At Thursday’s University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting, a range of topics — from new meeting places, to course evaluations on campus, CSG ethics committee hearings and research — were discussed.
New meeting locations
Regent Shauna Ryder Diggs (D) announced several changes to the upcoming Board of Regents meeting venues, including moving the May 19 meeting to downtown Grand Rapids.
“The University has strong ties with West Michigan,” Ryder Diggs said, adding she feels the meeting will serve as an opportunity for the Board of Regents to interact and connect with alumni, community leaders, government officials and educational leaders that have in the past collaborated and partnered with the University.
Additionally, Ryder Diggs said the March 17 meeting will be held on the University’s Dearborn’s campus, including a community forum similar to the one held at the board’s meeting in Flint this past October.
Central Student Government report
In his report, CSG president Cooper Charlton touched on ongoing discussions about releasing course evaluations to students. The topic has proved controversial, with the Faculty Senate voting in October to delay the release after the University initially introduced plans to release them to students earlier in the month. University Provost Martha Pollack has tasked CSG and the faculty to work together on a solution.
Charlton said though the topic has produced disagreement between students and University faculty at times, he was pleased with the outcome, saying that compromises have been reached.
“At times, passions and perspectives flared,” Charlton said. “However, this partnership allowed for opinions and dispositions to collide and show the importance of active listening and empathy as they helped produce compromise that I truly think will benefit the entire campus community.”
Charlton also told the Board that CSG is nearly finished with proposed revisions to the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities. He noted that he was disappointed with a recent vote by the Student Relations Advisory Committee against a CSG proposal to give students the ability to formally share their feedback on amendments to the Statement proposed by the Faculty Senate and executive officers. The SRAC issues recommendations on proposed amendments to University President Mark Schlissel, who has final approval
Charlton also told the regents there was a need for more testing accommodation centers on campus. He said students with disabilities are at an academic disadvantage due to the current poor testing accommodation center conditions.
Charlton said the current center, which serves students enrolled in LSA courses, is too small and is filled to capacity during midterms and finals weeks, adding that many students are turned away due to lack of space.
“Imagine that you’re a student with ADHD and you come to this accommodation center and maximum capacity has been reached,” Charlton said. “Now, our GSIs and professors do their best to accommodate, but imagine taking that exam in a crowded room where noise is distracting you.”
As of July 2015, the Services for Students with Disabilities office had 2,747 registered students, according to Charlton.
Public comments on anti-Semitism
During the meeting, several public commenters, including Eugene Greenstein, president of the Michigan region of the Zionist Organization of America, raised concerns before the Board about anti-Semitism on campus, charging that the University has not supported its Jewish students.
Greenstein specifically called attention efforts last semester that aimed to remove LSA sophomore Jesse Arm from his position on CSG. The movement to have Arm removed followed his public questioning of the timeliness and manner of a demonstration hosted by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality on the Diag that aimed to simulate the separation barriers between the West Bank and Israel.
SAFE called for ethics charges against Arm, resulting in the first-ever meeting of the CSG Ethics Committee. CSG ultimately voted not to sanction Arm.
Greenstein expressed concern over the University administration’s silence during SAFE’s call to remove Arm from CSG.
“The message was sent that frivolous charges would be tolerated, another clear signal that the University of Michigan allows SAFE to intimidate anyone who had the nerve to voice dissent,” Greenstein said.
Following several other commenters with similar concerns, Regent Laurence Deitch (D) said he stands by the University’s decision to allow SAFE members to express their frustrations.
“Protest is part of the ethos and part of the history of this campus, and free speech is at its core,” Deitch said. “I can also tell you that over the 23 years that I’ve been here, that I believe that we have vigorously stood up and been protective of Jewish students and Jewish interests on campus just that we try to be of all interests.”
He added that he thought CSG and Charlton handled the incident in a mature manner, and both SAFE and groups supporting Arm had the right to express their views on campus.
“We have students on this campus who feel very strongly about the Palestinian issue and it’s their right to express it, and is the right of Jewish students and other pro-Israeli Americans to express their views,” Deitch said.
University research report
Jack Hu, vice president of research, presented the regents with an update on the status of the University’s research enterprises.
Hu said the University’s 2015 fiscal year research expenditures were $1.3 billion, making this the seventh consecutive year the University’s research expenditure has exceeded $1 billion. Hu said federal government funding accounted for $737 million, or 57 percent of the total research expenditure.
However, Hu added that federal government funding for research has been declining over the past several years, leading the University to prioritize the diversification of research funding sources.
He also highlighted the University’s launch of the Data Science Initiative.
“Big data (is) everywhere; they represent great opportunities for science and discovery, in particular design research programs,” he said, calling attention to research in big data for transportation, learning analytics, health and the social sciences.
Hu also touched on the MCubed program, founded in 2012, which aims to support multidisciplinary research and scholarship. He said the program, which is currently in its second phase involving the formation of teams of faculty members from across disciplines, has been recently revised to provide for the participation of Dearborn campus faculty members. Hu added that Flint faculty members will be included in the near future.
“Looking to the future, I think there are a number of opportunities where we continue to leverage and explore,” Hu said. “The most important one is to continue to develop large-scale projects that leverage our inter-disciplinary spin and the organic culture of faculty collaboration.”