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The University of Michigan Board of Regents met at the Postma Family Clubhouse Thursday for their first meeting of the year. They discussed plans for a presidential search committee, new dorm proposals on North Campus and heard from the Central Student Government about the current felony disclosure policy.
Coleman began the meeting by emphasizing her commitment to the University community as well as her focus on academic excellence.
“Our collective commitment to learning and discovery holds true for yesterday, and it will guide us for tomorrow,” Coleman said. “It is what compels us as a university to take great risks, so that we may always pursue new knowledge for the good of society.”
Coleman’s current contract with the University has her serving for six months or until a new president is appointed.
Regents Denise Ilitch (D) and Sarah Hubbard (R) gave statements on the Presidential Search Committee, which is comprised of students, faculty and staff from all three campuses and Michigan Medicine. The duo announced the committee in an email to the campus community
“Our board is very excited about our presidential search and we have worked very hard to build a Presidential Search Committee that is widely representative of our very diverse community,” Ilitch said. “We’ve already had our initial meeting, and we look forward to insights from this incredible group as we proceed with our search. We are eager to hear directly from students, faculty and staff across campuses about their perspectives and expectations as we work to identify the next leader of our university.”
Hubbard said the University is hosting a virtual listening session on Feb. 18 for Ann Arbor campus faculty and staff. Other sessions gauged towards Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor students and the Dearborn campus community are scheduled for Feb. 21-23.
The regents also discussed plans for constructing a geothermal plant to power the new Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building. This project would be the first large campus building to rely on a source other than natural gas for climate control.
Rebecca Cunningham, vice president of research, then briefed the regents on the state of research at the University. Cunningham said the University has remained the leader among public universities for the eleventh year in a row in terms of research volume, especially in the social sciences. She also said University research projects resulted in 23 startups, 502 inventions and 287 license and option agreements in the past years.
Public Health senior Nithya Arun, Central Student Government President, gave the Student Government Report to discuss the University’s felony disclosure policy as well as student representation on the Board of Regents. The current felony disclosure policy (SPG 601.38) requires employees of the University disclose all felony charges and convictions that occur while affiliated with the University; CSG passed a resolution on Tuesday asking the Regents to rescind this policy.
“It is known that Black and Indigenous communities are disproportionately criminalized and surveilled,” Arun said. “Because of structural factors in the justice system, BIPOC communities are disproportionately affected by SPG 601.38.”
Arun also discussed CSG’s partnership with State Senator Jeff Irwin (D), with whom they drafted a bill advocating for student representation on the Board of Regents. She said students comprise the majority of the U-M community and deserve a voice in University decision making.
“For years CSG has been advocating for student representation on the Board of Regents for one simple reason,” Arun said. “People who make decisions on behalf of students need to be students, or at least be informed by students. Who knows student life better than us? The University of Michigan is nothing without its students.”
Provost Susan Collins recommended the appointment of Kathryn E. Angell as dean of the School of Social Work, effective July 1, 2022. Angell previously served as the dean of the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The regents officially approved the demolition of the Robben W. and Aldyth Fleming Administration Building, which is set to take place this summer. The demolition is estimated to cost $3.4 million, and the lot will be restored to an open green space.
Martino Harmon, Vice President of Student Life, spoke in favor of a plan to construct three new residence halls on North Campus to replace the current Northwood III apartments.
“Currently, the demand for University of Michigan housing exceeds the supply,” Harmon said. “Although we’re able to house all first-year incoming students who need housing, second-, third- and fourth-year and transfer students are not always able to obtain housing at the University.”
Executive Vice President Geoffrey Chatas went on to explain the long-term implications of this undertaking.
“The project will provide the foundation for future development at the site, including dining, student wellness, support spaces and another geothermal facility to heat and cool the complex,” Chatas said.
Chatas then explained the estimated cost and anticipated timeline for the new student housing plans.
“In order to achieve the project schedule for opening of the beds for the fall semester in 2024, we propose issuing bids and awarding contracts for abatement and demolition, activities site utility work and other preparatory work to meet the schedule at a cost not to exceed $5 million, Chatas said. “The estimated cost of the project is $190 million.”
The regents voted to approve the plan.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, LSA senior Logan Smith expressed concerns about the University’s unequal funding distribution for liberal arts programs across all three campuses.
“A budget model that offers more financial support to wealthy white students and less financial support to working-class students and students of color cannot be described as anything other than structurally racist,” Smith said. “A university that claims to be for diversity, equity and inclusion cannot continue to use a budget model that perpetuates economic and racial inequality.”
LSA senior Aaron Boockvar-Klein, president of Students for Clean Energy, commented on the University’s slow progress toward carbon neutrality and overall sustainability.
“Deliberate or not, in my circles, we say the University’s delaying until we graduate because you know a loud voice one semester will be gone the next,” Boockvar-Klein said. “And I don’t expect University-level action to happen overnight, but I do expect it to be efficient.”
LSA senior Noah Streng, president of the U-M chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, brought eight copies of a petition — one for each regent — signed by 572 community members for the University to establish a $15 minimum wage for all of its employees.
“As a queer, low-income, formerly homeless, financially independent student, I know what it’s like to experience economic hardship and worry about paying the bills as a full-time student,” Streng said. “We can afford to pay students $15 an hour. This is a matter of priorities, not resources.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Northwood I and II apartments would be demolished to support the new residence halls on North Campus. Only Northwood III will be demolished. A previous version of this article did not state the school and year of CSG President Nithya Arun.
Samantha Rich contributed to the reporting of this article.
Daily Staff Reporters Anna Fifelski and Martha Lewand can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.