By Jane R. Elgass
Discussion surrounding the seemingly simple approval of a resolution about the Michigan Mandate at the February Regents meeting turned into a bit of a battle when Regent Deane Baker refused to give total support to the resolution.
Offered jointly by Regents Nellie M. Varner and Shirley M. McFee, the resolution commended the significant progress that has been made over the past five years toward achieving the goals of the Michigan Mandate, and said that the Regents give this critical effort their wholehearted support and encouragement, while at the same time recognizing that much work remains to be done.
In presenting the resolution, Varner noted that the University is in the vanguard nationally in this important area.
McFee said it is very important for the Regents to convey to the University and broader community that we recognize the tremendous challenge in implementing the Mandate.
She said the first stepsincreasing the numbers of underrepresented minorities on campushave been taken. Bringing a multicultural society [to campus] is a more difficult task to accomplish.
It is appropriate for the University [to implement the Mandate] and it has a responsibility as a major public institution to do so. This is a significant element in the preservation of American society as we know it. It will bring all parts to full citizenship.
Baker said that he is always supportive of efforts to be more inclusive, for women, African Americans, Native Americans and others. I support the resolution but intend to speak out at the appropriate time on policies we are following that are not correct.
Baker said that the resolution was premature, and asks for total support for the concept before we have an opportunity to be particularly critical. I support it with reservations.
Prior to the vote, which he made unanimous, Baker emphasized that he didnt want to be on record as absolutely supportive of every element of the Mandate. I will support [it] if this is clear.
McFee said that she appreciated Bakers concerns. She noted that as the University proceeds with implementation of the Mandate, things will be done that dont always bring a positive reaction. We must examine our successes and failures and adjust. I feel strongly that the Regents should support this in words and in their oversight responsibilities.
Regent Laurence B. Deitch said that a unanimous statement of support of the president and the goals of the Mandate makes sense. We can always have discussions of ways to handle things differently. We can adjust.
Deitch added that he shared some of Bakers concerns on how the Mandate can be translated to the campus, especially in the area of free speech.
We need to move forward on the goals. We all support this but we can and do need healthy debate on implementation.
Regents Rebecca McGowan commended McFee and Varner for bringing the resolution to the table, adding that she appreciated seeing the board take an active role in promoting the Mandate.
Regents Paul W. Brown and James L. Waters also supported the resolution, both of them commending the Executive Officers and President James J. Duderstadt for their leadership.
Regent Philip H. Power noted that the addition of Thursday briefing sessions on important issues facing the campusone in January on the Mandate and another on student financial aid in Februaryhave prompted a significant change in the way we are handling business. The sessions, he said, inform our oversight and policy responsibilities.