UMich Senate Assembly may add clinical faculty and lecturers


The University of Michigan Faculty Senate met Monday in University Hall in the Alexander G. Ruthven Building to discuss the possibility of a partial reorganization of the Senate Assembly.

The Faculty Senate currently consists of more than 4,250 members from three UM campuses — all tenure-track professors, research faculty, librarians, executive officers and dean members. Currently, only tenure-track faculty, researchers and librarians can run for a seat on the Senate Assembly, a more selective body. The Faculty Senate discussed opening the Senate Assembly for lecturers and clinical faculty.

Sylvia Pedraza, Chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, called the meeting to order and introduced University President Santa Ono to the committee. Ono addressed the committee and answered questions from Faculty Senate members. Ono spoke about her transition to the role of president and the value of faculty governance.

“The University of Michigan is an institution that I have admired for a long time,” Ono said. “This University Senate is a very important body, and I hope you will welcome me to have such conversations regularly.”

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Ono said academic excellence and building trust in central administration are two of his top priorities. Ono told the Senate that he is committed to implementing UM faculty’s response to meeting these goals.

“We hope to have a clear vision of where we’re going in a year and we’ll be rowing in the same direction (as a university),” Ono said.

After Ono spoke, Senate lecturers and clinical faculty—who often teach at the medical school and work at Michigan Medicine—discussed the possibility of expanding the Senate Assembly to the Faculty Senate. These faculty are currently not allowed to run for Senate Assembly positions.

Pedraza proposed a resolution that would increase the total number of representatives in the assembly from 74 to 87, 76, or 78—a decision that would depend on whether the Faculty Senate votes to approve the addition of just lecturers, just clinical faculty, or both. Neither school will lose seats, but some or both groups may have the opportunity to elect additional representatives to the assembly if they are allowed to join.

The Senate was divided on whether the Assembly should be restructured to make room for clinical faculty and lecturers. Brian Zink, the medical school’s senior associate dean for faculty and faculty development, expressed his support for the structural change.

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“Full representation is the fair and right thing to do for all the hard-working people who earn faculty appointments at UM,” Zink said. “Adding clinical track faculty from the medical school to the senate will add diversity to the senate and represent our overall faculty as only our tenured and research graduates are doing at this time.”

Zink gave two examples of clinical faculty members who might consider joining the Senate as a representative if they were able to run: Laura Hopson, a clinical professor and associate chair of the medical school’s department of emergency medicine, and Gifty Kwaki, a clinical associate professor of surgery. Zink said both have expressed interest in the race and will bring a wealth of perspective and knowledge to the rally.

“(I’m saying this) to put some face to these ideas and to highlight two clinical track faculty members who are examples of the kind of people we’ll bring to the Senate,” Zink said.

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Michael Thouless, a professor in the College of Engineering, called for the Faculty Senate to keep its current structure. Thouless previously served as chair of the Faculty Senate from 2007 to 2010. Thouless says the large faculty senate already has enough voices, so keeping the assembly small is ideal. Instead, he said clinical faculty should form their own committees, like SACUA, which collaborates with the Assembly and Senate, but has separate meetings.

“(Senate Assembly) is not a club; It addresses the academic issues of different groups,” Thules said. “Clinical faculty should come together as a group similar to how SACUA works.”

Due to time constraints, the Senate decided to vote on whether to vote on the recommendation at Monday’s meeting. They fell short of the required two-thirds supermajority, so the Senate decided to continue discussions at a later meeting and possibly vote on the matter in the future.

Daily News contributor Emma Lapp can be reached [email protected].

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