Minority students reportedly feel "marginalized" over "imposing" and "masculine" wood paneling in a historic building on the University of Michigan campus, The College Fix reported Monday.
Anna Wibbelman — former president of Building a Better Michigan, an organization that gives students a voice in university development — said during a March student government meeting about the scheduled renovations that "minority students felt marginalized by quiet, imposing masculine paneling" of the Michigan Union building, which is utilized for student orientations and events.
The 100-year-old building is set to undergo an $85 million renovation to completely redesign the feel of the building, but campus spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told The College Fix that "concern about the paneling is not something that has been brought forward to the university as a concern from students, who have been involved with developing this project for several years and through dozens of meetings."
Fitzgerald also insisted that despite major renovation to the building, "most, if not all of [the wood paneling], will remain after the renovation."
Jazz Teste, the current president of Building a Better Michigan, backed up Fitzgerald's comments and said it was likely that Wibbelman's report "was an off-hand comment about how many students felt marginalized by the quiet nature of the building when they entered."
The Michigan Union building renovation, which the University of Michigan is dubbing the "Re:Union," will begin in the spring 2018 and is set to conclude in the winter 2020, according to the project's website.
The "goal" of the renovation is to "restore and reactivate the Michigan Union while maintaining its history fabric and reasserting its role as a vibrant social hub and locus of inclusivity, innovation, activism and involvement," the site's mission states.
According to a video produced by the University of Michigan on the project, students involved in the planning of the renovation wanted the refurbished building to feel "innovative," "exciting," "diverse," "interactive," "open and bright," "accessible" and "collaborative."