Like so many of you, I love the University of Michigan. It’s why I agreed to return as president at the request of the Board of Regents. There is no better job in higher education, and that sentiment applies in good times and bad.
It has not been easy lately to share pride in being a Michigan Wolverine. I understand the disappointment and anger that comes in the wake of high-profile sexual misconduct and sexual abuse cases on our campus. And I pledge that we will do better at listening and understanding the experiences of those around us.
Higher education looks to Michigan for leadership, integrity, and solutions. To move forward, we will own our mistakes, learn from them, and share with others how to be a more just, inclusive, and responsible university. To do anything less would not be Michigan.
We want to be a university where everyone embraces mutual respect so fully that sexual misconduct becomes far less prevalent. However, when misconduct or abuse does occur, we want people to feel they can come forward immediately and without fear of retaliation, knowing we will address the situation quickly, thoroughly, and with compassion.
We have created the Equity, Civil Rights and Title IX Office, which is laser-focused on prevention and support while also dedicated to improving the efficiency of investigations of misconduct and abuse. All of us are deeply committed to ensuring that everyone can fully engage at Michigan free from harassment, intimidation, and other abuses that prevent people from thriving.
Sadly, U-M is not alone in facing these challenges. Sexual misconduct has been prevalent throughout higher education, and we must rectify this culture. I know this from the pioneering surveys undertaken by the Association of American Universities when I was its president from 2016-20. Today, I want Michigan to be a leader in making college campuses safer, welcoming, and responsive.
Solid foundation for the future
There is much to be proud of here.
Demand for a Michigan education is soaring. Our enrollment is at an all-time high of more than 50,000. Our campus continues to be more diverse: we have enrolled students from all 50 states and 132 countries, and students of color exceed 30 percent of the student body. First-year undergraduate applications for next fall have exceeded 84,000, with strong demand for our graduate programs. Soon we will no longer require the Graduate Record Examination test in Rackham PhD admissions, helping lower the barriers to graduate degrees for many students.
Our research impact is stronger than ever. We are, once again, the No. 1 public university in research funding at $1.5 billion. And we are translating this research to improve society, with 23 startups, more than 500 inventions, and a record 287 license and option agreements with companies seeking to commercialize our discoveries.Our financial strength and integrity provide a solid foundation for the future. We recently sold $2 billion in bonds, including the most significant 100-year bond ever issued in higher education, $1.2 billion, along with $300 million in green bonds. We are one of only seven public universities that carry Moody’s and S&P’s highest long-term bond ratings of Aaa/AAA. And donors – including many of you – are showing their faith in Michigan with our best fundraising numbers since 2014.
Our health system is consistently ranked among the best – both for patients and employees – in the nation. So we are excited about The Pavilion, a 12-story hospital under construction with 264 patient rooms and 20 operating rooms for high-level neurological, cardiovascular, and thoracic cases.
Most significantly, the University is committed to taking serious action to reduce its carbon footprint. I often say Michigan focuses on the future, and our teaching, research, and health care demonstrate that every day. Yet our momentum and accomplishments will matter little if we do not care for our planet.We soon will be purchasing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy sources, as we continue working toward university-wide carbon neutrality. We are planning geothermal exchange systems for our facilities, buying electric buses, and fitting more than 70 buildings across all three campuses with LED lighting.
More than being exciting, our climate action efforts are critically important to our collective future.
Your U-M diploma reflects Michigan’s success and impact, and we are more vibrant than ever. Michigan alumni are our most visible ambassadors and embody the power of a U-M education throughout the world. Our commitment to learning and discovery holds true for yesterday, and it will guide us toward tomorrow.
Mary Sue Coleman