The University Record, December 6, 1999


The University Record welcomes letters from members of the University community. Those on topics of broad University interest will be given preference for publication. Letters should be no more than 500 words in length and must be signed. The editorial staff reserves the right to reject any letter and to edit and/or condense letters for publication. The editorial staff also may limit the numbers of weeks letters may be published on an issue, and the number of times any one person’s viewpoint on a single issue will be published. Letters may appear in small type. Organizations submitting material must include the name and address of an appropriate officer. Letters must be received by noon Wednesday to receive consideration for publication in the next issue.

Reducing staff would help ease parking crunch

The Record reported (Nov. 15, page 3) that the University has a serious parking crunch. Patrick Cunningham, director of Parking and Transportation Services, reported that he needs to create 1,000 more parking spaces for the Central Campus, but doesn’t know where to find them.

There is an easy solution: reduce demand instead of increasing the supply. Cut the number of administrative staff by 1,000 persons. Not only will this free up the needed spaces, it would save about $50 million annually from salaries and benefits alone, not to mention saving the initial cost of providing 1,000 parking spaces and their annual maintenance cost. The office space freed could be converted to badly needed classroom and laboratory space. The savings could be allocated to higher faculty salaries, fellowships and scholarships, research grants, etc.

Fifty million dollars a year could buy a lot of education and research.

Daniel R. Fusfeld, professor emeritus of economics

Several Union event policies changed; others under review

I am writing this column because I think the community deserves a response to the concerns that students have been voicing, including an editorial in the Nov. 22 Daily, about the handling of social events sponsored by students of color at the Michigan Union.

The policies were developed in partnership with students. All of us, students and staff, had the best of intentions. But students came and went, staff came and went, and the reasoning behind the policies got lost. Despite our best intentions, policies and procedures designed to ensure a safe and enjoyable environment for students have become a source of distress.

Recently I had a chance to hear students talk about their experiences attending parties and other social events at the Union. It became painfully apparent to me that there is a large gap between what we intended when these policies were created and what students are experiencing today. The plain fact is that students of color feel marginalized and unwelcome when attending social events at the Union. We must and will address these issues as a University community.

It would be helpful for all to understand how the current policies came about. They did not happen in a vacuum. Over the years, large student parties at the Union sometimes were accompanied by violence, including fights and, in 1990, the beating of a public safety officer that placed him in the hospital for four days. Some of the violence we experienced was associated with non-University of Michigan students.

Together with students, we examined the problems we were having and collectively developed some policies that were intended to keep our own students and staff safe, and to ensure that the groups hosting the parties could maintain control over their events and have a positive experience.

In order to make sure that all social events were safe for the U-M community, we began to check IDs for everyone entering the Union—all students, faculty, staff and guests—on Friday and Saturday nights after 9:30 p.m.

Wristbands were developed because the students hosting social events at the Union told us they did not want to keep track of the number of guests by using a hand stamp, as they had in the past. They proposed, and we accepted, changing to wristbands. This approach was designed to help event hosts identify paid attendees and to make sure the number of guests determined by the fire marshal’s limit for the scheduled room was not exceeded.

There also were difficulties at the end of parties when hundreds of students leaving at the same time would exit the front doors of the Union and spill out onto State Street, blocking traffic and at times endangering their own safety. Together, we worked out a procedure with student groups whereby they could exit from the north doors onto the plaza near the fountain. This way,

students could linger and socialize with their friends after the event.

Student events, regardless of the hosting organization, typically have one Department of Public Safety officer per 100 guests in attendance to help with security. DPS officers have not ended events early unless the host of the event requested it, or if the safety of guests has been in jeopardy. The last time an event was ended early due to safety concerns was in February 1997 when a large fight broke out. More recently, when events have ended early it has been because there were fewer guests than anticipated and the hosting organization chose to end early.

All that said, it’s clear these policies are not having the effect we intended when they were formed. We have begun a review, and two changes already have been made. Students attending events at the Union will no longer need to wear wristbands, and they may exit the building from any door.

Together with students, I and the new director of public safety, William Bess, will be making whatever additional changes in our policies are necessary to ensure both the safety of our students and an environment that is welcoming, enjoyable and at the same time respectful of all students.

Royster Harper, interim vice president for student affairs