The University of Michigan Board of Regents met at University Hall in the Ruthven Building Thursday to discuss progress in the search for a new University president, renovations to the Central Campus Recreation Building (CCRB) and upgrades to University athletic facilities.
Interim University President Mary Sue Coleman began the meeting by addressing the recently created Coordinated Community Response Team (CCRT) which is designed to address sexual violence at the University. The formation of the CCRT was included in the terms of settlement of a class-action lawsuit brought against the University by LSA senior Josephine Graham in May 2021. Graham alleged the University was not adequately protecting students from sexual abuse and said the formation of the CCRT is a critical step in addressing this failure at a Wednesday press conference.
Graham’s lawsuit is separate from the 2020 class-action suit filed by survivors of former University doctor Robert Anderson, which recently reached a settlement of $490 million for over a 1,000 survivors.
The regents also approved Dentistry Dean Laurie K. McCauley as the University’s next provost and president of academic affairs. McCauley will replace outgoing Provost Susan Collins, who will leave the position on May 15 to become the next President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
The board voted unanimously to bestow Collins with a Regents Citation of Honor for her service to the University. Collins thanked the board for this honor, reflecting on her time as University Provost.
“Serving as provost, particularly during a difficult time, it’s really been a privilege,” Collins said. “It’s also been a privilege to work with so many wonderful leaders at this university … It has been a team effort, and together I do believe we have gone far.”
Collins then provided an update on how the University is supporting students affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Collins said the University has been in touch with students from Russia and Ukraine, and it has taken a number of measures to ensure the safety and educational security of these students.
“We have responded by providing them with information about support services and by taking action to ensure that they can continue their education here, despite financial constraints and other difficulties in their home countries,” Collins said. “(We) will continue to monitor this situation and to support our students throughout this very challenging time.”
On March 15, the University announced it will no longer make investments in Russia and will pull all current investments from 2009 and 2012 “as quickly as practical.” The University currently has $40 million invested with investment manager Russia Partners.
Geoffrey Chatas, executive vice president and chief financial officer, updated the regents on the University’s carbon neutrality progress, including the creation of the new Planet Blue dashboard, which tracks U-M greenhouse gas emissions levels and reduction trajectory. According to Chatas, the University is on track to meet its sustainability goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“I’m extremely pleased to announce that U of M is on pace to reduce greenhouse gasses scope one and two by 50% by 2025, which is both five years ahead of and exceeds the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change … guidance to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030,” Chatas said. “We’re also working to instill a University-wide culture of sustainability with justice as a core principle.”
Chatas also revealed plans to purchase four all-electric buses for the Ann Arbor campus — one 60-foot bus and three standard 40-foot buses — as well as a $10 million plan to replace lights in 70 buildings on all three campuses with LED lights. Chatas also said the University is working on existing investments that emit large levels of greenhouse gasses.
The board then discussed plans to renovate the Central Campus Recreational Building . New features of the plan include a three-court gymnasium and a natatorium with a lap pool, a recreational pool and a post-workout recovery pool. Mike Widen, director of Recreational Sports, emphasized the value of renovating the CCRB given its contributions to student well-being.
“This is a truly comprehensive facility built for student experience,” Widen said. “This is a prime example for many decades to come of our campus’s commitment to health and well-being for our students and our entire University of Michigan community.”
Regent Denise Illitch (D), co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee, gave an update on the board’s search for a new University president and expressed gratitude for the level of campus involvement in the process.
“I want to say how grateful we are for the outpouring of community engagement and feedback we’ve received since the beginning of this presidential search process,” Illitch said. “Over 1,000 University of Michigan community members completed our feedback survey.”
Illitch also shared some of the major themes from the February Presidential Search Committee listening sessions.
“Number one, it is important that the next president rebuild trust and accountability within the University community, leading with integrity and readdressing past abuses and sexual misconduct,” Illitch said. “I was struck by all (the) sessions, the observations of being heard, and of listening and of being appreciated.”
The regents then allowed public commenters to communicate what they would like to see in the next University president. Law student Hafsa Tout said she wanted a president who would commit to listening to students and addressing campus concerns.
As an undergraduate at the University, Tout was a Central Student Government (CSG) representative and was part of passing a resolution in 2017 asking the board to divest from companies based in Israel in response to the occupation of Palestine. The board voted to reject this resolution less than a month later. Tout said she felt that the University’s recent announcement to pull its investments in Russian-based companies demonstrated hypocrisy in light of its previous attitude toward divesting in Israel-based companies.
“The statement that the board issued in response to that resolution read, ‘We remain committed to the University’s long-standing policy to shield the endowment from political pressures,’” Tout said. “But here we are in 2022 when the board and Interim President are openly, unhesitatingly and quickly making decisions and changes to the endowment in response to undeniably political situations across the world, which fully deserve that response, but which directly contradict that supposed commitment to shielding the endowment from political pressure.”
Illitch also addressed concerns from meeting attendees who commented on the difficulties that individuals with physical disabilities face opening doors on campus.
“We commit to prioritize and provide an automatic door opener into all of our public buildings right now,” Illitch said. “We have 50 buildings in need of that; we already have several hundred automatic door openers on entry doors, but if there is a specific door that’s difficult to open, please email (me) … or the associate vice president of Facilities and Operations.”
Illitch said a new map of all accessible pathways in buildings will be completed over the summer and made available to the public in Fall 2022.
Public Health senior Nithya Arun, CSG President, asked the Regents to consider changing the name of Angell Hall — a building named after the University’s longest-serving president, James B. Angell.
In 1880, Angell negotiated The Angell Treaty, which allowed the United States to restrict the migration of certain categories of Chinese workers and is widely considered to be a precursor to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a piece of legislation that prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers into the United States.
Arun also asked the regents to consider increasing the CSG student fee, which currently requires all students to pay $9.19. Arun did not clarify the amount she is interested in receiving.
“We implement recurring programs that are heavily utilized by students, such as a free subscription to The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, a GRE, MCAT and LSAT test prep program provided at reduced cost, subsidized transportation to and from the airport for major breaks and significant student org funding,” Arun said. “Unfortunately, given that our current student fee is set at $9.19, these programs are becoming unsustainable for CSG’s budget. So when the time comes to vote on the new budget, I urge you to vote in favor of a fee increase.”
The regents then voted to approve a $41 million update to the Big House, including an $8 million upgrade to the production room — the space that controls the audiovisual experience for several U-M sports venues across campus — which serves field hockey, ice hockey, basketball, football, soccer, indoor track, baseball and softball.
Additional updates include replacements for the north and south video boards in Michigan Stadium for $12 million, and an audio system replacement for $5 million. Other updates to the Big House include safety additions for $4 million and infrastructure, site work and design fees for $12 million. According to Rob Rademacher, chief operating officer of U-M Athletics, the source of funding will be Athletic Department Gifts Restricted for Capital Improvements.
“I also just want to reiterate a little bit of my experience in sports and with stadiums, and I can’t begin to tell you the enhancement of a scoreboard and the infrastructure and the new technology around it, how much it enhances the fan experience,” Illitch said. “It will be like night and day.”
During the public comment portion of the meeting, several commenters expressed desires for increased resources for student physical and financial well-being.
Elaine Lande, comprehensive studies program lecturer, said the University needs to increase the availability of menstrual products on campus. In late January, the University announced 670 main-floor restrooms will be given free menstrual products in all academic and student-facing buildings.
“I am a Gen X-er,” Lande said. “I learned a lot from my students. They are not shy or embarrassed to talk about their periods as my generation and those before; I am following their lead. While the need for feminine products in the bathrooms may be difficult for someone to understand, I liken this to someone defecating and then realizing there’s no toilet paper, or in this case, having no expectation of toilet paper available.”
Social Work students Matthew Dargay and Arie Davey, representatives for Payments for Placements, said students in the School of Social Work should be paid for the field placements in which they are required to participate for graduation. The organization wrote a petition in January outlining their concerns and emphasizing that the University affords stipends to students in other graduate programs, a practice they argue should be extended to include social work students.
“Nine hundred and fourteen hours I work in my internship are required for me to receive my master’s degree,” Davey said. “I do the same work as the paid staff at my agency, but I don’t get paid. Social work students are in a financial crisis.”
Dargay echoed similar sentiments and pointed to how Public Policy and Law students at the University are compensated for their internships, while Social Work students are still not.
“We applaud the University of Michigan for affording stipends to public policy students and law students who have decided to take their internships with public interest firms,” Dargay said. “And we believe that social work students should be treated similarly.”