The University’s Board of Regents meeting this Thursday marked University President Mary Sue Coleman’s 131st — and final.
Along with goodbyes spoken by the other regents, Regent Andrea Newman (R) made a presentation that lauded the outgoing president’s efforts to sustain funding through economic disparity, enrich research and entrepreneurial efforts and promote diversity within the campus community and student body.
Coleman, in return, thanked the board for their support and teamwork during her 12-year tenure.
“My management philosophy has always been to surround myself with the brightest individuals possible, and they are all right here at this table,” Coleman said.
Regent Andrew Richner (R) also gave a presentation honoring Timothy Slottow, outgoing executive vice president and chief financial officer. Richner, speaking on behalf of the board, thanked Slottow for his leadership in times of economic depression and wished him luck in his new position as head of the University of Phoenix
Approval of the fiscal year 2014-2015 budget
The regents approved an operating budget of nearly $1.8 billion for fiscal year 2015, including a 1.6-percent in-state tuition increase and a 3.4-percent out-of-state tuition increase.
Slottow began the budget meeting by giving the financial health report of the University for the last fiscal year. He reported an increase in the general endowment fund, submitted a plan to increase staff and faculty and voiced his approval with the fiscal year 2015 budget proposal.
Though tuition will increase for students despite the augmentation of the general endowment fund, the University plans to use the money for several initiatives to aid learning, diversity and student life.
University Provost Martha Pollack said LSA plans to upgrade small classrooms with wireless projection capabilities and establish long-term loans for laptop computers for low-income students.
E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life, detailed the accomplishments made on the Residential Life Initiative, a program created by Coleman to revitalize the residence halls experience at the University. She applauded the implementation of unlimited residential meal plans and improvements made to Central Campus residence halls.
“The connection between living and learning on this campus has never been stronger,” she said.
Debate over the proposed student increase for CSG funds
After Harper proposed a fee assessment for Central Student Government, Student Legal Services and internal school and college governments, Richner and Newman opposed the motion, arguing students should not be asked to pay more a mandatory student fee. Both regents agreed that a voluntary fee assessment would be a better way for student governments to raise funds.
“Though I appreciate the students wanting more money, we all want more money,” Newman said.
After the opposition, regents Laurence Deitch (D) and Mark Bernstein (D) voiced support for the proposed fee assessment. They both said the University is unique due to its many student groups on campus.
“This kind of support for our students is so essential to the culture of our university,” Bernstein said.
The proposal was approved by a 6-2 margin.
Appeal for divestment from fossil fuels
Several members of Law Students for Responsible Divestment from Fossil Fuels urged the regents to administer an ad hoc committee to start explore divestment from fossil fuel industries.
Third-year Law student Aaron Schaer said continuing to invest in fossil fuel deviates from the University’s emphasis on sustainability. He added Stanford University and Oxford University have also enacted similar measures.
LSA junior Laura Hobbs also voiced her support for divestment, citing a study published by the School of Public Health which reported poor air quality leads to many health hazards, including higher infant mortality rates.
“If we as a university continue business as usual and maintain investment in coal and oil industries, these statistics will continue to perpetuate at the cost of human health and lives,” she said.
Biology Prof. Knute Nadelhoffer spoke to the regents about the research he did on how ecosystems remove carbon from the atmosphere, and the scientific bases of climate change. He also urged University executives to create a committee and honor student and faculty requests to divest from fossil fuels.