The University Record, December 10, 1997

Faculty Perspectives: Report from the Faculty Chair

Remarks to the University of Michigan Board of Regents by Prof. Louis G. D'Alecy, Chair of Senate Assembly and SACUA, 20 November 1997

Once a year the Chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) reports to the Regents on selected activities of central faculty governance. The Chair serves for only one year and thus virtually all activities represent ongoing e fforts of many faculty over several years rather than the agenda of any individual. As I am sure you appreciate, serving as an elected representative of the faculty is at best a dynamic process. One attempts to hear and appreciate the enormous range of opinions and interests presented by the Senate Assembly and the faculty. No matter what the issue, strong statements of agreement and disagreement will be encountered. This is not a failure of process. This is as it should be, for lively debate, discus sion and deliberation are the lifeblood of academia. They force us to think carefully and should remind us to cherish our freedom to do so. We must all learn to view intellectual diversity, not as disharmony, but as reflecting the university's greatest treasure-academic freedom.

It is with great satisfaction that I can speak to you today of an era of cooperation and collaboration among the faculty, staff and administration. We have been working toward restoration of the faculty's proper position in governance of the Universi ty. Transitions in the administration have reopened opportunities for faculty to step up to responsibilities of governance that are clearly identified in the Regents' Bylaws. I draw to your attention to three particular efforts.

The first collaborative effort: The Principles of Governance document. This blue and white pamphlet included in your handouts on the one hand is considered an obvious re-statement of Regents' Bylaws, and on the other hand, a revolutionary manifesto by faculty reclaiming their rightful position in University governance. It is perhaps both, but more importantly, it was crafted by joint efforts and agreements of faculty and administration and has been endorsed and distributed by the President and Pro vost. I quote from its introduction: "Faculty participation in governance promotes and encourages diversity of ideas, a sense of shared responsibility, collaboration, collegiality, and institutional excellence." This document has given many faculty new hope in the University's return to the highest academic principles.

The second collaborative effort: The Grievance Model document. We now have a much needed revision of the internal University procedures for hearing faculty grievances. When a new procedure is adopted within the colleges it will allow faculty to hav e their disagreements with the administration dealt with in a fair, timely and responsive manner. After four years of study and hard work by a joint faculty-administration conference committee a consensus model document has been delivered to the SACUA of fice and the Provost. We are anticipating broad adoption of this model procedure to deal with faculty grievances in a consistent and fair manner and to give a functional path for redress of faculty grievances. When the deans and governing faculty are pr esented with a new procedure they will be encouraged to adopt it with only technical adjustments to meet specific unit or school needs. We hope this new model procedure will prove a more useful means for faculty and administration to resolve conflicts wi thout resort to litigation.

The third collaborative effort: The Faculty Handbook project. A joint effort has just begun for revising the Faculty Handbook. Issues of tone, accuracy, organization, ease of future revision, access and overall utility are being addressed. While n either a redraft of Leviticus, nor a AAA Triptik through academia, the revision of the Faculty Handbook is long overdue. Along with the Standard Practice Guide and Regents' Bylaws, the Faculty Handbook helps faculty and administration navigate the, at ti mes, troubled waters of academic excellence. We have great expectations for this revision to be another collaborative success story. As with the first two projects I described, there are substantive differences in perspective and tradition for both facu lty and administration to overcome. Fortunately, there are dedicated administration representatives and faculty working hard on this project and I hope that it reaches completion before the end of my term.

Perhaps less formal than these three collaborations, but clearly reflecting mutual respect, are the recent visits of the President and Provost to Senate Assembly. The faculty resonated with the opportunity for extended question-and-answer periods wit h these new executive officers and were able to engage them easily and openly on a refreshing range of topics. Likewise, SACUA's monthly meetings and open dialog with the President and Provost have continued to grow the mutual understanding needed to mak e this University the best in the world.

I will make brief comments on a few current governance activities.

Faculty and administration: I, like many others, have always held that the faculty are the university. What then is the administration? Professional, non-faculty administrators are a vital element of the university structure and can be used to opti mize university function. However, to maintain a primarily academic focus to the university the individuals that hold the key policy making positions within the university must have their roots deeply within the faculty. Teaching a class while being Pre sident highlights the renewed importance given to an administration based on a faculty foundation. There is much in the day-to-day running of a university that calls for more attention than a faculty member can give between classes. Faculty, however, ha ve important roles in setting the tone and philosophy of its operation. The faculty must have a role in articulating the institution's priorities. The we-they posture of the past for faculty vs. administration is counter productive. I look forward to t he day when the concept of university faculty once again includes those who primarily serve as administrators. We are working to make it once again clear that faculty participation in governance is a worthy calling and must be considered a valued part of faculty contribution to the overall excellence of the University.

Tobacco stock divestment: SACUA and Senate Assembly resolutions to recommend divestment from tobacco stocks were passed on to you on previous occasions. These were not meant to be adversarial or financially irresponsible, but rather show that facult y are concerned about issues that impact our nation's health and well being. We, the University, should not be profiting from misfortune of others and we ask that the Regents consider divestment from tobacco stocks.

Diversity and segregation: Endorsement by SACUA and the Senate Assembly of the President's position on diversity reflects a willingness by faculty to develop and continue broad discussion on the issues of diversity and segregation. No simple solutio ns are at hand; the community needs to continually discuss and evaluate our actions in dealing with this issue in society today. Much progress has been made but careful inspection will reveal that we have taken but the first steps. We are looking to the "next steps."

Tenure: Steadfast commitment of the University of Michigan to tenure is strengthened by the faculty's willingness to discuss rigorous peer review of its faculty and administration at all stages of their involvement with the University. Financial, po litical and social exigencies should not taint this vital aspect of academic excellence. The University's international stature can be sustained only if the intellectual autonomy and academic freedom afforded by tenure is defended, preserved and supporte d by faculty, administration and the Regents. The faculty remain vigilant and the President and Provost remain strongly supportive.

Regental access: The need for further development of communication between faculty and Regents is made obvious by our lack of time for more substantive exchange concerning the multitude of issues I touched upon today. Multiple alternatives for acces s are under discussion but our current hope is that existing mechanisms will be utilized more effectively in facilitating such exchanges.

Now for the fool's mission of projecting the future. For the rest of the year, SACUA and its advisory committees will have under consideration a wide range of issues.

1. There is ongoing consideration of the role of faculty on the Board in Control of Intercollegiate Athletics. The question is to what extent are faculty truly "in control" of intercollegiate athletics and how faculty can fulfill our responsibility to the student athlete.

2. We have learned that there is interest expressed from within the administration for revisions of Regents' Bylaws. We anticipate assisting in identifying areas of the Bylaws that need revision and areas where new bylaws need to be developed.

3. The structure and role of the Department of Public Safety is of ongoing interest to the faculty and means are being sought to involve faculty as well as the broader University community in setting the missions for DPS.

4. While graduate and professional admissions have always received intense focus by faculty, the equally important role of faculty in undergraduate admissions has been less developed. We hope to explore this area and determine if faculty can be of a dditional use to this process.

5. The institutional impact of the changing nature of the professoriate is being addressed at several levels of governance with careful attention to possible negative consequences of excessive use of non-tenured faculty to meet immediate unit goals.

6. Your advisory committee, the CESF, is working with the administration to fashion workable fringe benefits and overall compensation plans. This area involves considerable faculty sentiment and hence will continue to draw faculty attention.

This can be an era of great success for the University. It feels good to participate in a growth of collaboration and shared responsibility with our new administration. As the attitudes and directions set at the top permeate the unit and department levels, outdated management strategies are being replaced by the highest academic goals and standards. Our time today does not permit discussion of many of these areas, but they are part of University life and thus require the attention of the faculty an d the support of the administration and the Regents.