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At Senate Assembly, Slottow speaks to University finances, regents debate future of 'U'

Jake Fromm/Daily
Candidates for the Board of Regents speak at a Senate Assembly meeting in Palmer Commons on Monday, Oct. 25. Buy this photo

Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 25, 2010

Speaking before the main faculty governance body yesterday, the two University regents running for re-election and the candidates vying for their spots clashed over the best way to handle the University’s finances in the upcoming term.

Challengers Paul Brown (D–Ann Arbor) and Greg Stephens (D–Saline) discussed their plans to address tuition increases during the debate in front of Senate Assembly yesterday. Incumbent regents Andrew Richner (R–Grosse Pointe Park) and Andrea Fischer Newman (R–Ann Arbor) touted what they called track records of effectively handling the University’s finances. Libertarian Leslie Lazzerin also participated in the debate.

In his opening statement, Richner cited the University’s stable finances in light of the state’s economic downturn as a reason to keep him on the board. Newman took a similar tack, saying she wants to stay on the board to help the University sustain its resources.

Both Democratic candidates said they would focus on implementing new tuition plans if elected.

Lazzerin’s speech focused less on finances and instead on the atmosphere she would aim to create for students, if elected. Drawing on her experience doing service work with Detroit youth, Lazzarin said she would be able to effectively focus on students’ needs. She added that also would promote an environment that is supportive of free speech and creativity.

Stephens, who previously ran in 2002, said if elected, he would work to make the University more affordable and accessible for students. Asked about the most important challenges for the University in the upcoming years, Stephens spoke again about the importance of reducing tuition costs as well as the importance of increased faculty engagement.

Brown said he believes the University will meet many financial obstacles, which the regents and faculty can overcome by having more of a public presence and advocating for public funding. State legislators voted to cut funding for public universities by 2.8 percent last month.

Newman said that though the biggest challenge facing the regents in the upcoming term will be dealing with the University’s finances, the cost-cutting measures that officials have already started putting into place will help the University maintain its stable finances.

“I think that keeping costs manageable while at the same time developing perimeters, which we are starting to do in a lot of different ways, will be very helpful to defraying our costs,” Newman said.

Richner also focused on the University’s financial struggles, but added that the University must still work to maintain its prestigious academic reputation.

A question from a faculty member shifted the conversation from finances to diversity at the University. Addressing a question about the promotion of racial diversity in the future, all candidates agreed that diversity is an important part of the University experience.

“I feel we have almost a sacred obligation to truly have a racially diverse campus and truly give all students from all our neighborhoods in the state and around the country a chance to matriculate here,” Brown said.

Brown said he feels a change in the admissions policy would bring the needed diversity to campus. He added that the University should also work harder to recruit a more diverse faculty body.

Newman and Richner both claimed the University has done a good job promoting diversity thus far, despite the state-wide ban on using affirmative action in admissions.

“I think we’ve done a good job in dealing with Proposal 2 and taking a holistic approach towards admissions, and the record is improving and on the right track,” Richner said.

Stephens said he feels that while the University is doing a good job attracting minority students, the actual retention rates are very low.