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September 09, 1982 - Image 37

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-09-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Michigan Daily-Thursday, September 9, 1982--Page 15=g

Who's

running the

' '?

By BARRY WITT
The people who run the University
work here only two days a month. On
the third Thursday and Friday of every
month, six men and two women gather
at the Administration Building to ap-
prove the policies that affect about
50,000 students and faculty and staff
members.
It might seem odd that such a large
' stitution is run on such a part-time
sis, but that's the paradox University
officials would like everyone to believe.
But few do.
The idea that those six men and two
women-collectively known as the
Board of Regents-control the Univer-
sity is purely hypothetical. In reality, a
huge bureaucracy, headed by Univer-
sity President Harold Shapiro and the
si vice presidents, keeps the campus
running.
THE REGENTS, who are all elected
by votes of the state to eight-year ter-
ms, retain the final authority on every
decision at the University. If they
decide something needs to be done, they
have the power to do it. But things
rarely work that way on campus. Most
decisions are made well before the
issues are presented to the Regents,
and the board has long been accused of
merely rubber stamping the recom-
endations of the administration.
Because the University is made up of
a decentralized system of schools and
colleges, most questions on academics
are left to the various deans and
faculties. Other questions of Univer-
sity-wide concern usually run through
an elaborate maze of student and/or.
faculty committees, lower-, and mid-,
and high-level administrators, and
eventually the Regents.
Sometimes the bureaucratic process
kes many months or even years;
ther times the decisions are rather
routine and take little time. In any case,
the system is designed to allow input
from appropriate members of the
University community before decisions
are finalized.
OVER THE YEARS, however, many
critics of the administration have said
that that system doesn't always work
that way. They have pointed to the
any committees that work behind
Wlosed doors as inhibitors to a process
of open decision making.
Not too many years ago, the Regents
themselves met in closed sessions. But
the Open Meetings Act of 1977 forced
decision-making bodies in the state to
meet in public.
Since that time, the Regents have
declared themselves the sole body on

Deane Baker
Baker, 57, is the lone Republican and
usually the most vocal member of the
board. An Ann Arbor resident, Baker
operates a local construction and real
estate firm. He is an outspoken defen-
der of the Regents' autonomy in con-
trolling University affairs and
criticized suggestions last year that the
office become appointed rather than
elected.

Gerald Dunn
As a lobbyist for public schools in
Michigan, Dunn, 47, remains well
aware of the state financial situation
which has plagued the, University in
recent years. Dunn previously served
on the state senate.

Paul Brown
Brown, 47, is the son of former U.S.
Senator Prentiss Brown. The Regent,
who lives in Petoskey, graduated from
the University's law school. In recent
years, he's been one of the quieter mem-
bers of the board.

Thomas Roach
Roach, 53, pays close attention to the
detail of matters that come before the
Regents. Although the materials the
Regents receive is often capsulized and
rather limited, Roach often spots
places where slip-ups may have oc-
curred and insists on more detailed ex-
planations. A Saline resident, Roach is
running for re-election this fall.

The Regents

LSA faculty previously had asked that
the department not be closed, although
their vote was non-binding; only the
Regents vote really counted.
In the years when the Regents met in
closed, sessions, they defended that
practice as a means of more effective
governance. They maintained that they
could assess the issues more freely and
tackle the tough problems the Univer-
sity faced more effectively without the
fear of public intimidation.
EVEN THOUGH THE Open Meetings
Act forbids the Regents from taking
that approach any more, University
decision making still works in much the
same way; it's just that now the Regen-
ts are left out. The executive officers
and various other commit-
tees-especially those that deal with
budgets-still practice what is
described as the "efficient" or closed-
door method of decision making. They
argue that public participation would
mean meetings could drag on forever
without accomplishing anything.
In their monthly meetings, the
Regents usually do have one or more
lengthy discussions on various topics in
addition to the routine acceptance of
reports and approval of executive of-
ficer proposals. The discussions often
concentrate on financial matters, such
as the construction of new University
buildings or the status of state funding
for the University.
THUS FAR, the Regents have had lit-
tle say on the University's budget
reallocation plans because most of the
budget reductions and additions have
been made within individual University
divisions. The Regents must approve
the annual budget as a whole before it is
implemented, but most of the actual
budgeting is done by the central ad-
ministration.
The Regents also must perform the
annual ritual of raising tuition. Even
before the past three years of double-
digit percent, tuition hikes, the Regents
raised the price of a University degree
by lesser amounts, but always "with
deep regret." Whatever the mental
anguish the Regents put themselves
through, when it comes time to vote,
they always find some way to say
'aye' to the increases.
The same is true forafaculty and staff
pay raises, which, are consistently
called "inadequate" by Regents, ad-
ministrators, and faculty membelrs
alike. Nevertheless, the Regents keep
finding that they must increase tuition
above the inflation rate while keeping
pay hikes below increases in the cost of
living.

Nellie Varner

Varner joined the board in January
1981. She speaks up on women's and
minorities' issues, but doesn't get in-
volved much further. She is a partner in
Strather & Varner Properties, a Detroit
real estate brokerage firm.

Robert Nederlander
Nederlander, whose family operates
many theaters around the country, is a
14-year veteran of the board. A lawyer
from Detroit, Nederlander, 49, often
questions the University's commitmen-
ts and long-term obligations.

Sarah Power
Power, 47, worked in the Carter ad-
ministration as deputy secretary of
state for human rights and social af-
fairs. The daughter-in-law of a Regent
emeritus, Power is running for re-
election to the board this fall.

James Waters
Waters, 42, often will express his
dismay with matters in private
discussions but rarely speaks at board
meetings. He has proposed a number of
liberal measures during his tenure on
the board but is often outvoted by wide
margins.

campus with decision-making powers
and have decided that administration
and faculty committees serve only ad-
visory roles, therefore giving such
groups the right to close their doors to
the public and press.

WHEN ISSUES FINALLY reach the
Regents at open meetings, members of
the board usually have no option other
than to accept the recommendations of
those advisory committees and the ad-
ministration. The Regents themselves

do not have the time to do as lengthy
reviews as those other groups had.
Critics point to the example of the
geography department's fate last year.
After six months of closed-door review
by a budget committee, the LSA

executive committee, and the Univer-
sity executive officers (the president
and the six vice presidents), the Regen-
ts immediately accepted their recom-
mendations to eliminate the depar-
tment. In an open debate and vote, the

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