Recently, a number of our students have
voiced their concerns about administrative decisions that affect
student services. I was impressed with their thoughtful
presentation at the March Board of Regents meeting. But I was
disappointed that we were not able to have a more productive
dialogue when we met at William Monroe Trotter House on March 29. I
had hoped we could use that time to put some important ideas on the
table, and to talk together about plans moving forward.

 

I am not interested in responding to a set of demands where no
real discussion can take place. I believe that progress on
important issues can only come from dialogue. I’d like to
share my thoughts about these issues in more detail.

 

First, I have been listening carefully to the concerns that have
been raised. It is clear we have to establish productive dialogue
among students and administrators — and in some cases,
accelerate decisions that have taken too long. Also, we must build
better decision-making processes on major University initiatives
focused on students — processes that fully engage student
input.

 

It is not possible for the administration to always be in 100
percent agreement with students on every issue. We will certainly
have some differences of opinion along the way. But when we do, I
am prepared to share the principles and facts that have guided our
final decisions.

 

On March 29, Provost Paul Courant, Vice President for Student
Affairs E. Royster Harper and I wanted to share several actions we
have planned to address many of the concerns that have been
expressed. Also, we want to keep the door open for continued
discussion on these and other issues that will take more
consideration and study. I hope our students and other members of
our campus community will join us in this work.

 

Student Input:

 

Establishment of a Standing Student Advisory Committee
Vice President Harper will establish an advisory
committee to encourage additional student input on University
issues that have an impact on student communities. The advisory
group will include representatives from student organizations.
Clear guidelines for nomination to the committee, terms of service
and other protocol issues will be established.

 

Re-establishment of annual Provost’s discussion on
budget convened by MSA —
In past years, the Michigan
Student Assembly convened a dialogue between University budget
administrators and students, to discuss the budget-setting and
prioritization process. Provost Courant would like to re-establish
this tradition and ask MSA to host this discussion in April of this
year and annually thereafter.

 

Trotter House project planning — In April, a team
of student representatives, facilities experts and staff will be
established to recommend possible options for Trotter House. Vice
President Harper has asked Patricia Aqui Pacania, director of the
Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, to lead this fast-track
planning effort. The group’s work will be shared widely with
the campus community in the fall. We are looking carefully at the
University’s fundraising capacity and the Office of
Development will provide counsel on realistic fundraising goals. I
have made a commitment to be personally engaged in fundraising for
Trotter House as well.

 

Greek System discussion — We believe this subject
needs more time for consideration and discussion. There are many
serious issues that need our attention. We want to establish a
clearly prescribed process to 1) outline the issues and goals, 2)
mutually agree on the student and faculty advisors, 3) provide for
open discussion, and 4) determine an end date by which final
decisions will be made.

 

SAPAC — The decisions regarding the Sexual Assault
Prevention and Awareness Center were made in order to respond to
very real and enduring concerns about our ability to serve all our
students. Complete status quo is not an option. The changes will
enable the University to provide a greater level of specialized
counseling services to survivors of sexual assault and trauma. Vice
President Harper has indicated her willingness to continue a
dialogue about how to go forward in a way that is responsive to
student needs, especially the need for safe space.

 

Student recruitment — Many students are currently
involved in elements of the recruitment process within their
schools and colleges, including LSA Student Government
representatives as members of the LSA Admissions Advisory
Committee. We welcome additional student input as we continue to
evaluate our new undergraduate admissions process and enhance our
outreach and recruiting efforts.

Budget and Program Issues:

 

Budget cuts — The magnitude of our budget
constraints and the effect of the resulting cuts is not easy on any
part of our community. The hard reality is that all of us will have
to deal with cuts to program support in an effort to manage the
enormity of the short-term budget crisis. But students are right
when they ask us to also find a way to support our
University’s work to be a truly diverse and inclusive
community.

 

We will work to identify some additional resources, through
reallocation, for areas where the funding levels are such that
programs are at special risk. Also, we will work with students to
ensure that the impact of budget cuts is minimized. Specifically
with respect to Ann Arbor Dance for Mother Earth Pow Wow, the
University will cover the program’s deficit this year as it
has in the past. We will work to develop a sustainable budget model
for the future.

 

Latino Coordinator — We are moving ahead and the
position will be posted within two weeks.

 

Michigamua — The University took strong actions two
years ago to establish an environment of respect related to Native
American heritage. The Office of the Provost has begun
investigating the transcript issue raised at the March Regents
meeting. We have discovered that over 200 student organizations and
affiliations are listed on transcripts, but the process is not
clear and it is obviously out of date. The Provost has charged the
Registrar with a study of the issue and will recommend appropriate
next steps.

 

Hate Incidents:

 

The forceful description that our students have given of the
pain of hate incidents is very powerful to me, and I am dedicated
to addressing this for our whole campus. Hate incidents are
insidious and have a damaging effect on our campus climate. I have
asked the Campus Safety and Security Advisory Committee to explore
the creation of a comprehensive hate incident reporting mechanism.
I want the effort to achieve several goals:

 

Create a greater awareness of the issue on campus,

Make sure that those who experience hate incidents can reach out
to us, and make sure DPS is engaged to address hate crimes that are
identified by members of our community.

 

The Campus Safety and Security Committee is chaired by Vice
President and Secretary of the University Lisa Tedesco. The charge
of this advisory group is to assist with the ongoing review of
issues related to campus safety, and its membership includes
student representatives. The committee has already taken up the
issue and is prepared to explore next steps.

Transgender, Bisexual, Lesbian

and Gay Task Force:

 

The TBLG Task Force, charged by Provost Courant, is expected to
issue a report in April. We will be acting upon the report’s
recommendations in the coming months.

 

In summary, we are paying careful attention to the concerns that
students have raised. Some actions will take place immediately, and
in other cases we have more work to do as a community. My goal, and
I trust it is a shared goal, is to make the best decisions we can
for the students who are here now and for those to come.

 

Sincerely,

 

President Mary Sue Coleman

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