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.


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