Statement at December 2022 Board of Regents

(As prepared for delivery)

It’s a pleasure to be with all of you for our second board meeting together. I’m so honored to be serving as President of the University of Michigan, and I’d like to thank all of you again for your confidence in me. 

I’d also like to note that, fulfilling a commitment I made in October, I’ll be visiting our Dearborn campus tomorrow. It’s so important for us to be tied together as a university, and I anticipate thoughtful conversations with Chancellor Grasso as well as our students, staff and faculty. 

I’d especially like to recognize two of our board members, who will now be with us for another eight years. 

Regent Behm, congratulations on winning your second term as regent! 

And Regent White, special congratulations to you for winning your fourth term! 

In winning your fourth, you are poised to tie the record with our longest-serving regent, Junius Beal. He served for 32 years, from 1908 to 1939. 

Congratulations again – well earned and well done! 

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I provided the community an update on my initial goals and priorities. To recap just briefly, we are fully committed to: 

  • Strengthening our culture of excellence
  • Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Restoring trust and integrity and
  • Investing in our people

We have also embarked on a strategic visioning process, one that will build on critical work already underway, and will fully unleash our power and potential as a great public university. 

I anticipate that we’ll have that strategic vision in place by 2024. 

It will not be about me, but rather about what we can do, and what we aspire to do, together. 

One of the more urgent needs that many of you have brought to my attention is for housing – specifically, housing for our incoming first-year students. 

Since 2004, our undergraduate enrollment has grown by more than 8,000 students, yet on-campus housing has simply not kept pace. And today, the overwhelming majority of our first-year students must secure off-campus housing for their sophomore year within just months of starting at the university. 

Your first year as a student is such a vulnerable time. As our first-year students take their initial steps, it’s critical that they feel connected to our campus and community. So today I’m pleased to announce that we’re responding. 

Today, with your support, we will initiate the process of hiring an architect to design the first housing that we’ve built specifically for first-year students since 1968. 

Our needs have changed over the past half-century. 

So as we work with the design firm, we’ll also be engaging with students for their input, even as we continue to be open to your recommendations.

The residence hall, which we anticipate will house some 2,300 students, will be sited in Elbel Field. That’s where our marching band now practices. So the band, in turn, will be moving to a new facility on the grounds of the former Fingerle Lumber Company, which we purchased a few years ago. 

I should add that the marching band is fully on board with this move, and is as excited about it as we are. 

And given our deep commitment to reducing universitywide greenhouse gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality, the residence hall will be built to, and operate at, the highest levels of LEED certification. 

This new construction will not, by itself, solve all of our housing concerns. 

But it is an essential next step. 

And in the future, we’ll continue to address our need for a total of 5,000 new beds. 

More details about our new residence hall will be announced at our meeting in February. 

I’m so excited about this effort. 

It’s a lasting response to a longstanding concern. It will strengthen us as a university. And it will bring thousands of first-year students closer to us as a campus … and to us as a community.

I’d like to offer the students who are here with us best wishes on their upcoming exams.

For our soon-to-be grads – Congratulations! – and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the Crisler Arena.

And for our football fans, I’m hoping to see many of you in Phoenix.

But wherever your road takes you, I wish all of you a joyous and memorable holiday season.