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Board of Trustees approve $13 million Residence Life updates, address recent hate speech incidents


Trustee Richard Studley gives his input on a movement presented by the board on Dec. 6 in the President's Conference Room.

The Board of Trustees approved the first year of a three-year plan to improve Residence Life Facilities, which includes demolishing Barnes Hall.

During its Dec. 6 meeting, the Board also addressed recent hate incidents that occurred on campus, and listened to testimonies from four representatives of the neuroscience program.

After Board Chair William Weideman opened the meeting, President Robert Davies delivered the president’s report. He talked about his “listening and learning tour” and the opportunities he has found through it. He outlined nine priorities for administration to focus on, which include the following:

· Enrollment management

· Marketing and Communication

· Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Agenda

· A long-term plan for the College of Medicine

· Establishing and furthering CMU’s culture and internal relations

· Fundraising

· Community relations

· Legislative affairs

· Senior leadership planning

“Through these efforts, we will always be looking forward and advancing the three imperatives listed in our (strategic plan),” Davies said. “These are nurturing student success, fostering scholarly activity, and strengthening partnerships through Michigan and beyond. All of us at CMU must understand these imperatives, and how we impact them and how they impact the overall university.”

He also addressed several incidents that have happened on campus in the past two months: a racist message on the white board of a dorm room, white nationalist propaganda distributed across campus and a transphobic message also written on the white board of a dorm room.

“Let me be clear; let me be bold; we will not tolerate incidents of personal threats of racism, hate, bigotry, or misogyny,” Davies said. “When these acts occur, there are many offices that mobilize immediately…to assist, to guide, to support those individuals that are directly impacted.”

Davies also noted that it seems like there has been an increase in the frequency of these events, but in reality, there has been an increase in reporting them. He said he is glad that students are not tolerating it and are taking a stand against behavior like this.

Vice President and General Counsel Manuel Rupe addressed the Board about Proposal 1 and the impact it will have on the university. The proposal went into effect Dec. 6. However, CMU must follow federal regulations over state regulations, so marijuana will still not be allowed on campus. 

Trustees approved the first year of a three-year plan to improve Residence Life facilities. Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Barrie Wilkes presented the proposal at the Finance and Facilities meeting Wednesday afternoon. The first year will include demolishing Barnes Hall, improving safety in the North campus residential community, improving key card systems the South campus residential community and fixing ventilation and exterior lighting in the East campus residential community. The first year will cost $13 million and will be funded by university reserves and bonds.

The Board will approve parts of the plan, one year at a time. Wilkes said there is room for change if the university takes it year-by-year. The total project is projected to cost $76 million.

Alongside these infrastructure updates, Residence Life will begin enforcing the requirement for students to live on campus for freshman and sophomore year. The requirement will be reinstated for students admitted for fall 2019.

Wilkes said this requirement was already part of the residency policy, but hasn’t been enforced in previous years because there weren’t enough beds to house all freshmen and sophomores. After Barnes Hall is demolished, CMU will have 5,725 beds in residence halls, which is more than enough to house freshmen and sophomores.

Wilkes said there is no plan to remove exemptions to the policy for non-traditional students, transfer students, or students whose parents live near Mount Pleasant.

Wilkes and Davies stressed this policy is to increase student success. Davies said retention and graduation rates are much higher for students who live on campus than those who don’t, and there are numerous resources available on campus that students cannot get elsewhere.

“My daughter has applied, been accepted and will enroll at CMU next year,” Davies said. “I have full intentions that she will live on campus probably three, if not all four years because of all of those benefits.”

During the public comment portion at the end of the meeting, four representatives of the neuroscience program addressed the Board. 

Two students from Central Neuroscience Society, secretary Kelsey Yarger and president Shelby Miller said students believe the current curriculum is not the best it can be, and voiced their support for a proposal that was submitted to the Board. 

Psychology faculty member and former program director Gary Dunbar expresses concerns with the recent administrative decisions concerning his program on Dec. 6 in the President's Conference Room.

Psychology faculty member and former neuroscience program director Gary Dunbar also addressed the trustees, citing issues during the academic organizational review and disagreement among faculty that lead to the demise of his proposal to establish a school of neuroscience at CMU.

“Stand up for us. Hear our voices. We need your help,” Dunbar said. “We fall through the cracks. We don’t have the structure that we need. We need to become a school.”

Dunbar addressed the Board on behalf of Dr. Malcolm Field, a neurosurgeon in Saginaw who has provided support to the neuroscience program at CMU and has a research lab, the Field Neuroscience Institute named after him. Field was not able to attend because of a family emergency, but wrote a letter that Dunbar read aloud. In the letter, Field said he is unhappy with how reorganization of the neuroscience program has been handled, and is considering withdrawing his donations and moving his research lab to another university.

The meeting adjourned with a tearful address from Trustee William Kanine, as it was his last meeting as a trustee. Kanine and Trustee Patricia Mooradian’s terms end Dec. 31. Mooradian was unable to attend the meeting due to a scheduling conflict.

Kanine’s term began in January 2011, and Weideman said Kanine has attended every sporting event and every commencement ceremony he could since he started the position.

“It’s not just the university that I love,” Kanine said, “it’s the people who make up the university. I tell everyone at commencement that when they ‘put their stamp on the world,’ their stamp hit my heart.”