University of Michigan board of regents meeting (July 21, 2011): Ten years after the 2001 board of regents authorized its formation, the UM Depression Center has become a national leader in breaking the stigma and improving the treatment of this common, debilitating illness.
That message was delivered by the center’s director, John Greden – the man whose vision was instrumental in creating it a decade ago. Greden briefed regents on the center’s progress so far, describing its research and outreach efforts, including its leadership in developing a national network of depression centers that he said is strengthening the fight against the illness. He also indicated the center will be launching a fundraising campaign in the near future, to raise more resources in the face of overwhelming demand for services.
In addition to Greden’s report, regents voted on a range of items. The most significant in terms of a financial commitment was approval of a $116 million “deep” renovation of East Quad, a large dorm on East University Avenue. It’s also the home to UM’s Residential College. At the board’s May 19, 2011 meeting, philosophy professor Carl Cohen had raised concerns about the impact of the renovations as initially designed, saying the RC would be pushed into smaller, inadequate space and would “atrophy and fade away.” A schematic design hasn’t yet been presented to the board for approval.
Among other actions, regents also approved a new joint master’s degree program in entrepreneurship to be offered by the College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business. They authorized renaming the department of geological sciences – it will be called the department of earth and environmental sciences. Regents also approved a $698,364 purchase of land at 417 S. Division, next to the UM Institute for Social Research. Within the past year, that’s the third property – all with apartment buildings – that the university has bought to accommodate ISR’s expansion project. Regents approved that project last year.
In the context of board committee assignments, regent Martin Taylor alerted his colleagues that he’d talked with the university’s general counsel about possible conflict of interest issues that might arise for him in the future. The board’s health affairs committee will likely be involving all regents in overseeing a strategic plan for the UM health system – Martin also serves as a director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Only one person spoke during public commentary. Dan Benefiel, a leader of the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus, sharply criticized the university’s support of globalism and its relationship with China, a country that he accused of stealing intellectual property and trade secrets from the U.S. The “Trojan Horse of China” must be stopped from “unleashing its unsavory minions” on America, he said.
President’s Opening Remarks
The meeting began, as it typically does, with comments by UM president Mary Sue Coleman. Alluding to the week’s scorching temperatures, Coleman said it was fitting to begin her remarks by highlighting UM’s solar car team. Earlier in the week, students had showcased the car by taking it on a demonstration tour throughout the state, she said. They covered about 1,000 miles as a warm-up to the October 2011 World Solar Challenge, a 1,800-mile competition in Australia’s outback. [Last year's edition of the car was also spotted by The Chronicle earlier this month at the Rolling Sculpture car show in downtown Ann Arbor.]
The UM team is reigning champion of the American Solar Challenge, she noted. Coleman said she’s looking forward to the international event, which no college team has won in many years. ”If any college team can do it, we absolutely believe ours can,” she said.
While the solar car team is one of the most visible signs of teamwork on campus, Coleman said, that same spirit is the impetus behind a new degree program that was on the July 21 for regental approval. A joint graduate degree in entrepreneurship has been developed by UM’s College of Engineering and the Ross School of Business – both units have worked together for a long time, she noted.
The degree will be a tremendous addition to the entrepreneurial climate that’s flourishing across campus, she said. Administrators and faculty understand how important the innovations of research universities are to help accelerate the economy, Coleman added. She noted that Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research, made that same point at a recent media roundtable panel sponsored by The Science Coalition in Washington, D.C. It’s also reflected in the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership that UM is participating in – Coleman pointed out that she joined President Barack Obama when he announced the partnership last month. Several UM faculty members will be involved in that effort in the coming months, she said.
July also marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 15 flight, manned entirely by UM alumni, Coleman said – David Scott, Jim Irwin and Al Worden. Worden will be returning to campus this fall, she noted, to talk about his experience on the Apollo 15 flight and the future of the U.S. space program.
Coleman concluded her remarks by reporting that earlier this month, she and other UM executives had attended the funeral of Betty Ford. Coleman described the former First Lady as a remarkable woman who spoke her mind, and who was candid about her struggles with breast cancer and alcohol addition. Ford and her husband, former U.S. president Gerald Ford, were intimately involved with the university – most notably through UM’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Coleman said the university community would miss Ford and is grateful for the many years of friendship she’d given.
Renovation Projects: East Quad, North Hall
Two renovation projects – vastly different in scale – were on the July 21 agenda for approval.
Renovation Projects: East Quad
Regents were asked to approve a $116 million “deep” renovation of East Quad. The 300,000-square-foot residence hall – located at 701 E. University, between Hill and Willard – houses about 860 students and the Residential College, a living-learning community started in the 1960s. The project is part of a campus-wide ”Residential Life Initiative” first presented to regents in September 2004. Other residence halls – including Alice Lloyd Hall and Stockwell Hall on South Observatory, and Couzens Hall on East Ann Street, among others – have undergone similar renovations since then. The Alice Lloyd Hall project is still underway, with tentative completion by August 2012.
The pending East Quad renovation has caused concern in some quarters. At the regents’ May 19, 2011 meeting, philosophy professor Carl Cohen passionately urged regents to intercede in the renovation of East Quad in order to prevent the Residential College from being pushed into what he described as smaller, inadequate space. If regents did nothing, he said, “your Residential College will atrophy and fade away.” A staff memo on the renovations states that the RC will be renovated to meet “current academic standards.”
The entire project will be designed by the architectural firm of Integrated Design Solutions. Staff will return with a construction schedule and approval of a schematic design at a future meeting.
Royster Harper, UM’s vice president for student affairs, briefly described the building’s history and the proposed renovations. The project will revitalize the East Quad community, she said, and strengthen the connections between the academic activities and residential life.
Regent Andrea Fischer Newman jokingly made a motion to approve the item after Harper’s remarks, even though the action item didn’t appear on the agenda until later in the meeting. Newman said she was eager to act on the project – she’d been on a tour of residence halls a few years ago, and was familiar with the condition of East Quad. Residence halls are important when recruiting students, she said. Students today are accustomed to a different level of comfort than what she and others her age expected when they were in college. Yet some dorms haven’t changed since she was in college, Newman added. That’s why this is an important project.
Later in the meeting, when regents reached that agenda item, Coleman asked Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, whether he had any additional information to add. [The East Quad renovation falls under the category of "Finance-Property" in the agenda, an area that Slottow oversees.] He joked that he didn’t want to come between Newman and the vote – Newman then moved the item and the board voted.
Outcome: Regents voted unanimously to approve the East Quad renovation project.
Renovation Projects: North Hall
A $1.6 million renovation to North Hall – which houses the University of Michigan’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs for the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force – was on the agenda for approval. The 48,000-square-foot building, located at 1105 N. University, was originally constructed in 1900 to house the university’s homeopathic medical department. The project will be designed by the architectural firm of Smith Group, with construction set to be completed in the winter of 2012.
Andrea Fischer Newman also made the motion to approve this vote, joking that she was moving the item “in honor of Kathy White.” [White, a regent who did not attend the July 21 meeting, is a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army reserves and a law instructor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.]
Outcome: Regents unanimously approved the North Hall renovation.
New Entrepreneurship Grad Degree Approved
A new University of Michigan joint master’s degree in entrepreneurship – a partnership of the College of Engineering and Ross Business School – was on the agenda for approval. The degree program has been in development for more than two years. According to a staff report on the proposal, the “primary objective of this program is to arm students with the critical multidisciplinary knowledge necessary to create new technology-focused ventures, either as stand-alone entities or within established innovative organizations. Students will learn to create and capture value from novel technologies within the context of entrepreneurship.” [.pdf of full staff report]
The program was developed in partnership with UM’s office of technology transfer. Approval is also required by the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan – that’s expected to happen in October. The first students for the degree would be accepted in the fall of 2012.
Coleman had highlighted the new degree in her opening remarks. When the item came up on the agenda, provost Phil Hanlon said he strongly supported Coleman’s comments about the importance of the program.
Outcome: Regents unanimously approved the new joint master’s degree in entrepreneurship.
Regents were asked to approve a $698,364 purchase of an 0.09-acre of land at 417 S. Division, next to the UM Institute for Social Research. A tentative closing date is set for Aug. 3 – existing leases in the 3,152-square-foot apartment building located on that lot expire in August, according to a staff memo.
A $23 million expansion of ISR’s building on Thompson Street had been approved by the board in April of 2010 – they signed off on the project’s schematic design last July. At their November 2010 meeting, regents approved two other land purchases on South Division related to the ISR project: $919,425 for 439 S. Division St., which included a 3,210-square-foot apartment building; and $805,575 for property at 443 S. Division, where a 6,048-square-foot apartment building is located.
The regents most recently got a report on ISR’s activities at their September 2010 meeting, when director James Jackson gave an overview of ISR’s work.
Outcome: Regents unanimously approved the purchase of 417 S. Division.
Geological Sciences Dept. Renamed
On the July 18 agenda was an item asking regents to give the university’s department of geological sciences a new name: the department of earth and environmental sciences.
According to a staff memo provided to regents, the department “has seen pronounced shifts, coinciding with national and international trends in earth science, toward a heightened emphasis on the societal impact of the field. … The name change more effectively communicates to undergraduates the rich experiential learning opportunities in the department, preparing them for highly adaptable and versatile careers in industry, government, and academia.”
Provost Phil Hanlon briefly reviewed reasons for the change, noting that it’s not the same type of study that regents might recall from their college days. Among other things, the field is increasingly interdisciplinary, he said.
Regent Libby Maynard mentioned that her sister is a geologist. Hanlon said the things that Maynard’s sister studied were likely quite different – topics in the field have expanded significantly.
Outcome: The renaming of the department of geological sciences was unanimously approved by the board.
Regents approved dozens of personnel actions at the meeting – only a few were highlighted. Doug Strong, CEO of the UM Hospitals and Health Centers, was re-appointed for a second five-year term. Marie Lynn Miranda was appointed as dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, effective Jan. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2017. Her appointment was announced in June, and she’ll replace outgoing dean Rosina Bierbaum, who will remain on the SNRE faculty.
A few of the other re-appointments of note include:
- Robert Axelrod, the Mary Ann and Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Professor for the Study of Human Understanding in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, effective Oct. 1, 2011 through Sept. 30, 2016.
- Jim Baker, Jr., the UM Medical School’s Ruth Dow Doan Professor of Biologic Nanotechnology, effective Sept. 1, 2011 through Aug. 31, 2016.
- Paul Courant, professor of information at the School of Information, effective Sept. 1, 2011 through Aug. 31, 2016.
- Howard Hu, chair of the Dept. of Environmental Health Sciences, and NSF International Department Chair of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, effective Sept. 1, 2011 through Aug. 31, 2014.
At the July 18 meeting, provost Phil Hanlon also drew attention to the appointments of four faculty members as distinguished professors:
- Richard Janko, Gerald F. Else Distinguished University Professor of Classical Studies, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts;
- Gordon L. Kane, Victor F. Weisskopf Distinguished University Professor of Physics, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts;
- Miriam H. Meisler, Myron Levine Distinguished University Professor of Human Genetics, Medical School;
- Terry E. Robinson, Elliot S. Valenstein Distinguished University Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.
Outcome: Without discussion, regents approved appointments, re-appointments and promotions as part of their consent agenda.
Conflict of Interest Disclosures
Regents were asked to sign off on 10 items that required disclosure under the state’s Conflict of Interest statute. The law requires that regents vote on potential conflict-of-interest disclosures related to university staff, faculty or students. Often, the items involve technology licensing agreements or leases.
This month, the list included purchase-of-service, research and licensing agreements, among other items. The disclosures related to the following companies and individuals: Monkey Shavers Productions, Arbor Research Collaborative for Health, Melisa Schuster, Sakti3 Inc., Reveal Design Automation Inc., 3D Biomatrix, Edington Associates, and NanoBio Corp.
The NanoBio item relates to an amendment to the existing licensing agreement between the firm and the university, adding another technology – “nanoemulsion vaccines” – to the agreement. The conflict of interest disclosure arises from the fact that Jim Baker Jr., a UM professor and director of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences, is also an owner and director of NanoBio. Earlier in the meeting, regents had also approved Baker’s re-appointment as the Ruth Dow Doan Professor of Biologic Nanotechnology.
There was no discussion on these items, other than a question from regent Andrea Fischer Newman, who wanted to know what a Monkey Shaver was. Tim Slottow, the university’s chief financial officer, told her it’s the name of a video production company.
Outcome: Regents approved all 10 items related to conflict of interest disclosures.
Depression Center Update
Only one presentation was on the agenda for the July 18 meeting: A briefing by John Greden, director of the UM Depression Center.
Greden began by telling regents that ”basically, you got us here.” In 2001, the board had authorized formation of the nation’s first comprehensive depression center – five of the eight current regents were also on the board at that time. [Those regents are Larry Deitch, Libby Maynard, Andrea Fischer Newman, Martin Taylor and Kathy White.] Greden then introduced about a half-dozen people affiliated with the center who’d come to the July 18 meeting, including former Detroit Lions quarterback Eric Hipple, the center’s outreach coordinator.
An estimated one in six people experience clinical depression, Greden said – it’s one of the leading afflictions, along with cardiovascular disease and cancer. To address it, an interdisciplinary, comprehensive center of excellence was proposed with five aims, he said: (1) find people who are suffering as early as possible, (2) develop better treatments, (3) develop strategies to maintain wellness after someone has been successfully treated, (4) overcome depression’s stigma, and (5) build a national network, analogous to the national network of cancer centers.
One of the first steps was to put the word “depression” in the center’s name, which Greden characterized as a bold move. He believed it had achieved the goal of helping to de-stigmatize the illness, and positioned UM as the leading voice in public policy on the issue.
In 2006, the center’s new building opened on Plymouth Road, on the UM Health System’s east medical campus. Greden described it as the antithesis of depression – bright and open, with lots of natural light. The center started with 70 people in related fields on campus. Today, 151 people are involved in the center from over 30 departments campuswide. Greden said he stole a quote from Mary Sue Coleman, who has said that rather than “publish or perish,” the new priority mandate is to “partner or perish.” Greden said, ”I think we’re doing it quite well.”
Greden described a variety of programs at the center. The Prechter Bipolar Genetic Repository – one of the largest collections of DNA samples from people diagnosed with bipolar disorder – is housed at the center. Other efforts include screenings for depression among pregnant mothers, and partnerships with K-12 schools to help identify students suffering from depression – it’s the third leading cause of death among high school students, and the second leading cause among college students, he said. The center has also developed programs for veterans and athletes.
The center has been successful in raising research funds as well as philanthropic donations, Greden said. And they’ve accomplished one of their boldest goals – creating a national network of depression centers (NNDC), with more than 20 members. The UM center houses a data sharing/coordinating center for that network, he said. Now six Canadian centers are interested in joining the NNDC as well, or forming their own network. So the original goal is no longer a dream, Greden said – it’s real, it’s powerful, and Michigan made it come alive.
“We are making a difference, but there’s so much left undone,” Greden told the regents. As the stigma of depression is overcome, that creates a greater demand for treatment, he noted. The need to partner is great, and the center will use its 10th anniversary to build on what’s already been accomplished. ”Thank you for helping us start it,” he said.
Depression Center Update: Regent Discussion
Several regents praised the center and Greden’s vision. Julia Darlow asked what the board could do for the center. Greden said he’d been talking with Ora Pescovitz, CEO of the UM Health System, about the possibility of a fundraising campaign – they’re working through the early stages of that, he said. The regents can be voices of support for the center, he said, and could play pivotal roles in a campaign. He’d be returning with specifics at a later date, he said.
Libby Maynard said there’ve been times when someone she knows has needed help for depression, and she’s been frustrated that there was resistance to seeking treatment. What’s the best way for someone like her, a lay person, to assist a person who’s suffering from depression?
Greden described that as a complicated and important question that’s not easily answered. It’s a situation in which only limited resources are available to meet what seems like unlimited demand, he said. There’s nothing worse than for someone who’s suicidal to call for help, only to be told that there’s a six-week waiting list. “We’re struggling with that,” he said. Depression is an illness, and it can be treated, Greden said. Everyone needs to be open about it – UM can be very proud of its leadership, but there’s still a need to overcome the remaining stigma associated with depression.
Denise Ilitch told Greden the center is making a difference in the community, and she urged him to return to tell the board and the public about how they can contribute to the center’s efforts. She also noted that Larry Deitch, who could not attend the meeting, had wanted her to communicate his support for Greden and the center. Deitch called Greden a visionary and a saint, Ilitch said.
Denise Ilitch, who was elected chair of the board at the regents June 16, 2011 meeting, announced assignments for the coming year to the board’s three committees:
- Personnel, compensation and governance committee: Martin Taylor (chair), Denise Ilitch.
- Finance, audit and investment committee: Kathy White (chair), Libby Maynard, Andy Richner.
- Health affairs committee: Julia Darlow (chair), Larry Deitch, Andrea Fischer Newman.
One member from each committee gave a relatively brief summary of the meetings they’d held earlier that day – primarily mentioning the topics they’d discussed, and who had attended. The report by Darlow was somewhat longer, focusing not on the committee meeting itself, but rather on the role of the committee and its future work.
She noted that it was formed just a year ago, and she thanked Larry Deitch for chairing it for the past year. The committee was established to focus on the university’s health system – patient revenues account for 45% of all UM operating revenues, she noted. Because of that large scope and the range of issues that the health system faces, committee meetings will likely often involve the entire board, Darlow said.
Some of the issues they’ll tackle include assessing market conditions and forecasting trends as health system administrators develop a strategic plan. Regulatory issues will also be an important topic in the coming year. She commended the staff for the recent 14th place ranking by U.S. News & World Report magazine in “America’s Best Hospitals.” Darlow gave special thanks to Ora Pescovitz, UM executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of the UM Health System, and Doug Strong, CEO of the UM Hospitals and Health Centers. But she also praised the health system’s nurses, doctors, greeters, aids, billers – everyone throughout the system who cares about patients and makes everything work so well, she said.
Pescovitz also spoke briefly about the U.S. News & World Report ranking, calling it wonderful news and noting that in fact UM had tied with Vanderbilt. UM had also ranked nationally in all 16 specialty areas, she said – of the 4,825 hospitals in country, only 140 get ranked in even one specialty. So to be ranked in all 16 is really significant, Pescovitz said. UM has been named to this ranking for 17 consecutive years.
Regent Andrea Fischer Newman wondered why UM wasn’t first in the ranking. Pescovitz replied that regionally, UM was ranked No. 1 in metro Detroit – in previous years, Washtenaw County hadn’t been considered to be part of the Detroit region, Pescovitz said. UM was the only Michigan institution to make the national ranking.
UM president Mary Sue Coleman described the results as a stunning achievement.
Also related to health system issues, later in the meeting Taylor told his colleagues on the board that because of his position as a director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, he’d had a conversation with the university’s general counsel about possible conflicts of interest he might have when issues arise related to UM’s health system. He said he wanted to keep the issue at the forefront and be mindful that he might need to recuse himself from time to time, if that’s deemed appropriate. There was no additional discussion on the topic.
Michigan Student Assembly Report
DeAndree Watson, president of the Michigan Student Assembly, listed several events and activities planned for the coming academic year. [.pdf of full MSA report] Several events are planned for Sept. 5-9, the week before classes begin – including a Day of Reflection to promote student activism, and a Gayz Craze event on Sept. 5 to welcome incoming students in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.
MSA is also hosting an alcohol-free tailgate for the Sept. 10 Michigan-Notre Dame football game, and will participate in a farmers market at the Michigan Union on Sept. 14 to promote healthier meal choices and encourage students to buy locally grown food. Watson also told regents that MSA leaders are working to make the organization more of a service-oriented body, serving as a direct link between the students and the university administration. As part of that, MSA executives will be establishing relationships with their university administrative counterparts, “to represent students in all relevant university initiatives, and to be educated about them,” he said.
Only one person spoke during public commentary.
Dan Benefiel of Ypsilanti Township, who had addressed the regents at their meeting in June, returned to make additional points about the university’s relationship with China. He said he’s not an enemy of UM – he’s been a fan of the university since he was little. But he’s heard university officials talk about globalism in a positive way, he said, and as a member of the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus and the Washtenaw County Republican Party executive committee, he wanted to go on record as opposing that view.
He likened China’s involvement with America as a Trojan Horse, and compared the economic union of the U.S. and the communist nation to the marriage between Peleus and the sea goddess Thetis. China threatens the world economy by buying American debt, stealing industrial and high tech property and trade secrets, violating international law and engaging in cyber terrorism, he said.
But the mindset of many U.S. leaders is that China is our friend, he noted. Under this view, Benefiel said, “China is a sweet cuddly Panda who couldn’t hurt anyone and we must all rethink the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ attitudes of the past and see the world ‘globally.’ Major industries in the U.S. today no longer see themselves as American first … Shame on all of us who have this attitude!” he said.
In particular, China is targeting university campuses as a way to gain technical information that the U.S. government has enjoined from being exported. “There is coming a day soon when every university president must face the reality that the out-of-state tuition monies and monies from foreign governments and huge government research grants will be endangered if connections are found between foreign entities such as the Chinese military/government and foreign students enrolled who are found to be spying out illicit technologies, Benefiel said. He concluded by saying he wants to prevent the “Trojan Horse of China” from “unleashing its unsavory minions” on America.
When Benefiel’s public commentary concluded, Coleman said, “And with that, we’ll see you in September!” The board does not meet in August.
Present: Mary Sue Coleman (ex officio), Julia Darlow, Denise Ilitch, Olivia (Libby) Maynard, Andrea Fischer Newman, Andrew Richner, Martin Taylor.
Absent: Larry Deitch, Kathy White.
Next board meeting: Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011 at 3 p.m. at the Fleming administration building on UM’s central campus in Ann Arbor. [confirm date]