EDITORIAL: Faculty and administration must come together for the good of the university


Central Michigan University Executive Vice President and Provost Mary Schutten passes the microphone to President Bob Davies at the Nov. 19 academic senate meeting. (File Photo)

Executive Vice President and Provost Mary Schutten will step down from that role on Dec. 31, having only served in the position for two years. 

Though her tenure was brief, she is leaving a permanent mark on this campus. In fact, some at CMU are eager to see the change in leadership. 

Faculty Association President Amanda Garrison spoke out – loud and clear – that union members are ready for a change and demand to be heard. 

“Faculty have been displeased with Warriner Hall and upper administration for quite a while,” Garrison told Central Michigan Life. “We do not feel heard. We do not have shared governance.”

Garrison expressed frustration in the "marquee programs" identified in the academic prioritization process lead by Schutten. She said the union feels that administrators are moving away from the university's shared governance model – especially when it comes to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and the financial priorities of the university.

Credit where it's due, Schutten was one of the many administrators who had to face the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic head-on. She also worked with college deans and department chairs, as well as the Academic Senate, to navigate the financial impact caused by the virus. Regardless, the union president exposed a great divide between faculty and administration. 

So what happens next? 

Per university policy, a nationwide search will be launched to find Schutten's replacement, President Bob Davies announced this week at the first Academic Senate meeting of the semester.

This hiring process is everything. 

The CMU community must come together. We encourage President Davies and Garrison to work together to bridge the chasm between faculty and administration before the search begins. It's the first step in putting the university's priorities back on academics instead of survival – programs and faculty are the reasons students choose to attend CMU in the first place. 

If they don't work out these differences the next provost is going to walk into a mess. And that person may leave in another two years. 

We agree with much of what Garrison has said – for the past year-and-a-half, the university has been in survival mode. We trudged through the pandemic - and this administration successfully lead us through unprecedented circumstances. The university was forced to refund tens of thousands of dollars to students as CMU's enrollment continues its decline. At the same time, the university has alienated its educators and compiled a hit list of programs that may be eliminated as revenue declines. 

Students can certainly sense that tension and are confused and frustrated. Students and faculty want leaders who recognize the importance of keeping all of our trademark programs alive rather than drawing up a winners and losers list. 

CMU now faces a daunting task. How we bounce back from COVID-19 is just as important as what we did to survive. 

Our enrollment continues to decline. Our faculty are angry. Students are doing their best to navigate a very confusing campus from new meal plans to online classes. 

The next provost will have a tremendous amount of adversity to overcome. 

A divided campus will make that job even harder.