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Board of Trustees reflect on the pandemic, receive public comment from faculty member

Central Michigan University's Board of Trustee's met in a HyFlex matter on April 22.

Central Michigan University's Board of Trustees had their first formal session with new trustees Regine Beauboef and Sharon Heath, a CMU alumna, on April 22.

The board received a presentation entitled "Reflections on the Pandemic Year" from Associate Vice President Tony Voisin.

During his presentation, Voisin discussed the challenges and adaptations the university has faced since Spring Break 2020. He put together changes guidelines enforced at CMU through the past year, including contributions from faculty and administrators.

"What we've shared with you today is the culmination of a lot, a lot of people. None of you, I'm sure, are surprised that CMU has stepped up," Voisin said. "I have the opportunity to speak with you, but there are hundreds and thousands of colleagues, faculty, staff, students who have done everything they can do or could do this year to keep our students, our community safe."

Voisin referenced the results of a survey sent to students. The survey recorded that 93 percent felt that CMU emphasized providing academic support, 87 percent felt CMU kept students safe and 71 percent rated their educational experience as good or excellent.

"A community of this size does not move mountains, such as we have without learning important lessons," Voisin said. "Tried sentiments aside, we've learned a tremendous amount in the business of adjusting our operations multiple times this year. We've learned that setting the leadership standard isn't easy. It requires strength of character, diversity of thought and a tremendous amount of good old fashioned fired up attitude."

Voisin referenced all of the unique educational opportunities that have came from the COVID-19 pandemic, including virtual concerts, outdoor classes and other adaptations.

"Together we've been able to manage this the best we can, once again for our students and for everyone's safety," Voisin said. "I cannot tell you how proud I am to be a part of this university and to be able to serve all of you."

Following his discussion, trustees thanked him and the university for everything they have done to adapt to guidelines.

"As the chair of the Enterprise Risk Committee I can't imagine a year filled with more risks than the one that you've just endured," Trustee Todd Anson said. "And I am extremely proud of all of the work that the entire community has done."

There were no public comments at the beginning of the meeting. However, a statement from faculty member Heather Kendrick, senior lecturer in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, was read after presentations and committee recaps.

"The university is currently in the process of ruthlessly cutting faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences," Kendrick's statement read. "In my department philosophy and religion, four of our seven fixed term faculties were told last week, that they will not have a job in the fall. Most of them are senior lecturers, with 15 to 20 years of experience teaching for this university. This is both a pragmatic and amoral error is a pragmatic error because it carelessly wastes the experience and expertise of these faculty."

Kendrick's statement mentioned all of the university's fiscal struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic and their decision to cut fixed-term faculty for both the Fall 2020 and Fall 2021 semesters.

"What about the university's highest paid employees? Can we, in good conscience, say that someone who makes $30-40,000 a year should go without a job entirely, rather than ask someone normally making $150,000 to get by with $120,000 or $110,000 for a while?" Kendrick's statement read. "Unless every such alternative has been honestly and seriously considered, there is no moral justification for laying off long-serving, loyal and callous. I remain unconvinced eliminating teaching faculty in class is the only or the best way to be fiscally responsible."

The Board of Trustees did not address Kendrick's statement.

"The policy is that we do not address public comments, because then that starts into a discussion," Davies said. "If there was something that was factual that needed to be corrected that might occur, but we do not address public comments."

Continuing to explain the policy, Board Chair Trustee Richard Studley said that they want to "encourage input rather than discourage" it. 

"Our commitment to being good listeners is ongoing and sincere, and, from the perspective of the trustees, we really listen very carefully and do follow up on questions and concerns," Studley said. "We certainly don't want to appear to be argumentative, but please know we do listen carefully, we do follow up."