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Five faculty members vie for three SACUA spots

Editor's note: The Senate Assembly will elect three new Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) members at its March 17 meeting. Position statements and biographical information follow.

Michael Combi
Combi (Photo courtesy College of Engineering)

"What distinguishes the large elite research universities (both the privates like Stanford and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as the publics like the University of California, Berkeley and U-M) is their dual role of nurturing the next generation of the leaders and best while enabling the current generation to advance basic and applied knowledge for the benefit of the country and mankind. It is the unique aspect of integrating education with research for both these purposes that universities such as U-M strive. The presence of a world-class research faculty enables U-M to add both a breadth of research in terms of more research areas, and a depth, in terms of big research, not possible with only tenure-track teaching faculty, and thus provides a wide range of research opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students.

"We enter a trying financial period for the state and University when a number of difficult policy decisions will need to be addressed. The most effective course of action will be one in which all major players have a voice. I am pleased to have been nominated to stand for election to SACUA at this time, when we need both audible and reasoned input into the administration, as well as communication back to the faculty regarding the issues and trade-offs surrounding tough decisions."

Combi graduated from Manhattan College in 1973 and completed his Ph.D. in physics in 1979 from the University of Toledo. He came to the U-M Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences in the College of Engineering in 1989 as an associate research scientist and moved up through the ranks to senior research scientist. He currently is in his second year on the Faculty Senate Assembly.

Richard Fisher
Fisher (Photo by Keary Campbell)

"SACUA and SACUA-backed committees need to continue their role of being a leader in initiating new proposals, as well as reacting to University proposals concerning faculty governance and welfare. There are many issues facing the faculty, such as faculty governance, health-care considerations, tenure and promotion, the electronic classroom, etc. As an example, the just-initiated Prescription Drug Program has had Senate Assembly as well as SACUA input into its formulation. However, the program needs to be closely monitored for its overall effectiveness. SACUA already has plans to seek faculty and staff feedback so that positive changes in the program can be brought about as the University continues to work with the plan's provider.

"The recent economic woes of the state are causing significant reductions in general fund appropriations. This mandates that SACUA work closely with the executive office to make sure that faculty benefits are not adversely affected by these anticipated reductions. Examples are changes to the prescription drug program co-payment schedules and the proposed changes in the health care coverage for dependents of future faculty when they retire. The range of issues is broad, even affecting the loss of season ticket discounts for faculty and staff. I will be vigilant and firm in my commitment to maintaining present faculty benefits as well as finding ways to further enhance the position of all faculty, active and retired, on all three campuses. I will work with the University administration to maintain and enhance faculty status within the University. Simply stated, my goal will be to maintain present faculty benefits while trying to improve the status of the faculty where possible."

Fisher, associate professor of dentistry, has been on the faculty since 1969. He has served as interim department chair and director of one of the school's undergraduate dental student treatment clinics.

Richard Gull
Gull (Photo by Call Photography)

"I have agreed to be a candidate for SACUA because I believe that active faculty governance is vital to the academic integrity of any university. The principles of faculty governance must be continuously scrutinized and implemented. They are always subject to erosion by the temptations of short-term economies of efficiency, the outsourcing of many functions like financial planning to professional organizations, and insufficient participation by faculty members. The bleak budget situation projected for the next several years will affect everyone in the University community. It will influence decisions about budget priorities, benefits, promotion, tenure, teaching, research and the goal of achieving genuine diversity. As the only University-wide legislative faculty committee in the governance structure, SACUA must collaborate constructively with the president, provost and other administrative officers to formulate policies that will enhance the excellence of the University even in these more constraining economic circumstances.

"I recently served three terms on the Senate Assembly and am currently serving a second year on the Civil Liberties Board (CLB). The CLB experience has impressed on me the general importance of placing acting on principle above acting on calculations about the supposed effect a policy might have."

Gull, professor of philosophy, has been at U-M-Flint since 1965. He served three terms as department chair and has served on numerous committees, including chair of the General Education Committee.

Dale Karr
Karr (Photo by David Smith Photography)

"The faculty, represented by the Senate Assembly and SACUA, must be the backbone of reaffirmation in the University community that our primary purpose is to provide the best possible education to all levels of students. Indeed we share a broader mission for serving the state and the world community, but our raison d'etre is to educate students; this in turn demands a strong, healthy research environment, infrastructure, and a continuously strong voice from the faculty at large to serve this purpose.

"A well-rounded, world-renowned university such as ours must address many pressing issues, ranging from day-to-day financial and administrative duties to planning for our visions of the future. We have in fact a superlative university administrative structure to accomplish our University's mission through participation of the faculty, but it demands our diligence and our actions. Our executive officers are charged with general oversight of programs, services and financial welfare; but the faculty at large must not defer the operation of the University to central and unit administrations. The governing faculty has responsibility at both the academic unit and the institutional levels. There is often an unfortunate tendency for us to forget that our responsibilities remain in effect even when we have delegated some governance powers to administrative officers. As a SACUA member, my first priority will be to make certain the views of the faculty, who know firsthand of students' needs, be heard and addressed."

Karr joined the University in 1990. He is associate professor of naval architecture and marine engineering. Karr received his B.S. from Michigan State and M.S. from the University of Tennessee in engineering science and mechanics. He received a Ph.D. from Tulane University in 1983. In 2000, he was elected to Senate Assembly.

Jens Zorn
Zorn (Photo by Karen Zorn)

"Our university faces challenging intellectual, social and financial problems. Many of the relevant decisions are made by administrators who have only a limited opportunity for prior discussion with the faculty and staff who have the task of implementing those decisions. In this climate, SACUA is the most important channel for directly communicating the concerns of the faculty to the executive officers of the University. SACUA needs members with the breadth and experience to communicate these concerns in convincing fashion.

"My university and college service includes a year as acting director of the Residential College, three years as associate dean for curriculum in LSA, four years as LSA ombudsman, three years on the LSA Executive Committee, two separate terms on Senate Assembly, and service on University committees for classified research, academic tenure, free speech policies, and on the lack of faculty role in undergraduate admissions.

"My work in the physics department includes service on the executive committee, directing graduate admissions and developing parts of the physics undergraduate curriculum."

Zorn, professor of physics, earned a bachelor's degree from Miami University (Ohio) and his Ph.D. in physics from Yale. He also spent one year at the University of Tubingen in Germany.

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