EDITORIAL: State intervention needed to put CMU back on right path



It should seem obvious that at least one of the eight public servants would ask about public financial problems at the university they have been appointed to oversee.

It would seem even more apparent that those same public servants would hold leaders of the university accountable for a crisis of leadership.

Unfortunately the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees has repeatedly proven its lack of ability or desire to push the university toward excellence.

Appointed by the state's governor, the eight public officials are responsible for maintaining and preserving the strengths of CMU.

When the board of trustees met in December, then-Chairwoman Sarah Opperman said only a minority of those at CMU were frustrated with the state of affairs here.

“I think it’s a small part of university, from what I see, that is feeling very uncomfortable,” Opperman said in December.

However, at Thursday's meeting, the board failed to acknowledge that on Wednesday the Council of Chairs — consisting of 22 department chairpersons — endorsed the Academic Senate's vote of no confidence against University President George Ross and Provost Gary Shapiro. For that matter, it did not recognize any of the various departments' endorsements of the vote since its last meeting.

Instead, Chairman Sam Kottamasu made a statement at the very end of the meeting, acknowledging only vague difficulties at the university and expressing the board's confidence in Ross.

Those present at the meeting hopefully did not hold their breath for some explanation as to why $10 million of university funds were put toward funding the CMU Events Center, a building which was repeatedly pitched as being fully funded with private donations.

Kathy Wilbur, vice president for development and external relations, instead glossed over fundraising updates, only speaking in general terms when it came to the College of Medicine.

It's understandable that the Events Center had to be built and even understandable that some of CMU's money was used on it. What is unacceptable is not being up front with the public and continuing to call it a "private donation" for years and giving naming rights to those who payed much less than students.

The lack of details provided is frightening, especially when the university is gearing up to begin work on a $95 million biosciences building, which Ross said would be CMU's largest single investment ever.

If a board consisting of eight individuals is unable to approach contentious issues, acknowledge mistakes and attempt to rectify them, whether they were made by Ross or a previous university president, then who can be held responsible?

There is no choice but to plead CMU's case as an institution in desperate need of common sense and determined leadership to the one whose duty it is to appoint the board.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proven he is not afraid to install emergency financial managers in areas of the state facing financial turmoil.

At CMU tuition and other costs are skyrocketing, but that revenue is not being used for the immediate betterment of struggling students. Instead that income appears to have been put toward giant projects with little concern for the cost to students or state.

Transparency issues plague the university as shown with the recent finding of the $10 million for the Events Center.

These issues are not being brought up and when they are, the issues are painted with a fine brush telling a very different story from the truth. CMU has claimed to have financial burdens during the Faculty Association contract dispute, yet spending no longer seems to be an issue for new buildings.

All these issues could and should be acknowledged, and acted upon by the board of trustees, not glazed over with a press release quote about how CMU is holding strong.

Governor, your presence is requested.

CMU is still a great school with many assets invaluable to the state of Michigan, but these assets are in grave danger without a body providing the vigilance necessary to preserve them.

Please investigate our claims and decide for yourself if there are greater efforts to hide and ignore troublesome issues at CMU than there are to solve them.

Our trustees and president have shirked their responsibility to students and taxpayers by simply passing the blame, but we hope the buck will stop in Lansing.


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