University of Michigan board of regents meeting (March 17, 2011): At a meeting held in downtown Detroit’s Westin Book Cadillac hotel and designed to showcase UM’s partnerships with that city, Thursday’s meeting also included some harsh words from students protesting the selection of Gov. Rick Snyder as spring commencement speaker.
Richard Durance, an undergraduate who authored a petition against Snyder’s selection that was signed by more than 4,000 students, delivered it to regents on Thursday, saying that Snyder’s proposed cuts to K-12 and higher education make him an inappropriate choice. Zach Goldsmith, describing himself as the “angry senior” who organized protests earlier this week at the Diag, criticized regents for holding their meeting in Detroit, making it difficult for students to attend and voice their concerns.
After the public commentary, several regents defended the decision, which was made by UM president Mary Sue Coleman and did not require a vote of the board. Regent Larry Deitch said that although he’s a Democrat and personally doesn’t agree with some items in the Republican governor’s proposed budget, he endorsed the decision. And if students decide to protest at the April 30 event, he added, “that’s in the finest Michigan tradition, and we welcome it.”
Regents also heard presentations about three programs focused on Detroit: (1) the Semester in Detroit, a student-initiated program that has participants live, study and work in the city; (2) the Healthy Environments Partnership, a community-based participatory research effort that focuses on understanding and promoting cardiovascular health in Detroit neighborhoods; and (3) Revitalization and Business: Focus Detroit, a new program that’s connecting organizations in Detroit with students at the UM Ross School of Business.
Thursday’s meeting also 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, and 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.
And during public commentary – in addition to the calls for protest against Snyder – one of the speakers promoted this year’s TEDxUofM, to be held Friday, April 8 at the Michigan Theater from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The theme – “Encouraging Crazy Ideas” – was inspired by an August 2010 Forbes column written by UM president Mary Sue Coleman.