By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Students, faculty and non-instructional staff from the three University of Michigan campuses — a group known as the One University Coalition — gathered to ask for greater funding along with long-term support for the Dearborn and Flint campuses.
At the press conference May 16 at UM-D Fairlane Center North, 19000 Hubbard Drive, UM-F student Austin Ogle spoke about his experience at the Flint campus and how the lack of resources impact students.
He listed several infrastructure issues that need addressing at the campus which included non-operating handicap buttons on doors, elevators that don’t function or are constantly under repair, and removal of escalators which were not replaced.
Ogle addressed the lack of services for the Dearborn and Flint campuses that are offered at the Ann Arbor campus.
“Medical services as well as legal services are provided to students,” he said. “These services are not provided in any way to students at Flint or Dearborn’s campus. These services, by far can do way more good in Flint and Dearborn — they’re needed more in Flint and Dearborn than they are at the Ann Arbor campus. Many of them could be provided to little to no cost.”
Another issue that Ogle said he thinks is the most impactful to him on a day-to-day or semester-to-semester basis for students is classes that are not regularly offered.
“Many courses at the University of Michigan-Flint are offered at one time session, once an academic year if you’re lucky,” he said. “Many courses are not offered even on yearly basis so you kind of have to plan your schedules two, three years ahead and sometimes those courses will still get canceled and then you will be pushed back into another semester, another year which delays your education and moving on to graduate school.
“It also puts a much greater financial burden onto students at the University of Michigan-Flint who are already under more financial burden on average than students at the Ann Arbor campus.”
According to the One University group, Dearborn and Flint students pay about 80 percent of Ann Arbor students’ tuition, but only receive 25 percent of the student funding.
The One University platform has goals which are to, equalize state legislature’s per-student allocations:
• Extend U-M Ann Arbor’s Go-Blue Guarantee of free tuition for low-income students to Dearborn and Flint campuses.
• Pay parity for graduate students and lecturers.
• Extend diversity, equity, and inclusion funds to Dearborn and Flint.
• On-campus medical and legal services in Flint and Dearborn.
• Coordinated admissions and transfers among all three campuses.
• Expand scholarships for low-income and working students on Flint and Dearborn campuses to study abroad.
University of Michigan Student and Lecturers’ Employee Organization Communications Representative Amytess Girgis said that six out of the eight university regents have met with One University and expressed their support for the platform.
When asked how U-M President Mark Schlissel has responded, Ogle said Schlissel has not come out in support of the collation. Girgis added that Schlissel has not met with the group, but has twice commented on the campaign when prompted.
“Both times President Schlissel has sort of dogged the issue of equity and instead has addressed the fact that he feels the three campuses sort of serve different missions and for that purpose he doesn’t really — he hasn’t supported our demands that we feel there is a need to increase funding on these campuses,” Girgis said.
“Instead, he has sort of dodged the question and instead addressed the fact that, because these campuses serve different missions than the Ann Arbor campus, don’t, therefore, need as much funding as the Ann Arbor campus — which, of course, is not even what we’re saying.”
Former Democratic gubernatorial candidate and University of Michigan graduate Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said the university spends on average $54,000 per student in Ann Arbor, $18,000 per student in Dearborn and $15,000 per student in Flint.
“If you look at the allocation of state resources, public funds it’s half as much at the Flint campus and the Dearborn campus as it is at the Ann Arbor campus, and at the end of the day that’s just not right because it’s inconsistent with the ideals of what this university was intended to do in the first place,” El-Sayed said.
“I am calling upon the regents of this university to do the right thing, to stand up for equitable funding across these campuses, to recognize that Flint and Dearborn are part of the University of Michigan, they deserve the same opportunities that are afforded at the Ann Arbor campus and we can do better if we’re honest about what our ideals are.”
U-M Public Affairs Assistant Vice President Rick Fitzgerald said the state Legislature needs to provide more funding to higher education, including for the Dearborn and Flint campuses.
“President Schlissel has been a strong advocate for greater state investment in direct-to-student need-based financial aid,” Fitzgerald said. “It would lead to greater degree attainment, diminished student debt, growth in the Michigan economy and increased per-capita income. It would also allow students more freedom to decide where they wish to study in Michigan and encourage schools to compete for the best students, regardless of their family income.”
During the U-M Board of Regents Meeting that same afternoon at the UM-D Fairlane Center South, 19000 Hubbard Drive, public comments were made by faculty and students. A packet containing an open letter to Schlissel and the regents along with an op-ed signed by 12 state legislators were presented to the board.
UM-D Lecturer Deborah Roundtree, who has been teaching at the campus as a lecturer in psychology for 16 years, asked the regents and Schlissel to better support the Dearborn and Flint campuses by allocating what amounts to a small portion of the budget at the upcoming June meeting.
“We are asking you to extend the Go Blue Guarantee to adequately fund mental health counseling, medical and legal services and to institute pay parity for graduate student instructors as well as non-tenure track faculty,” she said. “The leaders and best can and must do better.”
UM-D student Lia Fabbri said she saw how a lack of adequate funding harmed student government during her time as president of PRIDE, the LGBTQ student organization and directors of inclusion for the student government.
“In my first year here we were operating without the guidance of a coordinator for LGBTQ programs and initiatives, and when we asked why, we were told there simply was not the budge for it,” she said. “This meant that PRIDE became wholly responsible for providing LGBTQ programming my first year here, something very hard to do when we were also all full-time students.
“When we have the funding we need to not just survive, but to thrive. We get a better, more comprehensive education. We get access to the programs and services we need. We have professors who have more time and energy to devote to students, and we are able to have the transformative life experiences college can provide.”
After the public comments Regents Paul Brown and Mark Bernstein thanked all those who spoke about their concerns. Bernstein added that the three campuses are different, but have the same obligation, and he has spent time at all of them to learn about disparities between them.
Brown recognized that the regents and university can do more and must do more to address the imbalance of funding, resources and services provided at the campuses.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])