With debates about the bus system and an agreement to go ahead with the construction of a new residence hall, student life became the focus of yesterday”s meeting of the University Board of Regents.
Early in the meeting, University Chief Financial Officer Robert Kasdin addressed the possible partnership between Ann Arbor Transportation Authority and University Transportation Services.
Kasdin called the University”s bus system “a redundancy of AATA” and said a partnership would “be good for the environment, reflect the University”s commitment to partnership with the community, save capital expenses and ensure no loss of jobs for full-time employees.”
Kasdin added that the partnership would be gradual over a three- to four-year period, during which the University could pull out at any time.
But with an observation by Regent Laurence Deitch (D-Bloomfield Hills) that “there has been a lot of concern over this issue,” Regent S. Martin Taylor (D-Grosse Pointe Farms) proposed a 60-day moratorium on negotiations with AATA.
“This seems to me a reasonable, rational amount of time to make certain that all parties involved can sit down and voice their concerns and thoughts,” Taylor said. “Anything less than 60 days would be unacceptable.”
Although the proposal was accepted, the transportation issue was again addressed at the end of the regular meeting. Seven of the 12 public comments scheduled were from students and staff opposing the partnership.
Social Work graduate student Michael Dover said he opposed the partnership because of the loss of student jobs and the questionable process taken to pursue the deal.
“There will be no reduction in the number of full-time driver positions, but student jobs will decline through attrition from the current level of over 50 jobs,” Dover told the regents.
Dover pointed out that the University, in considering the partnership, did not produce a written report, never consulted affected employees and failed to evaluate the internal pros and cons.
University bus driver Marisa Arnold said AATA “is seeking to zap the strength from our system.”
“This is part of their grand scheme to monopolize Ann Arbor,” Arnold said.
She also noted the benefits of students driving students, including knowledge of campus buildings, giving directions and conversations.
Other University students and staff noted that Transportation Services offers high paying jobs that are largely held by minority and working-class students. Taking away this employment option, several speakers said, would make it harder for these students to stay in school.
Students were also the focus of Vice President for Student Affairs E. Royster Harper”s outline of a general plan for the construction of a new residence hall and emphasized the need for renovations to current halls.
The regents unanimously supported moving forward on plans for a new hall.
Harper noted that while the number of University students has increased by more than 5,000 students since 1968 when Bursley Hall opened, the number of residence facilities has remained the same.
“This translates into fewer spaces for upper-class and graduate students,” Harper said, adding that a lack of interaction between older and younger students alters the intellectual experience in halls.
Harper also pointed out how the needs of students have changed drastically in the past three decades.
“Students today have more material goods than any other generation,” she said. She also mentioned the demand for technology and need for dining hall improvements.
University Provost Nancy Cantor said a new residence hall can continue the University”s efforts to “stretch beyond the boundaries of traditional classrooms.”
She suggested the hall could work towards “intertwining student life and academic pursuits” by incorporating public performance spaces, office hours for faculty fellows and graduate student instructors, classrooms for minicourses and a health or global studies living-learning community.