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Coleman tells SACUA about budget cuts, three campuses, LSI

By Kevin Bergquist

Covering a broad range of topics, from the highs of her first trip to U-M–Flint to the lows of a looming budget crisis in the state, President Mary Sue Coleman told the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs (SACUA) that she looks forward to working with the group this year on a number of issues.

Coleman met with the nine-member SACUA Sept. 23 to answer questions on several topics, including the Life Sciences Corridor, the relationship between U-M and its regional campuses, and the role of SACUA as Coleman tackles her first year on the job.

Coleman said potential budget cuts in the state government could have an effect on the University’s budget and resources for next year. She told SACUA her style in making such difficult choices is to hear what people have to say and make a decision that is best for the institution. Ultimately, even if her decisions mean half the people are not happy, Coleman still needs to bring closure to all issues, she said.

“I’m quite concerned about the economy of the state right now and I don’t know what the impact on the University will be,” she said. “Michigan has traditionally protected its higher education tremendously well, and we have been lobbying very hard to make sure that continues.”

Coleman also talked about visiting U-M–Flint for the first time Sept. 16, and said she noted the energy on campus and the nurturing environment there. She complimented the campus’s offerings for students who have family or childcare problems, or who are holding down full-time jobs while attending school.

“I am very impressed with the physical surroundings in Flint, and it was good meeting with so many faculty, staff and students,” Coleman said. “The students were so complimentary and grateful to the school. Many felt like they had really gotten a lot of help in working things out.”

SACUA recently asked for input on issues including governance of the three campuses, collaboration among professors at the campuses and policies for student transfers among the campuses.

“There are many opportunities for interactions between the three campuses, and I fully encourage that interaction where it makes sense,” said Coleman, who made her first visit to U-M–Dearborn Sept. 24. “I am quickly getting up to speed on all of the campuses and what they do for their communities.”

Coleman said she is excited about the Life Sciences Corridor and the Life Sciences Institute (LSI). She said the newly appointed charter faculty at LSI are great University citizens and will help in getting LSI off the ground. She added that LSI faces some aggressive benchmarks during the coming years and that it will strengthen many areas of campus.

“I fully support the LSI and feel it is the right investment for the University to make,” Coleman said. “It is important for the LSI to be an important part of the fabric of the University.”

LSI, and the University as a whole, could face budget issues if a pending November referendum or continued state budget struggles filter down to U-M, she said. A referendum on the ballot for November could divert some money from the state’s settlement with the tobacco companies away from LSI. However, Coleman is confident that LSI will thrive and be aggressive in meeting the needs of its operating budget.

“I hope the state keeps its investment in the Life Sciences Corridor,” she said. “It provides great links with universities across the state and has done a lot to facilitate collaboration between those campuses.”


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