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July 22, 2016

U. of Michigan Board Chair Pulls Donation in Naming Flap

The chairman of the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents and his wife have withdrawn a $3 million pledge to help construct a new campus multicultural center amid concerns over the building being named for the donors, the Detroit Free Press reports. Naming the structure for Mark Bernstein and Rachel Bendit, triggered by standard university gift procedures, would have eliminated the only building name on the Ann Arbor campus that honors an African-American.

The current multicultural center is named for William Monroe Trotter, an early-20th-century newspaperman and civil-rights activist. Construction of a new center near the campus core was a demand of the university’s Black Student Union during protests in 2014 over race relations at Michigan. While the Trotter Multicultural Center  would have retained its name under the gift plan, it would have been housed in Bernstein-Bendit Hall.

After announcing the donation in April, "we spent time with faculty, students, staff, and alumni who shared with us their sense of loss and who expressed their fear that the only African-American name on a building at U-M would be diminished or erased,” Mr. Bernstein said at a board meeting Thursday. “This was, of course, not our intention, but it could have been the result." He said the couple will seek out other ways to support multiculturalism on campus.