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Ross clarifies past statement, bill to approve four-year degrees from community colleges could hurt CMU

This article has been updated for accuracy.

During Tuesday’s Academic Senate meeting, University President George Ross admitted to overstepping his bounds in a statement he made regarding the Faculty Association’s plans to challenge a state law.

Public Act 54 prevents all “wage step increases,” or lump sum promotion payments, after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement.

Since the FA’s contract expired June 30, about 40 to 60 promoted faculty are eligible to receive lump sum payments for this year, FA President Laura Frey told Central Michigan Life in August.

The FA challenged the law constitutionally with the help of the Michigan Education Association.

Melinda Kreth, associate professor of English language and literature and director of composition, questioned Ross on a previous statement he had made about the matter.

“President Ross, you stated before that based on your interpretation of PA 54, you disagreed with the new law, but were unwilling to challenge it because the other Michigan public university presidents would not support you,” Kreth said.

Kreth went on to ask Ross why he didn’t choose to support his faculty in challenging the law.

Ross responded by saying that he still believes that statement, however overstepped his bounds and was stating his personal feeling of what he believed against the legal realities.

Ross said he was told by his legal counsel they have to adhere to PA 54.

Community college competition

A bill that has reached the state Senate would allow community colleges to offer four-year degrees.

At the A-Senate meeting, Vice President of Development and External Relations Kathy Wilbur said such a bill would have a tremendously negative effect on the state’s universities.

“Community colleges make the argument that this is a cheaper way to offer a four-year degree,” Wilbur said.

Wilbur said initially there would be only four or five programs offered for a four-year degree, but eventually it is the ability to be able to offer any degree of a four-year major.

“We’re working very closely with the governor’s office,” Wilbur said.

Wilbur said there’s a basic misunderstanding of the importance of things like accredited programs, tenure track professors, those with Ph.Ds versus those with masters degrees.

“It is a delicate dance, because I do believe that community colleges play an important role in this state,” Wilbur said. “But, it is a fine line.”

In other business, Provost Gary Shapiro updated several incorrect numbers he had previously reported at the Sept. 6 meeting after institutional research reviewed the data.

“We are down about 340 (freshmen) rather than 400,” Shapiro said. “The number of transfer students this year was the greatest in university history. On campus transfer students is 1,328, which is roughly 50 to 60 more than before.”

A program deletion was also approved, with the elimination of MA in Education for coaching because no one is enrolled. A new program was approved for an MA in Education: Integrated Science.

7 Comments

  1. Michmediapersan says:

    Can someone please clarify what Ross said about PA 54.  The description in the first half of this article is laughable and full of typos.  I’m sorry Sammy but this was a horribly written article.  

  2. Carlo Zoccoli says:

    People enroll in the community college programs for the first year or two so that they aren’t paying the substantial amounts that the four year universities are charging for the same stuff. since most of the credits are transferring they will transfer to CMU afterwards to save them about $10,000.  That is a substantial amount to be paying back with interest and everything that the private lenders are charging nowadays.

  3. Friend of CMU says:

    Ok…this is the first time I have ever agreed with
    “Michmediaperson”! Leave it to CM Life to bring us together like
    this! The first part of this story is completely wrong. First, Public Act 54
    does not relate to salary “bonuses”! It has to do with salary step
    increases after the expiration of a collective bargaining agreement, and
    retroactive increases once an agreement is signed. The University has applied
    it to the salary increases earned by faculty who are awarded promotion and
    professor salary adjustments.

    President Ross did not say that “HE” had told
    counsel they had to apply PA 54. He said that “inside and outside”
    legal counsel told him verbally that the law applied!!

    This story needs big time correction! I have not seen the
    printed version of CM Life, but if this story appears there then it needs a
    printed correction as well!!!

     

    I understand these are complex issues but the newspaper owes
    students accurate reporting.

  4. Sammy Dubin says:

    This is what Ross said in regards to PA 54…

    “President Ross, you stated before that based on your interpretation
    of PA 54, you disagreed with the new law, but were unwilling to
    challenge it because the other Michigan public university presidents
    would not support you,” Kreth said.

  5. Melinda Kreth says:

    A slight correction please: I am a full professor and am among the many faculty who received promotions in the spring but who have not received the concomitant salary increase, because–as Ross stated at yesterday’s Academic Senate meeting–he chose to accept the advice of internal and external legal counsel advising him to interpret PA 54 as applying not only to public universities but specifically to these merit-based salary increases. In fact, no such mention is made in the law itself, which refers only to “step wage increases.”  

    Thus, Ross did NOT say in yesterday’s Senate meeting that he told his counsel that PA 54 applied to CMU–it was the other way around.

    At best, PA 54 is a poorly written piece of legislation due to its
    ambiguity; at worst, it seems to violate the autonomy of public
    universities established by the Michigan Constitution and violates the
    Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    Later in the Senate meeting, VP Kathy Wilbur stated that none of the CMU administration (and presumably none of the Board of Trustees) had discussed PA 54 with anyone in the Governor’s office or in the state legislature; thus, the administration seems not to have considered the simple strategy of picking up the phone and calling Lansing for clarification ON THE RECORD before deciding to abrogate the 2008-2011 contract by choosing to withhold our contractually-obligated merit-based salary increases. The administration and BOT also did not consider the legal and ethical strategy of challenging the law based on its unconstitutionality.

    Neither President Ross nor Provost Gary Shapiro view the administration’s decision to voluntarily accede to PA 54 as a betrayal of the faculty, and they seem genuinely bewildered by accusations that they don’t respect or support us. Apparently, they don’t believe that willfully violating a contract and cheating their faculty is a sign of disrespect. Because the faculty cannot depend on President Ross and his administration to provide courageous and ethical leadership in this matter, the MEA and the FA are taking legal
    action against CMU on our behalf.

    President Ross was also asked yesterday how much money CMU is spending on its external counsel; he said he didn’t know and probably wouldn’t be able to tell us by the next Senate meeting. He did state that all those invoices are open to the public, although he didn’t say where those invoices are located or how anyone might gain access to them without filing a FOIA request. I’m sure the FA will be interested in obtaining those records Please note that the MEA and the FA do not spend taxpayer dollars or students’ tuition money to pay for our legal counsel.

    Melinda Kreth, Ph.D.
    Professor of English (but still being paid as an Associate Professor)

  6. Is Glenn Beck A Terrorist? says:

    That’s “Michmediapersan”, not “Michmediaperson”. Closer inspection will show that you’re agreeing with someone who more commonly posts as “Zeno”.

    You can resume waiting for the crackpot to post something you agree with. If you hold your breath while waiting, you may get quicker results, if you end up as brain damaged as him.

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