University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Dec. 15, 2011): The December regents meeting reflected campus activism and the arts – nearly in equal measure.
As UM president Mary Sue Coleman began her opening remarks to start Thursday’s meeting, about two dozen “Occupy UM” protesters, who’d been sitting in the boardroom, stood up and shouted, “Mic check!” For the next five minutes, in a call-and-response delivery, protesters outlined their grievances against the university’s leadership – primarily, that once-affordable public education has been turned into an expensive commodity. [A video of the protest is posted on YouTube.]
When the group finished, they left the boardroom chanting “Instruction, not construction!” Neither the regents nor Coleman responded to them or alluded to the protest during the rest of the meeting.
Another group of students gave a decidedly different performance just minutes later. The a cappella group Amazin’ Blue sang five holiday songs, prompting board chair Denise Ilitch to don a blue Santa’s hat – embroidered with “Michigan” – and sing along.
The meeting included two issues related to the Ann Arbor community and parking. During public commentary, Chip Smith of the Near Westside Neighborhood Association highlighted problems with a UM parking lot that’s surrounded by homes on the Old West Side. And in a staff memo accompanying a resolution to issue bonds for capital projects, Fuller Road Station was on the list in the category of projects that would require final approval by regents prior to being funded with bond proceeds. The regents had approved the controversial project – a joint UM/city of Ann Arbor parking structure, bus depot and possible train station – in January 2010, but a formal agreement between the city and university has not yet been finalized.
Other items on the Dec. 15 agenda included: (1) presentations by three UM faculty who were named MacArthur Fellows this year; (2) approval of the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS) initiative; and (3) approval of several renovation projects, including work on the Law School’s historic Charles T. Munger Residences in the Lawyers’ Club and the John P. Cook Building.
Occupy UM “Mic Check”
Occupy UM is one of several local groups formed since the Occupy Wall Street movement started earlier this year. [Other groups include Occupy Ann Arbor and Occupy For All – described on its website as a "merry band of roving peaceniks based in Ann Arbor."]
Before the regents meeting, Occupy UM held a rally at The Cube, located in the plaza next to the Fleming administration building, where the regents meet. After the rally, Occupy UM supporters entered Fleming and took seats throughout the boardroom before the start of the meeting.
The agenda begins with remarks from UM president Mary Sue Coleman, and as soon as she began speaking the protesters stood and shouted “Mic check!” – which launched the start of a technique used by Occupy protesters nationwide to propagate a message to a crowd without the aid of a microphone.
The five-minute call-and-response recitation – shouted by a leader in short phrases, and repeated in unison by the other two dozen or so protesters – sharply criticized the regents and university leaders for a range of actions and inactions that have resulted in a cost of education that’s inaccessible for many. They referred to the meeting’s agenda, saying it reflected the values of funding start-up businesses and construction projects rather than accessible education.
There was once affordable public education. / Today / there is only an expensive commodity. / You sell this commodity to wealthy students. / To the rest of us you offer / a more ominous exchange: / an education / for a lifetime of student debt.
You endeavor to attract the richest and whitest / not the best and brightest. / You support construction not instruction. / We have another vision. / Job security and intellectual freedom / for faculty and staff; / a student body without student debt; / and a community that shatters race and class divisions / instead of reproducing them./
This university claims to be / an institution of inclusion and equality. / Our vision works for the future / when this may be true. / Your vision ensures / a public forever divided. / We reject your vision! [.pdf of full Occupy UM statement]
When they finished, the protesters continued chanting “Instruction, not construction!” as they left the room. Their chants could be heard as Coleman resumed her opening remarks, which highlighted the Dec. 18 winter commencement on Sunday, where New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson would give the keynote speech. Coleman also noted several faculty achievements, and gave well wishes for students during finals and for the UM football team at the Sugar Bowl. The meeting continued without any mention of the protesters by regents or UM executives.
However, the following day – Friday, Dec. 16 – a letter from Coleman to President Barack Obama was released, addressing the same issue of affordable education. The letter was tied to Obama’s recent meeting with university presidents at the White House, which Coleman did not attend. From the letter:
By bringing together higher education leaders to discuss college affordability, you have elevated a thorny issue that demands a national conversation because of its impact on all sectors of society. The cost of attending college is one of the most serious matters facing a country that seeks to strengthen its global competitiveness. How we resolve this dilemma requires collaboration, sacrifice and hard choices.
Higher education is a public good currently lacking public support. There is no stronger trigger for rising costs at public universities and colleges than declining state support. The University of Michigan and our state’s 14 other public institutions have been ground zero for funding cuts. The state’s significant disinvestment in higher education has been challenging: a 15 percent cut in the last year alone, and a reduction of more than 30 percent over the last decade.
We have worked extremely hard to mitigate the impact of these cuts on students and families. We must and will do more, but also offer recommendations that may benefit all of higher education.
Recommendations in the letter included: urging states to reinvest in public colleges and universities, asking the business community to lobby for increased government funding of higher education, increasing private support, and cutting costs.
Student, Faculty Awards
Provost Phil Hanlon gave a presentation about the various awards and other honors that UM’s faculty have received, as well as introducing and congratulating Alex Carney, a UM senior who recently was named a Marshall Scholar – one of only 36 students in the U.S. awarded the scholarship to study in Oxford and Cambridge. Carney – a mathematician, violinist and cross-country runner – received a round of applause.
After cataloguing the range of honors for UM faculty – including Guggenheim Fellowships, the Carnegie Foundation’s U.S. professors of the year, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among others – Hanlon introduced three faculty members who had been named MacArthur Fellows this year: Tiya Miles, Melanie Sanford, and Yukiko Yamashita.
Each of the three professors spoke to the regents, describing their work and the support they’ve received at UM. Miles, chair of UM’s department of Afroamerican and African studies, talked about the interdisciplinary nature of her research, working in the program in American culture, the department of Afroamerican and African studies, the department of history, and the Native American studies program. She recalled a challenge several years ago when she was pregnant with twins and needed to take medical leave. A book she’d been working on wasn’t completed, and she said she could imagine a scenario in which she’d be left to fail. But she had wonderful department chairs, Miles said, and senior women faculty who reached out to her. Thanks to that support, her book was eventually published and received awards, and her daughters are now eight years old.
Sanford, an Arthur F. Thurnau professor of chemistry, described her work as developing new ways to make common chemicals in a more environmentally friendly fashion, with less waste. The research has potential to impact a range of industries, from pharmaceuticals to beauty products. She said she couldn’t do the work without the amazing undergraduate and graduate students that UM attracts. “That is really the strength of this university,” Sanford said. She also praised UM’s efforts to recruit and retain women in traditionally underrepresented fields, like chemistry. There’s tremendous diversity in the chemistry department, she said, making it a dynamic and exciting place to work, with fantastic research being conducted.
After Sanford’s remarks, regent Andy Richner asked how to make a plastic cup out of corn. “That’s easy,” Sanford quipped, and quickly described how to do it. She said her lab is working on ways to do this kind of thing more efficiently, with less energy.
Yamashita spoke next, saying that she’s a stem cell biologist but “that’s not as controversial as it sounds.” That is, her work uses adult – not embryonic – stem cells. The research is very, very basic, Yamashita said, using fruit flies. But it lays the foundation to find cures for degenerative diseases, for example, or cancer. She described basic research as like a baby: You don’t get rid of a baby because it can’t yet walk or talk. The university is very supportive of her work, Yamashita said. There are great mentors, she said, who know just the right amount of leash to use on junior faculty – not too much, nor too little.
Start-Up Tech Investment
A new initiative – the Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS) was on the agenda for approval by regents at the Dec. 15 meeting. Plans for the initiative had been announced in early October by UM president Mary Sue Coleman in her annual address to campus.
Managed by UM’s investment office as well as the technology transfer office, the program involves investing in start-up companies formed using UM technology. It’s estimated that over 10 years, the program will invest about $25 million from the university’s long-term portfolio. According to a staff memo, the investments would be part of the portfolio’s venture capital sub-portfolio. A limit of up to $500,000 would be made in any single round of financing.
In addition to approval for the overall program, regents also were asked to approve guidelines for MINTS. [.pdf of MINTS guidelines]
Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, praised Erik Lundberg, the university’s chief investment officer, and Ken Nisbet, executive director of UM’s tech transfer office, for their work in putting together this program. Slottow described it as a breakthrough type of funding that doesn’t exist at any other university. With regental approval, the university will begin investing “as soon as we can,” Slottow said.
Outcome: Regents unanimously approved the MINTS initiative and guidelines.
Building & Renovation Projects
Regents were asked to approve several items related to building and renovation projects on the Ann Arbor campus, including renovations of the law school residences, an overhaul of the University Hospital’s Trauma Burn Unit, and issuance of bids for an addition to the G.G. Brown building on north campus.
Building & Renovation Projects: Law School Residences
Regents were asked to approve the schematic design for a renovation of the Law School’s historic Charles T. Munger Residences in the Lawyers’ Club and the John P. Cook Building. The residences house about 260 students and were built in the early 1920s.
Regents had previously authorized the overall project at their March 2011 meeting. That meeting had included a unanimous vote to name The Lawyers Club dormitory in honor of Charles T. Munger, who gave the university $20 million toward renovations of the building. The March 2011 meeting also included a vote to approve a $39 million renovation of The Lawyers Club and the John P. Cook buildings – part of a larger expansion and renovation effort at UM’s law school.
Washington, D.C.-based Hartman-Cox Architects, working with SmithGroup, is handling the project’s design. Lee Becker of Hartman-Cox attended the Dec. 15 meeting and showed regents examples of the renovation work they’ve planned. Most of the work will be interior changes to the residences – such as opening up connections between the townhouse-style dorms so that hallways will run through all the units. One of the main goals is to build better community among the law school students, he said.
Becker noted that the renovations will allow the university to skip roughly $30 million in maintenance it would otherwise need to perform in the dorms. Other work will include removing the fireplaces, adding air conditioning, installing elevators, replacing the roof, restoring masonry and refurbishing leaded glass windows.
Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, mentioned that the renovations would bring the buildings up to the same energy efficiency standards as other UM facilities. Examples of specific changes addressing energy efficiency include low-flow fixtures to conserve water, insulation, energy-efficient light fixtures and thermostat setback controls in each room.
Regent Libby Maynard asked where the students will live during the renovations, which will take about 18 months and be finished in mid-2013. Hank Baier, UM’s associate vice president for facilities and operations, reported that the university is leasing space in several apartment complexes that are close to central campus.
Regent Andy Richner noted that he had lived there when he went to law school, and he supported the project. Mary Sue Coleman said she couldn’t be more pleased with the new design, calling it one of the most precious buildings in the country.
Outcome: Regents voted to approved the renovations at the Law School dorms.
Building & Renovation Projects: Trauma Burn Unit
A $3.33 million renovation for the University Hospital’s Trauma Burn Unit was on the agenda for approval. Renovations of the roughly 6,600-square-foot facility include improved lighting for care within the patient rooms, improved treatment rooms, creation of a dedicated physical therapy and occupational therapy room, and creation of a faculty on-call room.
Project and Design Management LLC, an architectural firm based in Ferndale, will design the project. According to a staff memo, a phased construction schedule is planned to minimize disruption to operations and patient care, with construction to be completed in the fall of 2012.
Outcome: Regents approved the trauma burn unit renovations.
Building & Renovation Projects: G.G. Brown
On the agenda was an item that would authorize university staff to issue bids and award construction contracts for a $46 million addition to the G.G. Brown Memorial Laboratories Mechanical Engineering building on UM’s north campus.
A schematic design for the 62,500-square-foot addition was approved by regents a year ago, at the board’s Dec. 17, 2010 meeting. Construction is expected to be complete by mid-2014. The addition will house research labs, and faculty and graduate student offices for emerging research areas, including bio-systems, energy systems, and nano-systems.
Outcome: The board voted to authorize the issuance of bids and the awarding of construction contracts for the G.G. Brown addition.
In addition, as an item of information, regents were presented with UM’s annual capital outlay request to the state for fiscal 2013. For the Ann Arbor campus, that request included funding for renovations of the existing G.G. Brown building – a separate project from the planned addition. At previous meetings, Tim Slottow – UM’s chief financial officer – has said that UM expects to receive $30 million in funding for the renovation as part of the state capital outlay bill. At the Dec. 15 meeting, he didn’t specify any anticipated dollar amount, but said he hopes the state will help with this project and two others at UM’s Flint and Dearborn campuses.
Regents were asked to authorize the issuance of up to $280 million in general revenue bonds to fund a variety of capital projects. Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, briefly introduced the item, saying that UM needs to refinance some of its existing $200 million in commercial paper and provide longer-term financing for authorized capital projects.
A staff memo included a list of projects that require financing:
- Alice Crocker Lloyd Hall renovation
- Crisler Arena expansion and renovation
- C.S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospitals, and related projects
- Institute for Social Research addition
- Vera B. Baits Houses II renewal
- Seven projects for the UM Hospitals and Health Centers: (1) Simpson Circle parking structure improvements; (2) University Hospital accelerator replacement; (3) University Hospital computed tomography angiography; (4) University Hospital kitchen renovations for room service protocol; (5) University Hospital medical procedure unit expansion; (6) University Hospital radiation oncology simulator replacement; and (7) University Hospital Trauma Burn Unit renovations.
In a separate category, three projects were listed as requiring final approval by regents prior to being funded with bond proceeds:
- Fuller Road Station
- UM Hospitals and Health Centers – A. Alfred Taubman Health Care Center internal medicine renovations
- UM Hospitals and Health Centers – A. Alfred Taubman Health Care Center Levels 1 and 2 backfill renovations
Regents had approved the Fuller Road Station project at their January 2010 meeting, when they had also authorized appointing an architect. From the staff memo provided to the regents at that 2010 meeting:
The first phase of the development of this major intermodal transportation complex is the Fuller Road Station project which includes site preparation and construction of an intermodal facility that includes: four covered bus loading/unloading zones and waiting areas; a covered area for bike hoops and lockers; parking for 1,000 vehicles (78 percent for university and 22 percent for city use); improvements to Fuller Road immediately adjacent to the site for vehicle access; and upgrades to the multi-use path along Fuller Road.
The university will manage the construction of the Fuller Road Station project. That includes building the facility on city property, following city code review and inspection, and collaborating with the city for their approval of design. This project is unique since we would be constructing the facility on city-owned property and following city building codes. We will also need approval for the lease on city-owned land since it would be for a period of greater than ten years. We will seek approval of the lease at a later date, but prior to seeking bids or awarding construction contracts for the project. A parking structure operation and maintenance agreement will be developed concurrently with design of the project. The City of Ann Arbor will manage the site preparation at an estimated cost of $3,000,000. In addition, at the City’s expense, they will undertake an environmental assessment of the property. Although there will be a temporary loss of some leased parking spaces during construction, there will be an increase of approximately 780 university parking spaces as a result of this project.
The estimated cost of the project is $46,550,000. Costs will be shared between the University of Michigan and the City of Ann Arbor in proportion to the number of parking spaces available to each (78 percent and 22 percent respectively). Total university funding, not to exceed $36,309,000 (78 percent), will be provided from Parking resources. The construction cash flow may be provided, all or in part, by increasing the commercial paper issuance under the commercial paper program, secured by a pledge of General Revenues, and authorized by the Board of Regents. The parking structure consulting firm of Walker Parking Consultants will design the project. Design is scheduled to begin immediately, and we will return with a construction schedule when we seek approval of schematic design.
At that January 2010 meeting, James D’Amour – a member of the executive committee for the Huron Valley Group of the Sierra Club – spoke out against the project, objecting to it being built on city-owned property that had been designated as parkland. He and other community members have been vocal in their objections to the structure, primarily at public meetings of the Ann Arbor city council and the Ann Arbor park advisory commission – most recently at PAC’s November 2011 meeting. [See Chronicle coverage: "More Concerns Aired on Fuller Road Station"] Regents have not discussed the project at their board meetings since the January 2010 vote.
Outcome: Without discussion, regents authorized the issuance of general revenue bonds.
Annual Lease Report
As an item of information, regents were provided with an annual report on leases held by the university that exceed 50,000 square feet. Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, noted that there was very little change from the 2010 report, made at the regents’ Dec. 17, 2010 meeting.
There are currently five leases for space over 50,000 square feet:
- 222,775 square feet at the Domino’s Farms complex, used by various UM Health System departments.
- 125,815 square feet at the KMS Building on South State Street, used by UMHS and leased from Kosmos Associates.
- 65,693 square feet at 325 East Eisenhower Parkway leased from Burlington Property LLC for use by Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Spine Rehabilitation and the Dental School.
- 63,920 square feet at 2301 Commonwealth Boulevard, for use by UMHS and leased from First Properties Associates.
- 51,534 square feet at 1051 North Canton Center Road in Canton, leased from Saltz Center for the UMHS Canton Health Center.
Appointment of UMHS Development Officer
As a supplemental agenda item, regents were asked to approve the appointment of Brian Lally to a newly created position: associate vice president for medical development and alumni relations for the UM Health System. Jerry May, UM’s vice president for development, told the regents that the university had been doing a search to fill this new position for more than a year, with the goal of dramatically increasing fundraising for UMHS. Lally will report jointly to May and Ora Pescovitz, UM’s executive vice president for medical affairs.
Lally most recently has served as vice president of development and alumni relations for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth Medical School.
Outcome: Regents unanimously approved Lally’s appointment.
At each monthly meeting, regents are asked to authorize items that require 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.
The items often involve technology licensing agreements or leases. This month, the eight separate items included four research agreements, one subcontract agreement, one licensing agreement, one licensing option agreement, and one business transaction. Companies involved are: ONL Therapeutics; Emerging Micro Systems Inc.; CytoPherx Inc.; CSquared Innovations; Arbor Ultrasound Technologies; ISSYS Inc.; and Red Poppy Floral Design.
Outcome: Without comment, regents unanimously authorized the conflict-of-interest disclosures.
Student Government Report
In his regular report to the board, DeAndree Watson – president of the Michigan Student Assembly – explained the reasoning behind the organization’s upcoming name change. As of Jan. 1, the MSA will be called the Central Student Government. In 2010, students had voted to change the constitution of their student government, creating three separate branches that mirrored the federal system: executive, legislative and judicial. The legislative branch is known as the Assembly, and the overall government name was changed to distinguish itself from that branch. The name will also serve to distinguish the central student government, which represents students campuswide, with the various student governments for each school or college within UM.
Regent Andrea Fischer Newman asked Watson if he’d considered possible confusion with Central Michigan University. Watson replied that he had been part of the group that had rewritten the constitution, and that had settled on the new name. The word “Central” had been meant to signify a “central voice” for all students, he said. The only concern they’d heard about it was from one student who felt it might disenfranchise students on UM’s north campus. The official name will be the University of Michigan Central Student Government, he said.
Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research, told regents that the university’s formal policies and procedures had been completed for the return of Native American human remains and associated materials in UM’s collections under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Responding to a follow-up query from The Chronicle, David Lampe – executive director of research communications – reported that the 75-page document formally specifies details of all of the policies and procedures that UM has adopted to handle the requirements of the act. It has been submitted to UM’s Office of the General Counsel for final approval – it will eventually be posted online.
During public commentary at the end of the meeting, Chip Smith introduced himself as a UM alum and donor, and a representative of the Near Westside Neighborhood Association. The association consists of 24 historic homes – all built in 1930 or earlier – that border a UM parking lot off of Krause Street, known as Lot W11, between West Washington and West Liberty. [.jpg of map showing location of the NWNA and the lot] The neighborhood group was recently formed in response to construction at the lot, which has caused issues related to noise, lighting and stormwater runoff, among other things.
Smith thanked Jim Kosteva – UM’s community relations director – for his help, and provided a handout to regents that included a Nov. 23 letter that the association had sent Kosteva about Lot W11 issues.
A packet of materials distributed to regents by Smith listed several issues related to the parking lot, including the impact of construction activities, traffic, vandalism, and a lack of communication with neighbors. One of the handouts stated that “UM Lot W11 has been a bad neighbor for 20+ years.”
During his remarks, Smith focused on two main concerns: (1) implementing best management practices for stormwater control, and (2) lighting at the lot, which is outdated and intrusive for surrounding homes.
He praised UM’s sustainability initiative, and asked regents and the administration to hold the project group’s feet to the fire in terms of implementing stormwater best management practices that the university has adopted. [Among the sustainability goals outlined by Coleman in September was this one related to stormwater: "Protect the Huron River through best-in-class stormwater control strategies and by applying 40 percent fewer chemicals to campus landscapes, and ensure that at least 30 percent of stormwater runoff does not flow into the Huron River."]
Referring to construction on the lot that’s planned in 2012, Smith said the main issue is lighting. It’s unclear whether the current lights – which Smith said are extremely bright – will be replaced, but he asked that UM staff work with representatives of the neighborhood to find an acceptable solution.
In addition to these specific issues, the problem is the way in which the residents are treated, Smith said. Of the 24 houses surrounding the lot, 21 are owner-occupied. “This is our neighborhood,” he said, adding that he looked forward to working with UM to minimize the impact of future construction. He thanked regents for the opportunity to address the board.
After Smith’s remarks, regent Larry Deitch called the presentation “refreshing” – presumably because the tone had not been combative, as is often the case with remarks made during public commentary. Regent Andrea Fischer Newman said it would be helpful if Smith could bring a map. [A map of the lot, as well as photos of that location and other UM parking lots, were part of a packet of materials distributed to regents at the start of Smith's remarks.]
Present: Mary Sue Coleman (ex officio), Julia Darlow, Larry Deitch, Denise Ilitch, Olivia (Libby) Maynard, Andrea Fischer Newman, Andy Richner, Kathy White.
Absent: Martin Taylor.
Next board meeting: Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 at 3 p.m. at the Fleming administration building on UM’s central campus. [confirm date]
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