The University Record, January 18, 1999

Assembly Roundup

By Jane R. Elgass

Reports from the Committee for a Multicultural University (COMU) and the Research Policies Committee (RPC), as well as a presentation by Marvin Krislov, vice president and general counsel, were the highlights of the Jan. 11 Senate Assembly meeting.

Committee on a Multicultural University

COMU has undertaken a study on the recruitment and retention of faculty on the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses similar to the recent study done on governance. The study will be designed to identify successful and promising strategies that can be used in recruitment and retention, as well as identifying those that have proven unsuccessful, said Rudolf B. Schmerl, associate professor emeritus of education and COMU chair.

He noted that traditions in some units—such as the practice of not hiring their own graduates for entry-level positions, as well as the practice of hiring one’s own graduates—may actually mitigate against minorities. In many cases, “the process has not been scrutinized,” Schmerl noted, adding that documenting actual practices is one of the goals of the study.

The study also will look at whether executive committees are being utilized to advise search committees of the best way of getting the word out about open positions.

Schmerl noted that within the University’s culture there are many “informal and implicit ways of doing things, particularly when it comes to tenure, based on the assumption that ‘everyone knows.’” While some units may have very effective faculty mentoring programs, others do not. The study will identify existing programs in hopes that the models will be adapted by other units.

Education Prof. Marvin Peterson, director of the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, is assisting COMU in developing the survey, and Schmerl anticipates a brief report “on what seems to be working well” will be available by the end of winter term.

Schmerl noted that faculty initiatives such as the COMU study are particularly important in light of the challenges to affirmative action programs in higher education. He cited the recent decision by the University of Texas at Austin to terminate a $300,000-a-year program aimed at recruiting minority faculty, out of concern that the program could be barred by a court ruling that led the state to stop using racial preferences in admissions.

On the positive side, he cited a Martin Luther King Day program on the recruitment and retention of minority faculty, students and staff as “exactly the type of discussion we hope to ground in our examination of successful strategies and practices. We hope that such discussions will go forth and multiply and bear fruit all across the University.” That program, sponsored by the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, takes place noon-2:30 p.m. today in Room 2211, G.G. Brown Building.

Research Policies Committee

The 16-member (12 faculty and four students) RPC, which meets monthly with staff from the Office of the Vice President for Research, has had an “unusual” past year, said chair Ben van der Pluijm, professor of geological sciences.

That year included work in the spring to help determine the placement of the position of vice president for research within the overall University administration and participation in the fall in the search for a new vice president. (Fawwaz Ulaby was named interim vice president for research, effective Jan. 1.)

The RPC also recently met with Gary Krenz, special counsel to the president, to discuss concerns that the focus of the Life Sciences Commission* might be too narrow and might need to focus on an overall redirection of University priorities.

Van der Pluijm indicated that while the Life Sciences Commission is the first in an anticipated series of such groups, and that its work is on a 10- or 20-year plan, “this is a major initiative with major dollars.” He encouraged Assembly members to read the minutes of the committee’s meeting with Krenz (on the Web at and respond to the Commission.

The Commission “is weighted toward the health sciences,” van der Pluijm said, “and doesn’t include environmental sciences. Major resources back this. We’ve asked the Commission to expand its focus.”

* The Life Sciences Commission was appointed by President Lee C. Bollinger in May 1998 to think broadly about improving the life sciences on campus and to look at initiatives that would build bridges among campus units. A report is expected sometime this term.

Faculty Handbook

The Faculty Handbook is available from Human Resources Records and Information Services, 4073 Wolverine Tower. It is on the Web at


The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) election will be held in March. A list of individuals eligible for nomination will be available at Senate Assembly’s February meeting for nominations from the floor. SACUA will vote on a new chair and vice chair at its Feb. 1 meeting, with those elected taking office May 1.

Upcoming meetings

• The Feb. 15 Assembly meeting will feature Fred Morrison of the University of Minnesota, discussing the “tenure wars” at that school. A copy of Morrison’s article, “Tenure Wars: An Account of the Controversy at Minnesota,” published in Vol. 47 of the Journal of Legal Education, is available from the Faculty Senate Office,; 764-0303; or fax, 936-6420.

• The full University Senate will meet March 15, with a presentation by Jose-Marie Griffiths, executive director, Information Technology Division and university chief information officer. That meeting also includes the annual Davis-Markert-Nickerson Lecture on Academic Freedom, presented by David A. Hollinger, professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, who was at the U-M in 1977–92. His books include Postethnic America: Beyond Multiculturalism (1995) and Science, Jews and Secular Culture: Studies in Mid-Twentieth Century American Intellectual History, forthcoming this month.

• The April 19 meeting will be devoted to a symposium on the divestment of tobacco stocks. SACUA Chair William Ensminger urged Assembly members to suggest potential participants.

• On May 10, the group will hear from Jackie McClain, executive director, human resources and affirmative action.

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