UM Regents Applaud $56M Taubman Gift

Also: tenure timeline extended; Chris Armstrong says farewell

University of Michigan board of regents meeting (April 21, 2011): Other business at Thursday’s regents meeting was upstaged by a late addition to the agenda – news that billionaire Al Taubman was giving another $56 million to the university.

Eva Feldman, Al Taubman, Judy Taubman

Al Taubman, who recently donated $56 million to fund medical research at UM, is flanked by his wife Judy Taubman, right, and Eva Feldman, a UM neurology professor and director of the Taubman Medical Research Institute. Seated behind them is Kellen Russell, who won a national championship in wrestling and was also recognized by regents at their April 21, 2011 meeting. (Photos by the writer.)

The donation – to fund work at UM’s Taubman Medical Research Institute – brought his total gifts for that institute to $100 million, and his total overall UM contributions to more than $141 million. He is the largest individual donor to the university.

In conjunction with this latest gift, regents approved the renaming of the Biomedical Science Research Building – where the institute is housed – in honor of Taubman.

In thanking Taubman, board chair Julia Darlow called his gift transformative, and noted that his name has been “stamped” on the university in many ways – at the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning, the Taubman Gallery at the UM Museum of Art, Taubman Health Care Center, Taubman Health Sciences Library, and the Taubman Scholars program, among others. Though he did not complete a degree, Taubman did study architecture at UM and has been involved with the institution for decades.

The real estate developer, who’s widely credited with popularizing the modern shopping mall, is not without controversy. Taubman maintains his innocence, but the former owner of Sotheby’s auction house served about nine months in federal prison in 2002 for an anti-trust conviction related to a price-fixing scheme with Christie’s, a major competitor. At the time, university officials stood by him in the face of calls to remove his name from UM buildings.

In addition to announcing Taubman’s most recent gift, the regents handled a variety of other items during their April meeting. They unanimously approved an extension of the maximum allowable tenure probationary period to 10 years, and before voting heard from several UM faculty members on both sides of the issue. Regents also approved several million dollars in infrastructure projects, as well as a new degree program in health informatics.

Chris Armstrong, who made national news after being harrassed by a former state assistant attorney general, gave his last report as outgoing student government president and was thanked by university executives for his leadership. Regent Libby Maynard told Armstrong he’d helped all of them grow during the year.

And during the time set aside for public commentary, students and staff raised several issues, including negotiations with the nurses union, campus sustainability efforts, and a proposal to partner with an Israeli university for study abroad.

Agenda Addition: Al Taubman

Media had been alerted earlier in the week that an agenda item would be added at the start of the April 21 regents meeting, featuring news that involved a prominent individual – no additional details were provided. That individual turned out to be Al Taubman, a familiar name to the university because of major donations he’s made in the past.

Taubman, his wife Judy Taubman and Eva Feldman – a UM neurology professor, director of the Taubman Medical Research Institute, and Taubman’s personal physician – were among those on hand when UM president Mary Sue Coleman called Thursday’s meeting to order.

Speaking with difficulty through a hoarse voice, Coleman began by describing Taubman as a thoughtful, dedicated and driven supporter of the university for many years, always wanting his alma mater to excel. [Taubman received an honorary doctorate of law degree from UM in 1991.] She cited several UM units that have benefited from his support, including the UM health system, the museum of art, the College of Literature, Science & the Arts, and the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning.

“Today he is once again moving Michigan forward,” Coleman said, extending his long-standing support with an additional gift of $56 million. At that, the regents and others attending the meeting gave Taubman a standing ovation.

Coleman continued, saying the gift brings his total donation for the Taubman Medical Research Institute to $100 million. The funds will allow UM’s scientists to conduct high risk research, with potentially high rewards, into some of the most terrible diseases that anyone has experienced, she said, like Lou Gehrig’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. As a university president, a scientist, and someone whose family has been affected by such a disease, Coleman said Taubman’s gift will make a tremendous difference, and she expressed deep gratitude to him for making it.

Six of the eight regents made additional remarks. Julia Darlow, the board’s chair, called Taubman a true Michigan man, noting that he grew up in Michigan, studied at the university, and based his business in this state. She thanked him for his “life-changing gift,” saying “your generosity will save lives – we are certain of that.” Darlow also thanked Taubman for sharing his time, advice, energy and leadership with the university, citing many of the other UM programs and institutions he has supported over the year. The Taubman name “has been stamped on this university,” she concluded, saying that they are forever grateful for that.

Al Taubman, Eva Feldman

Al Taubman and Eva Feldman in the lobby of the regents boardroom prior to the start of the April 21, 2011 meeting. In the background is a photo of regent Andrea Fischer Newman.

Denise Ilitch noted that she’s known Taubman for a long time, and said she was thrilled by his gift. In particular, she expressed excitement for the potential that the institute’s stem cell research promises, noting that her family has also been affected by the diseases that the research hopes to cure. “You are a rock star!” she said, adding that her family – which owns the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers – typically celebrates by doing a cheer: “Wooo!”

Saying he’d recently met one of his boyhood heroes, Larry Deitch said it was great to honor one of his adult heroes as well. Taubman’s gifts have enriched the life of this state, Deitch said. He highlighted Taubman’s previous gifts to support stem cell research at the university, saying it was something an entrepreneur would do.

Andrea Fischer Newman told Taubman that he’d put the university on the map with this gift, making them a power to be reckoned with. Because of it, they’ll be able to retain the scientists they have, and attract new ones for generations to come. He’s done more for this institution than anything they could ask for or hope for, she said, “and we appreciate it.”

Andrew Richner also thanked Taubman, saying that as a lifelong Michigander, “I can’t imagine the state of Michigan without the Taubman family.”

Martin Taylor thanked Taubman for stepping in to support a critical area of research at a time when there are so many forces working against it.

Coleman told Taubman that Ora Pescovitz, who leads the University of Michigan Health System, was unable to attend the meeting, but had videotaped some remarks, which were then played.

Taubman came to the podium and thanked the regents and Coleman for their kind words and recognition, saying it was his honor to support the university. He thanked the people who had encouraged him to donate, including Bob Kelch, the former UM executive vice president for medical affairs.

He recalled that 35 years ago, then-governor Bill Milliken had asked him to serve on a committee for building a new hospital at UM. He said Milliken had asked him because he’d complained about their plans to tear down the old hospital, which had been designed by the renowned architect Albert Kahn. Milliken had told him to figure out a way to save the old building, or help build a new one. Taubman said they’d ultimately chosen the latter course, and that the last time he’d attended a regents meeting it was to plead the case for an accelerated construction schedule for that hospital – it had been completed on time and under budget, he noted.

Taubman also recalled meeting Eva Feldman, who years ago had agreed to be his personal physician and more recently had sold him on the idea of new research using embryonic stem cell therapy. At the time, it was illegal to conduct such research in Michigan, he said, so they opened a lab in La Hoya, California. About three years ago, he said he also spent several million dollars to fund a campaign to change Michigan’s restrictive laws regarding stem cell research. After Michigan voters approved a 2008 referendum to legalize embryonic stem cell research, Taubman said they moved the lab back to UM. The research holds potential for curing some of the most devastating diseases, he said, “and that’s what today’s announcement is all about.”

The Friars

Members of The Friars, a student a cappella men's group, delivered a rendition of "The Victors."

Taubman received another standing ovation after concluding his remarks. Coleman then introduced a supplemental agenda item to rename UM’s Biomedical Science Research Building in honor of Taubman. The building, which opened in 2006, houses the Taubman Medical Research Institute and is located at 109 Zina Pitcher Place, off East Huron just before it curves into Washtenaw Avenue. With no discussion, the regents unanimously approved the name change.

Capping off this portion of the meeting, the eight betuxed members of The Friars, a student a cappella men’s group, entered the room and delivered a full rendition of “The Victors,” UM’s fight song. They were joined during the chorus by most of the people in the boardroom.

The board then took a recess, and Taubman was escorted to another room in the building for additional media interviews. The meeting reconvened after a roughly five minute break.

President’s Opening Remarks

Because UM president Mary Sue Coleman was hoarse and had difficulty speaking, Sally Churchill – vice president and secretary to the university – delivered Coleman’s prepared opening remarks. She highlighted several recent achievements by UM athletes. The men’s and women’s gymnastics programs each won NCAA championship all-around titles – Kylee Botterman took the women’s title, and Sam Mikulak won the men’s. Botterman attended the regents meeting with her coach. Also attending Thursday’s meeting was Kellen Russell, who won an NCAA national championship in wrestling. His coach, as well as athletic director David Brandon, came to the meeting as well. Regents gave the student athletes a round of applause.

Continuing Coleman’s prepared remarks, Churchill also noted that commencement ceremonies would be held in less than two weeks, and they welcomed Gov. Rick Snyder as the keynote speaker. [The choice of Snyder has been criticized by some students, including three who spoke at the regents March 17 meeting in Detroit. One of those students, Richard Durrance, presented regents with a petition with more than 4,000 student signatures, protesting Snyder’s selection as commencement speaker in part because of budget cuts he has proposed to K-12 and higher education. A rally against those cuts is planned for the morning of commencement, on Saturday, April 30, starting at 8 a.m. at Pioneer High School.]

Students with Disabilities

Regents heard a presentation about the Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) program, part of the UM division of student affairs. The program’s director, Stuart Segal, attended the meeting, but the presentation was given by three students who’ve taken advantage of those services.

Carrie Lofgren, a freshman, told regents that when she was searching for a university to attend, she looked for two things: (1) a rowing team; and (2) support services. Lofgren said she’s been diagnosed with dyslexia, and the other institutions she looked at – the University of Virginia and Brown University – lacked the support she needed. She was impressed with the Ross Academic Center, which provides academic support for student athletes, and since arriving at UM, the SSD staff has been there to help her manage her studies with a variety of resources. She’s used them to her fullest advantage, Lofgren said.

Brian Rappaport, a senior in public policy, said he found out about SSD services a bit late – when he was a freshman, he had to leave the university after one semester, because of issues related to his attention deficit disorder. Since returning, the SSD staff has been instrumental in his success, Rappaport said, primarily helping with time management. He said he hoped SSD could expand its peer mentorship program – that would have been valuable to him. Reflecting on this freshman year and his upcoming graduation, Rappaport thanked SSD staff for helping him reach his goal. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Edward Timke, a doctoral student in the department of communications, told regents that he’d just passed his preliminary exam – a milestone he wouldn’t have been able to reach without SSD. He was born without ear canals, and though they’ve been reconstructed, he is hearing disabled. Before he enrolled in UM’s doctoral program, he was concerned about how he’d be received, given his need for aid.

But Timke reported that his department has been willing to make accommodations, including services provided through SSD. He pointed out that during the regents meeting, he’d been able to follow the discussion because someone was there providing real-time captioning for him. Timke also said that thanks to GradCare, a medical insurance program for graduate students, he’d been able to receive a Phonak hearing aid implanted in his skull – without that insurance, he wouldn’t have been able to afford the device. He said he’s worried that with budget cuts, that insurance might not be available in the future.

Timke also noted that more can be done. He knows students who’ve faced both overt and covert discrimination on campus because of their disabilities, and some departments or faculty are reluctant to make accommodations. Some people also feel that disabled students get preferential treatment, he said – much more needs to be done to ensure there’s greater sensitivity to the needs of disabled students. They aren’t asking for a free ride, he said. Timke urged regents to support positive programs like GradCare and SSD, and to springboard off that to create an even better environment for students with disabilities.

After the presentation, board chair Julia Darlow thanked the students, and also highlighted the work of UM’s Council for Disability Concerns. She said she’d never seen a group so dedicated, and praised the local residents and faculty who served on it. Darlow introduced two members who attended the regents meeting – Anna Ercoli Schnitzer and Jack Bernard – and they received a round of applause. The amount that they contribute is truly unbelievable, Darlow said.

Tenure Extension

The board was asked to approve a change to Regents Bylaw 5.09 that would extend the maximum allowable tenure probationary period to 10 years. It has been set at eight years since 1944. The change does not impose the longer period, but allows faculty governing groups at UM’s various schools and colleges to extend it, if they choose.

From a memo accompanying the proposed revision:

The changing nature of scholarship, with its emphasis on interdisciplinary projects, more complex research models requiring the setting up of sophisticated equipment and laboratories, and increased regulatory and compliance requirements, increases the time necessary for completion and evaluation of initial research results. These factors, combined with the fact that many faculty members, especially those from two-career and single-parent households, find it increasingly difficult to balance their teaching and research commitments with family obligations, have led to the conclusion that a more flexible tenure probationary period is warranted.

Tenure Extension: Public Commentary

Seven faculty spoke during the meeting’s public commentary, most of them in support of the change. Regents had previously heard from faculty – most of them from the UM Medical School – at their Feb. 17, 2011 meeting.

Ed Rothman

Ed Rothman, chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), urged regents to postpone a decision on extending the tenure timeline.

Ed Rothman – chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA), the faculty governance body – began by saying that this is a difficult issue, and people on both sides are well-intentioned. He cited several concerns with the change, including the likelihood that allowing a longer time to make a decision on tenure will result in taking longer to make a decision, adding the stress of an increased wait. It’s also unclear if they’re treating the problem or a symptom, he said. If the workload is too heavy, should the answer be to lengthen the time to achieve tenure, or lighten the workload? The university can’t afford to be divided on this issue, he said, and SACUA opposes the change, as does the majority of the Senate Faculty. He requested that regents hold off on a vote until a more agreeable solution can be found.

Ben Allen also urged regents to postpone their vote. He is an assistant professor in the medical school – he noted that he works in the building that’s being renamed in Taubman’s honor – and his initial reaction was to see the change as positive. As the father of two little girls, he appreciated the concern for balancing work and personal life. However, he’s come to believe that the change will in fact hinder the success of junior faculty. One concern is that faculty seeking tenure would be held to higher standards if they take longer. And simply providing more time to achieve tenure isn’t helpful without also providing resources to support achieving it, such as increased startup funds for research and opportunities for promotion. Allen said he believes the changes are being proposed sincerely as being in the best interest of junior faculty, but he urged regents to postpone action until other measures are taken as well.

Abby Stewart, a professor of psychology and women’s studies, spoke in favor of the extended tenure. She cited the diversity of family circumstances as a reason for adding flexibility to the process. Over the past 25 years, she said, people have come to her for advice about how to pursue their academic careers in the wake of complex demands in their personal lives. Stewart gave examples of people dealing with special needs children, care for elderly parents, and long-term illnesses. Other problems relate to challenges at the university – for example, when renovations at a lab prevented a researcher from using that space for an extended period. Fifty years ago, Stewart said, the current tenure timeline was adequate. But now, flexibility is needed. She said it’s unlikely most schools and colleges will change their policies, but for those that need it – like the medical school – they should have that option.

Three faculty from the medical school – David Bloom, chair of the medical school’s department of urology; Kathleen Cooney, chief of the division of hematology/oncology; and Chris Dickinson, chief of pediatric gastroenterology – also spoke in support of the change.

Rob Salmond, an assistant professor of political science, gave a poignant description of the medical challenges faced by his daughter, who was born with birth defects requiring five open heart surgeries. He and his wife, who is also in UM’s political science department, split their time staying by her bedside in the hospital, he said, but despite the efforts of the medical staff, their daughter died two months ago. Salmond said he had selfish reasons for asking regents to extend the tenure timeline, but that it would benefit many more untenured faculty as well. He urged them to approve the change.

Tenure Extension: Staff and Regents

Sally Churchill, vice president and secretary to the university, described the various ways that this proposal has been publicized, and how feedback had been solicited from faculty groups. The proposal was posted in The University Record, and more than 100 comments in response to that posting were overwhelmingly in support of it, she said.

Provost Phil Hanlon told regents that their vote would itself not change the tenure process, nor would it affect the university’s strong commitment to tenure. All that’s being requested is a change in the upper limit of time allowed to complete tenure – a timeline that’s set by the governing faculty at each academic unit. The need has arisen from people’s experiences on campus, he said, including the increasing complexity and nature of their scholarship, and the need to balance work and family.

This change was first proposed in 2006, Hanon said, and there’s been vigorous debate about it. He noted the concerns raised by Ben Allen about unintended consequences, and said he plans to convene a committee to advise him on how to monitor and provide oversight if a college or school decides to extend their tenure timeline.

Regent Kathy White clarified that the change merely increases the maximum number of years that schools and colleges can set for their tenure timeline. She confirmed with Hanlon that the decisionmakers would be faculty or members of committees elected by the faculty, and that the administration would not be picking faculty of their choosing to make these decisions.

Regent Julia Darlow, the board’s chair, said there’s been some misunderstanding on this issue, but that there had been an excellent and thorough discussion. “I do think the time has come,” she said.

Outcome: Regents voted unanimously to extend the maximum allowable tenure probationary period to 10 years. Regent Larry Deitch left the meeting before this vote.

Michigan Student Assembly: Changing of Guard

This was the last regents meeting for Chris Armstrong, outgoing president of the Michigan Student Assembly, UM’s student government group. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, thanked Armstrong for his leadership during a challenging year. He represented himself and the university well, she said, and persisted when everyone else would have understood if he did not. He has a “teachable spirit,” Harper said, noting there were many occasions to see that in evidence.

Chris Armstrong

Chris Armstrong, outgoing president of the Michigan Student Assembly.

[Harper was alluding to the fact that Armstrong was the subject of attacks last year by former state assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell. Shirvell kept a blog – the “Chris Armstrong Watch” – which criticized Armstrong for his openly gay lifestyle and “radical homosexual agenda.” The situation received national media attention, and Armstrong ultimately filed a lawsuit against Shirvell earlier this month, accusing him of stalking and inflicting emotional distress.]

Armstrong received a round of applause from regents before giving his final report to the board. “It has certainly been quite a year,” he said. He highlighted several MSA accomplishments during his tenure, including renewing a car service for student service groups, starting an online forum for students to petition the university, changing the housing policy for transgender students, and hosting a concert for students, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. “It’s been an honor for me to represent that work to you all,” he told the regents.

Regent Libby Maynard told Armstrong he’d helped all of them grow during the year. He’s been instrumental in making them better people, she said.

Armstrong then introduced the new MSA president, DeAndree Watson. Watson, a junior, said that Armstrong’s work has set a foundation for the coming year. He outlined several goals for his administration, including the desire to increase interactions with local, state and national officials. Noting that UM has a history of being a hub for student activism, Watson said he hoped to make MSA more of a resource for student activists by creating a fund to support those efforts, as well as an online database to share information and help student groups collaborate.

Infrastructure Projects

Regents approved several infrastructure projects at Thursday’s meeting, totaling more than $21 million.

Infrastructure Projects: Information Technology

Two items related to information technology (IT) infrastructure, totaling $8.9 million. Regents authorized a $2.7 million annual maintenance and replacement program for information and technology services in fiscal 2012. The program includes three major projects: (1) replacing the networking infrastructure for UM’s data network in campus buildings; (2) replacing the Northwood Housing network infrastructure; and (3) making upgrades to campus voice systems.

Regents also approved construction of a $6.2 million data center on the north campus, located near the UM Transportation Research Institute. The facility – which UM’s chief financial officer, Tim Slottow, described as an “ecopod” – is being built in response to increased demand for research computing and data storage capacity.

Laura Patterson, UM’s associate vice president and chief information officer, spoke briefly about the project, saying it’s part of an effort to consolidate the university’s 180 server rooms into a much smaller number of data centers, which would save about $1.3 million in annual operating costs. It will be a pre-manufactured facility, she said, delivered by semi-trailer truck and placed on a concrete slab. Smaller than the size of the regents boardroom, it will be much more efficient than a traditional data center, Patterson said.

Integrated Design Solutions LLC is the project’s designer. Construction is expected to be finished by the spring of 2012.

Infrastructure Projects: Michigan Memorial Phoenix Lab

Regents also authorized staff to issue bids and award construction contracts for an $11 million renovation and addition at the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Laboratory, which houses the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute. The project includes renovating about 10,000 square feet of lab space for energy-related research, and building a 10,000-square-foot addition for administrative functions. Regents approved the schematic design at their September 2010 meeting.

Infrastructure Projects: Orthotics & Prosthetics Center

Finally, regents approved a $1.3 million renovation to the UM Orthotics and Prosthetics Center, located at the Eisenhower Corporate Park West facility. The project will renovate roughly 12,500 square feet, resulting in a higher-capacity clinic space and expanded laboratory area with accommodations for new programs. Ann Arbor-based A3C Collaborative Architecture will design the project, which is expected to be complete by the spring of 2012.

Conflict-of-Interest Disclosures

Without comment, regents authorized 12 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 or leases.

An item involving a lease agreement with Lycera Corp. was withdrawn. Sally Churchill, vice president and secretary of the university, indicated that the agreement wasn’t yet completed. The company is planning to occupy 14,134 square feet of laboratory and office space in Building 26 at the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) – the former Pfizer site on Plymouth Road.

Items approved were related to the following companies, organizations and individuals: (1) InSight Photography; (2) Camp Doc; (3) ElectroDynamic Application Inc.; (4) Holbrook Design; (5) Jeannette Routhier; (6) Baker-Calling Inc.; (7) Cytopherx; (8) MEMSTim; (9) NextGen Metabolomics Inc.; (10) Silicon Kidney; (11) Soar Technology Inc.; and (12) Vortex Hydro Energy LLC.

Academic Items: Courant Reappointed, New Degree OK’d

Provost Phil Hanlon highlighted the reappointment of Paul Courant as university librarian and dean of libraries, from Feb. 29, 2012 through Aug. 31, 2013. He said he wanted to get more time from Courant, but that’s all he would agree to. Courant is nationally recognized as a thought leader, Hanlon said, especially in the field of digitization. [As an example, Courant is among the leadership of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) effort, which also includes Ann Arbor District Library director Josie Parker.]

Later in the meeting, regents were asked to approve a new joint master’s degree and graduate certificate program in health informatics. The degree, to be offered at UM’s Ann Arbor campus, is a two-year program of the School of Information and the School of Public Health. Hanlon told regents that there’s a need for training in health care technologies, and that students have expressed interest in pursuing this course of study. The target date to enroll the first graduate certificate students is the fall of 2011, with enrollment of the first master’s degree students in the fall of 2012.

Regental, Academic Calendars

Regents approved two calendars during their meeting: (1) their meeting schedule for 2012; and (2) the university’s calendar for the 2013-14 academic year.

Regarding the academic calendar, it appears that the 2014 spring break might not coincide with the break for Ann Arbor Public Schools. A memo provided to the regents stated that the university’s spring break in 2014 will run from March 1 through March 9. From the memo: “We have communicated with the Ann Arbor Public School District, which in the past often tried to schedule a winter break that coincides with the UM academic calendar. We have been informed that new state requirements will mean that AAPS is unlikely to have much flexibility about when its breaks are set.”

Washtenaw Community Health Organization

Regents took two actions related to the Washtenaw Community Health Organization (WCHO), a partnership between Washtenaw County and the UM Health Systems. The partnership focuses on providing services to children and adults with mental or emotional health disorders, substance abuse problems or developmental disabilities.

Each institution appoints six members to the board. In action taken on Thursday, regents reappointed two members to WCHO’s board of directors, to represent the university: (1) Martha Bloom, vice president of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation; and (2) Jerry Walden, who founded and directed Packard Clinic until his retirement in 2007. Both members will serve terms from April 1, 2011 through March 31, 2014.

Also at the April 21 meeting, regents approved several changes to the WCHO bylaws. Among the changes include: (1) removing language for the UMHS to provide money for physical health services; (2) providing for the executive committee to act on behalf of the board and for actions to be reported to the full board at its next meeting; and (3) removing Washtenaw County as the fiscal agent for the WCHO. UM’s Hospitals and Health Centers executive board approved these revisions at its March 28, 2011 board meeting. The county board of commissioners approved the bylaws without discussion at its March 2, 2011 meeting.

Public Commentary

Five people spoke at the end of Thursday’s meeting on items not related to the agenda.

Public Commentary: Family Housing Language Program

Debbie Green, an Ann Arbor resident, talked about the decision to eliminate the family housing language program, which provided English classes and community support to families of international students living at Northwood Community Apartments, on UM’s north campus. Green said she taught with the program for five years in the 1980s, and found it to be popular and effective. The other main English as a Second Language program in Ann Arbor is located 40 minutes away by bus from Northwood and doesn’t offer the range of classes that were previously offered at UM, Green said. She noted that the university has stated that it wants to provide more opportunities for American students to interact with the foreign community at Northwood, but the needs of foreign families are being ignored. If the university is less welcoming to foreign students, they risk losing the tuition, diversity and expertise of that group, she said.

Regent Andy Richner asked for an explanation about the decision. Royster Harper, UM’s vice president for student affairs, said she’d follow up.

This message is posted on the program’s website:

The Northwood Community English Language Program is not offering English classes during the Winter 2011 semester.

We are currently refocusing our resources to provide programming that will serve a larger number of University Housing residents. Instead of our traditional English language classes, over the next several months, we will develop programs that serve the interests of Northwood’s international population as well as U-M student and faculty interest in international cultures and studies. The new programs may include collaborations with University academic units and cultural organizations to develop language mentorship opportunities for Northwood residents and their dependents. They will also engage Housing residents in global learning and cross-cultural initiatives.

Katie Oppenheim

Katie Oppenheim, chair of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, spoke during public commentary at the April 21, 2011 regents meeting.

Public Commentary: Nurses Union

Katie Oppenheim, chair of the UM Professional Nurse Council, told regents that the union started contract negotiations with the university last week. The union’s roughly 4,000 members are fortunate to be working at an institution that’s prospering, she said, and the university is well-positioned so that the union’s members can provide the highest quality patient care. Part of that means that nurses need control over their nursing practice, and all that it entails, Oppenheim said. Nurses must have the resources they need to provide excellent patient care, and she hoped they could count on the regents’ full support.

After the commentary, regent Andrea Fischer Newman noted that Oppenheim had been her nurse when she delivered her son 15 years ago.

Public Commentary: Sustainability

Devi Glick spoke about the university’s sustainability efforts. Despite some positive steps, such as creating the Office of Campus Sustainability, she said UM is not a leader in pushing for environmental and social sustainability. She cited several examples where UM fell short, such as valuing aesthetics more than recycling efforts when asked to place recycling bins on the Diag, and in its drive for growth. “The university can become better without becoming bigger,” she said. Glick said she wasn’t encouraging unrealistic goals, but she urged regents to be bold. Achieving 90% of an ambitious goal is far better than attaining 100% of an unambitious goal, she said.

Public Commentary: Studying in Israel

Two students – Julie Sherbill and Laura Katsnelson – talked about why UM should establish a partnership with an Israeli university, allowing students to study abroad in that country. UM has a policy against setting up university-supported study abroad programs in any country with a travel warning – such a warning for Israel was issued by the U.S. State Department in 2001.

Sherbill told regents that they’ve collected over 1,000 student signatures in support of establishing a partnership with an Israeli university, proving that it’s a student-driven initiative. Resolutions in support were also passed unanimously by the Michigan Student Assembly and the student governing group for the College of Literature, Science & the Arts (LSA). Further, the action is also supported by U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, Sherbill said, as well as Deborah Dash Moore, director of the UM Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, and Liz Barry, managing director of the UM Life Sciences Institute.

Regent Andrea Fischer Newman noted that the regents addressed this issue at their Feb. 17, 2011 meeting. She asked provost Phil Hanlon for an update.

Hanlon reported that he’d met with the people responsible for UM’s study abroad programs, to better understand why the current policy is in place. It’s a risk issue, he said. For most countries on the list – including Israel, Kenya and Mexico – there are only certain parts of the country that are deemed dangerous. However, UM staff didn’t feel they had the in-house expertise to know which parts of each country would be safe. Hanlon said his staff has also contacted others in the Association of American Universities to see what their policies are, and have talked to representatives from Michigan State University and the University of Wisconsin, which both allow study in Israel, to see how they assess risk.

Mark Tessler, vice provost for international affairs, has set up a small group to look into this issue, Hanlon said, adding that he strongly urged Tessler to provide a recommendation to regents in May.

Newman said she understood UM’s policy, but suggested that they consider looking at countries individually, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach. She said she’s very familiar with travel warnings issued by the State Department – Newman is senior vice president-government affairs for Delta Airlines. The government can only pay for dependents of federal employees to leave the country if a travel warning is in effect, she noted, so that should be taken into account. There’s also a difference between travel warnings and travel advisories, she said – that should be looked at as well.

Newman asked how long it would take to put the policy into effect, assuming it were changed to allow study in Israel. Hanlon replied it depends on the type of mechanism they use to assess risk.

Regent Andrew Richner asked whether they would look at all countries with travel warnings, not just Israel. Hanlon said he expected any change would apply to all countries in that category.

Katsnelson then described what a partnership with Hebrew University in Jerusalem might look like. Specifically, the university’s Rothberg International School is experienced in partnering with American universities, she said. The director of academic affairs there, Janet Alperstein, has expressed interest in working with UM to establish a partnership. If liability and safety are concerns, UM can ask students to sign a waiver, Katsnelson said – a packet provided to the regents included a sample waiver used by Harvard University.

Present: Mary Sue Coleman (ex officio), Julia Darlow, Larry Deitch, Denise Ilitch, Olivia (Libby) Maynard, Andrea Fischer Newman, Andrew Richner, Martin Taylor, Kathy White.

Next board meeting: Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 3 p.m. at the Fairlane Center on UM’s Dearborn campus, 19000 Hubbard Drive. [confirm date]

One Comment

  1. April 25, 2011 at 10:21 am | permalink

    I am so thankful and excited for this very generous donation to UM by Al Taubman, helping to advance stem cell research to potentially cure all the devestating diseases in the near future, horrible disease with which we are burdoned today. My family has had many deaths in recent years from a horrible disease called Adrenoleukodystrophy and also Parkinsons and are praying that these diseases would be cured to prevent further deaths.
    I hope that more people like Al Taubman would generously donate, so that my family and all families with incurable diseases could experience some happiness.
    Thank you Al Taubman.
    We Love you.