Regents meet in Dearborn

Friday, May 17, 2019 - 12:24pm

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Max Kuang/Daily

The University of Michigan Board of Regents convened in Dearborn, Mich. Thursday afternoon for the third meeting of the calendar year. University President Mark Schlissel began the meeting with his address to the regents.

Schlissel said a new training to prevent sexual and gender-based misconduct for all faculty and staff across the three campuses and Michigan Medicine is being rolled out next week.

“Preventing all forms of sexual and gender-based misconduct remains a top priority for the University of Michigan,” Schlissel said. “I thank the regents for their leadership on this important issue and the many faculty and staff on all three of our campuses and Michigan Medicine who are contributing to our comprehensive efforts to reduce and address misconduct for all members of our community.”

Schlissel also welcomed new Dearborn Chancellor Domenico Grasso. Regent Ron Weiser congratulated Grasso, noting how well attended his inauguration was.

“As someone who is deeply entwined with the Dearborn campus, I wanted to express my excitement for the campus’s future, but also like to congratulate Dom and thank him for his efforts he put forth so far,” Weiser said. “We look forward to your continued leadership. This is really an exciting time for the Dearborn campus, and I think it’s ready to make that next giant leap forward.”

Schlissel also shared that Rebecca Cunningham, associate vice president for research, will be named interim vice president after Vice President Jack Hu leaves to become provost at the University of Georgia. As it was his last meeting with the board, Schlissel said Hu’s initiatives have increased the University’s standing in the field and expanded its engagement with society.

Hu said he was grateful for the opportunity to have served the University. Though it was never his “sandbox dream” to become vice president of research, he said the people he has met over his 34 years at the University have enhanced his research.

“This is a bittersweet moment,” Hu said. “I may be leaving Michigan, but Michigan will never leave me. Go Blue.”

Schlissel also gave a brief overview of the Michigan Road Scholars program, which takes faculty and staff members around the state each year. He said this is an example of the faculty’s commitment to public engagement.

Schlissel then praised the University’s sports teams — eight of which have earned special NCAA recognition — for their academic and competitive successes. In the same vein, he shared the news of  Head Basketball Coach John Beilein’s decision to accept a position with the Cleveland Cavaliers and thanked him for his service to the University.

“Coach Beilein is the winningest coach in program history, and he represented the U of M with impeccable honor and integrity,” Schlissel said. “I will forever cherish watching him from across the court.”

After a faculty presentation about presidential power from Mitchel Sollenberger, Dearborn professor of political science and associate provost, over 200 faculty from across the three campuses and Michigan Medicine were presented for promotion. University Provost Martin Philbert said faculty play an essential role in the University’s service to society.

“One of the University’s great strengths is the breadth and depth of our faculty,” Philibert said. “Each year, the review of promotion and tenure casebooks reaffirms our appreciation for the outstanding work of the faculty. It reveals the many ways they carry out our mission of contributing to the state, the nation and the world through research, teaching and service.”

U-M Dearborn Student Government President Sarah Nasser said she is committed to inclusion and access. Specifically, she said she is interested in parking reform, expanding student services and budget equality.

“Our list of initiatives will be ever growing as more students connect with us about issues and ideas,” Nasser said. “We look forward to the challenge and hope we can do our best to serve them all. We are working to become a more interconnected campus, a more exposed campus, a campus that students from around the world want to attend. This can all be accomplished.”

Central Student Government President Ben Gerstein emphasized the importance of partnerships both across the Ann Arbor campus and the University system. He also acknowledged the presence of One University Campaign members at the meeting.

Additionally, Gerstein highlighted the new well-being fee and said his administration is committed to making CSG, and its work, more representative. Gerstein also said he wants to build on the Big Ten Voting Challenge.

“Throughout my time at Michigan, I have been able to see the value of partnership across campus,” Gerstein said. “Isabelle Blanchard — Ann Arbor student body vice president — and I are dedicated to bolstering current partnerships, as well as building new ones to bridge gaps across our own campus in Ann Arbor and across all three University of Michigan campuses. A core part of our vision is the simple reality that, when we can bring together students from different communities and organizations to collaborate, our collective voice to the University community is amplified.”

The board voted to approve motions for a new dance and pharmacy buildings. Additionally, academic calendars were approved.

Sixteen public commenters spoke about issues related to lecturer course load cuts, the One University campaign, climate action and a new bench.

Music, Theatre & Dance Lecturer Missy Beck said her course load, and therefore her salary, was cut in half. She said many notable alumni, including Benj Pasek, have shown solidarity with her and criticized the University for its actions.

“I can no longer support myself,” Beck said. “Both alum and professionals in the field have expressed outrage and disgust that U of M doesn’t value the impact I have had in the past 18 years nor cares how financially devastating this move is. … I ask you to right this wrong. The world is watching."

Regent Paul Brown responded to Beck, expressing support and saying the University should help her and other lecturers.

Ann Arbor resident Melissa Boyd asked to place a bench in Wilson Park, which she would donate, as a tribute to her late husband, a Flint native and professor. Regent Denise Ilitch said she was unsure of the process for naming a bench, but she and other regents expressed their interest.

Additionally, speakers addressed climate change. Unlike the last meeting — at which students criticized the University for its approach to carbon neutrality — a few faculty and community members thanked administration for its work toward carbon neutrality so far, one calling them strong “first steps.”

U-M Flint student and member of the 1U Campaign, Austin Ogle, highlighted medical and legal services available on the Ann Arbor campus but not on the Flint or Dearborn campuses. He said these additions would come at little to no cost, and it was the students who were not currently receiving these services who needed them most. Ogle said these are examples of the inequities 1U is pushing to fix.

“Students on these satellite campuses are told when they enroll that they are getting the same University of Michigan education as students at the Ann Arbor campus receive,” Ogle said. “However, this is merely an empty marketing statement and the reality of the matter is much different. Students in Flint and Dearborn are provided only a fraction of the resources that students receive in Ann Arbor.”

In between public commenters, Regent Mark Bernstein said he met with 1U representatives about one month ago. He said the campuses are distinct, but the University has the same core duties to all three.

Bernstein said he did not become a regent to only serve the Ann Arbor campus and pointed to the fact the University used to operate on one budget. He thanked the students and faculty involved in 1U for their advocacy and said he has spent time on the campuses trying to better understand the disparities.

While some regents have said the changes 1U is looking for fall with the state legislature, Bernstein agreed with 1U that the University leaderships hold power to make change.

“This is a university, and I talked about this with my colleagues earlier today; we go all in on things, whether it be buildings and infrastructure or the medical center or DEI or faculty recruitment or research or athletics,” Bernstein said. “I think we have to be all in here for Dearborn and Flint.”

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