EDITORIAL: Keep asking questions

On the campus of a public university, administrative transparency should be a given.

This includes informing the campus community, from students to professors, about the goals of the university, what projects are being funded and what source of money is supporting them.

Central Michigan University administrators have failed miserably this academic year in acting as a transparent body.

The most noteworthy failure is presenting necessary information regarding the planning of the College of Medicine, from course work to funding to future costs.

Although the administration tends to say the releasing of hundreds, if not thousands of pages of CMED documents in November was a step toward transparency, they seem to have selective memory.

Central Michigan Life, the Faculty Association and the Academic Senate all had to use the Freedom of Information Act to wring the information from CMU and were told the documents would likely cost them money, before they were ultimately released to the public.

This lack of faith in the administration openly presenting information is made evident by the 19 units on campus that support the Academic Senate’s vote of no confidence against University President George Ross and Provost Gary Shapiro.

After months of unanswered questions, enough people stood up to complain. The A-Senate is provided with a meeting time and access to these administrators — a time that has not gone to waste recently. Because of its investigation and continual demand for answers, information to provide better understanding was obtained.

At Tuesday’s A-Senate meeting, Shapiro addressed some of the concerns regarding CMED that were originally brought up in a Nov. 1, 2011 resolution.

The resolution stated, “President George Ross and the Board of Trustees have made no public pledge orally or in writing not to fund the College of Medicine by diverting current or future funds from existing colleges or departments, increasing tuition for undergraduate and graduate students, or using any other public funds to support the College of Medicine.”

Several senators said they felt disrespected and insulted with how the information was presented Tuesday.

Rather than simply explain the funding and answer any further questions, Ross said, “I’ve had people say that it will be political theatrics in here. Let’s not do that. Let’s demonstrate to students how we want them to behave and conduct business even when they disagree.”

If educating students to keep quiet and avoid conflict to “conduct business” is considered a step forward in communication, it’s no wonder the administration cannot see eye to eye with the A-Senate and its concerns.

The administration has proven it cannot be trusted to provide important information to the public, and A-Senate has stepped in as the body to question them.

Though enforcing transparency should not be a requirement of being an academic senator, it has become one thanks in no small part to the CMU Board of Trustees refusal to ask any tough questions at public meetings.

Some may claim the A-Senate's faculty members are simply bitter from last year's protracted contract conflict and are exacting their revenge on CMED, but their actions are welcome whatever the cause.

This approach should be continued, and not just with CMED.

The lack of transparency has finally come to the attention of the board of trustees.

Open forums have been scheduled with Ross and Shapiro, and Chairman Sam Kottamasu has been quoted as saying, “We are concerned with rebuilding the mutual trust and confidence that has been damaged on many fronts. I believe we can all agree with the point regarding the need to improve communication, transparency and decision-making.”

When there are questions, ask.

When documents are not being provided, FOIA them. It is not the ideal situation, but it has become a necessity, and A-Senate has proven it is up to the challenge.