Faculty support provost's decision to step down, express frustration with administrators

Warriner Hall is located on the north end of campus.

Last week, Central Michigan University Executive Vice President and Provost Mary Schutten announced her decision to step down effective Dec. 31. 

The announcement was delivered on the Thursday afternoon before Labor Day break. According to Faculty Association President Amanda Garrison, the Academic Senate came close to calling for a vote of no confidence in Schutten's leadership. 

The Faculty Association was established in 1969 and currently represents about 575 faculty members.

“We have a loud voice, and so this personnel change was something that was facilitated by faculty solidarity, cooperation and collaborative teamwork,” Garrison said. “The point is that when you have a collective push that has momentum and power behind it – and you have a response – that’s progress.” 

Garrison said it was “highly likely” the threat of a no-confidence vote could have motivated the provost's exit. 

The faculty’s frustration extends beyond the provost to the administration as a whole. At the June 24 Board of Trustees meeting, President Bob Davies announced the 24 "marquee programs" identified in the academic prioritization process lead by Schutten. Those programs will be featured in university marketing and receive more consideration for funding and other resources. Programs that are not "marquee" will receive less consideration and funding. 

The academic prioritization process reflects a shift by the university towards promoting STEM programs, Garrison said while neglecting liberal arts and social sciences. 

CMU also has been trending away from shared governance between administration and faculty, said Garrison, leading to decisions that are not representative of faculty and student needs. For instance, Deans of academic colleges have "inconsistent guidelines" for enforcing masks in classrooms, Garrison said. Some professors were told to dismiss a student who does not wear a mask in class, while others were told to cancel the class entirely.   

Garrison also recalled a Board of Trustees meeting where Richard Studley, the chair, referred to students as "customers" and the counseling center as "customer service." Garrison believes this administrative mindset is turning CMU into more of a for-profit business rather than a place of learning.

Garrison said there is an “expectation” of cooperation between faculty and administration that is not being met. She indicated that there are other leadership changes soon to come within CMU administration. “Spirits are high” among fellow union members, she said.  

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

President Davies praised Schutten's leadership in Thursday's announcement. 

"Mary's dedication to increasing rigor, relevance and excellence in CMU's academics and research set the tone for the ongoing work of our Strategic Envisioning Process," said Davies in a press release.