While most members of the University community celebrated the newest architectural member of University Housing yesterday, a few students protested the cost of the building by voicing their objections on the building’s windows.
The open house for North Quad Residence Hall and Academic Complex took place yesterday afternoon, with several hundred University affiliates and Ann Arbor residents in attendance. During the open house, University President Mary Sue Coleman, University Provost Philip Hanlon, E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, and School of Information Dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason spoke about the history of planning the facility and highlighted various technological aspects of its construction.
In addition to housing students and classrooms, North Quad, which opened at the beginning of the fall semester and cost about $175 million to construct, features academic department offices, including the School of Information, Communication Studies and Screen Arts and Cultures.
Guests at the open house were invited to take a tour of the residential quarters, which comprise one of the two buildings that make up the facility. But before administrators spoke and the public went on tours, several University students expressed their disapproval over the expense of the building’s construction yesterday by vandalizing several outer surfaces of the facility. The students later received trespass warnings banning them from the building.
Two students went to North Quad at 8 a.m. yesterday and used spray chalk to write statements including “fancy buildings for the few” and “$175 million, this money could have been used to pay for 10,000 tuitions” on a brick building in the courtyard. LSA sophomore Ian Matchett, one of the students involved in the vandalism, said he and the other student were asked to leave within 15 minutes.
Three students, including Matchett, went to the building at noon to write statements on windows in the interior courtyard of North Quad. They were again told to leave the area. Police subsequently arrived, and the students were cited with trespass warnings, Matchett said.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said the students were charged with malicious destruction of property and received a trespass warning banning them from North Quad only.
The University’s trespass warning policy is currently under review by the University’s Office of the General Counsel. The Office of the General Counsel has proposed six initial modifications to update the current policy, originally implemented a decade ago.
Matchett was the only student involved in both the morning and noon incidents. He said he and his friends chose to write the statements on the facility because a large crowd was expected at the open house. He said he and his friends involved were protesting the fact that the building was constructed without student input.
“Given the economic climate in Michigan, that money could have been used putting a lot of people through school who could have really used that education,” Matchett said. “Instead, letting 450 wealthy students live in somewhat higher standards than the rest of the students on campus, doesn’t seem like a better way to spend to us.”
However, guests at the open house never saw the students’ protest, as the vandalism was cleaned up before the open house ceremony began yesterday.
Speaking at yesterday’s event, Rackham student Bobby Poulson-Houser and LSA junior Nick Renkes — both representatives from the Global Scholars Program — explained how their program takes advantage of the technology in North Quad. Members of the Global Scholars Community can videoconference with other schools around the world, Renkes said.
Housed within the residential area are two living-learning communities — the Global Scholars Program, which focuses on fostering cultural diversity, and the Max Kade House, a German-speaking language community for students.
The other building in North Quad is the academic building, which is home to the School of Information and has several new technological features. The building has faster Internet access than any other area on campus and an IT system that enables students to share documents, MacKie-Mason said.
He added that the building is equipped with several life-size videoconferencing centers, which display high-definition video. Using the large screens, guest speakers from around the world can be conferenced in to address classes.
MacKie-Mason and Hanlon also highlighted the SMART Board system in the building. The system, which consists of several monitors in North Quad’s lounges, allows students to write on touch-sensitive screens.
MacKie-Mason added that the Tower Room on the residence building’s 10th floor is a popular destination for students who need a more specific kind of technology. The room contains a full audio-visual console, enabling students to watch films in high-definition and work on audio projects with full sound-mixing capabilities.
Additionally, all flat-panel televisions in North Quad’s lounges have computer-display capabilities, allowing students to plug in their laptops to work on a group project or share videos and information with a large number of people, MacKie-Mason said.
In an interview after the event, Hanlon said the University’s main goal as an institution is to educate students to be successful in an ever-changing world. North Quad reflects this aim by offering technology that will help students adapt and become more productive workers in the increasingly technology-dependent global workforce, he said.
“The reaction I’ve heard from everyone is positive so far — those living in and working in the building,” Hanlon said. “So we hope to continue on the upward trend we’ve been on.”