After months of renovations and a $1.3 million tab, University President Mary Sue Coleman will soon move into the white house at 815 S. University Ave. The oldest University building, the 163-year-old President’s House, has been the home of 11 of the 12 past University presidents. Situated squarely in the heart of Central Campus, the house’s location and Coleman’s decision to make the residence her permanent abode in Ann Arbor will encourage interactions between students and administration.

For her first six months at the University, Coleman has been unable to reside in the stucco-faced structure. But with her upcoming move to the mansion, Coleman should be able to bridge much of the gap that exists between her and the student body. In the past, the President’s House has witnessed some of the most vivid moments in the University’s history of student activism. In 1984, a large group of University students congregated on the grounds of the President’s House in support of the University ending its economic ties with South Africa during the Apartheid era. In 1987, the United Coalition Against Racism and Black Action Movement III-led student protest established Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a University holiday. In the early 1990s, students camped out on the front lawn of the President’s House to protest the Code of Student Conduct. The President’s House has a special role in the development of debate on pressing campus issues. The president’s decision to occupy this landmark showcases a desire to reach out to the campus community. Students now have easy access to the top administrator, an opportunity they should passionately embrace by welcoming the president to the neighborhood.

Past presidents have used the house as a medium to bring valuable topics to the forefront of campus. Coleman and students should receive this opportunity by opening the house for discourses about the issue that has placed the squarely in the national spotlight, affirmative action. Not only would students be able to express dissenting views, but the policies would also be better explained to a large audience.

The memory of former President Lee Bollinger’s party after the football team’s 1997 victory at Penn State remain in the hearts of students whose college experience is highlighted with the unique story of sharing a drink with members of the administration. This Bollinger legacy should broaden to future generations; the new University tradition being an extensive conversation between the president and the students. Let’s hope that if the University wins Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, Coleman takes a cue from Bollinger and opens up the doors of her house to University students to celebrate the victory.

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