With budget deadline in the rearview, One University looks to future

Sunday, September 8, 2019 - 5:46pm

Though the University’s Board of Regents did not change the budget model to reflect the coalition’s platform this May, 1U members remain undeterred in achieving their platform points.

Though the University’s Board of Regents did not change the budget model to reflect the coalition’s platform this May, 1U members remain undeterred in achieving their platform points. Buy this photo
Max Kuang/Daily

When the One University Campaign launched last year, it aimed to change the way the Michigan state legislature and the University of Michigan administration allocate funding among the three University campuses. 

Though the University’s Board of Regents did not change the budget model to reflect the coalition’s platform this May, 1U members remain undeterred in achieving their platform points.

Over the past year, One University has studied the University’s policies and budget and found specific instances in which the University can better support students on its regional campuses, such as extending the Go Blue Guarantee and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion resources beyond the Ann Arbor campus and increasing wages for lecturers on these campuses.

Since its inception, 1U has held meetings across the three campuses to gain traction. The coalition has found support from both individual regents and 12 state lawmakers — including State Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, and State Reps. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, and Rebekah Warren, D-Pittsfield — who undersigned an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press in May supporting equitable funding across the three campuses.

Members of 1U addressed the Board of Regents during their meeting on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus in May. The speakers discussed their campaign’s platform of changing the way the University and state legislature allocate funding across the three University campuses, and though they were met with statements of support from select regents, the University budget was not built this year to reflect the coalition’s goals.

According to LSA junior Amytess Girgis, who works on communications for 1U and the Lecturer Employee Organization, the coalition spent last semester reaching out to students, faculty and administrators across the three campuses. Though this momentum did not result in the University reflecting the coalition’s goals in its budget ahead of the June deadline, Girgis said 1U will continue to campaign for its goals.

“They always say in organizing that if you get people talking about your issue, even if it’s to tell you why it’s not possible, then you are winning, because you have shifted the conversation,” Girgis said. “What we did in early summer was entirely shift the conversation to the point where they opened up that June regions meeting, without our prompting, talking about One University.”

In an email to The Daily, University spokeswoman Kim Broekhuizen explained the three campuses have independent budgets, and university administrators support this independence. 

While the Ann Arbor campus leadership has advocated for increased funding from the state for the Flint and Dearborn campuses, Broekhuizen wrote the three campuses have different goals and serve different purposes. Specifically, Flint and Dearborn are regional schools and the faculty and academic programs are held to different standards than Ann Arbor in regards to tenure, research productivity and scholarly output, Broekhuizen wrote, and thus should have different budgets to reflect those goals.

With the state of Michigan ranking 30th in the nation for per-capita income and 35th for college attainment, Broekhuizen reiterated the importance of increasing funding allocations from the state for all public universities. She pointed to new data from the Michigan Association for State Universities, which ranked Michigan at 44th nationally in per-resident support for higher education, as evidence for the need of this support.

Looking ahead

While 1U did not push the University to break what it calls a “silo-system” budget model and increase support for its regional campuses, Girgis said 1U remains undaunted. If anything, the University’s decision and subsequent statement has only bolstered the urgency of equitable funding, she said.

“This is speaking to a long, storied history that the University of Michigan has in trying to silence student movements and trying to quiet the voices of people calling them out on misspending their money,” Girgis said. “But we don’t really intend to go anywhere. We intend to continue organizing in a greater capacity this year.”

Girgis said the coalition is looking to expand by reaching out to community groups with a stake in their mission of providing equal educational opportunity. Over this past weekend, Girgis and two other students met with the Washtenaw County Democratic Party to discuss the One University Campaign’s platform. The WDCP issued a resolution of support of 1U.

“We really want to be focusing on helping the University of Michigan achieve its higher calling of what a true public institution really needs and who it is serving,” Girgis said. “For us, it is pushing and urgently as possible, because this is not something that can wait until June. This is something that needs to happen, or at least need to make progress on happening, as quickly as possible.”

Girgis said one of the goals in broadening the coalition is bringing in more students and faculty from the Flint and Dearborn campuses. She would like to see organizing hubs on each campus so students with limited availability, due to conflicts with work or transportation, can participate in their work, she said.

Lucine Jarrah, a senior on the Flint campus and 1U organizer, wrote in an email to The Daily that she and other 1U members are branching out to groups across the state, specifically in the southeast region, to grow support. She also said the coalition is working to increase awareness of 1U and the disparities it is working to address to the students who need them addressed the most: those on the University’s regional campuses.

“As an undergraduate student at the Flint campus, I have seen firsthand how these disparities have created very real impediments to educational success for underrepresented students,” Jarrah wrote.

Girgis said expanding support will require continuing the work that One University has already been doing on the three campuses, such as holding events and attending Regents’ meetings, with an emphasis on increasing its work on the Flint and Dearborn campuses. The points 1U raise are wide-reaching, so the coalition should reflect that, she said.

“We’re trying to broaden our coalition to really reflect the fact that this is an effort for the entire University of Michigan community and for all of the state of Michigan,” Girgis said. “This is not just a University of Michigan issue. This is a state of Michigan issue.”