To attend their regular meeting yesterday, members of the University Board of Regents had to wind through a chanting group of University students demonstrating against the proposed merger between the University and Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.
With brightly-colored signs held high, approximately 15 students protested before and after the meeting outside the Fleming Administration Building.
But their voices didn”t stay outside. During the public comments session of the meeting, the protesters spoke out, calling on the regents to recognize their concerns.
The students were worried that the merger of the University Transportation Service and the AATA would cost one of the best-paying jobs available for students.
They also noted the control the University would lose over its busing system, possibly resulting in a lack of efficient transportation for students who depend on the buses.
Rackham student Cedric DeLeon, president of the Graduate Employees Association, said he wanted to “chastise” the regents for considering the merger.
“The University of Michigan has gotten caught up in the outsourcing craze,” DeLeon said. “What this implies to me is that the University is much more concerned with financial costs than human costs.”
He added that he was angry the University “went behind our backs” during earlier private discussions of the merger.
“Don”t try to insult our intelligence,” he said. “This is a plea. Stop this merger.”
Cybele Blood, a University staff member, echoed DeLeon”s sentiments.
“As a famous liberal arts institution, we are ostensibly concerned with values and principle that transcend the value of a dollar, or even a few hundred thousand dollars a year,” Blood said. “Such principle remains the backbone of our tradition for excellence and must not be forgotten.”
Speaking for the University”s Engineering Council, Engineering junior Matthew Rudnick, the council”s external vice president, said the group also opposes the merger, noting that engineers and others with many classes on North Campus are “the primary users of the University bus system.”
He said the group”s main concerns are future extent and coverage of routes, bus frequency and bus size.
The University is currently in the middle of a 60-day moratorium on negotiations of the merger.
University Chief Financial Officer Robert Kasdin said the time is being used for the administration to thoroughly discuss the merger with students, staff and faculty.
“We agree, of course, that we need to be thoroughly informed of student concerns,” Kasdin said, adding that there have been several meetings with student groups and more can be arranged.
University Regent Larry Deitch (D-Bloomfield Hills) requested a “summation of the findings” from those meetings to be distributed to the regents before next month”s meeting.