Regents approve new UMMA director and real estate purchase
The Regents held their last meeting for the summer this afternoon, also doubling as Paul Courant’s last meeting as Interim Provost. He will be replaced by Martin Philbert, School of Public Health dean, whose appointment becomes effective September 1.
Business in the meeting included a search committee, members of which included Courant, seeking the approval of Christina Olsen, currently the director of Williams College Museum of Art, as the new director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art. Her term, if accepted, would last until 2022.
“Christina Olsen brings deep knowledge of art and museums to the directorship of UMMA,” Courant wrote. “Her commitment to collaboration and inclusion shape her work with students, faculty, the public, and other cultural institutions. I have great confidence in her ability to build on UMMA’s excellence enhancing contributions it makes to education, research, and civic life.”
Additionally, Rick Fitzgerald, director of public affairs and internal communications at the University, and Elizabeth Parkinson, executive director for marketing, were appointed vice presidents in the University's Office of the Vice President for Communications.
In his opening remarks, University President Mark Schlissel discussed the Bicentennial celebrations that occurred the summer, including the research colloquium and the MStaff 200 celebration. Attendees of the meeting were pleased with the events, such as Vice Chancellor Daniel Little from the University of Michigan – Dearborn, who said during his report that he was pleased that their campus was a part of MStaff200.
“The crowds throughout the day were tremendous and a vibrant reminder of the size and importance of the University of Michigan staff,” Schlissel said. “The public often only sees the tip of the iceberg when interacting with our University.”
The next Bicentennial event will be a campus-wide design competition, asking students to imagine new creative spaces for a research university.
Also pertinent to Schlissel’s remarks was concern over proposed federal cuts to the National Institutes of Health, which could severely impact University research. Last week, Schlissel released a letter to the University community noting the cuts would affect reimbursements for facilities and administrative costs — primarily infrastructural costs that cannot be tied to a specific project, but affect most researchers. The University would lose $92 million in research funds.
“This is a serious and disturbing proposal by the administration that threatens the future of our work as the nation’s most productive public research University,” he said. “Simply put, this proposal represents a disinvestment in American discovery.”
For decades, Schlissel said, universities and the federal government have formed a partnership that drives innovation, creates jobs, enhances American competitiveness and has made the United States the envy of the world in scientific research.
“All of us at the University of Michigan chose to work or study at a research university whose work advances the public good,” he said.
Schlissel said if enacted, the proposal will ignite consequences far beyond the University, affecting patients who receive medical treatment from Michigan Medicine and students and those of the community whose health has been improved by the University’s research.
Schlissel said the University is working with the Association of American Universities and others to educate the public and colleagues across the nation about the consequences of the current administration's proposal.
The board also agreed to a $35 million dollar renovation of the first floor for the LSA building. Additional spaces will be provides for the internship programs and Opportunity Hub. It will be completed in the summer of 2019.
“The space is designed to encourage interaction and be open, welcoming, vibrant, and student-focused,” the request said. “The scope of this project includes the architectural, electrical, and mechanical work necessary to accomplish these improvements”
The Regents also approved an action request brought to the table by Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer. The request recommended that the University acquire the Rackham Engineering Foundation’s portion of the Horace H. Rackham Educational Memorial building in Detroit for $5.088 million. The University and the Foundation each own part of the memorial building, and now the University will purchase the Foundation’s share.
In 1936, the building was established for use by the Engineering Society of Detroit — supported by the Rackham Engineering Foundation — and the University; the facility opened in 1942, after receiving donations from the Rackham family. The University currently owns the west wing of the building and central core of the property, while the REF owns the east wing of the building and four acres of property. In 1978, a parking structure was constructed by REF on REF and University-owned land. For 23 years, the building has been leased to Wayne State University.
“While that lease ends in 2019, we anticipate continuing our relationship with Wayne State,” Hegarty said. “Should the board approve the acquisition, the University would intend to explore opportunities to deepen its involvement in the city of Detroit. The University would also intend to continue collaboration with the (Engineering Society of Detroit), which is a relationship that extends back more than 100 years to develop and support activities that advance our overlapping missions related to the engineering profession.”
Regent Denise Ilitch expressed gratefulness for the continuing relationship with Detroit.
“I am very, very excited that the University is making a great commitment to the city of Detroit in purchasing this property and there are many good things to look forward to from this,” Ilitch said.