Schlissel announces Victors for Michigan meets $5 billion mark, eyes carbon neutrality for campus

Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 7:16pm

University President Mark Schlissel responds to questions at his Leadership Breakfast in the Ross School of Business Thursday morning.

University President Mark Schlissel responds to questions at his Leadership Breakfast in the Ross School of Business Thursday morning. Buy this photo
Danyel Tharakan/Daily

The University of Michigan’s Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign has raised more than $5 billion, University President Mark Schlissel announced Thursday to a crowd of about 200 people during his annual Leadership Breakfast at the Ross School of Business.

As Schlissel told the group, the record is a nationwide first.

“I'm thrilled to announce here today that the University of Michigan is now the first public university ever to raise $5 billion in a fundraising campaign,” Schlissel said. “It’s the most successful campaign in our history and in the history of public higher education.”

Schlissel’s predecessor, former University President Mary Sue Coleman, launched the campaign in 2013, and more than 382,000 donors have contributed since. The $5 billion in funds includes $1.1 billion for student support, surpassing the campaign’s designated $1 billion goal. Schlissel emphasized the importance of the school’s $11 billion endowment and fundraising efforts like the Victors campaign to the University and its reputation.

“The difference between Michigan being a very good public university in the Big Ten and being one of the global leaders in higher education and research is the Victors campaign,” Schlissel said.

Schlissel thanked donors for their support, including Richard and Susan Rogel, who committed $150 million to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center in March. The center was renamed the Rogel Cancer Center in their honor. Schlissel said the donation was the largest gift in the history of Michigan Medicine.

Eric R. Fearon, the center’s director, said the donation helped to advance cancer research and technology while providing support to hire new scientists and offer scholarships to medical students.

“Philanthropy is critical,” Fearon said. “It allows us to launch high-risk, high-reward research and support promising young faculty, as well as senior faculty, to pursue new directions in their work. It provides the foundation to generate the preliminary studies and data needed to be successful in obtaining federal grant funding.”

During a question-and-answer session, sociology lecturer Ian Robinson asked Schlissel about the possibility of including the University’s Flint and Dearborn campuses in the Go Blue Guarantee, which promises free tuition for in-state students in Ann Arbor who have with family incomes under $65,000.

“I’m wondering with the kind of resources the University has, based on the capital campaign’s extraordinary success, if it wouldn’t be possible to do that, to extend the Go Blue promise to those campuses, where a much higher percentage of the students probably qualify for that,” Robinson said.

Schlissel said the Go Blue Guarantee in Ann Arbor was “driven by the fact that we don’t have nearly adequate economic diversity on this campus,” whereas the Flint and Dearborn campuses have higher levels of socioeconomic diversity. He also said because the three campuses have separate finances, Ann Arbor did not have the financial means to extend the Go Blue Guarantee to the other campuses.

“What I think we need to do together, to be honest, is the state of Michigan is 49th of the 50 states in their direct-to-student support for need-based student scholarships,” Schlissel said. “State governments have to step in and protect and support their citizens, and even a great university like Michigan can’t replace the state government.”

Parity between campuses has been a longstanding source of tension. Last year, the Universitys lecturers union lobbied for the same salary levels for members teaching on the Flint and Dearborn campuses. Schlissel’s remarks about varying economic diversity are largely correct — students on the Universitys other campuses come from lower-income backgrounds, according to data from the Equality of Opportunity project. The medican household incomes of students on the Flint campus is $105,200 and $94,500 for students in Dearborn, as compared to the $154,000 median on the Ann Arbor campus.

The Thursday breakfast was Schlissel’s final formal leadership convening of his current term. Last month, the Regents voted to extend the presidents contract by another five years.

Schlissel’s pledge comes after the Regents meeting in September, where students criticized the University for the size of its carbon footprint and urged it to do more to combat climate change. Engineering junior Logan Vear is a member of the Climate Action Movement, which has been advocating for a commitment to carbon neutrality on campus since the beginning of the year by pressuring the Board of Regents and Schlissel to commit to carbon neutrality.

Vear said Schlissel’s commitment was a “great start” in the discussion of carbon neutrality, but noted the lack of “minutiae” in his announcement.

“Within his comment, there was no explicit statement committing the University to carbon neutrality, but rather, commiting to ‘putting U-M on a trajectory towards carbon neutrality and levels of greenhouse gas release that are environmentally sustainable’ which does not clearly define what the exact scope of the reduction goal may be,” Vear wrote. “Additionally, he failed to present a deadline in which this ‘goal’ may be achieved. Therefore, although we are gratified to see progress towards this complex issue, we will continue to push for a concrete date as well as the establishment of intermediate goals to get there. We are excited to continue this conversation.”