Academic Senate votes on insignia, hears updates from the provost

Provost Nancy Mathews speaks during the president and provost's report at the Academic Senate meeting on April 18, 2023.

At the Academic Senate meeting on April 18, senators heard several updates from Provost Nancy Mathews and voted on an insignia for graduation. 

Mathews talked about the goals of the Graduate Compensation Committee and gave an update on the strategic planning process. 

Graduate Compensation Committee 

Mathews has put together a committee to examine how graduate student employees are compensated and determine if they’re paid a living wage. 

“When I arrived on campus and looked at the stipends being paid to both masters and Ph.D. students and looked at the completion rates simultaneously, it raised a question for me of ‘when our students come here, are they able to complete their degree programs?’ And ‘When they leave without completing, is it due to the level of compensation?’” Mathews said. 

She mentioned that graduate employee compensation is something she’s looked at while previously employed at other universities. 

Mathews said that wages for graduate employees haven’t changed for several years, and she wants to see students finish their degree programs without having to get another job or go into serious debt. 

Students at the University of Michigan have been voicing similar concerns of their own recently, going on strike for over four weeks now to advocate for what they consider a living wage of $38,500 per year, according to an article from the Detroit Free Press. 

Mathews said her interest in this issue and the formation of a committee predates the events at UM. 

“They’re asking good questions, and those questions will probably be asked here sooner or later,” she said. 

There has not been an on-campus union for graduate employees since 2021, and even then, it was only licensed to represent teaching assistants, rather than including research assistants or other assistant positions. 

Mathews speculated that the inactive state of the union is probably due to a gap in filled leadership roles. She said those roles take a lot of time and energy that a lot of graduate students don’t have to spare. 

Insignia for graduation

The Academic Standards and Honors Committee, a branch of the Academic Senate, presented insignia from 11 different campus organizations and one individual. 

Each group and individual had submitted proposals for their insignia to be worn by graduates at commencement in some form, such as a stole or cords. 

All 11 group proposals were passed unanimously, and those are: 

  • The Business Residential College
  • Sigma Alpha Lota
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
  • The Society of Women Engineers
  • Sigma Psi
  • Hillel at CMU
  • The Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
  • The Student Government Association Executive Board
  • Chi Sigma Lota
  • Alpha Kappa Psi
  • Lambda Alpha

The only other proposal was from an individual, Brendan Seewald, who submitted a personal design. 

Senators voiced concerns before turning down Seewald’s proposal about setting a precedent for allowing individuals to design their own insignia, because they said could create an economic divide between the students who can pay for a personalized stole, and students who can’t. 

Strategic planning update

Mathews also offered an update on strategic planning during her report. She said they’re wrapping up their listening sessions, which have been happening over the entire Spring 2023 semester. 

“Thank you to everybody who made time to attend sessions or fill out questionnaires,” she said. 

The questionnaires are still available to fill out online.

“We already have over 500 responses and we’re looking for as many as we can get,” Mathews said 

She said the next step is having open sessions where “distillers,” or the people who have gone through, categorized and put labels on actionable advice, can present what they’ve put together from the listening sessions. 

After this, Mathews said, the Strategic Planning Committee will move on to creating the “academic vision,” or a rough draft for the priorities of the next strategic plan.