UM Regents OK Upgrade to Campus Bus Stop

Also, Hanlon named provost; everyone wants tickets to Obama

University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (Feb. 18, 2010): Nearly 10 minutes after the scheduled 3 p.m. start of Thursday’s meeting, UM’s chief financial officer Tim Slottow joked to president Mary Sue Coleman, “I don’t think we have a quorum yet.” None of the regents had arrived.

Hank Baier

Hank Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations, gave regents an update on plans for a Central Campus Transit Center on North University Avenue. (Photos by the writer.)

Enough of them showed up a few minutes later to begin the meeting that had a relatively light agenda and lasted about an hour.

Of note for city residents was a briefing on what’s called the Central Campus Transit Center, a $4.5 million project to build larger bus shelters and make changes to North University Avenue, narrowing the road and adding bike lanes.

Regents approved the appointment of Phil Hanlon as provost, to replace Teresa Sullivan, who’s leaving later this year to become president of the University of Virginia.

They also heard a presentation about the extensive accreditation process that’s underway. Occurring every 10 years, the process includes a site visit in mid-March by members of the Higher Learning Commission. There’s a distinct lack of suspense – it’s unlikely that UM will fail to achieve accreditation. But like any good student, they’re trying for the highest marks.

Commencement Tickets?

In her opening remarks to the board, UM president Mary Sue Coleman led off by saying she was excited and honored that U.S. president Barack Obama would be giving the 2010 commencement speech on May 1, and that his decision to come was a testament to their students. The No. 1 question she’d been hearing since the announcement was, “How can I get tickets?” They’re working on it, she said.

Coleman noted that regents would be asked to approve the appointment of Phil Hanlon as provost. He currently serves as vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs. Regents are already familiar with his command of academic and budgetary matters, Coleman said, describing Hanlon as an accomplished mathematician and respected leader.

Noting that the winter Olympics were underway, Coleman said that four of the six figure skaters who are representing the U.S. in the ice dancing competition – Meryl Davis, Charlie White, Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates – are UM students. She wished them well in their performances.

Bus Stop = Transit Center

Hank Baier, associate vice president for facilities and operations, briefed the regents on plans for upgrades to the bus stops on both sides of North University, between Fletcher and Church near the C.C. Little and Ruthven buildings and the School of Dentistry.

Students waiting at a bus stop

UM students wait for the bus at the current Central Campus Transit Center on the eastbound side of North University Avenue, between Fletcher and Church.

The stops are called the Central Campus Transit Center, and are on both AATA and UM bus routes. The $4.5 million project, which the board approved, includes building larger bus shelters on the north and south sides of North University. The shelters will include “Magic Bus” displays – allowing students to see, in real time, where the buses are located along the routes.

Design features for the shelters include translucent roofs, for better daytime lighting, that extend past the curb so that riders can enter and exit buses without being exposed to rain or snow. New landscaping will be added along that area as well.

The eastbound and westbound lanes, currently two lanes each, will be reduced to one lane, and bike lanes will be added. More bicycle racks will be added as well. The university also will replace what Baier described as an “undersized” water main under the street. They’ll repave North University, and make improvements to the crosswalk. The paving in some areas will be porous, to help with water drainage.

In general, the project aims to improve pedestrian safety and respond to increased demand for use of buses in the central campus area, Baier said. It’s part of the university’s overall parking and transportation strategic plan, which he outlined in detail at the regents’ meeting in July. [See Chronicle coverage: "UM Regents Get Transportation Update"]

Architectural rendering of bus shelters

This architectural rendering shows the proposed bus shelters along North University, between Fletcher and Church. (Rendering by Hubbell, Roth & Clark Inc.)

Federal stimulus dollars from the American Recovery and Rehabilitation Act, matched by UM funds, will pay for the project, Baier said.

Andy Richner, chair of the board, asked whether this was the first time the university had used its resources on a city road. Baier said that typically, the city would pay for the water main replacement and a portion of the resurfacing, which will cost an estimated $450,000. The city is not in a financial position to do so at this time, he said. [The fact that UM is shouldering this cost was noted at the Feb. 16, 2010 Ann Arbor city council meeting by the city administrator, Roger Fraser.]

The goal is for the project to start soon and be completed by this fall, Baier said.

New Provost, New Title for Bill Martin

With no discussion, regents approved the appointment of Phil Hanlon as provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. His appointment begins July 1, 2010 – the start of UM’s fiscal year – and runs through June 30, 2015.

Hanlon is also an Arthur F. Thurnau professor. During Thursday’s meeting the current provost, Teresa Sullivan, announced the naming of five new Arthur F. Thurnau professorships, calling it the highest honor that the university can bestow on its faculty.

Haley Weinger, Phil Hanlon

Phil Hanlon, right, was appointed by regents as the next UM provost, for a term beginning July 1, 2010. He's talking with sophomore Haley Weinger, who spoke to regents during the public commentary portion of the meeting.

The professors receiving this designation are: Joel Blum, a John D. MacArthur professor of geological sciences; Anne Ruggles Gere, a Gertrude Buck Collegiate professor of education; Louis Loeb, professor of philosophy; Robin Queen, associate professor of linguistics; and Edward West, professor of art.

In other personnel moves, which received no discussion, regents approved a change in title for Bill Martin, outgoing athletic director. He will be a special adviser to the president, effective March 8 through Sept. 4, 2010. In a cover letter to the regents, Mary Sue Coleman said the move was to provide “administrative continuity” as David Brandon, the new athletic director, transitions into the job.

Accreditation Process

UM professor Ben van der Pluijm, who’s leading the accreditation team, gave regents an overview of the multi-year process that’s coming to a close next month. Since work began in 2007, there’s been a huge amount of data collection and organization, van der Pluijm said, touching every part of the institution. Most of this information is available on the Accreditation 2010 website. He urged regents and others to look through the site, which includes survey results, information about university facilities, data on campus demographics and more.

One component of the process is called “self-emphasis study,” which allows the university to select a topic, analyze its current status and set goals for the coming years. UM chose internationalization, or global engagement – a topic that “really resonates on campus,” van der Pluijm said. The university’s goals in that regard include better preparing students to become global citizens, internationalizing the curricula, enhancing the institution’s international profile and reputation, and growing international partnerships in research and teaching.

In addition to documentation that UM submitted in January, the Higher Learning Commission, which oversees accreditation as part of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, will be making a site visit on March 14-17. On the morning of the 17th, HLC representatives will meet with president Mary Sue Coleman in private, then make a public announcement about their determination immediately afterward. They’re booked on flights that leave later that morning, van der Pluijm said, which he characterized as a good sign.

Formal reports will be sent to the university about six weeks after the site visit.

Public Commentary

Only one person spoke to regents during the time set aside for public commentary. Haley Weinger, a UM sophomore, described her experience as a student in the School of Art and Design following hospitalization from a collapsed lung last fall. The school’s administration – particularly Joann McDaniel, assistant dean for undergraduate programs – refused to work cooperatively with her to allow her to complete her coursework and requirements, Weinger said. “Unfortunately, there are many people who have had very similar experiences in the School of Art and Design,” she said.

Weinger reported that she has now transferred to the School of Literature, Science and the Arts, where she’s found her professors and academic advisor to be positive and encouraging. She urged regents to investigate these “pervasive and serious problems” at the School of Art and Design, so that other students can have a more positive experience there.

Present: Mary Sue Coleman (ex officio), Julia Darlow (by phone), Larry Deitch, Denise Ilitch, Andrea Fischer Newman, Andrew Richner, Martin Taylor, Katherine White

Absent: Olivia Maynard

Next board meeting: The next board meeting is Thursday, March 18 at 3 p.m. in the Fleming Administration Building, 503 Thompson St., Ann Arbor. [confirm date]