The University Insider is The Daily’s first faculty and staff-oriented newsletter. This weekly newsletter will give U-M faculty and staff the ability to see the most important issues on campus and in Ann Arbor — particularly those related to administrative decisions — from the perspective of an independent news organization. It will also provide a better understanding of student perspectives.
The Burton Memorial Tower, or ‘Bell Tower,’ will light up with yellow and blue colors this week to express solidarity with Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. The tower will sport the Ukrainian flag’s colors until March 20, the University of Michigan announced on Monday. The University also announced Tuesday that it would not further any investments in Russian companies and also pull current investments as quickly as possible.
Earlier this month, Interim President Mary Sue Coleman released a statement of support for Ukraine. She said the University has taken steps to support Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American students, including advocating for greater student visa flexibility and hosting educational programming on the crisis.
Rackham student Sabrina Ivanenco expressed gratitude to the University for their decision to light the tower but said she felt the action was not taken soon enough, as the University did not initially approve lighting the tower during the vigil for Ukrainian war victims held on March 9.
“I did feel a little bit disappointed that it took them quite this long and that they didn’t initially respond in an affirmative manner to our first request,” Ivanenco said. “But better late than never.”
Amér Ghali, a University of Michigan alum currently working for Michigan Medicine, noted the significance of the University’s decision to light the tower with Ukrainian colors. Given that the tower was constructed as a memorial to a former University President, the University states that Burton Tower’s lights are not supposed to represent political messages. Even so, Ghali wrote a petition asking the University to light Burton Tower with blue and gold due to the extreme nature of the situation.
“This was a pretty high hill for us to climb when we were initially reaching out with our petition,” Ghali said.
He added that he was pleased to see the University’s promise to divest from Russian companies.
“They have shown principle over profits,” Ghali said. “That is, they’ve prioritized their humanitarian stance as opposed to their bottom line and I think this is something that took a lot of courage.”
In an email to The Michigan Daily, University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen referred to the University Record story on the lighting of the tower. University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald reiterated the University’s plan to divest from Russian businesses.
“U-M has $40 million invested with a manager called Russia Partners,” Fitzgerald wrote in an email to The Daily. “These were investments made in 2009 and 2012. No further investments have been made…the university will move as quickly as practical to exit its remaining investments.”
Ivanenco stressed the importance of sustained involvement in support of Ukraine.
“The worst thing that could happen at this point is that in two months people get used to the fact that there’s a war going on,” Ivanenco said. “They get desensitized to it; they’ve already gotten used to reading all of the headlines that come in at an hourly rate.”
Daily Staff Reporter Samantha Richcan be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.