Regents discuss research, upcoming renovation projects in second meeting of the semester

Thursday, February 21, 2019 - 9:15pm

University President Mark Schlissel speaks at the regents meeting at the University of Michigan Golf Course Thursday afternoon.

University President Mark Schlissel speaks at the regents meeting at the University of Michigan Golf Course Thursday afternoon. Buy this photo
Madeline Hinkley/Daily

The University of Michigan Board of Regents convened for their first meeting of the semester Thursday. Prior to a sharing of public comments, the board presented successes in research as well as several renovation proposals.

To begin the meeting, University President Mark Schlissel emphasized the value of post-secondary education. Before announcing his recommendations for Arthur F. Thurnau Professorships, awarded for outstanding contributions to undergraduate education, Schlissel cited Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s goal of having 60 percent of Michigan residents obtain a post-high school education. Schlissel noted higher education is crucial for the success of the state.

“The state of Michigan is made stronger by 15 public institutions that vary in scope and mission,” Schlissel said. “We can see the benefits amongst our three University of Michigan campuses. Additionally, it is a cause for optimism that Governor Whitmer has set a goal for post-secondary educational attainment. If we want our state to be amongst the most prosperous in the nation, we have to be amongst the most educated. Our students’ businesses and the residents deserve this opportunity to succeed.”

Schlissel also expressed his gratitude and congratulations to several groups and members around campus. Referencing the extreme cold that led to the cancellation of two days of classes this January, Schlissel said he is grateful for the work of staff members across all three U-M campuses in maintaining facilities and student safety despite harsh weather conditions.

“Extreme cold creates special challenges for the University, and the staff responded,” Schlissel said. “For instance, our buses ran their normal routes to ensure that our students and employees had safe transportation, and some buses served as warming stations on key campus locations. Maintenance teams proactively inspected pipes, monitoring for breaks and leaks and our custodians monitored buildings for safety and assisted students in numerous ways. I know that staff also on our Dearborn and Flint campuses worked diligently to support their operations as well.”

Schlissel also congratulated the 2019 Sloan Research Fellows, awarded for being promising young researchers, as well as the 24 students who earned Fulbright grants, given to students to study internationally. He then introduced S. Jack Hu, vice president for research, for the annual research report.

According to Hu, the University saw their highest research expenditures on record, with the largest grants coming from the federal government and industry sources.

“Our 2018 research expenditures reached a total of 1.55 billion — that is a record high,” Hu said. “The federal government remains the most significant sponsor of our research. For the eighth year, U of M ranked first among all public research universities in the U.S.”

Several building renovation proposals were approved by the Board of Regents. The first, presented by Chuck Lewis of Integrated Design Solutions, is an $8.9 million renovation to the Alumni Center.

According to Lewis, this renovation would add over 350 square feet and update existing systems in the Alumni Center and will be paid for by the Alumni Association.

“The new west vestibule, which is also an addition, is designed to complement the existing architecture, improve the energy efficiency of the building, and requires minimal changes to the landscape,” Lewis said.

The second proposal, a $5 million Bonisteel Boulevard water main and road reconstruction, was passed unanimously by the board. A third proposal was then brought to and passed by the board to rebuild the University Laundry Building, which serves patient care facilities at Michigan Medicine, and move it to an alternative location. According to Kevin Hegarty, the executive vice president and chief financial officer of the University, the facility is over 50 years old.

“It is completely outdated, worn out and requires replacement,” Hegarty said. “The laundry service it provides is critical to the operation of the Michigan Medicine hospitals.”

President of Central Student Government Daniel Greene, Public Policy senior, spoke in front of the regents to given the Student Government Report. Congratulating new Regents Paul Brown (D) and Jordan Acker (D), Greene said he looks forward to working on policy points the new regents stressed in their election process.

“I’d like to start by congratulating Regent Acker and Regent Brown on their recent election victories,” Greene said. “The current CSG administration stands ready to collaborate on many of the platform points you both ran on, including addressing campus affordability, with a specific focus on housing affordability and food insecurity, improving equitable support across our three campuses, and making the administration and regents more accessible to students.”

Looking to discuss campus issues such as even distribution of resources, food insecurity and workers’ rights and challenges surrounding the new felony self-disclosure policy, Greene recommended the regents consider making several endorsements to address these challenges. In discussing equitable resource distribution, Greene said all three campuses need to be treated and aided equally.

“If we, at the Ann Arbor campus, truly believe in our University’s mission, then we must provide equitable support for our Dearborn and Flint campuses that disproportionately represented lower-income students, Michigan resident students of color and first-generation students,” Greene said. “Our school’s mantra, ‘Leaders and Best,’ shall hold throughout the entirety of our University of Michigan academic system.”

Greene reflected on the aims and highlights of CSG’s recent State of the Students report and said he hopes the board will consider reviewing the issue addressed in the document.

“The State of the Students report is an opportunity to highlight the accomplishments of ongoing projects of the current administration,” Greene said. “I hope the Regents and administrators will take the time to explore both forms of the report, as the few highlights are only a fraction of policy interests of current Wolverines.”