University of Michigan board of regents meeting (March 15, 2012): About 100 people – most of them students advocating for tuition reform or changes to the University of Michigan’s childcare subsidy – packed this month’s venue for the regents meeting: The Michigan Union’s cavernous Pendleton Room.
With minimal discussion, regents dispatched a variety of action items during the meeting, including several related to health education, facilities and athletics. They authorized a $50 million new building for the School of Nursing, as well as $20.5 million in renovations at the Taubman Health Care Center. In athletics-related items, regents approved renaming the Crisler Arena to Crisler Center, reflecting the broader uses there, as it has expanded in recent years. The board also authorized a $2 million increase in the budget for renovations at Yost Ice Arena, bringing that project to $16 million.
Ron Zernicke, dean of the School of Kinesiology, gave the meeting’s only presentation. He described the school’s facilities and academic programs, and the pressures of its increasing student enrollments. For undergraduates, kinesiology is the fourth largest school at UM’s Ann Arbor campus, with 877 students.
As part of her opening remarks, UM president Mary Sue Coleman reported that Fred White – a retired university auditor –has been hired as project manager to implement recommendations from an internal audit. The audit relates to an incident last year involving child pornography allegedly viewed on a UM health system computer. White will also serve as a liaison for an external review ordered by the board at its February meeting.
Several reports were received during the meeting as items of information, including the regular report on internal audits, and a summary of ongoing construction activities. Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, noted that the Fuller Road Station has been removed from the construction project list. He told regents that the university and city of Ann Arbor couldn’t agree on a memorandum of understanding on the joint project, but that he thinks it’s still a good aspiration. [See Chronicle coverage: "UM, Ann Arbor Halt Fuller Road Project"]
As it did at last month’s meeting, public commentary focused on better access to a childcare subsidy available to parents who are UM students – an issue being negotiated by the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO) – and equity for students who are charged out-of-state tuition because they are undocumented immigrants. Students urged regents to support both issues.
The meeting ended with three speakers – including eight-year-old Genevieve Urbain – asking regents to honor Willis Ward, an athlete at UM during the 1930s who faced discrimination because of his race. Regent Martin Taylor, who said Ward had been a friend and fraternity brother, got consensus from regents to seek recommendations on how Ward might be appropriately recognized.
Regents Meeting: Change of Venue
Most regents’ meetings are held in the first-floor boardroom of the Fleming administration building, located at 503 Thompson St. in the university’s central campus, across from West Quad. The room can be a cramped space, especially when turnout from the public is high. The board table takes up the center of the room, with seating for the audience and media located to the sides.
In the past, off-site meetings have typically been limited to UM’s Flint and Dearborn campuses. But in the last few years, more meetings have been held in other cities as well as other locations on the Ann Arbor campus. Regents met in Grand Rapids in April of 2010, and in downtown Detroit’s Westin Book Cadillac hotel in March of 2011, for example – both meetings focused on partnerships in those cities.
This year, the regents’ January meeting was held on the sixth floor of the Ross School of Business building, and included a presentation by the school’s dean, Alison Davis-Blake.
At the start of the March 15 meeting – held in the wood-paneled Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union – UM vice president and secretary Sally Churchill told regents that the changes in venue are a work in progress. She noted that regents have been meeting in the Fleming building for about 50 years, and while the university has expanded during that time, the meeting space has remained the same. She said she was glad to see there was space at the Pendleton Room to hold all the people who attended. [The room was packed primarily with students, many of them wearing yellow "Maize Out" T-shirts. Staff brought in more chairs before the meeting started, to accommodate the crowd.]
Churchill concluded by saying the regents may see some changes in the coming months, in terms of meeting venues and format.
According to the Michigan Union website, the Pendleton Room has capacity for 300 people standing or 200 in an “auditorium” set-up. For the March 15 meeting, a U-shaped table configuration was set up for regents and UM executive officers in an area that was cordoned off with stanchions to separate them from the audience and media.
The meetings are not videotaped. Audio recordings are made and available upon request, but are not posted online.
President’s Opening Remarks
UM president Mary Sue Coleman began her remarks by noting that the earlier in the month university had been awarded a 2012 Senator Paul Simon Award for Comprehensive Internationalization. UM’s commitment to global engagement is long-term and unwavering, she said, observing that the university first began admitting international students in 1847. Coleman also pointed to UM’s 2010 accreditation process, which focused on global engagement. The Simon Award will be formally presented in November at a ceremony in Washington D.C., and Coleman thanked all of the faculty, staff and students who make global engagement a priority.
Coleman also mentioned the 2012 Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, which ranked UM 12th among public and private institutions.
Turning to other news, Coleman praised Dow Chemical Co. for a $10 million gift to support the study of pressing sustainability challenges – complementing the university’s existing sustainability initiative. Andrew Liveris, Dow’s chairman and CEO, had announced the news at Monday’s Detroit Economic Club lunch, which was packed, Coleman said. The funds, to be awarded over six years, will support the Dow Sustainability Fellows Program, which will include graduate fellowships and a lecture series focused on sharing sustainability research and best practices. Coleman thanked Dow for this “historic” gift, and for advancing the next generation of sustainability scholars and leaders.
Coleman also gave a brief update on the university’s response to an incident last year involving child pornography allegedly viewed on a UM health system computer. She said that she and the regents wanted the community to know that the university was making “excellent progress” in following up on the internal audit and board’s directive.
By way of background, at the board’s Feb. 16, 2012 meeting, regents voted to start an external investigation into the six-month lag between the time the incident was initially reported in May of 2011, and action taken by university officials to investigate. A former medical resident, Stephen Jenson, was arrested in mid-December. The university administration had issued its own report on an internal audit in early February, with recommendations to improve security and communications. [.pdf of UM report] But regents felt more needed to be done, and asked Coleman to work with board chair Denise Ilitch to make recommendations for outside consultants who could be hired to carry out an additional investigation.
At the March 15 meeting, Coleman reported that Fred White, a retired senior auditor at the university, has been hired as project manager to implement the recommendations from the internal audit and to act as a liaison for the external review.
Coleman also noted that she had testified earlier this month at the state House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee, in support of more state funding. She said she urged legislators to set a goal of returning the state to the top 10 nationwide in terms of state funding for higher education. She said she knew it would be a long-term goal, but that setting a goal is the first step toward achievement.
Coleman highlighted the six honorary degrees that regents would be asked to authorize later in the meeting, to be awarded at UM’s spring 2012 commencement on Saturday, April 28 at Michigan Stadium. In alphabetical order, the degrees will be awarded to: Jose Antonio Abreu, a Venezuelan pianist and music educator; Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN’s chief medical correspondent; investment banker J. Ira Harris, president of JI Harris & Associates; journalist and author Susan Orlean; Richard Sarns, biomedical entrepreneur and inventor; and author and illustrator Chris Van Allsburg. Four of the recipients – Gupta, Harris, Orlean and Van Allsburg – graduated from UM. Gupta will be giving the commencement address.
Coleman concluded her remarks by wishing good luck to the men’s and women’s basketball teams in the NCAA tournament, as well as to the men’s ice hockey team in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association tournament. [UM men's basketball team was subsequently defeated by Ohio University in the first round on March 16, while the UM men's hockey team beat Bowling Green State University on Friday to advance to the finals on Saturday night against Western Michigan, a game UM lost by a 3-2 score. The women's basketball team will play their first round on Sunday, March 18.]
New School of Nursing Building
On the March 15 agenda was a $50 million project to build a new facility for the University of Michigan School of Nursing. The school is currently located at 400 N. Ingalls, in a former hospital built in 1913. The new location will be nearby at the north end of Ingalls, near the Kingsley intersection. [.pdf of map showing location of the new nursing school building]
Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, told regents that this project has been in the works for many, many years. Provost Phil Hanlon noted that the school is a leader in curriculum development, especially in the area of simulations. That requires a different kind of building than the current one, he said, which is used for offices, classrooms and research space. The proposed 75,000-square-foot building will include instructional space, a clinical learning center, and simulated patient suites.
The new building is intended to accommodate an additional 40 new faculty and staff members over the next five to ten years, according to a staff memo. The memo states that 125 parking spaces will be lost because of the construction, but that UM will be increasing the amount of parking in the nearby medical center campus, and will be using transit services to bring faculty, staff and students in from remote parking lots.
The architectural firm RDG Planning and Design will be handling the project’s design.
The nursing school’s dean, Kathleen Potempa, attended the March 15 meeting but did not formally address the board.
Outcome: Regents unanimously approved the new building project for the School of Nursing.
Taubman Health Care Center Renovations
Two items involving a total of $20.5 million in renovations at the A. Alfred Taubman Health Care Center were on the agenda for approval at the March 15 meeting.
Regents were asked to authorize a $13 million project on the first and second floors of the center, which were vacated after the recent opening of clinics in the C. S. Mott Children’s and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospitals. The 35,000-square-feet of space will be used for a multidisciplinary transplant clinic, an outpatient non-cancer infusion center, and a same-day pre-op clinic. In addition, clinical services will be expanded for neurology, neurosurgery, otolaryngology, and radiology. The outpatient pharmacy also will be relocated and expanded into a shared retail space with MedEQUIP.
The architectural firm of Harley Ellis Devereaux has been hired to design the project, which is expected to be complete by the spring of 2013. The center is a four-story building located at 1500 East Medical Center Drive, on UM’s medical complex.
Regents were also asked to authorize $7.5 million in renovations of the center’s third floor, which houses outpatient clinics and administrative areas for the Internal Medicine department. The project will renovate 27,500-square-feet of clinical space for gastroenterology, pulmonary, renal, infectious diseases, rheumatology, medical genetics and general medicine.
Tim Slottow, UM’s chief financial officer, noted that both renovation projects were included in the university’s capital plan.
Outcome: In separate votes, regents authorized renovations to the Taubman Health Care Center.
Two action items were on the agenda that directly related to UM athletics: Renaming of the Crisler Arena, and a change in the budget for renovations at Yost Ice Arena.
Athletic Facilities: Crisler Renaming
Reflecting an upgrade to facilities, regents were asked to authorize changing the name of Crisler Arena to Crisler Center. UM’s chief financial officer, Tim Slottow, noted that the arena has become more of an all-purpose facility since it was built in 1967. It now includes the adjacent William Davidson player development center with practice courts for men’s and women’s basketball teams, locker rooms and offices, a club area, retail shops and other specialized spaces. The player development center had been renamed in honor of Davidson at the regents’ Feb. 16, 2012 meeting, following a $7.5 million donation from the William Davidson Foundation to the UM athletics department.
Outcome: Regents unanimously approved renaming Crisler Arena to Crisler Center.
Athletic Facilities: Yost Renovations
Regents were also asked to authorize a $2 million increase in the budget for renovations at Yost Ice Arena, with the additional funds to cover more detailed historic window replacements and higher-than-expected costs for steel and new bleachers. Yost is located at 1116 S. State St., in the university’s south/athletic campus.
The project’s original $14 million budget had been approved by regents at their June 2011 meeting, with a schematic design authorized in October 2011. In January 2012, regents authorized issuing bids and awarding construction contracts within the $14 million budget. At that time Slottow had indicated this request for an increased budget was in the offing, dependent on securing more donations for the project. Since then, the project received a donation of $400,000 from Don Graham. Athletic department reserves will cover the remaining increase, Slottow said.
The project includes replacing seating on the east, south and west sides of the rink, improving accessibility and emergency exits, converting the west side media balcony into a series of loge boxes, adding a new level five on the west side for media, and constructing new corner and stair platforms for additional seating. The project will be paid for out of athletic department revenues and donations, and has been designed by Rossetti Architects Inc. of Southfield, Mich. Renovation are expected to be finished by the fall of 2012.
Outcome: The increased budget for Yost Ice Arena renovations was unanimously approved.
Environmental Engineering Degree
Creation of a new undergraduate degree in environmental engineering was on the March 15 agenda. The bachelor of science degree, to be offered by the College of Engineering, would be available starting in the fall of 2012.
According to a staff memo, undergraduates who previously studied environmental engineering “were advised to earn a degree in civil engineering, given the structure of the job market for environmental engineers. However, the field has matured considerably and the employment options and employer criteria are more diverse today. The proposed degree will provide students interested in environmental engineering the opportunity to focus their coursework more deeply in the necessary natural sciences, such as chemistry and biology.”
Provost Phil Hanlon began describing the degree, but was interrupted by regent Kathy White, who participated in the meeting via speaker phone. She said it sounded like a great idea, and she moved the item for a vote.
Outcome: Regents unanimously approved the creation of a new undergraduate environmental engineering degree.
Conflict of Interest Items
Regents were asked to authorize 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.
The items often involve technology licensing agreements, research agreements or leases. This month, companies involved are Avicenna Medical Systems Inc., Peacock Holdings, 3D Biomatrix LLC, Atterocor Inc., Brio Device LLC, Evigia Systems Inc., HistoSonics LLC, Michigan Aerospace Corp., Mozaic Solutions LLC, and Situmbra Inc.
Outcome: Without comment, regents approved the 10 conflict-of-interest disclosures in one vote.
Ten people spoke during public commentary at the end of the March 15 meeting, covering four general topics: Expansion of the university’s child care subsidy being negotiated by the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO); minority enrollment and tuition equality for undocumented students; TEDxUofM; and honoring Willis Ward.
Public Commentary: Child Care Subsidiary
Four students spoke in support of an expanded child care subsidy, some of them with their children in tow. By way of background, childcare subsidies are available for eligible students in the following amounts: $2,250 for one child; $3,300 for two children; and $4,350 for three or more children. The subsidy will increase annually based on the annual average tuition increase at UM childcare centers. [.pdf of application for UM childcare subsidy]
Katherine Brion, a graduate student and GEO member, told regents that she has three children ages 6, 3 and 1 – her youngest, whom she held while speaking, turned 1 that day. Brion said she was lucky, because her family can afford full-time childcare. To illustrate the need for childcare, she described a typical day of juggling her studies, work and family responsibilities.
The GEO has several concerns about the proposed changes to the childcare subsidy, Brion said, including the fact that the amount of the subsidy is too low and it doesn’t make allowances for unemployed spouses and other situations that affect eligibility. The university’s goal is to retain a diversity of students, she said. She urged regents and the administration to support a more inclusive policy for all students.
Daniel Birchok also spoke while holding his young daughter – he said she thanked them for the cookies and fruit. [A table with food and beverages was set up in the room.] He expressed concerns about the outcome of committee meetings between the GEO and administration regarding the childcare subsidy. In the GEO’s last contract, he noted, members agreed to a lower wage increase in exchange for setting aside $150,000 to address childcare needs. [The contract, ratified last spring, included a 2.5% wage increase instead of an originally proposed 3% increase for the 2011-12 academic year.]
Without the subsidy, Birchok said he’d have to cut his child’s daycare schedule in half, and would have to try to work on his studies while taking care of her. He’s concerned about his student colleagues who aren’t eligible – if their spouses work less than 20 hours per week, for example, or if their spouses’ visas prohibit achieving the subsidy’s work requirements. There’s also no provision for unemployed spouses who are looking for work, and in this difficult labor market, he said, that’s an issue.
Birchok noted that at a March 7 meeting of the childcare subsidy committee, a UM administrator had indicated that she doesn’t favor making any changes. He expressed dismay at her legalistic, bureaucratic response. The GEO made concessions in order to make changes, he said, and the university shouldn’t feel that it’s fulfilling its obligation simply by holding committee meetings on the issue. He advocated for increasing the subsidy and making it possible for more students to study at UM.
Samantha Montgomery introduced herself as president of the GEO. She noted that Gov. Rick Snyder had recently signed legislation that prohibits graduate student research assistants (GSRAs) from unionizing. [Snyder signed the bill on March 13, hours before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) had been scheduled to meet to discuss the issue. An effort had been underway at UM to organize GSRAs, led by the GEO. For background, see Chronicle coverage: "GSRA Bill: UM Regents Debate Opposition"] Montgomery said that despite this attack on their collective bargaining rights, the GEO remains committed to improving the lives and working conditions of all employees.
Montgomery noted that the most recent GEO contract had focused on issues of parents, trying to improve the lives of students with children. The GEO had agreed to deal with outstanding issues – those that weren’t resolved in the contract – by forming a committee with representatives from both the GEO and the administration. Unfortunately, the committee hasn’t made much progress, she said, and the administration’s latest offer was disappointing. She asked the regents to support the GEO’s “reasonable counteroffer.” That counteroffer includes setting up a secondary subsidy based on the number of hours that a student’s spouse is unavailable for childcare. As an example, $2,000 would be the maximum proposed subsidy for a spouse who’s unavailable between 16-19 hours.
Patrick O’Mahen, a graduate student and member of the Central Student Government, said he wasn’t there to merely offer an opinion, but to offer concrete help. The CSG had recently passed Resolution 1742 “unanimously and enthusiastically,” he said. It allocates $35,000 in CSG revenue to help fund a childcare subsidy pilot program for the coming academic year. O’Mahen outlined several stipulations to the funding, including that the funds be used for direct grants to needy parents, and be used for all students, not just GEO members. He urged regents to support improvements in the childcare subsidy, and to make UM more family-friendly.
Public Commentary: Child Care Subsidiary – Regent Response
Regent Julia Darlow clarified with O’Mahen that he was making this request on behalf of the student government. She noted that it was not appropriate to interfere with collective bargaining talks. But since O’Mahen was representing a request that was separate from the GEO proposal, Darlow asked provost Phil Hanlon to provide regents with more information on the topic. Hanlon indicated that he would do that.
Public Commentary: Coalition for Tuition Equality, eRACism
Luz Meza spoke as a representative of the Coalition for Tuition Equality, but said she also fully supported the GEO and their efforts. As she began speaking, dozens of students stood in support of her remarks, many of them holding signs indicating their affiliation with various student organizations. [This action had also occurred at the Feb. 16, 2012 regents meeting for the same topic.]
Meza noted that last month, regents had heard from Daniel Alejandro Morales on the issue of tuition equality, and she was there to talk about the same thing. She thanked regents Julia Darlow and Kathy White for reaching out to the coalition.
Meza described her own high school experience in Detroit, and said she doesn’t see the diversity of her high school – where about 44% of students are black and 31% are Latinos – reflected at UM. She said she was able to afford college because she could get in-state tuition. She worked hard to get here, she said. She has friends who also worked hard but who can’t attend because of their immigration status. They would be forced to pay out-of-state tuition, and couldn’t afford it. She urged regents to support the campaign for tuition equality, so that she could return to Detroit, look people in the eye and tell them that UM is doing something to make a change.
Laura Washington spoke on behalf of a student-led campaign called eRACism. Racism still exists, she said. UM needs to create not just a more diverse campus, but also a more welcoming one. It’s a common misperception that we live in a post-racist society, she said, but in fact racism isn’t an historical issue. It’s still constantly shaping students’ experiences. Washington then read several statements from students who described their encounters with racism on campus.
Washington urged regents to support the 1970 Black Action Movement goal of achieving 10% black student enrollment. Currently the percentage of black students at UM is 4.77%, and should be increased to 10% by 2016, she said. Secondly, eRACism is demanding that a course on inter-group relations be mandatory for all incoming freshman by 2014, to improve race relations and cultural sensitivity. Washington said that eRACism also supports the goals of the Coalition for Tuition Equality. She noted that everyone has a common goal of diversity and equal educational opportunities. “It is time we actually live up to that commitment,” she concluded.
Public Commentary: Coalition for Tuition Equality, eRACism – Regent Response
Regent Julia Darlow asked provost Phil Hanlon to give a full report on tuition equality in the context of undocumented students, saying she’s concerned about the issue. Regent Libby Maynard asked for information about how many current UM students are in that category and are paying out-of-state tuition.
Public Commentary: TEDxUM
Benjamin Mason, an undergraduate engineering student, is the executive director of 2012 TEDxUofM and was on hand to promote the March 29 event to be held at the Power Center, 121 Fletcher St. in Ann Arbor. TED stands for technology, entertainment and design, and the 18-minute lectures at its conferences – known as TED Talks – are focused on what organizers call “ideas worth spreading.” TEDx events are independently organized, with guidance from the original TED. It’s an invitation-only event – both speakers and the audience must apply to attend.
The first TEDxUofM was held two years ago, Mason noted, and drew about 300 people. Last year, the event’s theme was “Encouraging Crazy Ideas” – inspired by an August 2010 Forbes column written by UM president Mary Sue Coleman – and more than 1,800 people attended, with tens of thousands more watching online, he said. It was the largest TEDx event in North America, Mason said, and at the time it was the only one that was completely organized by students. [Talks from the previous TEDxUofM can be viewed here.]
This year’s theme is “Inform Transform,” Mason said, focusing on informing students and transforming their perceptions. He encouraged regents to participate.
Public Commentary: Willis Ward
Three people spoke about Willis Ward, an African-American who played football for UM in the early 1930s. [For background on Ward, see John U. Bacon's Chronicle column: "When Ward, Ford Played Ball for UM"]
Buddy Moorehouse introduced himself as a 1982 UM graduate and a co-writer of the recent documentary ”Black and Blue: The Story of Gerald Ford, Willis Ward, and the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech Football Game.” [Link to documentary's trailer on YouTube] Moorehouse said he’d been a sports editor at the Michigan Daily, UM’s student newspaper, and thought he’d known everything about Michigan football. But until recently, he hadn’t known about Willis Ward. He described Ward’s experience on the team, including Ward’s friendship with teammate Jerry Ford and a controversial incident when UM’s head coach at the time, Fielding Yost, benched Ward in a game against Georgia Tech because of his race.
Despite all that, Ward loved UM, Moorehouse said. Yet Ward hasn’t been honored because his story has been lost to time. This year would have been his 100th birthday, and it would be a good time for the university to figure out a way to recognize Ward, Moorehouse said. There is only one permanent memorial to a black athlete on UM’s campus – a plaque honoring Jesse Owens, mounted on a wall near the outdoor track. Owens set four world records at UM’s track in 1935, but there’s no memorial for Ward, who beat Owens twice.
Brian Kruger, a co-writer and co-producer of the documentary, picked up the commentary. He told regents that the documentary has been screened all over the country, including at Detroit public schools. His goal is to screen the film at every school in Michigan. Kruger also said he hoped the documentary could be viewed by UM students – it might be a tool to start discussions related to issues that had been raised earlier during public commentary, he said.
The last speaker was Genevieve Urbain, who told regents she was eight years old and a second grader from Brighton. She had watched the documentary about Ward and Ford. Urbain listed off several things that were named for others from that era, like the UM Ford School of Public Policy and Yost Ice Arena. She noted that Ward had beaten Jesse Owens – “an Ohio State drop-out” – yet Ward didn’t have anything named after him. She thought a building, street or monument should be named to honor him.
Urbain said her mother graduated from UM, and that she’d like to attend as well – she’d be in the UM freshman class of 2022. “Go Blue!” Urbain concluded, “and remember Willis Ward.”
Public Commentary: Willis Ward – Regents Respond
A DVD of the documentary was distributed to regents. Martin Tayler said Ward had been a personal friend and a fraternity brother, a golfer and a “great all-around athlete.” Ward had been proudest of beating Jesse Owens, Taylor said, and it does seem like something could be done to honor him.
Andy Richner agreed. Kathy White said she’d already watched the DVD and she encouraged others to watch it too. She also supported finding innovative ways to make the story meaningful for students at the university, as well as for schoolchildren in the state and nation.
Taylor asked whether there was consensus among board members to direct Sally Churchill – UM’s vice president and secretary, who serves as the administration’s liaison to the regents – to take action. He proposed that Churchill talk with athletic director Dave Brandon to come up with recommendations about how to appropriately honor Ward. Other regents concurred.
Present: Mary Sue Coleman (ex officio), Julia Darlow, Larry Deitch, Denise Ilitch, Olivia (Libby) Maynard, Andrea Fischer Newman, Andy Richner, Martin Taylor, Kathy White (via speaker phone).
Next board meeting: Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 3 p.m. at the Fleming administration building on UM’s central campus. [confirm date]
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