Stories indexed with the term ‘tenure’

UM Grad Researchers Get Right to Unionize

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (May 19, 2011): This month’s regents meeting, held at the Dearborn campus, began with rare public discord between a majority of board members and UM president Mary Sue Coleman – and an even rarer public debate between regents.

Mary Sue Coleman

University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman before the start of the May 19, 2011 regents meeting, which was held at the Fairlane Center on UM's Dearborn campus. (Photos by the writer.)

The issue was a resolution introduced at the start of Thursday’s meeting – an item not originally on the agenda – to support the rights of graduate student research assistants to decide whether to organize and be represented by a labor union. Before the vote, Coleman spoke out against the move, describing the relationship between graduate researchers and faculty as a special one that was fundamentally different than an employee-employer relationship. Changing the nature of that interaction could affect the university in significant ways, which she said caused her deep concern. The board’s two Republican regents – Andrew Richner and Andrea Fischer Newman – also objected to the resolution, both criticizing the fact that it had been introduced at the last minute without time for adequate discussion.

The resolution passed on a 6-2 vote, with Richner and Newman dissenting. It was notable in part because, with the exception of votes regarding tuition increases, nearly all votes by the board are unanimous, and in accord with the administration’s recommendations.

The meeting also included a variety of other action items, but none that spurred commentary by regents. They voted to increase room and board rates for 2011-12 by 3%, approved the schematic design for a $52 million expansion of Crisler Arena, and authorized the tenure or promotion of 169 faculty members on the Ann Arbor campus.

Regents also authorized creation of the Institute for Health Care Policy & Innovation, a new venture to be housed at renovated space in the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) – a $13.7 million renovation project that regents also authorized at the meeting. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs, said the institute will be the largest co-located group of health care researchers anywhere in the world.

In other action related to the NCRC, regents approved agreements – among a collection of 17 conflict-of-interest disclosures – with six start-ups that will lease space in the former Pfizer site, as part of the university’s Venture Accelerator program.

And in another item added to the agenda during the meeting, regents voted to approve the hiring of Lisa Rudgers as UM’s new vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives, effective June 1 with a salary of $270,000.

The board also got an update from Sue Scarnecchia, UM’s vice president and general counsel, on the Compliance Resource Center – a new website that coordinates various compliance efforts at the university.

At the end of the meeting, philosophy professor Carl Cohen spoke during public commentary, passionately urging regents to intercede in the renovation of East Quad in order to prevent the Residential College from being pushed into smaller, inadequate space. The RC is a living-learning program that Cohen helped start in the 1960s, and that’s housed at East Quad. If regents did nothing, he said, “your Residential College will atrophy and fade away.” [Full Story]

UM Regents Applaud $56M Taubman Gift

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (April 21, 2011): Other business at Thursday’s regents meeting was upstaged by a late addition to the agenda – news that billionaire Al Taubman was giving another $56 million to the university.

Eva Feldman, Al Taubman, Judy Taubman

Al Taubman, who recently donated $56 million to fund medical research at UM, is flanked by his wife Judy Taubman, right, and Eva Feldman, a UM neurology professor and director of the Taubman Medical Research Institute. Seated behind them is Kellen Russell, who won a national championship in wrestling and was also recognized by regents at their April 21, 2011 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The donation – to fund work at UM’s Taubman Medical Research Institute – brought his total gifts for that institute to $100 million, and his total overall UM contributions to more than $141 million. He is the largest individual donor to the university.

In conjunction with this latest gift, regents approved the renaming of the Biomedical Science Research Building – where the institute is housed – in honor of Taubman.

In thanking Taubman, board chair Julia Darlow called his gift transformative, and noted that his name has been “stamped” on the university in many ways – at the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, the Taubman Gallery at the UM Museum of Art, Taubman Health Care Center, Taubman Health Sciences Library, and the Taubman Scholars program, among others. Though he did not complete a degree, Taubman did study architecture at UM and has been involved with the institution for decades.

The real estate developer, who’s widely credited with popularizing the modern shopping mall, is not without controversy. Taubman maintains his innocence, but the former owner of Sotheby’s auction house served about nine months in federal prison in 2002 for an anti-trust conviction related to a price-fixing scheme with Christie’s, a major competitor. At the time, university officials stood by him in the face of calls to remove his name from UM buildings.

In addition to announcing Taubman’s most recent gift, the regents handled a variety of other items during their April meeting. They unanimously approved an extension of the maximum allowable tenure probationary period to 10 years, and before voting heard from several UM faculty members on both sides of the issue. Regents also approved several million dollars in infrastructure projects, as well as a new degree program in health informatics.

Chris Armstrong, who made national news after being harrassed by a former state assistant attorney general, gave his last report as outgoing student government president and was thanked by university executives for his leadership. Regent Libby Maynard told Armstrong he’d helped all of them grow during the year.

And during the time set aside for public commentary, students and staff raised several issues, including negotiations with the nurses union, campus sustainability efforts, and a proposal to partner with an Israeli university for study abroad. [Full Story]

UM Tenure Probationary Period Extended

At its April 21, 2011 meeting, the University of Michigan board of regents approved a change to Regents’ Bylaw 5.09 that will extend the maximum allowable tenure probationary period to 10 years. It has been set at 8 years since 1944. Seven faculty spoke during the meeting’s public commentary, most of them in support of the change. Regents had previously heard from faculty – most of them from the UM Medical School – at their Feb. 17, 2011 meeting. The change does not impose the longer period, but allows faculty governing groups at UM’s various schools and colleges to extend it, if they choose.

From a memo accompanying the proposed revision: “The changing nature of scholarship, with its emphasis on interdisciplinary projects, more complex research models requiring the setting up of sophisticated equipment and laboratories, and increased regulatory and compliance requirements, increases the time necessary for completion and evaluation of initial research results. These factors, combined with the fact that many faculty members, especially those from two-career and single-parent households, find it increasingly difficult to balance their teaching and
research commitments with family obligations, have led to the conclusion that a more flexible tenure probationary period is warranted.”

This brief was filed soon after the meeting’s adjournment from the regents boardroom in the Fleming administration building. A more detailed report will follow: [link] [Full Story]

UM Regents Hear from Grad Student Union

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Feb. 17, 2011): About midway through Thursday’s meeting, dozens of graduate students quietly streamed into the boardroom, many of them carrying signs of protest and wearing brightly-colored T-shirts emblazoned with the Graduate Employees’ Organization logo.

University of Michigan graduate student research assistants and instructors at Feb. 17, 2011 regents meeting

University of Michigan graduate student research assistants and members of the Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO) crowded the boardroom at Feb. 17, 2011 board of regents meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

They came to support four speakers during public commentary, who were advocating for better benefits and working conditions for graduate student employees. Also speaking during public commentary were five professors from the medical school, urging regents to support a flexible “tenure clock” that would give faculty more time to achieve that professional milestone.

The meeting’s main presentation focused on international aspects of the university – students from other countries who study at UM, and American students who study abroad. Mark Tessler, vice provost for international affairs, told regents that three-quarters of the UM students who study abroad are female – they’re trying to find out why male students aren’t as interested.

The presentation led to several questions from regents, who wanted clarification about why UM doesn’t offer an international program in Israel. They also cited the importance of finding incentives to keep international students in Michigan after graduation.

Regents also voted on several items, mostly without discussion, including: approving the next step in a major renovation of Alice Lloyd Hall; giving departmental status to the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies; and officially naming the new Law School commons in honor of Bob Aikens, a UM alumnus who donated $10 million to the project.

Another UM alum, Gov. Rick Snyder, had released his proposed state budget earlier in the day. Prior to the meeting, several university executives huddled with Cynthia Wilbanks, vice president for government relations, to get updated on the implications for their own budget – funding for higher education is among the many cuts Snyder has proposed. President Mary Sue Coleman also addressed that issue in her opening remarks. [Full Story]

AAPS Pursues Tenure Charges Against Two

Ann Arbor Public Schools board of education meeting (Dec. 15, 2010): At Wednesday’s meeting, the AAPS board of education voted unanimously to pursue tenure charges against two teachers – high school orchestra teacher Christopher Mark and elementary classroom teacher William Harris.

Chris Mark conducts a rehearsal Monday afternoon of the Huron High symphony orchestra.

This early 2009 Chronicle file photo shows Christopher Mark as he conducts a rehearsal of the Huron High symphony orchestra. (Photo links to Jan. 12, 2009 Chronicle article about a visit from lead violinist for the Guarneri String Quartet, Arnold Steinhardt.)

In neither case did the board explain its reasoning or share any details of their investigation. However, public commentary about Mark’s case revealed the board’s concern that Mark had engaged in a possibly inappropriate relationship with a woman when she was a student at Huron High School five years ago. Mark and the woman are currently dating.

Also at the meeting, AAPS interim superintendent Robert Allen presented a draft of proposed changes to the district’s strategic plan. Three of the eight original action teams for the plan, each centered on a core strategy, have been asked to reconvene from January to March of 2011 to clarify the focus of their work in light of the proposed changes. Finalized updates to the strategic plan will be presented in April 2011 for board approval.

A number of additional actions were taken by the board at the meeting, including adoption of a set of principles to be used in drafting education reform legislation. The principles will now be shared with other local districts in the hopes of presenting a unified set of suggestions to legislative representatives early in 2011. [Full Story]

AAPS Lays Off 191 Teachers

Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education meeting (April 21, 2010): In one swift action item on an otherwise skeletal agenda, the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) board of education voted unanimously to lay off all 191 of its probationary teachers, starting in June. Probationary teachers are commonly called “un-tenured.”

Todd Roberts Ann Arbor Public Schools

Todd Roberts, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools. (Photos by the writer).

While introducing the item, AAPS superintendent Todd Roberts noted, “This is certainly a very difficult thing for myself and for this board to be recommending tonight,” but said he was hopeful that AAPS will continue to work collaboratively with its employee groups to end up with “as few job reductions as we possibly can.” District officials hope that many of the layoffs will be rescinded before the start of school in the fall.

Last night’s meeting also contained the first of two public hearings on recommendations from the district’s sexual health education advisory committee regarding materials to be used in elementary-level sex education. [Full Story]