The University of Michigan Board of Regents met Thursday afternoon at Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace, MI, marking the first time the regents have held a meeting in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Interim University President Mary Sue Coleman attended the meeting virtually after testing positive for COVID-19, an announcement she made at the beginning of the meeting.
Regent Paul Brown related the location of the meeting to the University’s Inclusive History Project, which is focused on engaging and understanding the University’s history with diversity, equity and inclusion.
“We’re here today because all of the Regents are acutely aware of the debt that the University owes all of the citizens of Michigan,” Brown said. “For our 200 year history, we’ve been supported by the taxpayers, and because of that obligation, we’re here hopefully to present … the value that we create for your tax dollars, as well as listen to each of you in person from this region, what we can do to serve you better.”
Adele Bromfield, Vice Provost for Enrollment Management, shared a presentation regarding the Northern Michigan and UP admissions enrollment data, which showed an increase in students from Northern Michigan and the UP — 5% and 18%, respectively — graduating from the University over the past five years.
“Northern Michigan and the UP over the past years (have) experienced a higher percentage growth in undergraduate students when compared to the overall state,” Bromfield said. “When we look at the three-year average of students who applied to U-M, the combined admit rate for Northern Michigan and the UP was 47%, compared to 44% admitted from Oakland County, the largest county in our state.”
Rebecca Cunningham, Vice President for Research, shared information about the University’s research in Northern Michigan, including a project in Marquette County to develop a new firearm safety and education program for rural communities.
“Michigan is partnering with gun shops and gun owners across Marquette County to develop and implement a new firearm safety education program that’s tailored for families living in rural communities,” Cunningham said. “The results of the year-long research collaboration is ‘Store Safely,’ a four-step online program that provides some tools and resources so that families across northern Michigan can help prevent injuries and firearm misuse among children and teens.”
Provost Laurie McCauley recommended the appointment of Celeste Watkins-Hayes, associate dean for faculty affairs in the Ford School, Diversity and Transformation professor and founding director of the Center for Racial Justice, as interim dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, effective July 19, 2022.
“Professor Watkins Hayes is a distinguished scholar and educator with broad and robust experience as an administrator,” McCauley said. “She’s an outstanding teacher and has authored two award-winning books.”
Watkins-Hayes will serve as interim dean until a permanent dean is appointed. The Regents confirmed Watkins-Hayes’ appointment.
“Phase one will include … several site infrastructure updates — water, sewer, electric — allowing us to expand our operating season by having housing available year-round,” McCauley said. “The phase two project will make the camp carbon neutral, including building electrification with air source heat pumps, various energy efficiency upgrades and (the) installation of a 400-kilowatt solar array. The phase three project will construct a new teaching research community center that will provide a flexible inclusive space with modern teaching and lab facilities.”
A number of representatives from the Michigan Nurses Association: University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council made public comments at the meeting. The union is currently in negotiations with the University after their previous contract expired on July 1.
MNA-UMPNC dispute chair Ted McTaggart expressed concerns about how the University’s budget for Michigan Medicine may be facilitating chronic understaffing issues, leading to mandatory overtime and unsafe working conditions for nurses.
“The reality of the hospital census and the highly complex needs of patients requires far more nurses than are budgeted for,” McTaggart said. “Unsafe staffing and mandatory overtime are the inevitable consequences. This will result — and is already resulting — in avoidable deaths, infections, pressure ulcers and other adverse events. Nurses have filed 950 forms documenting unsafe conditions this year alone.”
McTaggart said nurses filed approximately 1000 forms regarding poor working conditions for the entire year of 2021.
MNA-UMPNC nurse Allison Carroll spoke on how mismanagement is causing nurses to leave in droves and how nurses will continue to quit their jobs if the issues remain unresolved.
“Now is the time for management to stop the empty praise and stand with nurses,” Carroll said. “You are proposing dozens of concessions on top of already unsustainable working conditions coupled with a pay scale that can’t compete with local travel contracts … management is misrepresenting salary and vacancy rates to gloss over the current understaffing crisis, and it is truly a crisis.”
Students also spoke at the meeting to discuss environmental concerns and carbon neutrality, as well as to request that President-elect Santa Ono consider appointing a permanent Climate Carbon Neutrality Executive Leader.
Elizabeth Tolrud, LSA rising sophomore, secretary of the University’s chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and a representative of Student Carbon Neutrality Network (SCNN), said students are working to convert their concerns over the environment into passion for change.
“To achieve carbon neutrality by 2040, SCCN recommends hiring a special advisor to the president on carbon neutrality strategy,” Tolrud said. “Although we have an interim in this role, the University needs a permanent person who will bring long-term passion to the climate emergency.”
Tolrud also said she and others at SCNN are looking forward to Ono taking office.
“On behalf of SCNN, I want to congratulate Dr. Ono on his recent (appointment),” Tolrud said. “I can’t fully describe how happy I was to learn about his previous advocacy for the climate. SCNN is ecstatic to be able to work with and follow a president who really cares for his students.”
Taylar Uimari, LSA rising junior, SCNN representative and member of the University’s chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, spoke about her experience growing up in the Upper Peninsula and feeling that the University’s actions were unaligned with her and fellow students’ visions of carbon neutrality.
“Often, when SCNN wants to receive a small, clear answer about (the University’s) action for a climate issue, it takes several hours of collaborative research, multiple chains of emails and weeks of waiting for a reply before a clear answer is found,” Uimari said. “With an issue as complex as climate change and a university as widespread as U of M, an interim position is simply not enough. We need a permanent climate carbon neutrality executive leader, (and) the search process for this position should begin immediately.”
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