George Ross says $10 million to Events Center came out of university reserves; acknowledges missed fundraising goal


The $10 million given to the Events Center project was an allocation, University President George Ross told the Academic Senate Tuesday.

"I don't like the word donation," Ross told the A-Senate during its meeting in Pearce Hall 138. "It was not a donation — we need to be clear on this."

Ross said CMU paid $10 million from the university reserves, ultimately admitting that fundraising goals fell short, and said it would be the same case for the College of Medicine.

"Look, if we fall short in our fundraising for the medical school, we will probably use university reserves, (too)," Ross said.

The debate became heated when senators pointed out the inconsistencies between what the administration was saying and what was said in 2008 regarding the $21.5 million being raised privately. Approved for renovation in 2007, the tab for the facility was pegged at $21.5 million, with Director of Athletics Dave Heeke saying the university was committed to raising the funds privately.

"We're going to go out and ask alumni, friends and others to contribute to this project," Heeke told Central Michigan Life in April 2008.

As the discussion continued at the A-Senate meeting, questions continued toward Ross and Kathy Wilbur, vice president of development and external relations. A senate member asked about the Events Center website, which has stated the project was to be fully funded by private donations. Senator and faculty member David Smith expanded on the same question and Wilbur responded that the information on the website was not correct and she did not know why it was wrong.

"I don't know," Wilbur said. "If need be, we will go back, find out and correct it. It is an inaccurate statement."

Wilbur, trying to clear up the confusion of what has been reported, said the proof is in the documentation of the Events Center project.

"We have been very clear that I was responsible for taking those documents to the state — it is called a uses and finances document," she said. "Any time there is a building on your campus, no matter how it's funded, you have to submit those documents. It was very clear (in those documents) that $11 million would be raised privately and the $10 million would come from the university. I think we have given the history and the record of what happened on this project. We have documentation to show you that."

Ross could not provide the documents to Central Michigan Life after the meeting, but said they would be available Wednesday through contacting Mary Jane Flanagan, executive assistant to the president. An email to Flanagan to obtain the documents before Wednesday was not returned by the time of publication.

In October 2010, CM Life reported an estimated $62.4 million was allocated from university reserves to fund finance-restricted projects, including the Events Center, College of Medicine, Ronan Hall and Bovee University Center.

Wilbur left the meeting immediately after the discussion, and by 5:30 p.m. a link to the Frequently Asked Questions page, citing the university's refusal to use public funds to the project, on the Events Center page was taken down. The page can still be viewed online. Links to a PDF of the campaign brochure were also deleted.

When contacted last week by CM Life, Wilbur called the university's $10 million allocation to the Events Center project a "donation" and said CMU was $3 million short of its $11 million fundraising goal. When reached for comment Thursday, Board of Trustees Chairman Sam Kottamasu struggled to classify the money, calling it "additional funding," "a donation" and "university assistance"