The University Record, September 17, 1997

Faculty Perspectives page is back

By Prof. John T. Lehman
Chair, Faculty Perspectives Page Committee;
and Secretary to the Faculty Senate, Senate Assembly and SACUA

The Faculty Perspectives Page has been a feature in The University Record since 1993, when it was pioneered by act of the Faculty Senate Assembly. The idea was to provide a corridor for faculty expression to reach the entire University community, and to alert all members to important issues that faculty wish to elevate for discussion.

 

The Page will continue this year with a series of faculty essays on issues that face the University. By agreement between the Senate Assembly and the administration, editorial control of the content of the columns resides with the faculty, and review is overseen by a committee of the Senate Assembly, the Faculty Perspectives Page Committee.

 

What is the Senate Assembly?

The originating body for the Faculty Perspectives opinion page, the Senate Assembly, is by act of the Regents the only directly elected body of faculty representation within the University. Election to the Senate Assembly is from the University Senate, which consists of all members of the professoriate, research scientists, and certain professionals of the libraries. Its Executive Committee, SACUA (Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs) is charged with advising the president on University matters. Other committees of the Senate Assembly are charged to advise each of the various vice-presidents of the University, and to report to SACUA and the Senate Assembly. The chair of SACUA is identified as the leader of the faculty at the University of Michigan.

 

Information about SACUA, the Senate Assembly, and faculty governance in general is available on-line at www.umich.edu/~sacua/. In capsule summary, the University of Michigan has an administrative structure in which its chief executive, the president, is appointed by the Regents, and in turn appoints other administrators. Unit executive committees are also appointed administratively, although in most cases preliminary votes are used to establish pools from which executive committee members are selected. In contrast, the members of the Senate Assembly are elected directly by their fellow faculty according to rules of apportionment among the various Schools and Colleges. The Senate Assembly holds open meetings monthly during the academic year. Both agendas and minutes of past meetings are posted on the faculty governance Web site referenced above. Because the Senate Assembly is charged regentally with the task of advising the university administration on a range of topics, the Assembly maintains active committees across a spectrum of subjects from research policies to budget to university relations.

 

Who can submit a Faculty Perspective?

Any member of the University Senate is eligible to submit a Faculty Perspective essay. Prospective contributors are invited to contact the full committee at faculty.perspectives.page@umich.edu, or the committee chair at jtlehman@umich.edu. Submissions are accepted in electronic form and are subject to review by the Faculty Perspectives Page Committee. Essay lengths must be limited to one full printed page in The University Record, or about 1,500 words. In some cases, two shorter essays can be printed on the same page.

 

Upcoming Faculty Perspectives Issues

During the years just prior to President Bollinger's arrival, there had been signs of strain in the relationship between administrators and elected faculty representatives. One provost had declined to meet with his regentally mandated advisory committee, the Senate Assembly's Academic Affairs Advisory Committee. The president declined to meet with his advisory committee, SACUA, in open meeting. The campus was exposed to series of management decisions and imposed mandates that were achieved in isolation from open discussion and analysis by and with the elected faculty. Much of the strain probably resulted from an attempt to impose a corporate business model and command structure on a public university.

 

Within the past few months, by contrast, there has been a remarkable change of atmosphere at all levels. Exchanges of information with University officers are increasingly bidirectional, and there is evidence that advice is not falling on deaf ears. In his McInally Lecture, President Bollinger articulated his vision of the University in terms distant from corporate, business-centered mentality, and more consistent with academic values and intellectual integrity. As he continues to rebuild the central administration of the University, we can expect to see this vision cascade through its bureaucracy and create many points of cooperation and exchange of ideas between administration and faculty. The resulting synergy is bound to be healthy and beneficial for the institution and our students.

 

In this new atmosphere there is an opportunity to give vent to opinions that have been bottled up in the past. This year we may be able to bring forward faculty expressions on such subjects as VCM, compensation practices, grievance practices, faculty governance, intellectual property rights and broad-scale accountability at all University levels. As the material and opportunity permits, essay topics will be matched to upcoming discussion topics in the Senate Assembly. Both President Bollinger and Provost Cantor have expressed to SACUA their desire to encourage faculty participation and input on the myriad topics that confront them at this University. Consequently, the Senate Assembly has provided a forum where opinions can be aired and entered into debate. The Faculty Perspectives Page committee hopes to hear from many of you.

 

Meanwhile, if you wish to learn what your faculty representatives discuss with the new president and provost, visit the minutes of SACUA meetings at http://www.umich.edu/~sacua/hp10j.html.

Both President Bollinger and Provost Cantor meet with SACUA in open meetings, and the exchanges are reported regularly. Equally important, faculty are invited to contact their Senate Assembly or SACUA representatives to propose agenda items or to pose questions for future meetings. The names and electronic mailboxes of the representatives can be found through the faculty governance Web page.