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The University of Michigan Board of Regents approved the construction schedule and schematic design of the Central Power Plant expansion and discussed the University’s endowment $1 billion increase at its Thursday meeting in Flint. Eucharia Ganda, president of the U-M Flint student body, and Izzy Baer, vice president of U-M Ann Arbor’s Central Student Government, also addressed their student government initiatives and concerns.
In March 2017, the Board of Regents approved the $80 million Central Power Plant expansion, a 12,000-foot addition expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 100,000 tons per year. The new addition is intended to move the University closer to its 2025 sustainability goal — to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent below 2006 levels. Though the project is projected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, some question whether a long-term investment in fossil fuel is the best solution.
In a Public Affairs report, Kevin Hegarty, University executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the goal will help the University stay on target for reducing emissions as well as keeping track of finances.
“Our targeted greenhouse gas emissions reduction is an ambitious goal and this project marks a significant step in the right direction as well as providing a sound financial projection for the university,” Hegarty said.
The Board of Regents also reviewed the University’s endowment, which increased $1 billion this past year to $11.9 billion. According to U.S. News and World Report, the University of Michigan had the eighth largest endowment of all universities as of the end of the 2017 fiscal year.
“We have great confidence in the University’s overall approach to investments and in the stewardship of these important financial resources,” Regent Kathy White (D) said.
During the meeting, the Board of Regents also approved a model portfolio for the University’s long-term portfolio. The model portfolio provides a plan for the University’s long-term investment allocation of each asset class.
Regent Andrew Richner (R), the chair of the board, said the approval of the portfolio is an effort to monitor the returns on University investments.
“By putting this item on our agenda and approving the portfolio on an ongoing basis, the Board of Regents will keep current on the risks associated with the investment portfolio and further mitigate risks associated with noncompliance with University policy,” Richner said.
Baer addressed the board, outlining CSG’s newest initiatives. In order to increase student voter turnout, CSG is providing free transportation to polling places on Nov. 6, as well as stamped envelopes for absentee ballots. According to Baer, CSG plans to offer a series of town halls, the first of which is on Oct. 29 at 6 p.m. in the Michigan League.
“We will be hosting our first town hall this month focused on housing affordability on campus,” Baer said. “Based on student feedback we have determined housing affordability to be extremely salient amongst our student body, and while we are working on initiatives now to tackle this issue, we want to hear directly from students and community members about what they think would decrease housing costs and improve housing initiatives in the future.”
Baer also reported her administration has been working with MDining to improve dining experiences for students with dietary restrictions. According to Baer, South Quad dining hall will open a kosher kitchen in the coming weeks, and the dining app will be upgraded to include the ingredients of each dish.
“With the proliferation of food allergies, we have focused on ways to make all students feel confident and safe on campus,” Baer said. “As you may already know, all dining halls now carry Auvi-Qs, which is a device similar to EpiPens. The dining staff is now trained on how to administer them if a student suffers from an allergic reaction.”
Ganda spoke about her administration’s student voting initiatives and the need for more on-campus spaces for student organizations. Ganda also addressed the need for minority representation and cultural awareness among faculty and campus at large.
“Another concern is cultural competency for faculty,” Ganda said. “Speaking for student leaders, we are all finding in our different organizations that students are experiencing microaggressions in the classrooms. What can we do to manage cultural competency training for faculty and staff? Given that students have been experiencing this issue for over a number of years, there needs for there to be some kind of urgency for this to be addressed.”