One University: Six regents have ‘shown support’ for coalition

Thursday, May 16, 2019 - 3:19pm

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Alice Liu/Daily

At a press conference Thursday afternoon on the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus, a speaker from the One University Campaign — a coalition of faculty and students from the University’s three campuses advocating equitable funding and resource allocation across the entire University system — said the group has had sit-down meetings with six out of the eight University regents, at which those regents expressed support for the coalition’s platform. The press conference came two hours ahead of a Board of Regents meeting, where a slate of 1U members would speak during the public comment portion.

Abdul El-Sayed, University alum and former gubernatorial candidate, said at the press conference the University should adopt 1U’s demands to better align with its goals of equitability and expanding academic opportunity.

“I'm here today because I love the University of Michigan, and because I recognize the University of Michigan is not just one campus, El-Sayed said. “This was always intended to be a University that provided an ‘uncommon education for the common individual.’ It had, baked in its core, a mission of equity, a mission of access to educational opportunities.”

El-Sayed said the University “leverages” its resources toward Ann Arbor students by spending approximately $54,000 per Ann Arbor student each year, but only $18,000 and $15,000 at Flint and Dearborn, respectively. He also said this is a governmental issue because the state allocates about half as much to Flint and Dearborn per student than in Ann Arbor. El-Sayed said he is proud to lend his voice to 1U’s push for a more equitable University.

This conference comes one day after 12 state lawmakers — including state Sen. Jeff Irwin and state Reps. Yousef Rabhi and Rebekah Warren, all Democrats representing the Ann Arbor area — signed an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press supporting “equitable” funding across the three campuses. The writers referenced many statistics that lay the foundation for 1U’s platform, which is fundamentally against unequal funding allocations from the state for the three campuses and a “silo system” used by University administration for distributing resources.

Austin Ogle, a U-M Flint student and 1U steering committee member, said his campus has many infrastructure issues, like broken handicap buttons. He also said medical and legal services available in Ann Arbor are not available in Flint and Dearborn.

“These services by far can do way more good in Flint and Dearborn; they’re way more needed in Flint and Dearborn than they are in Ann Arbor’s campus,” Ogle said. “The fact that they’re provided in Ann Arbor and not in the other satellite campuses, when they could be provided at little to no cost — it’s just kind of a shame they are not provided to the students that need them the most.”

During a time for questions following the speakers, Ogle said 1U will continue to work on outreach in the summer and academic year ahead.

Amytess Girgis, a communications representative for the Lecturers’ Employee Organization and current Ann Arbor student, said 1U representatives have had individual meetings with six out of the eight members of the Board of Regents. During these meetings, Girgis said the six have each expressed support for the 1U platform.

These meetings or alleged support from Regents could not be independently confirmed by The Daily at press time, with the exception of Mark Bernstein, who said at the Regents meeting he met with 1U representatives.

Girgis said she hopes all of the regents agree with 1U’s platform at the meeting. However, she said University President Mark Schlissel has not expressed support for the coalition, referencing his responses in his March and April interviews with The Daily.

“Six out of eight regents have sat down with us, and all of them have shown support in some capacity,” Girgis said. “Twice now, (Schlissel has) commented on our campaign when prompted. ... He feels the three campuses sort of serve different missions, and for that purpose he hasn’t supported our demands that we feel there is a need to increase funding on these campuses. Instead, he has sort of dodged the question and instead addressed the fact that, because these campuses serve different missions than the Ann Arbor campus, do not, therefore, need as much funding as the Ann Arbor campus — which, of course, is not even what we’re saying.”

In an email to The Daily, University spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald emphasized Schlissel's responses to The Daily in the past and said these responses address current concerns. At these interviews, Schlissel has said he consistently advocates for increased funding for all three campuses.

“We’re lobbying together to try to grow the pot for each campus, keeping in mind each campus serves different communities and has different resources come to it,” Schlissel said in March. “I’m committed to working with Flint and Dearborn to grow their state allocation at the same time we work to grow the state allocation for Ann Arbor.”