The University Record, February 22, 1999

MacAlpine to serve as SACUA chair

By Kerry Colligan

The Senate Advisory Committee for University Affairs (SACUA) elected Gordon MacAlpine, professor of astronomy, to serve as chair beginning May 1. MacAlpine will succeed William Ensminger, professor of pharmacology and of internal medicine, in that role.

MacAlpine says he does not envision substantial changes under his direction. “I’ve been quite impressed with past chairs of SACUA. I see SACUA’s role as facilitating communication and open dialogue between the faculty and the administration and Regents.”

One means of achieving that goal, he explained, might be for the SACUA chair to address the Regents each month, rather than annually. “I would like to have more of an ongoing communication with them, where we have the option of talking to them for five minutes at monthly meetings and our concerns are always fresh in their minds.”

In addition to increasing dialogue, MacAlpine sees the increase in non-tenure-track positions as an important issue in the coming year. “We need to stay on top of this issue to assess both its potential positive and detrimental aspects for the faculty and the University. One of my major concerns is that non-tenure track positions will end up providing a significant fraction of the teaching. Who’s going to protect these people in terms of their academic freedom? How much will their teaching be influenced from the outside? I’m worried about the teaching environment and the impact on freedom of thought that is protected by tenure.”

MacAlpine will be joined May 1 by new SACUA Vice Chair Lewis Kleinsmith, professor of biology. Kleinsmith notes that SACUA will begin to prioritize its activities for the coming year at its spring retreat in a few months. However, he adds, “I would be amazed if the Life Sciences Commission Report is not front-and-center in our discussions.

“The report,” Kleinsmith says, “has enormous potential to be positive. SACUA will likely be concerned, to a large extent, with process.”

To that end, Kleinsmith echoes MacAlpine’s comments that SACUA’s role should be that of facilitator. “I am concerned about communication among the faculty. SACUA is nine people very far removed from 3,000 faculty. How can we speak for them? I’d like to see SACUA facilitate more direct communication with faculty.”

While MacAlpine and Kleinsmith have not yet conferred about the coming year, both are eager to begin working in their new roles. “I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m really looking forward to it,” MacAlpine says.

Note: The Life Sciences Commission Report, “Challenges and Opportunities in Understanding the Complexity of Living Systems,” is on the Web at www.umich.edu/pres/LifeSciencesReport/. Paper copies are available by sending an e-mail message to Life.Sciences.Report@umich.edu.