The University of Michigan is about to embark on a major, multi-million dollar renovation of one of its most recognizable buildings, the Michigan Union. But if minority students have their way, the historic central feature of the Michigan campus might lose some of its signature decor.
At a March student government meeting, one student reportedly told administrators that, when the Union is refurbished, the lush wooden paneling, a prized feature of the building dating back to around 1910, should come down because it makes some students feel unsafe.
“[M]inority students felt marginalized by quiet, imposing masculine paneling” students claimed, according to the meeting minutes. They didn’t elaborate on precisely why the paneling was so problematic, but logic rarely comes into play in these kinds of complaints.
The paneling, of course, covers much of the inside of the building, and is visible in almost every photograph of the Michigan Union on the school’s own website. The building has libraries, quiet student spaces, and even an almost completely paneled event space, where the Union is capable of hosting everything from formal dinners to weddings. Taking it down would be quite a feat, and would render the building bereft of its historical character.
Luckily for the school’s historians (and its pocketbook), it doesn’t seem like the administration is taking the request very seriously. In a statement to the College Fix, a school spokesperson noted that the students have yet to make their paneling pare-down request official, and he doesn’t see it going anywhere if they do.
“There is a significant presence of wood paneling on the interior of the building and we expect most, if not all of it, will remain after the renovation,” he said.