Six hundred faculty and staff members oppose the planned renovations to Michigan Stadium, according to Irwin Goldstein, a University professor emeritus of biochemistry who has started a petition asking faculty members to announce their opposition to the plan.
It might be too late for the petition to make much of a difference, though. The University Board of Regents gave final approval to the project in June.
The project would add structures containing premium seating and luxury boxes atop the bowl.
The petition has 600 signatures, according to Goldstein, who would not release the signatures because he said he wants University President Mary Sue Coleman and the regents to be the first people to see them.
The petition states that the renovation approval process was marked by the censorship of opposing viewpoints and that the $226 million price tag is too high. It says faculty members are concerned that the costs could put the University into debt and thereby affect the University’s academics.
“The University of Michigan continues to damage its reputation, undermine public trust, and saddle itself with a costly stadium plan that does not reflect U-M’s traditional values or mission,” the petition reads.
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said in a written statement that the University took faculty opinion into account while the proposal was on the table, but the regents have already made a decision.
“The stadium expansion project has undergone a rigorous process of debate and approval for all planning phases,” Cunningham said. “The Athletic Department has actively engaged students, faculty, staff, alumni, ticket holders, and the media in the discussion. The project has been fully vetted.”
Athletic Department spokesman Bruce Madej referred calls for comment to the University administration.
Goldstein said he started the petition in part because he fears that the proposed changes will hurt the University’s reputation.
“I happen to be a fervent supporter of the Wolverines. I’ve had tickets for over 30 years. I also love the stadium. I love its simplicity,” Goldstein said. “What is proposed I think is a horrible, terrible mistake.”
Goldstein started the petition in mid-July. He said he had acquired about 400 signatures by the beginning of this week. That number jumped after he e-mailed the petition to the faculty Monday.
“Everyone who responded said that they’re really supportive of what we’re trying to do,” he said. “We have respondents from every single department on campus. History of Art, medicine, dentistry, the basic sciences, architecture, all the engineering schools.”
Goldstein said the petition would probably be presented to University President Mary Sue Coleman and the regents within the next month.
Physics Prof. Keith Riles, who signed the petition, said he also thinks the stadium renovations deserve further discussion. He said in an e-mail that proponents of the stadium project made efforts to avoid open discourse.
“If the luxury boxes truly make sense, then they should survive a public debate with both proponents and opponents allowed to present their cases,” he said. “I believe such a debate is long overdue.”