People’s Town Hall conducts third meeting

Kaitlyn Bergman, Writer

People’s Town Hall is striving for all to be informed of the Strategic Transformation.

On January 25, the third People’s Town Hall event was conducted in both the Michigan Rooms on campus and via zoom. The first two Town Hall events were met with an outpour of concerned and involved members of our community. This event strives to bring awareness to and rally for a transparent strategic transformation plan at UM-Flint. 

Kim Saks, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Masters of Public Administration Program Director clarifies that “there is this idea that [we] are against transformation, but that is far from the truth.” This movement has started from faculty, staff, students and alumni coming together from not having the “chance for these discussions” 

Kim Sacks challenges the audience: “so let’s have them,” and offers a chance for members in attendance to advocate for their concerns and have an opportunity to discuss them.

For this third event, open to all who wish to attend, information was readily available in a variety of different ways. Flyers, documents, and a chance for others to ask questions or provide feedback were common themes from the start. At the beginning of the conversation, a document titled “Directionless Strategic Transformation: The Problematic Huron Analysis” was shared to discuss. Within this, several issues are mentioned.

Another problem addressed is that, according to this document, this transformation has been “selective, silenced voices, and had a predetermined endpoint.” This is due to factors such as focus groups for this transformation being invite-only, tainted survey responses due to fear of retaliation, and community members not being invited to community engagement sessions, and in the cases they have been invited, it has been done with “cloaked intentions.”

People’s Town Hall is a movement that has stemmed from community members asking for more and being “told they were complaining.” These events offer a way for members of the community to gather and have these conversations about the strategic transformation plan.

Another issue the “Directionless Strategic Transformation”  brings up is the fact that the data used by Huron is not transparent. In fact, Huron and the University have refused to publish raw data despite requests by the community. 

Communication on the strategic transformation has been so unclear that even those that had been requesting the data were not sure if it had been made available, as once this issue was discussed, speakers requested correction and input with more information from those in attendance.

This is connected to another issue the document mentions how “the analysis that has been done does not cover any operational or structural deficits that the institution may have but it does make major suggestions to alter these operations. In so doing, the analysis does not evaluate what is currently being done at a central level and instead penalizes academic programs,” which causes “any opportunity for true transformation” to become unlikely. This puts “new burdens on academic programs that have been put under austerity measures for over a decade,” according to the document. 

It is also mentioned how Huron’s data is being collected and interpreted. One aspect of this, in particular, was mentioned by Daniel Andrew Birchok, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at UM-Flint. He talked about how his Anthropology students “get jobs that aren’t ‘for Anthropologists’” and how this causes an error with how Huron is using data as the job categories listed and associated data are conflicting which causes analysis of them to be impaired. 

When looking at this data, an issue that The Problematic Huron Analysis addressed is how “broad categorization is made in one report about public administrators while neglecting that many public service professionals fall outside of the title ‘public administrator.’” 

People’s Town Hall has been discussing these issues immensely, so much so their movement continues to grow. Now, the Instagram account ThePeoplesUMF has sprouted, using the social media platform to rally for “an equitable and sustainable transformation at U of M Flint.” For those interested in joining the movement to follow updates, you can find their Instagram here.

Additionally, the Office of the Chancellor encourages following the strategic transformation on the section of the University’s website while making progress towards the “ultimate goal” of helping “UM-Flint emerge as an academically strong and financially viable institution.”