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Reviewing CMU: Faculty, staff express concerns with academic organizational review at open forum

Dr. Ian R. Davison talks to CMU faculty about the upcoming reorganization of the university on Oct. 6 in the Park Library Auditorium.

Transparency and an achievable timetable are the major concerns faculty and staff have for Central Michigan University’s academic restructuring.

Ian Davison, senior vice provost for academic reorganization initiative, said all input from the community will be welcomed as committees draft recommendations for CMU’s academic organizational structure.

An open forum, hosted by Davison and Provost Michael Gealt, took place in the Charles V. Park Library Auditorium.

The organizational review effort falls under CMU’s updated “Advancing Excellence” strategic plan — running from 2017-22. The review will look for ways to improve the efficiency of the university and enhance student success, Davison said.

The reorganization initiative began in August after approval from the CMU Board of Trustees. The university hopes to implement changes by the 2018-19 fiscal year.

CMU last conducted an academic reorganization in 1996 — leading to the creation of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences; and the College of Science and Engineering from the College of Arts and Sciences. The College of Health Professions was also created in that process.

The goal of a reorganizational review would be to advance the goals in CMU’s strategic plan and determine how CMU can improve going forward, Davison said.

The imperatives listed in the strategic plan approved by CMU trustees in June are nurturing student success, fostering scholarly activity and strengthening partnerships in Michigan and beyond.

Criteria for change would be:

1. The Way — Any organizational change must be justified by a clear rationale

2. Assessment — Changes have defined metrics that relate to goals in strategic plan

3. Budget — Considering costs

4. Broader Impacts — Considering the entire university

The review is not designed to achieve budget savings, reduce faculty or staff or eliminate academic programs.

The process of organizing

CMU President George Ross has appointed committees of faculty, staff and students to conduct the review, Davison said. Those appointments could be announced Tuesday.

The timetable for the rest of the semester is to solicit ideas and suggestions through November and develop drafts and recommendations by December.

Davison said recommendations should be approved by CMU’s Board of Trustees by the end of this academic year. He hopes to implement those recommendations by 2019.

“How long the implementation (process) will take depends on some extent of what the reorganization is,” he said.

Davison encouraged input and suggestions from the CMU community, saying he was happy to meet with departments, small groups and individuals if they wish. 

During the question and answer session, faculty and staff members, who made up the majority of the audience, expressed concerns with the timetable for the review and how the potential recommendations could affect student success.

Since very few students attended the open forum, Davison said there are plans to meet with the Student Government Association.

Mary Senter, professor of sociology, questioned how Davison was spending his time in his new position. Davison, the former dean of the College of Science and Engineering, is an at-will employee of CMU.

Davison responded with he is working more than 40 hours per week and is talking to colleges and departments as much as he can to gather input.

Senter said rumors have been spreading between departments due to the secrecy of the overall process. She has also heard of a rumor that an academic prioritization process will begin soon. Gealt and Davison both said that is a rumor.

“I have a telephone and an email,” Davison said regarding such rumors. “If you have a question, please ask.”

Academic unrest

Senter does not know why CMU is engaged in this reorganization process.

“The link between organization and student success is not clear,” she said. “Way too much money is being spent on the reorganization process and students should be concerned about that. Tuition dollars are being spent on this process for reasons that are not clear.”

Michael Mamp, a professor in fashion merchandising and design, said there is a climate of mistrust and rumors are developing because of that mistrust.

“You need good faculty to have student success. Good faculty are getting irritated and may leave, which will impede your ability to achieve student success,” Mamp said.

Susan Grettenberger, director of the social work program, said she is concerned of the timing and whether that will allow for sufficient dialogue. 

“(Reorganization) will benefit CMU maybe in making us look, I don’t know, fancier, bigger, more (of a research university) than we are now,” Grettenberger said. “I just don’t see this being student successful.”

Gealt said he and Steven Johnson, vice president for Enrollment and Student Services, are going to form a committee focused on student success.

J. Cherie Strachan, a professor of political science and public administration, said people are frustrated and suspicious of the reorganization because of the condensed time period.

“If you really were considering what your faculty were doing on a day-to-day basis, and you really wanted our input, you would give us time to be thoughtful and deliberative,” Strachan said. “There is no way in that timeline that we have the time and space to do that.” 

One of the final points of the forum came from David Jesuit, chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration. Jesuit also expressed concerns with the timetable, saying there needs to be more time if no plan is in place.

“To me, it just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Jesuit said. “To me it doesn’t seem sincere that this is really an achievable goal. There’s something else there.”

Davison said he will gather suggestions and input to see if it is an achievable time. He added the reorganization will most likely not please everybody.

CHSBS faculty and staff were concerned about the relationship between deans, because current CHSBS Dean Pamela Gates will retire in January 2018. Gealt said an acting dean could be announced this week and a national search will be conducted to find Gates’ replacement.

Richard Hayes, a faculty in the Master of Science in Administration program, appreciated the transparency from Davison and Gealt in answering questions during the forum, which was livestreamed.

“I thought the two gentlemen up front had great grace,” Hayes said. “There are some people that didn’t get the answers they wanted, but I think it was sufficiently open for what it was.”

Those who wish to share their thoughts and suggestions can visit CMU’s website under the strategic planning page

Staff Reporter Sara Kellner contributed to this story.


About Evan Sasiela

Evan Sasiela is the University Editor at Central Michigan Life and a senior at Central Michigan ...

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