be very difficult for University employees to accept the marketplace rationale for paying more for health care, on one hand, and the continued increase in items such as parking, on the other," Koopmann said;
• A concern by faculty and some staff regarding their ability to speak openly and freely on controversial topics, especially if they are at odds with deans, chairpersons or the University. "The fear of retribution, ridicule and chastisement is very real," he said. "This should not be the case at an institution of higher learning where academic freedom should be the guiding principle";
• Facility needs in several areas, including intercollegiate athletics and the building of a new Women's and Children's Hospital;
• Faculty involvement in admissions. "Now that the Supreme Court has reached its decisions, the faculty expects to be involved in the refinement of our admissions criteria," Koopmann said. "While some positive steps toward these goals have occurred, we shall monitor our involvement closely."