Peoples' Regents Meeting emphasizes responsibility of University to protect the community, ideal budget

Thursday, November 19, 2020 - 8:24pm

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Courtesy of Isabelle Regent

 

The third People’s Regents meeting took place over Zoom Thursday, bringing together approximately 80 faculty, staff and students with the goal of developing a common agenda of the most pressing and important topics across the University.

Organized by a committee from the All Campus Labor Council, a coalition of labor unions from all three University of Michigan campuses and Michigan Medicine, the meeting aimed to raise awareness about interests shared across the school.

Lecturers’ Employee Organization steward Craig Regester, lecturer in the Residential College, said the People’s Regents meetings are a chance for members of the U-M community to gather, discuss and “draw more connections around our shared interests.” 

“It’s important that everybody understands what we are doing,” Regester said. “What we’re trying to do is get everyday people on U-M’s campus, whether that be nurses, bus drivers, students, dining hall workers, you name it, all the sort of folks that make the University what it is, together in a room to continue a process, which will move into next semester, to develop a common agenda and platform for all of U-M, the three campuses and Michigan Medicine.” 

The People’s Regents meeting, open to all students, began with a discussion about the University’s response to COVID-19. Attendees discussed cuts related to the pandemic, prioritizing testing and protection, and investing in workers. The conversation also included reflections on the University’s role in the community regarding housing and climate change.

Ted McTaggart, a registered nurse at the University’s Northville Health Center, discussed the current status of Michigan Medicine and health care workers, saying that the lack of resources is scary.

“Safety is the number one issue. Availability of PPE is one large part of the safety issue,” McTaggart said. “Nurses and patients are very much affected by the austerity measures that have been enacted. Nurses and health care workers don’t have the easy access to testing like football players do.”

LSA senior Soneida Rodriguez, a resident adviser, said she felt like the U-M administration prioritized keeping the campus open over the overall safety of the community. 

“The University assured us that they would listen and respond to our concerns on the front line of this pandemic. It was clear their priority was never to ensure safety,” Rodriguez said. “Their metric of success was not how to curb the spread of COVID, but how to keep campus open. The very policies and resources that we called for back in August will now be implemented in the winter semester.”

In an interview with The Daily on Nov. 9, University President Mark Schlissel said that although there have been high levels of COVID cases on campus, the University community deserved a chance to reopen. 

“I don’t regret trying,” Schlissel said. “We’ve never been through this before as a university. Although the basic principles are clear about how to prevent transmission, we didn’t know until we tried to figure out how our community would respond, how much compliance we would get, where the weak points turned out to be.” 

Attendees discussed their visions for the University in breakout rooms, offering next steps and requests for the school. Some suggestions included providing more mental health support for students and creating more accessible and sufficient COVID-19 testing — which is part of the plan for winter semester

Regester said the ACLC hopes to continue these meetings into the next semester. 

“This is meant to be the next step in a long process during this academic year, but really that goes beyond this academic year,” Regester said. “There are some really serious questions we should all be asking about the leadership of our institution after the last nine months.”

Daily News Contributor Isabelle Regent can be reached at iregent@umich.edu.


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