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.