Ross salary gets $11,500 increase, donates it to school of music scholarship


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The Board of Trustees meet for the final time for the fall 2016 semester on Dec. 8 in the President's Conference Room, in the Bovee University Center.

Instead of increasing University President George Ross's income, more than $11,000 he would have received as a raise will be donated to a scholarship for the school of music, which was announced at the Dec. 8 year end Board of Trustees meeting. 

The board initially approved Ross for a 2.5 percent increase, effective Jan. 1, which he declined.

"It is the team around me that moves this university forward," Ross said. "Yes, I try to set the standards and expectations, but this place moves because of the actions of people around this table. I want to thank you all for that."

The $11,500 will go toward the Elizabeth G. Ross Voice Scholarship.

Ross supports multiple scholarships on campus including CMU Women's Connection Scholarship, scholarships for women's basketball and football and miscellaneous scholarships in the College of Medicine. He also donates to several scholarships anonymously, he said.

"(My wife and I) have been donating to Central since the day we stepped foot on campus in 2010," Ross said. "Our donations are about students and helping students. In my personal situation, I had help along the way. What I'm able to do financially, particularly to help students, I get satisfaction out of doing that."

Ross' salary increases are determined based off of what other Mid-American Conference schools pay their university presidents, his performance review, and the "economic realities" of the university, said Board Chair Sarah Opperman.

"We've talked through a number of criteria and aspects in regard to (Ross') salary," Opperman said. "Dr. Ross had a good year. The university had a good year. He had a strong performance against strategic goals of the university."

In addition to Ross' donation to the school of music, the board approved $5.7 million out of $200 million worth of deferred maintenance projects for the 2017-18 school year. The board also heard updates from several committee chairs regarding their Dec. 7 committee meetings.

Updates on courses, university

Ross highlighted three initiatives in his presidential report he said "require(d) the collective leadership of faculty and staff" to attain to achieve "milestones in CMU's history."

As the university approaches its 125th anniversary next September, Provost Michael Gealt and Academic Senate Chair Melinda Kreth are tasked with updating CMU's strategic plan. The plan looks at assessing five university priorities of student success, research and creative activity, quality faculty and staff, community partnerships, and infrastructure stewardship. 

Issues with diversity and inclusion are also a priority, Ross said. The "Walking Together" inclusion talks, which started a year ago this week, helped to "walk in each others shoes" and get a feel for the climate on campus. But there is "not one tool or program" that can be used as a remedy for this issue, Ross said. 

"Answers to issues with equity and inclusion are decades in the making," Ross said. "Most issues related to diversity and inclusion are deeply complex. Our ongoing efforts are important and necessary. Every gain matters. Every step forward together is powerful."

The final initiative was regarding online classes. A committee tasked with evaluating CMU's online courses, the Online Academic Programming Committee 2.0, has completed their subgroup work with evaluating the university's online courses. Recommendations for a course of action has been made and will soon be "handed off for implementation," Ross said.

His goal is to expand CMU's leadership regarding academic programs.

"The cabinet, faculty and staff are committed to serving all students here on our campus in Mount Pleasant and our satellite locations online and serving them exceptionally well," Ross said. "I'm encouraged by the work done by the committee. Change is tough, but I'm encouraged and confident we'll get this done."

Opperman said there was some "very real work left to do," but said she looked positively at the future change regarding online courses.

Academic and Student Affairs Committee

Updates on the Leadership Institute and online courses for the Academic and Student Affairs Committee were also given at the board meeting.

Leadership is the university's second most popular minor.

In addition to an overview and update on the organization’s current programs, Daniel Gaken, director of the Leadership Institute, addressed a study that stated many students at CMU lacked “self-efficacy” and on average student did not see themselves as leaders.

“This is a fundamental problem to me,” he said. “This demonstrates very clearly that there is a need to continue our offerings, but also to create more scope and scale. When (President) Ross says that CMU graduates leaders, we have proof. This is an opportunity afforded to every student on campus.”

College affordability was also addressed during the committee report. Members looked at competitive numbers in terms of tuition and fees and members agreed there was work to be done on the graduating debt load for CMU students.

Trustee-Student Liaison Committee

Trustees heard from members of the campus community, who approached trustees regarding the building of a Gender Equity Center. The proposed center has the support from Student Government Association and Central Michigan Action, a budding activist group on campus.

“(SGA Vice President Anna Owens and I) are still developing our entire plan as of now, but our No. 1 goal remains to be the Gender and Sexuality Center,” Biernat said in a Dec. 7 interview. “We want funding secured for it this (spring semester) and then for it to be started up in Fall 2017.”

Central Michigan Action, a budding activist group on campus, also supported the building of a Gender Equity Center alongside SGA. The two groups used data gathered from the Barthwell Group's diversity and inclusion study to compile a report outlining the need for the center. 

Trustee Patricia Mooradian said she was impressed with the drive behind the students' want for the center.

"The next step of this group is meet and identify how they can move this forward with the appropriate administration groups," she said. "It's become a top priority of SGA."

The committee also heard updates on the dance charity DanceFest, scheduled for Feb. 4, where students hope to raise $75,000 for the United Way of Isabella and Gratiot Counties. SGA member Nick Badgero also presented on the need for administration to approve a veteran-specific new student orientation at the beginning of the school year.

Staff reporter Mitchell Kukulka contributed to this story. 

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