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The University of Michigan Board of Regents held their final meeting of the year at the Postma Family Clubhouse to discuss mental health on campus, a proposed renovation of the Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial in Detroit and the construction of a new Information and Computer Science building on North Campus. Chuck Christian, a sexual assault victim of the late Dr. Robert Anderson, also spoke to the Regents at the end of the meeting about the University’s handling of sexual misconduct.
After a 30-minute delay due to technology issues, Regent Mark Bernstein (D) began the meeting by addressing the recent shooting at Oxford High School and its impact on University students.
“We have 61 students who attended Oxford High School at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor: 55 undergrads and six grad students,” Bernstein said. “This tragedy touches everybody here.”
Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones and Amy Dittmar, the vice provost of Academic and Budgetary Affairs, then delivered a presentation about techniques for implementing mental health practices on campus. Jones said the primary goal of their work is to promote a healthy campus.
“The primary, overarching goal in this work is for the University of Michigan to become a health-promoting campus,” Jones said. “To truly (commit) to doing this will require extensive and coordinated efforts.”
Dittmar said one of their primary goals was reducing the wait time students experience when trying to get mental health assistance from Counseling and Psychological Services. Dittmar said under their plan, students who need urgent care will get immediate attention.
“Sometimes it’s a day and sometimes it is a couple weeks, but a student in need will not wait a couple weeks — they will see somebody (immediately),” Dittmar said.
Additionally, the regents spoke about the possibility of renovating the Rackham building in Detroit. The current proposal calls for renovating around 70,000 square feet of the building and is expected to cost $40 million. University President Mark Schlissel spoke about the importance of this project.
“This is an important project that will eventually establish a new center of operations for the University’s for the university’s wide-ranging work in partnership with the City and its residents,” Schlissel said. “Our university was founded in Detroit in 1817, and I’m proud that our presence and work in the city continues to grow.”
The regents approved the resolution to renovate the Rackham Building in Detroit by a vote of 8-0.
The regents also approved design plans for the upcoming Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building on North Campus. The building, which will be connected to the Bob and Betty Beyster Building, will cost approximately $145 million with 25% being covered by the state of Michigan and $25 million being funded by private donors.
The meeting then opened for public comments. The first to speak was Rackham student Chelsea Johnson, who is a member of Voices for Carbon Neutrality, a student organization committed to moving the University towards carbon neutrality. At their May 2021 meeting, the regents and Schlissel announced the University would commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2040. Johnson started the conversation by calling for the University to create a specific plan to meet their goal as soon as possible.
“I’m asking the University to create a climate justice plan with University faculty and community leaders,” Johnson said. “These actions are critical to guarding the reputation of the University and to achieving the goal set for carbon neutrality.”
Jacob Lederman, associate professor of urban sociology at U-M Flint and a member of the One University campaign, said the regents have not been equitably acknowledging the needs of the Flint and Dearborn campuses. Lederman said the University is failing at their DEI goals by not providing equitable funding for Flint and Dearborn.
“We’re working under punishing constraints because of inaction by our elected regents … our president and our leadership has little room to maneuver,” Lederman said. “President Schlissel will be gone in a year, but his disinterest in (the Flint) campus will have wrought havoc on the precious and fragile bonds that comprise our campus community.”
After the meeting was adjourned, Christian, — who has been camped outside of President Schlissel’s house alongside former U-M running back and Anderson survivor Jon Vaughn since Oct. 8 in protest of sexual abuse allegations against the late Dr. Anderson — starting speaking about when he was first diagnosed with cancer. Though Christian was not on the list of official public commentators, Schlissel re-opened the meeting and allowed Christian to speak for five minutes.
In front of the regents, Christian emphasized the responsibility he attributed to the University for Dr. Anderson’s alleged abuse of hundreds of victims. Christian said the University ignored former U-M wrestler Tad DeLuca’s allegations in 1975, even after DeLuca detailed them in a letter to then-Athletic Director Don Canham. Christian, who has stage four prostate cancer, said his personal experience with Anderson also caused him to avoid seeing a doctor for years. As a result, Christian said he received his cancer diagnosis late.
“If Michigan had listened to Tad in 1975, I would not be dying today,” Christian said. “We’re still dealing with the trauma 30, 40 and 50 years later … Four of my friends have died in the last year because of their fear of doctors.”
The meeting was then adjourned for a second time. Shortly after the meeting was adjourned, the YouTube livestream was made private.
Correction: a previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial Building as a library in a quote by President Mark Schlissel. The article has been updated to reflect that change.
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