The University Record, April 19, 1999

Staff are 'not adequately represented' at Regents' table, White says

By Rebecca A. Doyle


Even though she grew up in Ann Arbor, Regent Katherine White didn't know how large and complex the University was.

"I didn't realize until I became a Regent how big and how complicated this place is," White told members of the Association for Black Professionals, Administrators, Faculty and Staff (ABPAFS) on a cold and rainy Friday afternoon. "It will probably take about a year for me to get to know this place."

White, one of the two Regents who began their eight-year terms in January, joined ABPAFS members at their April meeting in an informal session scheduled to introduce her to the group. She talked about how to bring concerns to the Board of Regents and asked in return for help in "formulating the right questions" to ask about affirmative action issues on campus.

If there are really strong concerns, she told her audience, it is best to take them to individual Regents for their input and consideration.

"If a Regent brings something to the administration, it becomes very critical. During public comments [sessions at Regents meetings] there is a chance to inform, but there is generally no conversation with the Regents."

In turn, White asked ABPAFS members to help by answering the following questions:

"What kind of students are we looking for? How do you feel about the scores we use to admit students?" she asked. "What, in particular, are the experiences you have had with student success?"

White also listened to and responded to such issues and concerns as deferred maintenance on campus and legislative funding to assist with the physical plant maintenance.

"It doesn't seem that there has been systematic upkeep [of the buildings]," White noted. "We are very decentralized and places like the Hospitals move more quickly while others move more slowly. The U-M is not likely to get more money from Lansing for this. They are sending a signal--if we commit more to the state, the state will invest in us."

Graduate student Dan Patton told White and ABPAFS members about research he had done involving faculty job satisfaction reports at U-M.

"The faculty is scattered and don't know each other. Minorities have listed as problems collegiality, classroom presence and their validation as a presence in the classroom," he said.

White agreed that Black faculty members face different challenges and issues than white faculty and said that it was important to "get recognition that things are unequal."

In addition to having small numbers of Black faculty members spread across the Ann Arbor campus, White noted that minority faculty, especially women, are asked repeatedly to serve on committees as representatives of their race or gender or both. Because there are not large number of Black faculty members, many are asked to serve on several committees.

"There are not enough people to put on committees to represent us," White said. "Those who serve on committee after committee have so much to do they may not get tenure because of fulfilling those commitments, then they are gone."

White also expressed a concern about the lack of staff input. "There is no vice president for staff issues," she said. "People are not adequately represented [to the Regents]."

She said that Regents hear about the issues raised by the several unions that represent University staff, but those issues "generally do not get up to the Regents" at regular Regents' meetings.

White said she learned a lot from the session with ABPAFS members, and acknowledged that there was much to work on. She said she hoped future discussions would be possible.