Joy Beatty, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, provided the following prepared answers to questions about topics that the central faculty governance system will address this year, as well as its role in the university decision-making process.
Beatty, associate professor of management at UM-Dearborn’s College of Business, will chair the central faculty governance system’s nine-member executive arm for the academic year, as well as the 74-member elected Senate Assembly and the Faculty Senate, which includes all professorial faculty, librarians, full-time research faculty, executive officers and deans.
Q: What are some topics SACUA will prioritize or address this year?
A: My top priority, as it was for the last two SACUA chairs, will be to strengthen communication between faculty governance and the faculty as a whole. We do this through the Senate Assembly and the 20 advisory committees that report to Senate Assembly through SACUA. This is the best way to broaden avenues of communication between the faculty and the central administration, making sure that as many voices as possible are heard. We’d also like to increase the communication between our committees and the Senate Assembly, so members can share what they learn with others in their units. This fall we will be hosting the Big Ten Academic Alliance Faculty Governance Conference in October, which brings the faculty senate leaders from all the Big Ten universities to learn about shared issues faced in faculty governance. We’re planning the 29th Davis Markert Nickerson Academic Freedom Lecture, also in October, with speaker Hank Reichman from the American Association of University Professors. Another priority will be to continue the review of the faculty grievance system that we began last year.
Q: What do you view as the needs regarding the faculty grievance monitor training process?
A: SACUA appoints faculty grievance monitors who receive training in management of the process from Academic Human Resources. The grievance monitor’s job is to act as a neutral party, making sure the process runs smoothly. That said, the grievance monitors are viewing the process from their perspectives as faculty members. We think that expanding the training of grievance monitors will enable them to function more effectively to the overall enhancement of the process.
Q: How do you view SACUA’s role in developing and guiding university policy?
A: SACUA meets regularly with the president and the provost, who seek our input on issues of general concern across the three campuses. We recognize that university policies are often developed by relatively small groups who share common interests. SACUA can offer an outsider perspective and help the administration gain a sense of the way the broader campus community will react to its initiatives. This is also why advisory committees, and regular meetings (at least twice a term) between members of the administration and their advisory committees can be so important. The executive vice president for medical affairs, for example, has said that having input from people who are not part of the Medical School expands his perspective. The Student Affairs Advisory Committee provides a space for the administration to get both faculty and student perspectives and has sponsored a number of initiatives in recent years. The Academic Affairs Advisory Committee is a sounding board for the provost, just as the Financial Affairs Committee is for the chief financial officer. Faculty governance does not make policies, it provides perspectives the administration can use to make better policies.
Q: Do you think SACUA’s role as currently structured adequately serves the faculty and the university?
A: The overall structure of our Faculty Senate system, which includes Faculty Senate, Senate Assembly and SACUA, is a good one for faculty governance of a large campus. For our more active decision-making bodies of SACUA and the Senate Assembly, membership rotates every year. We all serve three-year terms, and my role as chair is for a single year. This structure gives more opportunity for broad involvement, which should translate into broad representation of faculty voice — assuming we have the institutional systems and memory to carry initiatives from year to year, which can be a challenge. The staff in the Faculty Senate Office play an important role in providing continuity since faculty membership changes so much.
Q: How do you view SACUA’s relationship with the administration and the process of conveying the faculty voice to decision-makers?
A: Our relationship with the president, provost and executive officers is good. When we need to get information or convey a concern, we send an email or make a phone call, and we typically get a fast response. We asked President Schlissel last year to remind the executive officers to keep SACUA in the loop, and we were grateful to hear that he did so.
Q: What direction do you think SACUA should move into for the future?
A: Our purpose and mission exists, as defined by the Regents’ Bylaws and the cultural history of our institution, and I don’t think we need to change that. Each Faculty Senate chair has furthered the mission of faculty governance as circumstances have permitted. It remains our job to present faculty perspectives to the administration in a way that will strengthen our community and the mission of the university. This communication is built through mutual respect that enables clear communication.