Six things that are happening at Thursday's Board of Regents meeting

By Jennifer Calfas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 16, 2013

1.The Board of Regents will consider renovating the Ford Nuclear Reactor building

After beginning the decommission process of the Ford Nuclear Reactor in 2004, the University's Board of Regents are set to approve a $11.4-million transformation of the building into a repurposed classroom and laboratory center.

In a communication to the regents, Timothy Slottow, the University’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, said the University will demonstrate that the radioactive levels of the facility, located on Bonisteel Blvd. on North Campus, fits the standards of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission before beginning the renovation and expansion plans.

The project will add 5,200 square feet of space for laboratories, testing areas, offices and support spaces for the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences Department. Since the building will no longer house a nuclear reactor, the building’s name may change to the “Nuclear Engineering Laboratories” upon approval by the regents.

Ronald Gilgenbach, chair and Chihiro Kikuchi Collegiate Professor in the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences Department, said the renovations will allow the program to expand into much-needed research space.

Since the program’s research funding has increased over the years, Gilgenbach said the current laboratory facilities do not meet the faculty’s needs. However, with this building’s thick-shielded walls and expansive space, it will serve as the “perfect” environment for more research, he said.

The program will use the laboratories in the building to advance research to benefit the public, including research in medicine, nuclear measurements related to homeland security, developing safer nuclear reactors and nuclear non-proliferation, among other projects.

Funded by the College of Engineering, the project will produce an average of 18 on-site construction jobs, and will be designed by architectural firm SmithGroupJJR. The design process is scheduled to begin soon, and will be approved by the board at a later date.


Photo of Phoenix Lab at Ford Nuclear Reactor Building, courtesy University of Michigan.

2. The Regents are set to approve the schematic design of the Munger Graduate Residence project

Last April, the board announced the construction of a new residence hall for graduate students funded in part by a $110-million donation from University alum Charles Munger, vice president of Berkshire Hathaway.

In a communication to the regents, Slottow and E. Royster Harper, vice president of student affairs, wrote that the building will be eight-stories tall to accommodate approximately 630 students “in an apartment-style layout.” The building — located on the site of the current Thompson Street Parking Structure and former Blimpy Burger restaurant — will cost approximately $185 million, funded largely by Munger and the rest by Housing resources. With an average of 264 on-site construction jobs, the building will be complete in the summer of 2015.

At a forum hosted by Rackham Student Government on Sept. 11, some graduate students expressed their concerns about the new residence hall’s schematic design and living costs. Although the forum produced mixed reviews of the hall, Harper said the University hopes to stay true to Munger’s vision for his flagship project.

“If this were ‘just us’ and the funding were ‘just us,’ we would have some different kinds of options,” Harper said. “But I think when you are in a partnership … you make some agreements about what you’re going to offer, then we have to honor those agreements.”


The former Blimpy Burger restaurant now stands behind construction fencing. (Ruby Wallau/Daily)

3. Renovations to the School of Education are scheduled to be approved

In a communication to the regents, Slottow recommended approval of the renovation of the School of Education, which was built in 1923.

The project will improve infrastructure and functionality of approximately 8,300 square feet of space, including new heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, bathroom facilities and fire alarm systems.

Funded from investment proceeds, the project will cost $13.6 million and will be designed by the architectural firm SHW Group.

In an effort to minimize disruption of the academic schedule, the construction is set for completion in fall 2015.

4. Harper is requesting that the Division of Student affairs be renamed

In a communication to the regents, Harper requested to change her division's name from the Division of Student Affairs to the Division of Student Life.

Harper wrote that the change would represent the department’s participation and work toward every aspect of a student’s life, including learning experiences, development, health, social justice, support and education, among other services.

Compared to the current name, the new title “resonates and excites” University students, staff and parents, Harper said in the communicaiton.

“The clarity of the new name will maximize success in the current capital campaign and launch future efforts to connect, inspire and build community both within and beyond the University,” Harper said in the communication.

If approved, the new name will be effective on Oct. 1.


Harper speaks at a town hall meeting regarding the new graduate residence hall last week

5. Jerry May, vice president of development, will detail the year’s philanthropic success

In early September, Judy Malcolm, the Office of Development’s senior director of executive communications, said in an interview May will deliver a speech about the fiscal figures for 2013.

Malcolm said the University has seen a record-breaking number of donations under $25,000 over the past year. With the University’s fifth capital campaign coming up, Malcolm said any donation, whether it be comparable to University alum Stephen Ross’s recent historic $200-million gift or $10, invests in the University’s future.

6. The University is selling 51 acres of land for over $3.5 million

The University is set to sell 51 acres of land east of US-23 and south of Plymouth Road in the Ann Arbor Technology area.

According to a communication issued by Slottow, the regents will consider selling 51 acres of vacant land for $3.52 million to NSF International, a non-profit body verifies if products meet public health and safety standards. The net proceeds from the sale will go towards the general fund.

NSF hopes to expand their facility on Dixboro Road, which lies underneath the vacant property.

The University and NSF have worked together for nearly 70 years. The nonprofit has contributed scholarships, donations and an endowed chair for the department in the School of Pubic Health.

If the board approves the sale, officials hope to close the sale by Oct. 31.


A map of the land that will be sold, courtesy of the University of Michigan