University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (May 20, 2010): This month, regents met at the UM-Dearborn campus – this is their second month away from Ann Arbor, after holding their April meeting in Grand Rapids. They’ll be back at their regular location in the Fleming administration building next month, when they’ll be voting on the budget for 2010-11, including tuition rates.
During the May 20 meeting, regents approved a 3% average rate increase for room and board during the 2010-11 academic year in campus residence halls. A double room will increase from $8,924 to $9,192 – an increase of $268. The most expensive room – a single with a private bath – will cost $12,166, up $354. Rates for the Northwood apartment complex on UM’s north campus were also raised an average of 1%.
Three construction projects – including a $17.7 million expansion to the University Hospital emergency department and a new $2.5 million indoor golf practice facility – were approved, with no discussion.
A large part of the meeting consisted of presentations, including an update on how the university’s health system might be affected by recent national health care reform, and a report on the non-traditional education programs task force, which generated some comments from regents.
Several sporting achievements were highlighted at the start of the meeting, as has been the case in other recent months. Most prominently, the men’s gymnastics team attended and were congratulated for their recent NCAA championship win. The celebration included a cake, and regents were given caps – which some wore during the meeting – commemorating the achievement.
Sports-related news not mentioned during the May 20 meeting was the university’s response to allegations that its football program violated NCAA rules – the university announced that response a few days later.
President’s Opening Remarks
UM president Mary Sue Coleman began by introducing the delegation from the Michigan-China University Leadership Forum, who attended the meeting as part of their two-week visit here – they leave on Saturday, May 29. UM’s relationship with China continues to grow, she said, and is an important partnership.
Coleman will be traveling to China in late June and early July, as part of UM’s international initiative with that country. It includes the UM-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute, which was established in 2005. [During public commentary time at the end of the meeting, retired UM engineering professor William Kauffman condemned the university's relationship with China, saying that it undermined national security.]
In other remarks, Coleman noted that later in the meeting, the regents would be asked to approve the reappointment of Daniel Little as chancellor of the Dearborn campus, through 2015. He is the longest-serving chancellor in the 50-year history of the campus.
This was the first regents meeting following the May 1 commencement at Michigan Stadium, when President Barack Obama spoke. Coleman said they had received positive feedback about the speech from across the country.
She then introduced UM athletic director David Brandon, who in turn introduced the men’s gymnastics team, describing them as champions in the classroom as well as in athletic competition. He called up head coach Kurt Golder to the podium – when Coleman asked Golder to tell them about the recent NCAA victory, he replied, “Well … we won!” Golder described how Ben Baldus-Strauss had broken his thumb during the competition but had gutted it out. Baldus-Strauss also received the NCAA’s Elite 88 award earlier this year, Golder noted, given for his 3.948 GPA in biochemistry. Members of the team who attended the meeting came to the front of the room with their NCAA trophy, and were given a round of applause.
In noting other UM sports highlights, Coleman remarked on the recent victory by the men’s baseball team against Northwestern, after being down 14 points. “It was the most remarkable performance I have ever seen in baseball!” Coleman said.
Housing Rates Increased
During reports from UM’s executive officers, E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, thanked regents for their “unwavering” support of living/learning environments on campus. She called the proposed 3% average rate increase wise and prudent, saying that 2% would be used for upcoming renovations of Alice Lloyd Hall, with the remaining 1% increase allocated to general operating costs for the housing system.
Later in the meeting, with no discussion, regents approved the following housing rate increases:
Residence Halls 2009-10 2010-11 Increase Single $10,650 $10,970 $320 Double 8,924 9,192 268 Triple 7,890 8,126 236 Single (private bath) 11,812 12,166 354 Double (private bath) 9,998 10,298 300 Double (in suite) 10,650 10,970 320 Triple (in suite) 9,998 10,298 300
Provided in the meeting packet was comparison data on housing rate increases that occurred for the current academic year at 23 peer institutions, ranked in order of the percentage increase. The packet also contained information about projected rate increases at Big Ten universities for the coming year. Those increases range from a high of 5.4% at Ohio State (projected) to a low of 2.5% at the University of Minnesota (projected). [.pdf of comparative data] Not included was any reference to Eastern Michigan University’s recent decision not to raise room and board, fees or tuition.
In addition, regents approved a 1% average rate increase for family, graduate and undergraduate apartments at the Northwood Community Apartment complex, off of Plymouth Road on UM’s north campus. [.pdf of Northwood housing rates]
Construction Projects: Health, Infrastructure, Sports
Three sizable construction projects were approved by regents during the May 20 meeting with no discussion, totaling $28.9 million.
Regents approved a $17.7 million expansion of the University Hospital’s emergency department, aimed at reducing overcrowding and patient wait times. In 2009, the hospital’s ER had over 77,000 patient visits.
The project will be done in phases, starting with the renovation of 6,400 square feet of space on level 2 of the Medical Inn Building, which will eventually house the hospital’s dentistry department. On level B1 of the hospital, roughly 22,500 square feet will be renovated to create 26 treatment bays, six enclosed triage rooms, two family consultation rooms, and expanded patient reception areas for the emergency department. In addition, space will be renovated and expanded adjacent to the ER to house the psychiatry emergency service.
The Ann Arbor architecture firm Hobbs + Black Associates will design the project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.
Expansion of North Campus Chiller Plant
An $8.7 million project to expand the North Campus chiller plant was approved by regents without discussion. The original plant was built in 2005 and provides chilled water to that part of campus. Compared to having individual building chillers, the university saved an estimated $200,000 in energy costs last year, according to a cover memo on the project. The project would expand the system by 8,500 square feet and add two 1,300-ton chillers.
It will be paid for by funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – federal stimulus dollars. The project will be designed by the UM Department of Architecture, Engineering and Construction, working with the architectural and engineering firms of C2AE and S3 Architecture, with construction completed by the fall of 2011.
Golf Practice Facility
Regents approved a $2.5 million, 10,000-square-foot indoor golf practice facility, to be located at the end of the UM Golf Course driving range (near the intersection of South Main and Ann Arbor-Saline Road).
The building will include a putting and chipping area, driving bays for the existing driving range, a team gathering space, coaches offices, locker rooms, a conference room, and storage. The project will be designed by Ann Arbor Architects Collaborative.
UM Health System and Health Care Reform
Matt Davis, an associate professor of pediatrics, internal medicine and public policy, briefed regents on how recent health care legislation might affect the university, and specifically the UM Health System (UMHS). He began by showing a photo of President Obama signing the bill into law, surrounded by legislators – including Rep. John Dingell. He noted that the Democrats looked happy – but that there were many Republicans who weren’t so happy. He said complete repeal was unlikely, though there will probably be incremental changes made to the law over time.
Describing it as a massive reform, Davis said that many aspects are unknown. However, there are some key elements that are clear, he said, and they can be summarized like this: “Coverage, coverage, coverage, coverage.”
Two examples of expanded coverage are taking effect this year: 1) extending eligibility for dependents through age 26, and 2) prohibiting insurance companies from setting lifetime limits on coverage and from establishing high-risk pools.
Two other areas of coverage will take effect in 2014, Davis said: 1) expanding Medicaid to cover people with income levels at 133% of the federal poverty line – it’s currently set at 50% in Michigan; and 2) providing subsidies for the purchase of health care plans via health insurance “exchanges.”
Davis highlighted four areas of emphasis as the university’s health system prepares for upcoming changes in 2014.
- All health insurance exchanges will have an “essential benefits plan,” or EBP. It’s not yet clear what the EBP will entail – the U.S. health and human services secretary will convene an expert group to help define the EBP, and university officials might be a part of that. What would UMHS like to see included in the plan? Is there research that the university could conduct on the issue?
- Medicaid reimbursements are still determined by states, and in most cases, reimbursements don’t cover costs. The university can work with Michigan legislators to come up with innovative way to restructure reimbursements, Davis said. He also cited another opportunity at the state level – helping develop a new health care provider assessment, which is likely to be passed into law.
- The U.S. medical profession tends to emphasize subspecialty care, Davis said, and wider health care coverage will likely exacerbate a shortage of primary care providers. UMHS has the opportunity to “widen the door” through outreach, inviting newly covered patients into the system.
- Davis described the concept of a “value proposition” – the amount of quality care that can be delivered for a specific cost. UMHS researchers are doing innovative work in this area, Davis said, citing research by Mark Fendrick, co-director of UM’s Center for Value-Based Insurance Design.
Davis also outlined the possible financial impact of other aspects in the reform package. Negative impacts could come from adjustments to Medicare payment rates, excise taxes on medical devices, drugs and some health plans, and a decrease in charitable care payments from the federal government. UMHS could see benefits from pilot programs and experiments with new care and patient models, and increased funding for preventive care, workforce initiatives and other programs.
Davis also discussed the issue of cost containment, saying there might be opportunities for UMHS to be a model for increasing the quality of care while keeping costs contained.
Davis concluded by noting the complexity of the reform. While challenging, he said the university is well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities that the changes might present.
Health Care Reform: Questions from Regents
Andy Richner asked whether a Medicaid provider assessment was desirable – was it something they really wanted? Davis replied that there might be some financial drain initially, but depending on how it was structured, there might be opportunity to draw down higher reimbursements in the long term.
Saying it sounds like there’s a lot of work to do by 2014, Andrea Fischer Newman asked if there was an organized effort in the state to tackle some of these issues. Davis said that every state will be different, and that in Michigan, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association has been very active.
Newman then asked Cynthia Wilbanks, UM’s vice president for government relations, whether Wilbanks had sufficient resources. [Wilbanks and her staff are the main advocates for UM interests in Lansing.] Wilbanks said she wasn’t prepared to answer that question at this point.
Non-Traditional Education Programs
Derek Collins, associate dean of Literature, Science, & the Arts, gave an update on the Non-traditional Education Programs at UM (NEPU) task force, which he chairs. The group, under the auspices of the provost’s office, was charged with assessing the university’s resources – buildings and other property, as well as people, including alumni and emeriti faculty. The task force was also asked to compile revenue-generating ideas that take advantage of those resources.
Collins said several areas looked promising – his presentation looked in detail at one of those areas: Continuing education. There are over 100 units at UM that offer professional development or enrichment programs, lifelong learning classes or other for-credit or non-credit courses, he said. Examples include executive education at the Ross School of Business, the College of Engineering’s Center for Professional Development, and the Medical School’s continuing education programs.
But there’s no centralized location to get information about these programs, Collins said – UM is one of the only major universities, public or private, that doesn’t have a comprehensive gateway for continuing education. Centralizing this information isn’t just low-hanging fruit, he said, “it’s fruit that’s rotting on the ground.” In addition to making the information easier for people to find – and, presumably, sign up for – it would also make it easier for units within the university to share information and best practices, Collins added. Increased participation in these programs means increased revenue, he noted – with the potential to double the revenue currently brought in by continuing education programs within five years.
In general, over 530 ideas were submitted to the task force, Collins said – 62% of them related to continuing education. Other categories of ideas related to using under-utilized space at the university better – holding concerts in Michigan Stadium, for example – or adding new programs, like Elderhostels.
The task force is recommending that the ideas be categorized according to academic units, then shared with the leaders of those units, Collins said. They believe program development should be stimulated from the ground up, rather than top down from the administration.
Non-Traditional Education: Comments, Questions from Regents
Denise Ilitch asked that regents be given a copy of the inventory of suggestions, saying that it was important to look at ways to generate more revenue, and joking that occasionally regents came up with good ideas, too.
Andrea Fischer Newman said that anything the university can do to centralize information would be very helpful. She pointed out that deans were generally academics, not entrepreneurs – that wasn’t their priority. She asked where the report would go from here. Collins replied that Newman was right, and they should pair deans with people who have business experience. He said the task force is suggesting three phases over the next several years to work toward moving these ideas forward.
Mary Sue Coleman clarified that the provost’s office would be responsible for what happens next. Teresa Sullivan, the current provost who’ll be leaving this summer to become president of the University of Virginia, said there’s a modest amount of money in the upcoming budget that will be used to follow-up on some of the task force recommendations.
Regent Olivia Maynard urged the staff to move ahead – the university can’t afford to have a report sit on the shelf, she said. Collins replied that he shared her urgency and enthusiasm.
Regent Martin Taylor suggested bringing another update to the regents in six months. Unless someone is driving the effort, they risk losing it, he said.
Michigan Student Assembly Report
Chris Armstrong gave his first report as president of the Michigan Student Assembly – he was elected in March, and had been introduced at the April regents meeting in Grand Rapids.
Among the items in his report, Armstrong said that MSA would be focusing on preparing for fall voter registration on campus. They’ll have voter registration boxes across campus, and are working on a website where students can register online. Thousands of students were registered during the 2008 election, he said, and they hope to surpass those numbers.
Armstrong noted that he would be in Washington D.C. this summer for an internship, so he wouldn’t be able to attend the regents’ June meeting. As they prepare to set tuition rates, he urged regents to keep accessibility in mind. If there is a tuition increase, he said, there should also be an increase in available financial aid.
Six people spoke during public commentary at the end of the meeting.
Douglas Smith addressed the regents about a situation involving the UM Department of Public Safety and Andrei Borisov, saying it “illustrates not only that shared governance by the faculty has been subverted by the UM administration, but that they are not shy about using their private police force to punish whistleblowers and suppress dissent.” Smith has spoken at previous board meetings – most recently in September and November of 2009 – expressing similar concerns stemming from a chain of events that led to Borisov’s dismissal as a research assistant professor in the university’s pediatrics department, and a subsequent confrontation with DPS officers. [A recent post on Insider Higher Education and an article in the Michigan Daily describe these issues in greater detail.]
William Kauffman, a retired UM engineering professor, told the regents that UM’s College of Engineering has declined significantly in its ability to educate students. He noted that the last astronaut from the university had graduated in 1964. He described it as a “cesspool of corruption,” with widespread fraud, plagiarism and falsification of records. Kauffman also expressed serious concerns about UM’s relationship with China, saying that the power and industry grab by the Chinese was threatening U.S. national security. He also noted that people from Iran had studied at UM, and now that country had nuclear capabilities. Kauffman passed out a packet of material that included a copy of an email in which he recommended that UM not be re-accredited.
Cardi DeMonaco Jr., a student at UM-Dearborn, addressed the topic of tuition increases. He said he understood that tuition will likely increase again this year. At UM-Dearborn, he said, tuition increases had risen on average 8.2% over the past five years. He wondered why Eastern Michigan University could afford to freeze its tuition, but UM couldn’t, and he urged regents to follow EMU’s lead. Education is a right, DeMonaco said, but soon only the rich will be able to afford it. He also noted that books at the university bookstore are more expensive than they need to be, citing an example of a used textbook for a matrix algebra class costing $125 at the bookstore, but available online for $19.
After DeMonaco’s remarks, regent Denise Ilitch thanked him, saying she had heard everything he’d said. The board would continue to be very focused and concerned about rising tuition, she said.
Bonnie Halloran, a lecturer at the UM-Dearborn campus and president of the Lecturers Employee Organization, discussed the issue of contract negotiations between the administration and LEO. She asked the regents to make the lecturers whole in terms of benefits, and to support a move toward more equitable pay for lecturers. She noted that lecturers play a critical role in the classroom. Halloran also raised the issue of the recent non-reappointment of Kirsten Herold, the union’s vice president who has taught in the English department for 18 years. Calling it intimidation, Halloran urged the regents to intervene on behalf of Herold’s reinstatement. [At the regents April meeting, LEO's lead negotiator, Elizabeth Axelson, had raised similar concerns.]
Responding to Halloran, regent Martin Taylor said they understood the importance of lecturers, but that it was inappropriate to ask them to intervene regarding Herold. The correct avenue is to file a grievance, he said. Taylor also said he hoped that LEO could “step up the pace” of negotiations. Halloran replied that they are in the process of filing a grievance, and that they’re working very hard at the bargaining table.
Donald Anderson, a professor emeritus of political science and president of the UM-Dearborn Academy of Retired Faculty and Staff, spoke about health benefits being evaluated by the university’s committee on retiree health benefits. The committee will present its recommendations to the regents in June. Anderson urged regents to phase in changes over time, taking into account initial contract commitments, length of service and hardships that might result from sudden changes to benefits. Regents should be sensitive to the fragile financial situation of many retirees, he said. He questioned the goal of the committee, which is to bring down retiree health costs to the average or slightly above average of UM’s peer institutions. Was this really a goal worthy of the university? The better question is this, he said: What’s a fair, equitable way to contain retiree health care costs while recognizing the contributions of retirees who loyally served the university.
Saying she was speaking at the UM-Dearborn meeting because she’d been banned from the Ann Arbor campus, Linda Martinson said she’d been forced to take action against the university because of her wrongful expulsion as a student of the School of Nursing. Following her expulsion, Martinson was issued a no-trespass order – a packet that Martinson provided to regents included a copy of the order issued to her in 2008, which stated that her behavior had been perceived as “threatening and disruptive.” Martinson told regents that UM is seriously lacking institutional integrity. [Martinson had filed three lawsuits against the university in state circuit court – those cases were dismissed by agreement of both parties after she filed a separate federal lawsuit in September 2009. She's asking that the university void her expulsion, and is also seeking damages and attorney fees.]
Martinson continued speaking after the allotted three-minute period for her public commentary ended. After Mary Sue Coleman asked her to wrap up her remarks several times, a member of the university’s security staff came to the front of the room. Martinson continued for a couple more minutes before concluding her statement, and the meeting was adjourned.
Present: Mary Sue Coleman (ex officio), Julia Darlow, Denise Ilitch, Olivia Maynard, Andrea Fischer Newman, Andy Richner, Martin Taylor, Kathy White.
Absent: Larry Deitch
Next board meeting: Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 3 p.m. in the Fleming Administration Building, 503 Thompson St., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]