SGA President calls for student unity during address
Powers Ballroom overflowed with students, Central Michigan University staff and members of the Mount Pleasant community who came to listen to Student Government Administration President Chuck Mahone deliver a State of the Student Body address.
Mahone discussed the recently announced closure of Foust Pharmacy, stressed relations between students and residents living north of campus and alcohol-related student deaths. He also called for university administrators to be more transparent with how tuition dollars are spent and more communicative when decisions are made that affect students.
Mahone said it was "frustrating" not to be included on the process of closing Foust Pharmacy. SGA is supposed to serve as a bridge between students and administrators, he said. By learning of the closing at the "same time as everyone else," Mahone said SGA couldn't "do their jobs" and act on behalf of students.
"Many feel this (closure) is a move for the university to be run as a business and not as a tool for student success, as it should be," he said. "Incidents such as this cannot persist if we truly want the university to be a university that supports its students first and foremost."
Mahone also commended the several student philanthropy efforts to raise money for those affected by the Flint Water Crisis, and philanthropy performed by members of the Sigma Chi fraternity for the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Football Head Coach John Bonamego and late football player Derrick Nash were also honored during the address.
He concluded the address by highlighting alcohol-related student deaths and said CMU has a binge drinking problem.
"How many of our fellow students dying will it take for us to admit we have a drinking problem, but then actually change our ways?" Mahone said. "I'm not naive and I know after this address, students aren't going to start drinking responsibly. If there's nothing else that you take away from this address, then I've done my job: it only takes one Chip. It only takes one Chippewa to stop another drunk student from driving home."
Students filled a majority of the nearly 300 seats in Powers Ballroom, along with Mount Pleasant Mayor Kathy Ling and City Commissioner Nicholas Madaj. Provost Michael Gealt, Shaun Holtgreive, executive director of student affairs and Associate Vice President of University Communications Sherry Knight represented the university.
President George Ross was not in attendance, citing a "personal matter" which needed to be taken care of. This did not go unnoticed by students, one of whom asked where Ross was in a question and answer segment on Twitter.
"It would be a fallacy for me to equate all of CMU to one individual. Although he is the president — and he does represent our university — he did let me know that he would be unable to attend," Mahone said. "If you looked among the seats, we did have heads here from several different departments. Not as much as I would have liked. We sent a lot more invitations than we had come."
Mahone said this address will serve as a building building block and eventually become something "the administration cannot ignore."
Ling said the address was "outstanding" and hopes this conversation serves as a springboard for further student/city relation conversations.
"Mr. Mahone did a great job at summarizing what the history has been (between students and city residents) and it is certainly true the community is aware of the problems we have had in the past; (but) we want to be apart of the solution also," Ling said. "One of the things I loved that Chuck said is that we're all in this together."
Ling said while community members are aware of the destruction CMU students have caused in the past — most notably with the End of the World parties decades ago — most residents want to maintain an peaceful relationship with students.
"It's very important to not have a hostile relationship between the student residents and the non-student residents, but that we figure out together how to keep the situation from getting chaotic, because we all live in the community and we just want it to be safe," Ling said.
East Tawas freshman Ian Gekeler said he was impressed with the number of students in attendance.
"The issues Mahone addressed were real," he said. "I have thought (a lot) about those things student debt and graduating college in debt."
Gekeler, who was recently elected chair of the SGA Diversity Committee, said he saw a lot of SGA members in the audience and had hoped for more students to attend.
"I would say roughly half of the audience (was SGA members), but I was more impressed with the amount of people (who showed up) that weren't SGA members," he said.
Mahone said he was happy with the student turn out.
"It showed a willingness to come together and to discuss them, and that's so important," he said. "There's about 130 to 150 members in SGA on any (meeting) night, so the rest of these seats, even if every single person in SGA came, were filled by people from our community and campus. And that's incredibly powerful."
An official attendance count is not known at this time.
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