University of Michigan Regent Michael J. Behm (D) speaks at February's Board of Regents meeting. José Brenes/Daily. Buy this photo.

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The One University Campaign (1U), a coalition of students and faculty dedicated to increasing equity across the University of Michigan’s three campuses, have declined to support Regent Michael J. Behm (D) for failing to meet their objectives. The group’s goals include creating a budget model to increase funding for the Flint and Dearborn campuses. 1U aims to ensure students attending U-M Flint and Dearborn have access to the same resources as students on the Ann Arbor campus. 

Jacob Lederman, associate professor of urban sociology at U-M Flint, is a member of the 1U steering committee. This committee oversees the daily work of the organization. Lederman explained that in the past, Regent Behm, a Democrat from the Flint area, has articulated support for ensuring tri-campus equity but has not acted on it. 

“Our campuses are really different, and we definitely aren’t looking for everything to be exactly the same on each campus, but I think we’re hoping for a budget model that is fundamentally different from the way it is now,” Lederman said. “The current budget model really punishes Flint and Dearborn.”

Not only has 1U campaigned for a revised budget model, but they have also advocated for the Go Blue Guarantee across all three campuses to match Ann Arbor’s program. This initiative provides free tuition to in-state students and families that earn under $65,000 annually. Currently, under the Go Blue Guarantee, students at the Flint and Dearborn campuses face a GPA requirement not found in the Ann Arbor version of the program.

“We had advocated (for the extension of the Go Blue Guarantee for Flint and Dearborn campuses) for a really long time for the Flint and Dearborn campuses which resulted in a kind of watered-down version of that program,” Lederman said. “We would like Regent Behm to immediately and publicly come out in favor of a full Go Blue Guarantee funded through central administration for the Flint and Dearborn campuses.” 

LSA senior Logan Smith, another member of the 1U steering committee, said that the 1U coalition would favor a regent who supports the increase of funds to the Flint and Dearborn campuses. In an op-ed, Lederman and Smith argue Behm’s actions have not reflected his promises, and he has not used his position to help push forward key policy actions espoused by  1U maintaining programs at the Flint and Dearborn campuses

“Right now it’s not so much that we want somebody other than Behm,” Smith said. “We’d still be willing to endorse Behm if he comes around to supporting our goals, and if he doesn’t, then we would certainly consider other options.”

In an interview with The Daily, Behm said he is in full support of allocating more money toward the Flint and Dearborn campuses, explaining that there have been two times the University distributed funds to the Dearborn and Flint campuses so far – June 2020 and June 2021. He further explained the difficulty in effectively allocating money to these two campuses when the board is only given money for one budget year.

“I spoke to the board and spoke to President Coleman about having an allocation to Flint and Dearborn that is for five or six or seven years … a long span of time so that you can do some planning around that,” Behm said. “And I feel as though it was well-received, so I think that’s something we’re going to be able to do for both the Flint and Dearborn campuses and help them out for long-term planning.”

Regent Behm told The Daily he disagrees with the accusations that he has been inactive in pursuing policies to help the Dearborn and Flint campuses and invites 1U’s members to contact him. He said he fully supports what 1U stands for and said that the person he has reached out to the most is LSA Professor Bob King, one of the founders of the 1U coalition and former United Auto Workers (UAW) president  .

“With regard to the board taking action, I have met with them physically several times … I am fully in their corner,” Behm said. “Maybe part of their frustration is that they didn’t hear from me, but at the same time, I welcome their phone call [and] am glad to discuss this.”

Regent Behm said under former University President Schissel’s leadership, the Flint and Dearborn campuses were not prioritized. Behm emphasized the importance of the presidential search committee’s efforts in finding a president who will work toward making the Flint and Dearborn campuses a priority.

“I believe the Board is very focused, along with the new presidential search committee, of finding a president who will prioritize the Flint and Dearborn campuses,” Behm said. “That is something that I made a point of mentioning, and in addition to the 8 board members who do prioritize that, I feel as though the search committee feels as though it’s important also.”

He said it is important to make a plan for these campuses’ funding. Regent Behm also confirmed that he is running for reelection.

“I think it needs to be a significant amount of money; I think it needs to be more than what has been given to the campuses in the 2020 and 2021 budgets. I’m talking about $10 million dollars a year for each campus or more,” Behm said. “I do feel as though it’s important to revitalize the liberal arts fields of study on each campus”

The University’s Central Student Government has also been a proponent for 1U’s goals, with members working within the coalition. CSG has gone further to become a part of Students of Michigan, an organization consisting of representatives from student governments on the Flint, Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses, that advocates for tri-campus equity. Students of Michigan is closely aligned with 1U’s goals, and CSG has two delegates in this organization.

Since CSG is apolitical and a non-profit, they are unable to endorse candidates for the Board of Regents. However, this does not prevent them from supporting the causes these candidates advocate for. Public Health senior Nithya Arun, CSG President, said CSG is working for student representation in the Board of Regents, whether a member of CSG or another member of the student body. 

“I guess our struggle right now is trying to get … student representation on the Board of Regents,” Arun said. “We are trying to get past this first hurdle of just trying to get some representation and then once we acquire consent for that, figuring out who is best suited to serve as the student voice on the Board of Regents.” 

Both Smith and Lederman stress 1U’s goal of reinstating funding for the numerous programs that have been subject to budget constraints or removed. The Flint campus has removed the Spanish major, while Dearborn has cut its applied music major. Smith said Regent Behm would need to support distributing central funds, which are used for programs such as financial aid and administrative expenses.

“We’re still working out the details of this, but it will probably be something involving transfers of money from central funds to the University of Michigan-Flint and the University of Michigan-Dearborn and making sure those funds go to fund liberal art programs that have recently been cut or are at risk of being cut,” Smith said.

Daily Staff Reporter Brooke Halak can be reached at bhalak@umich.edu.