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In their last meeting of the calendar year, the University of Michigan Board of Regents discussed issues including construction, honorary degrees and campus climate in front of more than 50 attendees in the Michigan Union Thursday afternoon.
Renovations and construction projects
The Board of Regents unanimously approved multiple infrastructure projects at the meeting, including an $150 million overhaul of the Ruthven Museums Building. As part of the renovations, the University’s central administration officials will move from their current offices in the Fleming Administration Building to the Ruthven Building. The Fleming Building — first opened in the 1960s to popular student rumors about its “riot-proof” design — will eventually be demolished.
Kevin Hegarty, chief financial officer and executive vice president of the University, announced the changes.
“The project presents an exciting opportunity to preserve and reuse a landmark campus building,” he said. “The condition of the Fleming building is one of the worst on this campus … the building continues to deteriorate and now requires an annual inspection to ensure its safety.”
Faculty and staff currently working in the Ruthven Building will move to the planned Biological Sciences Building, which is slated to be completed in the summer of 2018. The Ruthven project will also add 100,000 square feet for learning classrooms.
During discussion about the renovation, Regent Mark Bernstein (D) voiced concerns about preserving the legacy of the Fleming Building’s namesake, former University president Robben Fleming.
University President Mark Schlissel affirmed that Fleming’s contributions would not be forgotten.
“We are committed to continuing to honor President Fleming, one of my personal heroes at Michigan,” he said. “We will figure this out in the months and years to come.”
The regents also approved a schematic design for the new Trotter Multicultural Center location on Central Campus. After multiple forums, town halls and surveys of students, faculty and staff, the $10 million construction project is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2018. Many residents of nearby Helen Newberry and Betsy Barbour Residence Halls have expressed hesitation about the new center’s location on the buildings’ lawns.
During the meeting, Jane Wright, president of the Hanbury design firm, presented the design and she said took “everyone’s needs” into account.
“The plans were greatly informed by student voice,” she said. “Collectively those voices brought together what mattered most.”
The design features multipurpose rooms and rooms configured for active learning that will fit around 100 students.
Regent Larry Deitch (D) hailed the project’s progress, but also suggested changing Trotter’s unique status as the only building on campus named after a person of color.
“I would suggest in the next year or two, try to figure out how to remedy that,” he said. “Even if that means the quaint notion of naming something after somebody who was high-achieving, and who didn’t just write a big check.”
Renovations to the the Law Quad exterior, scheduled for next summer, were also approved. The project includes $6.2 million in improvements to sidewalks, lighting and underground utilities.
Additionally, the regents approved additional funds for a large-scale renovation of the North Campus Recreation Building. The original proposal passed by the regents last March had a budget of $13 million, but the newest iteration boosts funding to $17.4 million. The new building’s features include improved athletic facilities and gender-inclusive and accessible locker rooms complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor
University President Mark Schlissel announced U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor will receive an honorary degree from the University during her appearance at a campus bicentennial colloquium next January. Sotomayor will participate in a moderated discussion with Justice Susanne Baer of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany on the “Future University Community.”
Justice Baer received a law degree from the University in 1993. Four other honorary degrees are being given at Winter Commencement on Dec. 18.
CSG and undocumented students
During his monthly speech to the board, David Schafer, president of Central Student Government and an LSA senior, addressed the recent ethnic intimidation incidents on campus.
“There is no denying that the last month has been a difficult one for our students,” Schafer said. “Some have expressed to me that they are afraid to walk home at night.”
He encouraged administration and faculty to not ignore these feelings of students and stand in solidarity, also encouraging the community at large to practice diversity, equity and inclusion.
“This is not a partisan issue, this is a University of Michigan issue.” Schafer said. “Because when anyone is targeted or made to feel unsafe of unwelcome on our campus, that must matter to all of us.”
Schafer thanked President Schlissel for releasing a statement in support of the continuation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, which allows undocumented immigrants who arrived as children to qualify for deferred deportations and work permits
Schlissel also joined more than 500 other colleges and universities in co-signing a letter last month urging the federal government to continue DACA protections. Schafer also noted that CSG had recently passed a resolution supporting the executive order.
“At our most recent CSG meeting on Tuesday we passed a resolution that will join you in supporting the continuation of DACA and reaffirms support for undocumented students,” Schaefer said. “We look forward to working with you and the rest of our University in ensuring the protection of these most invaluable and cherished students.”
After Schafer’s remarks, Schlissel echoed his sentiments about the importance of undocumented students at the University.
“Their presence enriches this University community,” Schlissel said.