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2010-11-19

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Regents Notebook: 'U' requests 2.6-percent increase in state funding

BY JOSEPH LICHTERMAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 18, 2010

FLINT, Mich. — The University’s Board of Regents unanimously approved a letter to be sent to the state’s budget director requesting a 2.6-percent increase in state appropriations for the University at its monthly meeting at the University’s campus here.

Written by University President Mary Sue Coleman and presented to the regents by University Provost Philip Hanlon, the letter is submitted to State Budget Director Robert Emerson annually by the University. The document details the University’s cost containment efforts and its economic influence on the state as a whole.

In the letter, Coleman wrote that the University is a catalyst for economic recovery in Michigan. The additional 2.6 percent in funding, she wrote, would cover inflationary costs as well as a one-percent loss in need-based state scholarships like the Michigan Promise Scholarship.

“We acknowledge the fiscal circumstances of the state,” Coleman wrote. “Nevertheless, the University of Michigan plays a critical role in the stabilization and revitalization of the Michigan economy. And, we play a critical role in the development and education of our workforce and cannot risk jeopardizing the quality of our institution, research and service.”

Though the regents voted unanimously to approve the letter, there was some level of dissent within the board.

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R–Ann Arbor) said she thinks the University should have requested more than just a 2.6-percent increase.

“I don’t understand why, if we’re doing this, why we wouldn’t ask them for more,” Newman said. “This is an opportunity to lay some things out and I don’t think we took it.”

In an interview after the meeting, Newman said it’s inappropriate to only ask the state for a 2.6-percent increase, but then charge students more through tuition increases.

Regents approve fireworks display for Big Chill at the Big House

The regents unanimously voted in favor of having a close-proximity fireworks display at the Big Chill at the Big House — the outdoor hockey game against Michigan State University to be played at Michigan Stadium on Dec. 11. The game is expected to break the world record for attendance at a hockey game.

The fireworks, which will be supplied by ACE Pyro, LLC, will be set off from the roofs of the new luxury boxes during player introductions before the game and during a 10-minute display after the game, according to a communication to the regents from Tim Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. He wrote that fireworks will also be shot up from the field after every Wolverines goal.

“I’m told by the Athletic Director (David Brandon) that to further enhance the fan experience we’d like to display some close proximity fireworks,” Slottow said at yesterday’s meeting. “We’re going to have a demonstration here today, no just kidding.”

Slottow assured the regents that all precautions will be taken to ensure the safety of the display.

“This has been extensively reviewed with the fire marshal, with the general counsel and with risk management,” Slottow said. “We’ve run these guys through all the paces, and the Ann Arbor Fire Department, (too).”

State law requires that the regents approve any such firework displays, and the regents expressed concern that any future requests for fireworks would have to be brought before them for a vote.

Suellyn Scarnecchia, vice president and general counsel of the University, said such matters would be brought before the regents at least once more.

“We brought this one because it was the first request (for close-proximity fireworks),” Schrnecchia said. “Our intent is to bring a second one the next time they wish to do it and have that blanket approval for a period of time. We think that we can do that under state law.”

Regents approve renovations to MLB, School of Ed.

The regents approved $3.4 million in renovations for the Modern Languages Building and the creation of the Brandon Professional Resource Center and Archive of 21st Century Education Library in the School of Education building.

The College of Literature, Science and the Arts will provide $2 million to renovate the basement and the second floor of the MLB.

As part of the renovations, the former space of the Language Resource Center, which is now located in North Quadrangle, will be turned into the LSA Instructional Support Services Media Center, currently in an off-campus building rented by the University, according to Slottow. Additionally, Slottow told the regents at yesterday’s meeting that the film editing studios in the media center will be moved to the MLB.

“This is a follow up from the opening of North Quad that allows us to request approval to proceed with a $2-million project to renovate 24,000 square feet of the MLB building to create classrooms, offices and film editing rooms,” Slottow said.

Construction is expected to be completed next summer.

The Brandon Professional Resource Center and Archive of 21st Century Education Library — the result of a $1.4- million donation by Athletic Director David Brandon and his wife Jan, as well as investment returns and funds from the School of Education — will be created through a repurposing of storage space in the School of Education building. The project is expected to be completed next autumn.

Regents approve Winter Commencement speakers, honorary degree recipients

The regents also unanimously approved the Winter Commencement speaker and honorary degree recipients.

Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics for his groundbreaking Prospect Theory, will be the commencement speaker, in addition to receiving a Doctor of Science degree. Kahneman developed the theory at the University as a visiting scientist in the mid-1960s.

“It’s very wonderful, and I’m very happy that he’s going to be the speaker,” Coleman said of Kahneman in an interview last week.

World-renowned astronomer Sandra Faber will be awarded a Doctor of Sciences degree, and Charles Munger, a University alum and vice chairman of investment firm Berkshire Hathaway, will be presented a Doctor of Laws degree.