Conflict over Michigan Stadium marquee sheds light on UM's constitutional autonomy

Tim Goral's picture

When the Ann Arbor City Council last week passed a resolution against the 48-foot-wide marquee outside Michigan Stadium, all it could do was ask the University of Michigan to take it down or limit its use.

Unlike with other developers in town, the city can't compel the college that calls Ann Arbor home to comply. That's because Michigan's public universities have been given autonomy from state and local governments in Michigan's constitution.

That autonomy is intended to shield universities from government interference, and in the case of the U-M and its hometown, it can make city officials feel impotent.

City officials contend the electronic billboard outside Michigan Stadium is too large, too close to the road and a distraction to drivers who traverse Stadium Boulevard.

The marquee is indeed the largest of its kind in the Ann Arbor area: it stands 21 feet above the ground and is 27 feet tall and 48 feet wide. It runs 18 hours a day, displaying four promotional messages per minute. On game days it shows video starting four hours prior to the game.

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