University of Michigan regents OK building $10M multicultural center
Ann Arbor — A new $10 million multicultural center is coming soon to the heart of the University of Michigan campus, following approval on Thursday by the Board of Regents.
The center is a response to one of seven points the Black Student Union and UM agreed to in 2014 as a way of increasing black enrollment and improving the campus climate for minority students. Black students make up less than 5 percent of the student body at UM.
For decades, African-American students have been lobbying for more diversity on campus, especially after the state’s voters in 2006 approved the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative banning the use of affirmative action in higher education admissions.
The new center, with 20,000 square feet, will replace the smaller William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Facility the BSU and other minority groups use off campus on Washtenaw Avenue. It will include a multipurpose room with space for 300 people for banquets or conferences and classroom space for 100 students.
“The old multicultural facility is on the margins of campus,” said E. Royster Harper, UM’s vice president of student life. “So sometimes they felt like they were on the margins of campus.”
Following four town hall meetings, eight focus group and other outreach efforts, the UM Office of Student Life proposed the new center on State Street, near the Betsy Barbour House and Helen H. Newberry Residence, north of the Michigan Union.
UM will pay for the new center for with investment proceeds and gifts. It’s expected to be completed in 2018.
Regent Denise Ilitch thanked Harper for her work and the students for educating UM officials about their concerns.
“I am incredibly excited about this project,” Ilitch said.
After the meeting, several students said they are thrilled with the upcoming change to the cultural center.
Said Noor Ahmad, a junior from the Detroit area: “It’s great that it is moving to a place that will be closer to students.”
Also at Thursday’s meeting, the regents named S. Jack Hu vice president for research.
Hu is the J. Reid and Polly Anderson Professor of Manufacturing, a professor of mechanical engineering and a professor of industrial and operations engineering in the College of Engineering. He has been interim vice president for research since January 2014.