DEARBORN — Police officers from the University’s Dearborn campus were on hand at the Board of Regents meeting on Thursday, as several individuals spoke out against the University and its top administrators.
University President Mary Sue Coleman listens as a public speaker expresses concerns at this month’s Board of Regents meeting in Dearborn. (JAKE FROMM/Daily).
Topics brought before the regents in the public comment section of the meeting — in which pre-registered members of the public can address the regents for up to five minutes — included objections to alleged strong-arming by the Department of Public Safety, concerns over the procedures that govern the DPS Oversight Committee and commentary on the supposed crumbling of institutional integrity at the University.
Speaking before the University’s Board of Regents, Doug Smith, a University alum, asked regents and executive officers to examine a clause in the policies that govern the DPS Oversight Committee.
Smith told the regents about changes that were made to the DPS Oversight Committee’s guiding document in February. Specifically, Smith voiced concerns about one change that reassigns the grievance appeal process.
Prior to the amendments made in February, the executive director of DPS could appeal a grievance to the Board of Regents by taking the grievance to the University’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Timothy Slottow. Then, if the Board of Regents accepted the appeal from the executive director of DPS, the grievance would be dismissed before being reviewed by the DPS Oversight Committee.
However, under the changes made earlier this year, the executive director of DPS now has the option to appeal grievances to Slottow, who in turn can have the grievance dismissed from consideration by the DPS Oversight Committee with the permission of University President Mary Sue Coleman.
Effectively, the change gives Coleman the final say in whether the DPS Oversight Committee can investigate a grievance against DPS, not the University’s Board of Regents.
Asked in an e-mail why the change had been made, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said the change was meant to bring the policy for the DPS Oversight Committee in line with other University policies and procedures.
“The change makes this process consistent with most of the other campus appeal processes, like the one for (the Freedom of Information Act) for example,” Fitzgerald wrote.
However, when speaking before the University’s Board of Regents yesterday, Smith said he thought there was a different reason for the policy change.
“Not only are the committee members sworn to complete secrecy by the administration, but the administration has added a new clause that says that if the police chief objects to a grievance and the president agrees, there will be no hearing,” Smith said. “This clause codifies the president’s authority to cover up police misconduct.”
Having first-hand experience with the policy, Smith said he and Andrei Borisov, a former faculty researcher at the University, were informed that a grievance they filed with the DPS Oversight Committee would not be considered because Coleman had chosen to reject it.
The grievance alleges misconduct and violation of DPS policies by DPS officers who participated in an incident in which Borisov was allegedly forced to resign in 2008.
Fitzgerald said the University would not comment on the issue because it involved a matter currently in litigation.
Another public commentator at last week’s meeting also raised serious concerns about University policies and procedures.
Linda Martinson, a former University student, spoke about her struggles that were caused by a lack of central policies when she was a student at the University.
Martinson was a student in the School of Nursing before her status at the school was jeopardized and hearings to determine her status at the University were held without her presence. Martinson was dismissed from the University and was issued a no trespassing order by DPS in August 2008.
Speaking at last week’s meeting of the regents, Martinson explained her situation and argued for central policies to better regulate school policies and make them more uniform throughout the entire University.
Martinson is currently pursuing her case against the University in federal court, where she has alleged that the University violated her right to due process when the dean of the School of Nursing disregarded an appeal decision in which her case was to be reheard. She is seeking readmission to the School of Nursing, damages and attorneys’ fees.
And while the topics discussed by members of the public at last week’s meeting may have been unusually critical of the Board of Regents and the University’s executive officers, University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham told The Michigan Daily that the presence of police officers may not have been unusual.
Responding to a question from the Daily about whether the officers were present because of the controversial topics being discussed in public participation or the fact that one of the public speakers was barred from setting foot on the University’s Ann Arbor campus after being expelled, Cunningham said neither was the case.
“It had absolutely nothing to do with any of the speakers,” Cunningham said in an interview.
Cunningham instead said that it is common practice for corporate boards to have security on hand during public meetings. However, Cunningham wouldn’t comment on whether the University typically takes such measures for Board of Regents meetings.