Interim President Mary Sue Coleman speaks at her final Regents meeting Thursday evening. Hannah Torres/Daily. Buy this photo.

The University of Michigan Board of Regents met Thursday at the Alexander G. Ruthven Museums Building to discuss enrollment rates at the University of Michigan-Flint, new residence halls and dedicating the tunnel at Michigan Stadium to former football coach Lloyd Carr.

The meeting marked Interim University President Mary Sue Coleman’s last meeting before President-elect Santa Ono takes office on Oct. 13. She opened the meeting by addressing challenges at U-M Flint, including a 30% drop in enrollment since 2014. Coleman announced a strategic plan to improve U-M Flint and to extend Flint Chancellor Debasish Dutta’s appointment until June 2026.

“The work begins tomorrow morning when (Dutta) will host (a) town hall meeting,” Coleman said. “It will be driven by comprehensive data, including labor and student market demand for academic programs. It is critical that the Flint campus align its programs with the needs of our state’s workforce.”

The town hall meeting will take place Sept. 23 at 10 a.m. at the U-M Flint Riverfront Conference Center. Strategic planning will continue through the fall and winter semesters under Ono’s presidency. 

In anticipation of an increased demand for student housing, Coleman proposed naming a future residence hall after former Vice President of Student Life Dr. E. Royster Harper. The board approved the renaming unanimously. It will be the first University of Michigan building to be named after a Black woman.

Athletic Director Warde Manuel also proposed a dedication, asking the Board of Regents to name the players’ tunnel at Michigan Stadium for former U-M football coach Lloyd Carr, who was present at the meeting. 

“There is something that’s so appropriate about naming this tunnel after (Carr),” Regent Mark Bernstein (D) said. “When you go through a tunnel, particularly the tunnel at the football stadium, The Big House, you emerge in this majestic and formative place, and that’s what (Carr has) done for countless numbers of student athletes and students on campus.”

The board approved the proposal unanimously. 

Paul Robinson, associate vice provost for enrollment management and University registrar, presented preliminary enrollment statistics for the 2022 academic school year, including an increase in enrollment to more than 51,000 students, as opposed to 50,000 in 2021. Application volume has increased by 30% for first-year students since 2018. Financial aid was also provided to more than 24,000 students compared to 22,392 in 2021. 

During public comment, Renee Curtis, University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council President, commented on the state of the nurses’ negotiations and the tentative agreement that was reached between the nurses and the University of Michigan. Curtis thanked the Board and the community for supporting the nurses in their negotiations.

“I’m very proud of our nurses,” Curtis said. “I’m proud and grateful for all the community supporters. I also want to thank you, all the regents, for your engagement in this process.”

The parents of Michael Heinrich, a former student at the University who was paralyzed after a rotted tree fell on him while he was on campus, also addressed the Board. Deborah and Timothy Heinrich asked the University to take further responsibility for the incident, after administrators fought the Heinrichs to the Michigan Supreme Court over the issue. The Heinrichs filed a lawsuit against the University for gross negligence. The state Supreme Court refused to hear the case. 

“I am asking you and President-elect Ono to do what I taught my children,” Deborah Heinrich said. “To take responsibility, have accountability, to do what is right … to own your mistakes. I’m asking you, representing the University of Michigan, to take care of Michael’s health care.”

Eboni Taylor, executive director of Mothering Justice, and Jeffery Harold, Member of the Voter Rights Action Team, were both at the meeting on behalf of voter rights, asking the board to stop associating with vendors who support Secure MI Vote, a ballot initiative which would require people voting in person to present photo ID and those voting absentee to provide a valid form of identification, among other measures to ensure “safe and secure elections.”

Regent Bernstein responded to Taylor and Harold, saying while the University is committed to preserving democracy and voting access, the University will not interfere in political affairs. 

To close the meeting, Regent Paul Brown (D), chair of the Board of Regents, spoke on Coleman’s departure from her role as interim president. Brown thanked Coleman for returning to the University and for the work that she did while she assumed the role.

“The board turned to President Coleman at a tremendously difficult time, with a tremendously difficult challenge, to restore the integrity and confidence in the administration of this university,” Brown said. “In just nine months, you’ve done just that.”

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