EDITORIAL: Professors actions have tarnished our image. CMU deserves better.



A professor’s duty at Central Michigan University extends beyond instruction.

While teaching classes is the primary role of the faculty, they are also expected to serve as mentors, counselors and guides for young, growing minds. We hold them to the highest standards.

Dating back to last year, professors have been arrested for child pornography, disturbing the peace and embezzlement.

This week, journalism professor Sean Baker is absent from classes after admitting to being intoxicated at work. Biology staff member Ryan Wheeler was arrested in February and charged for indecent exposure on campus.

As the student newspaper, one of our largest obligations to readers is to responsibly cover both the achievements and missteps of the faculty. In recent months, however, there have been far too many stories of those acting in a way that embarrasses the university.

We are concerned about the lasting impact these incidents will have on CMU.

When a professor is charged with a crime, it affects students in the most fundamental way. It casts doubt on the integrity of our academic programs. Ultimately, these incidents call into question whether CMU is serving – or failing – its students.

Faculty members are public figures and role models for our student body. They should be used as a resource and a reference. When personal problems interfere with their ability to serve students, it overshadows and undermines the university’s mission.

At a time when CMU is working to increase recruitment and retention to address an ongoing enrollment decline, inappropriate conduct by the faculty is not aiding the effort.

The quality of faculty is a major selling point for CMU. Students look toward reputable academic programs when deciding where to enroll after high school. When problems arise, however, it scares away prospective students.

It also sends a discouraging message to students who have already enrolled.

Students in classes with William Merrill, the professor convicted for child pornography in July, will leave CMU with that incident as part of their academic experience. Students of Justin Oh-Lee, the professor ordered to pay $35,000 in restitution after embezzling research funds, probably question the quality of his instruction and how such a thing could happen at CMU.

John Meixner, the professor arrested for disturbing the peace after photographing young women below the waist at a county fair, has had repeated encounters with police dating back to 2005. Before Baker’s latest leave of absence, he was arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct at Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort in 2011.

How can CMU – an institution that University President George Ross would like to call a “first-choice university” – allow these professors to continue to serve students while in disgrace? How did they get here in the first place? How thorough is CMU’s hiring process for faculty and staff?

As students, we hold high expectations for our faculty and administrators. They represent the CMU brand and it’s essential they represent us well.

When they fail to do so, it is a betrayal of trust and a dereliction of duty. The majority of CMU’s faculty represents us well, but misconduct issues are becoming more frequent. Professors that behave inappropriately leave the university with few options – except for the obvious.

It's time for CMU to get serious about misconduct and let those professors know that their services are no longer needed.

 


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