As the new school year begins, the record asks Silvia Pedraza, chairman of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, to share her thoughts on the next year of UM’s core faculty governance, including SACUA, the Senate, and the Undergraduate Senate. I asked
How do you see SACUA’s relationship with government and its ability to bring faculty voices to decision makers?
Unfortunately, the events surrounding the resignations of former Chancellors Martin Filbert and Mark Schlissel betrayed much of the faith in the faculty at the University of Michigan. They also helped create a rivalry between faculty and administration that did not exist in the past. I am currently the Chair of SACUA, but many years ago I was the Vice Chair of SACUA, so I feel the difference.
Until now, faculty governance has been linked to government. SACUA and the Senate have pushed the administration the way we think it should, but we have always respected it and never had the animosity these recent events created. We must now restore lost trust and regain the respectful yet firm attitude we had in the past.
What would you like to change in that relationship? how would you like to change?
We are now entering an important period in the history of our university. The crisis surrounding the president and presidential figures has brought us into the national spotlight in a very negative way rather than the positive way people are used to seeing us. , we are now in an extraordinary moment where we have both a new president and a new president at once. Both look like great people. For faculty, it is an opportunity to forge new relationships that can grow from shared effort and new trust, rather than old relationships born of resentment and mistrust.
What are your governance priorities for SACUA and central faculty in the coming year?
To restore mutual trust among faculty and staff, and to make everyone feel that they are here to do their best for the school.
To ensure that administrators hear the voice of faculty and take into account their knowledge of the institution and its student body when making important decisions.
Insist on treating each other with respect when teachers disagree about which policies to support or which path to take.
What should be the role of the faculty governance system in setting and guiding university policy?
When faculty join SACUA and the Senate, they are taught that our role is to advise, not to make policy. But that advisory role can be pretty disappointing when leaders listen little to our advice and effectively ignore us. Faculty members and administrative leaders see and experience the university from different perspectives, so we don’t expect them to always listen to us. But I think they should listen to us enough so that we can participate in the important decisions that shape our entire life in college.
As Chair of the Faculty Governance Committee, what is your main message to incoming President Santa J. Ono?
I have been in Michigan for a long time. I’ve known good college presidents for a long time, including Harold Shapiro, Robben Fleming, Jim Düderstadt, and Mary Sue Coleman. They were different, but they were all fine men and women who sacrificed themselves to make it a great institution that we all felt good to belong to. , should consider himself to be in the lineage of great presidents of the University of Michigan.
As soon as the presidential inauguration was announced, I looked up Santa J. Ono on the University of British Columbia website and found that he pursued excellence in both research and teaching, as well as racial and ethnic diversity. I’m glad to have found the proof. Both are long-standing Michigan commitments, so he fits well here. His knowledge of large public research universities will also be of great help to him. As Ono pointed out, we often think of ourselves as too big and unwieldy, but such institutions also have enormous energy.
In what ways is central faculty governance working well and what areas need improvement?
We at SACUA and the Senate are now getting involved in connecting the old and the new. What is new is technology (online meetings, video conferencing) that has improved faculty participation in governance. The old one is how people in the Senate arrived at decisions through the deliberative process of Congress. The debate benefited from a completely different perspective expressed in parliament. With the help of an IT support person, I’m trying to connect the old with the new for the benefit of the faculty.
— Silvia Pedraza is Chair of SACUA, the Senate, and the Faculty Council. She is her LSA professor of sociology and American culture.