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On Thursday afternoon, the University of Michigan Board of Regents gathered at the Richard L. Postma Family Clubhouse for the annual meeting to approve budget proposals for the University’s three campuses, athletic department and the University Health System. The board also appointed a new U-M Flint chancellor and a new LSA dean.
University President Mark Schlissel began the meeting by holding a moment of silence for the passing of Douglass Diggs, husband of Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs (D).
“(Douglass Diggs) was passionate about creating opportunities for talented, but underrepresented students,” Schlissel said. “He was active in the U of M community, and the Michigan family will miss him deeply.”
Schlissel then announced the winner of the Russell Lectureship, the University’s highest honor for senior faculty, as Engineering professor Steven Forrest. He also recognized Carrie Ferrario, assistant professor of pharmacology, Xianzhe Jia, associate professor of climate and space sciences and engineering, Corinna Schindler, associate professor of chemistry and Megan Tompkins-Stange, assistant professor of public policy, as recipients of the Henry Russell Award, the University’s highest honor for faculty in the early to middle stages of their career.
To replace current U-M Flint chancellor Susan Borrego, Schlissel recommended chancellor Debasish Dutta, the former chancellor of Rutgers University. The board unanimously appointed Dutta, whose five-year term begins on Aug. 1.
Later in the meeting, Provost Martin Philbert recommended Anne Curzan, professor of English language and literature, as the new LSA dean. Appointed by an unanimous vote, her term will begin Sep. 1.
“As a faculty member, she exemplifies the University’s commitment to research, teaching and service to higher education and to the broader public,” Philbert said.
Much of the meeting centered around approving budget proposals — all of which were approved — for the 2020 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Schlissel began the budget presentation by emphasizing an additional $23 million in funding for need-based financial aid, which Schlissel said will “offset” a 1.9 percent increase for in-state undergraduate tuition. He noted this in-state tuition increase is the smallest in six years.
With the 11.2 percent increase in financial aid funding, Schlissel said tuition rates this next year will not increase for most in-state undergraduates with need-based aid packages.
Philbert presented a 3.7 percent increase to out-of-state undergraduate tuition and a 3.2 percent increase to graduate tuition. A new $500-per-term fee will also be introduced for international students on F and J visas at the Ann Arbor campus to fund services for this specific student population.
Royster E. Harper, vice president of student life, proposed a 4 percent increase in room and board costs for the Ann Arbor campus and recommended all other student fees remain the same.
Borrego recommended a 5 percent tuition and fees increase for in-state undergraduates as well as a 5 percent increase in need-based aid for U-M Flint.
At U-M Dearborn, in-state undergraduate tuition and fees will see a 2.9 percent increase and out-of-state undergraduate tuition and graduate tuition will both increase by 5 percent. Existing financial aid programs will have an 11.4 percent increase, the highest amount of financial aid support in U-M Dearborn’s history.
Before handing the budget discussion to Philbert, Schlissel acknowledged concerns of the One University campaign, which was created with the goal of mitigating resource inequities between the University’s three campuses.
“We feel a shared sense of commitment to making the critical investments necessary to promote student success and academic strength at Flint and Dearborn as well as Ann Arbor,” Schlissel said.
To support each campus, Schlissel explained the University will consider making “strategic investments” and encouraging “shared efficiencies and synergy.” Schlissel also discussed the state legislature’s role in funding and resource allocation towards the three campuses.
“We continue to be disappointed in the state’s chronic underfunding of higher education,” Schlissel said. “The state can and should do more for its rising generation.”
In his presentation, Philbert noted support from the state legislature has not kept up with inflation, explaining there is a $247 million gap between what state support in 2002 is worth now given inflation and how much the state budgeted towards the University for the 2019 fiscal year.
Michigan Medicine President David Spahlinger said Michigan Medicine expects positive financial reports for the end of the 2019 fiscal year. Likewise, Director of Athletics Warde Manuel said the Athletics Department will see a $1 million surplus for the 2019 fiscal year and expects a balanced budget for the 2020 fiscal year.
Regent Shauna Diggs thanked all who worked on putting together budget proposals, a process she expressed “strengthens our university.” While she said steps have “shown progress” towards addressing disparities at the University’s three campuses, Shauna Diggs encouraged further action and said she will continue to ask “probing questions” as a regent.
“I urge us to more formally assess and strategically focus on the Dearborn and Flint campuses, and find the resources required to institute the changes we want to make,” Shauna Diggs said. “I think these issues should rise to our line of sight not just during the budget cycle, but with consistent efforts throughout the year.”
In his report, CSG president Ben Gerstein discussed the “food insecurity epidemic” among students in Ann Arbor. To combat this issue, Gerstein said CSG will distribute reusable grocery bags to off-campus students and hopes to install microwaves in on-campus buildings.
During public commentary, five speakers from all three University campuses spoke to the goals of the One University campaign, discussing disparities in financial aid and health services. While this was happening, audience members held One University signs in the background.
LSA sophomore Hayden Troup spoke about the importance of free health services to students’ academic success. Troup noted these services are unavailable to students at the Dearborn and Flint campuses, who they said disproportionately suffer under systems of racism and class inequality.
“No matter how much funding you provide for DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) in Ann Arbor, it is functionally meaningless unless you reallocate funding to provide concrete financial support and resources to students on all campuses,” Troup said.
Jonathan Gavia, a sophomore at U-M Dearborn, shared his difficulty paying for tuition and health services as a “non-traditional, low-income student with medical needs.” He said he has lacked health insurance for a year because he could not apply for the student health policy advertised on campus as the benefits office could not help him if he was not an Ann Arbor student.
“In our many conversations with regents, we’ve heard promises and sympathetic reassurances,” Gavia said. “That is encouraging, but of course words without action don’t help students like me.”
In an interview with The Daily, Gavia expressed disappointment that the meeting presented no change in the budget.
“As a public university, the idea of our administrators and our Board of Regents is to be public servants,” Gavia said. “However, I feel like at times we run more like a private institution … where the students aren’t always a part of that vision.”
Jason Kosnoski, U-M Flint associate professor of political science, shared stories of his students who struggled to meet their full academic potential due to inadequate financial, housing, childcare and disability support.
These challenges, Kosnoski claimed, are leading to a “retention crisis” at U-M Flint as it is difficult financially for many students to finish their degrees. A high student drop-out rate leads to lower revenue, which affects not only U-M Flint, but the local community dependent on it, Kosnoski said.
“The increases in student support we are asking for, the closer ties between the different campuses… are also needed to ensure the survival of the UM-Flint itself,” Kosnoski said.
Kosnoski, Troup and Gavia all said the campaign will continue to watch the administration and work with them towards policy and budget changes.
“No matter what happened today, the campaign will continue to exist,” Gavia said.
The other four public commenters talked about next steps regarding the opioid epidemic, the University’s climate action and U-M Flint professor Mark Perry’s complaint against Wayne State University for their program Black Girls Code.
University alum Mike Shriberg, executive director of National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center, thanked the University for making a commitment to carbon neutrality. He urged the University to set a date to achieve neutrality and to require all new buildings going forth to be carbon neutral.
“The question now is if the slow track the University of Michigan is going down can match the urgency of what scientists at the U of M and elsewhere are telling us is needed and what our students are rightfully demanding,” Shriberg said.
Olivia Scott contributed to the reporting on this article.