Comments to be Presented to the University of Michigan Board of Regents by Professor Louis G. D'Alecy on Behalf of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA)
The following comments were sent to the Board of Regents on Tuesday, March 17, 1998, and will be presented before the Board on Friday, March 20, 1998.
The "Action Request " you have before you is a request to expand the membership of the Medical School Executive Faculty to include Clinical Track II and Research Track faculty. At this time, the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) and the Academic Affairs Advisory Committee (AAAC) to the Provost, strongly and unanimously oppose this proposed action because it is a threat to the principles of faculty governance which AAAC, SACUA, the President, and the Provost, have endorsed. SACUA is concerned about the profound negative effects this proposed change could have on the future of tenure and the professoriate throughout the University of Michigan. By delaying this action the Regents will allow needed time for an informed discussion and consideration across the university. Such deliberation was cited by Regent McFee, just this past July, as being essential to the functioning of the University. SACUA heard of this imminent action less than two weeks ago. This was not even time for our recently formed Study Group on the Professoriate to convene, let alone thoughtfully discuss the matter.
On the surface this proposed expansion appears to be an action with impact limited to the Medical School. However, the substantial increase in non-tenure track executive faculty produced by this action has ramifications for all faculty and the university. The necessary discussion must actively involve all current tenure track faculty who could be impacted by a fundamental change in the University's policy toward tenure.
This proposed change to Regental Bylaws would produce a major increase in numbers of non-tenured executive faculty. Since 1990 there has been approximately a ten-fold increase in Clinical II non-tenure tract appointments just within the Medical School. Last summer this Board gave initial approval to a motion which more than doubled the number of University units allowed to have such non-tenure track clinical appointments. The pending motion specifically states that these additions to the Executive Faculty "...shall perform the duties assigned to the governing faculties of other schools and colleges." A wholesale increase in non-tenured faculty will dilute and eventually destroy the tenure system. It has already markedly changed the percentage of non-tenure track faculty in the Medical School. This trend could undermine the very essence of the University's academic mission by overwhelming the University with individuals with a substantially different incentive structure.
Our concern is not about the clinical competence, capability, or recognition of Clinical Track II faculty. Clinical faculty at the Medical School, as across the campus, tend to be experienced practitioners. Some can also serve as educators and role models for medical students, and still others are employed and paid by the UM hospital to fulfill specific clinical or geographic needs. Their distinguishing characteristic is that Clinical Track II primarily practice medicine, while regular tenure track faculty in clinical departments have always maintained the full academic responsibilities of teaching, research, and service.
Other skilled professionals are also associated with the University. Corporate executives, like some of you, are recognized for their managerial skill. I think we would all agree that it would be inappropriate to give the corporate executive surgical operating room privileges at the University Hospital. Likewise, it is inappropriate to have even the most experienced practitioner in any discipline positioned to function as an executive faculty member at the university. Some have attempted to rebut this idea by pointing out that some of these individuals can be excellent teachers and should be recognized for that skill. When that is the case, invite these excellent teachers to join the tenure track faculty as full partners in the academic mission and have them share their talents by functioning as professors and contributing to the university's teaching, research, and service missions. If they are to primarily practice medicine then perhaps they can be titled Assistant Staff Physician, Associate Staff Physician, and Staff Physician, avoiding the issue of such appointments on the composition of the tenure track professoriate.
The Dean of the Medical School, the Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, the Provost, and the President have each indicated they consider this "Action Request" a "formality" that simply codifies the existing situation. We disagree. Regental Bylaw is the foundation of University governance. This proposed change to those bylaws does not codify existing practice but puts forth a significant increment in the rights and privileges of these two supplementary faculty tracts. There are, for example, specific limitations put on Clinical Track II faculty as presented in the current guide books used for appointments, promotions, and tenure procedures used by faculty at the Medical School. These guide books currently state that Clinical Track II faculty may not serve on the Medical School Executive Committee. But the proposed "Action Request" would eliminate these restrictions and give Clinical Track II full university wide executive faculty status based on the weight of a Regental Bylaw not dependent on an unrecognized unit handbook.
The Medical School faculty has never responded to Regent Bylaw Sec. 5.03 and 5.04 and brought forth to the Regents a set of bylaws for their unit. In the absence of unit bylaws the unit is required to operate using the Board of Regents' Bylaws and Robert's Rules. The Medical School faculty has not been doing so. As suggested in the second line of the "Action Request", the Medical School Executive Faculty voted to expand its Executive Faculty. This vote was evidently taken in 1986. The required "Action Request" for a change in Regental Bylaws was never made, until now, when both SACUA and the Board of Regents were told there was a moratorium on changes in the bylaws. On the one hand we are told this is an exception, and therefore needs to be acted upon now, and on the other we are told this is a routine "formaility". It is difficult to see how it can be both exceptional and routine and to understand from whence the pressure comes to push this through. The Medical School has been operating independent of Regent Bylaws and in the absence of unit bylaws for at least 12 years. What is the urgency for change without current discussion?
How valid is a 12-year old faculty vote? The question is of validity, rather than legality, for the Provost and President argued, in an emergency meeting of SACUA, that the vote was legal, according to the General Council, and was affirmed by current practice. We question if it validly reflects the current voice of the faculty. We hope the Regents will encourage current and thoughtful discussion of this matter rather than taking immediate action. In 1986-87 there were a handful, significantly less than 20, Medical School Clinical Track II Faculty. The "Old Main Hospital" still stood. President Shapiro headed the UM, none of the current Executive Officers was an Executive Officer, and none of the current Regents was a member of the Board. Actions of any governing body are suppose to reflect its composition. A vote from unit governance is supposed to reflect the will of the unit's faculty, not a faculty of 12 years ago. As you are all aware, there have been major changes in the health care system and medical education over the past 12 years. There are now over 200 non-tenure track Clinical Track II appointments in the Medical School. SACUA is calling for a current, informed Medical School wide, and University wide, discussion of the implications of such an expansion of the executive faculty. Full disclosure of the anticipated impact, not only at the Medical School, but throughout the University is necessary before the University and the Board seriously consider such a change. If an informed vote of the current Medical School faculty indicates they want to bring this forth for consideration by the Regents, then it should most certainly be brought forth. I believe SACUA would still resist the proposal based on the threat it poses to the rest of the University. We cannot let pressures in the Medical School, financial or otherwise, cloud our judgment about this most fundamental aspect of the University's academic mission.
SACUA is not asking the Provost, President, or Board to overturn a unit faculty vote, not even a 12-year old vote. SACUA is asking that the Regents table this matter until it can be fully and openly discussed by the current faculty concerned. This means not only the medical school faculty but the faculty throughout the university. Let us not have the University of Michigan be the setting for the begining of the end of tenure --- even if by over-populating our academic ranks with colleagues who serve a necessary and important role, but one that is not the central to the University's academic mission.
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