EDITORIAL: Grading George Ross’ tenure as university president

With the review of Central Michigan University President George Ross officially underway, the Central Michigan Life Editorial Board thought it would also be appropriate to review Ross’ two year, eight-month-plus tenure as president.

Before returning to CMU in March 2010, Ross served as vice president of finance and administrative services, most notably enacting the popular CMU Promise, freezing tuition for fi ve years for students.

Involvement: C

Although Ross attends some dinners in residence halls and makes appearances at special events, for nearly half of his time as president, he was a ghost.

Students rarely saw him, he rarely spoke in public and when he did the speeches were often fraught with controversy.

Although there has been some improvement after his first year and a half here, there should be open forums with the president

that are advertised through campus.

Finances: D+

Turmoil surrounding costs of the renovation of the Events Center, the construction of the College of Medicine and the addition of a bio sciences building, new data center and wet labs for CMED have fallen in Ross’ lap, whether he’s wanted to deal with them or not. CMU has allocated millions of dollars to these buildings, yet still argued with faculty members regarding salaries last year.

This doesn’t demonstrate a smart use of money, and, although all of the buildings will benefit CMU in the future, having nobody to teach in those buildings is a bigger problem. Due to this, Ross has earned himself a D+ in the financial category.

Communication/transparency: D

Since Ross arrived on campus, communication has been meek at best. From the controversial announcement of CMED to a lack of full public disclosure to the university’s $10 million allocation toward the Events Center renovation, to providing inaccurate numbers about the cost of the new cmich.edu, things have always seemed to have been less than honest.

In fact, CMU faculty members spent a majority of last year fighting to stay one step ahead of the administration’s thinking, having to drill Ross and his constituents with in-depth questions to get the complete story.

Has there been an improvement this semester, following the resignation of Associate Vice President of University Communications Renee Walker?


But then again, this university hasn’t faced anything quite like a faculty strike, building of an Events Center or redesign of the entire website.

Leadership: F

CMU has looked like a disorganized mess for a majority of Ross’ time as president.

The job of a leader is to build and maintain a strong, reliable, efficient team.

Based on multiple controversies and half-truths, Ross’ team building strategies have failed miserably.

Not only has his performance lacked communication and trustworthiness, he’s made less than satisfactory attempts at cleaning up his mess until this semester.

A leader is only as strong as his weakest link, and until Ross realizes that and makes appropriate changes an F is the only grade suitable.

Overall grade: D


  1. Reading this article I’m left feeling let-down. I was at CMU from 2004- December 2008 during the “Michael Rao” glory years. Things have always been up and down at CMU. Yes, the economy was better, tuition was lower, and there were a lot of positive occurrences surrounding the University, especially athletics (garnering national attention) during that time. I’m sure much has changed since I left. However, the medical school, CMED was initiated during that time, Ross simply inherited the projected (after it couldn’t be stopped). I was actually in a class that Ross taught when he was the Vice President of finance for the University in 2006/7. It was a business class, accounting 2, and the guy was FANTASTIC. Just a genuinely nice person who really communicated well with students. He professed that he was feeling ill a lot that semester, and didn’t look well either at times but still managed to go about his day and make it to class with a smile on his face. He was hired to fill the presidency at Alcorn state, and it was announced that he had Leukemia!!!! I was so glad to hear he fully recovered. I was especially excited when he was called to take the presidency at CMU after Rao’s departure. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is your article is a little harsh. The way things are at CMU doesn’t sound DRASTICALLY different from how they were 4+ years ago. Ross is a nice guy and is obviously doing the best job he can for the university. I’ll tell you this for free Rao was a GHOST for his entire tenure at CMU. Never once did I hear of any forums or dinners with students in the residence halls. He got a lot done behind the scenes though, but at times facts were withheld. This is nothing new. Is Ross the best? Maybe not. Is he the worst? Absolutely not. He’s a normal guy, cut him some slack. Being president of a public university is not a walk in the park, I’m sure. Try it for a day, you might change your tune.

    • Mich MomChip says:

      I agree with with Alumni’s positive response. The writer of the editorial writes this as if it were facts, and I’m pretty sure it’s not. Has he called to check how many events this President does attend on campus? Who did they speak with to verify this information? Have they counted up the student forums, stduent group dinners at the residents, pizza on campus in the halls, performances, class discussions, sporting events, faculty lunches, college’s dept meetings, off-campus location outreach. All of his communications are on the website along with the board of trustees, financial reports, enrollment reports, salary reports — those are just the ones I found from googling; what kind of communication are they looking for? Has that communications been asked for? As Alumni mentioned many of the financial things that are getting grumbled about are things set in motion before he came here. I’d like to see what that report card would look like if it was based in fact rather than a poison pen letter.

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