Since our formation three years ago, the One University Coalition (1U) has called upon University President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents to provide the funds necessary to give University of Michigan – Flint and Dearborn campuses more of the opportunities already available on the Ann Arbor campus. As we see it, we have one University President and one Board of Regents; we are one university, and we should share resources so that all of our students — regardless of campus — can thrive.
The current budget model relegates the Flint and Dearborn campuses to a state of permanent austerity, constantly subject to cuts in programs, incapable of offering fair wages and offering only about a quarter of the support spending per student found in Ann Arbor. These disparities are unjust. The current budget model is also unsustainable: If we extrapolate the experience of recent years, the College of Arts & Sciences in Flint will be thoroughly hollowed out in a decade. The current model must change if we are committed to strong Flint and Dearborn campuses.
From the start of our campaign, we have faced intense resistance from Schlissel and his administration. In June 2020, after two years of organizing, the president and the regents finally agreed to transfer an extra $10 million to each of the Flint and Dearborn campuses, but it took a majority of the regents voting down Schlissel’s proposed budget to make that happen. Since his budget passed, the president insisted that the extra $20 million for Flint and Dearborn would be a one-shot deal, to be spread out over three years, rather than be renewed the following year, as the regents favoring the transfers intended.
This summer the 1U campaign won two more victories. First, the Go Blue Guarantee (GBG) — which waives tuition for students from families with an income of less than $65,000 — was extended from Ann Arbor, where it was adopted in 2018, to Flint and Dearborn. However, while finally bowing to community pressure and regental authority, the president truncated the transformative potential of the new policy by introducing a minimum GPA eligibility requirement. There is no such requirement in the Ann Arbor version of the GBG, and it could halve the number of eligible UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn students.
Our second victory came when the student governments of all three campuses came together in the Fund Our Future rally to announce their common demand that U-M commits $10 million per year to the Flint and Dearborn campuses for at least five years.
Lecturers’ Employee Organization, the union representing lecturers (i.e., nontenure-track faculty) on U-M’s three campuses, was already on the same page. When lecturers began negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement in January 2021, a core demand was that $15 million be transferred to Flint and $15 million to Dearborn, from funds controlled by the central (i.e., university-wide) administration, for each of the three years of the collective bargaining agreement.
LEO members attached high priority to this demand for two reasons: They are committed to fair salaries for their Flint and Dearborn members without raising student tuition or provoking cuts in programming and they want to help dismantle the institutional racism and classism embodied in the current budget model.
Commissioned by LEO, research by university budget expert Professor Howard Bunsis of Eastern Michigan University shows that the central administration could easily provide this level of increased support for Flint and Dearborn, notwithstanding the challenges of COVID-19. The $30 million per year (for the two campuses combined) is 1.3% of the Ann Arbor General Fund budget for 2021-22, but would be a 12.8% increase in U-M Flint’s General Fund budget, and a 9.7% increase in U-M Dearborn’s.
Nevertheless, the president continues to publicly say no to such a change in the budget model. No to the student governments and no to LEO. Every time LEO presented its demand for $30 million for the two campuses at the bargaining table, the administration bargaining team crossed it out. LEO has made it clear that the change does not need to be included in the collective bargaining agreement, so long as it happens, but Schlissel seems uninterested in either approach.
Why is the president who was proud to allocate $85 million to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion goals on the Ann Arbor campus so opposed to applying DEI principles and money across the three campuses of U-M? We’re not sure, but the current budget model needs to change to align with our DEI values.
Jason Kosnoski is an Associate Professor of Political Science at U-M Flint and a member of the One University campaign. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Daille Held is an undergraduate student studying psychology and pre-med at U-M Dearborn and a member of the One University campaign. She can be reached at email@example.com.