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Year in Review: The most important stories of 2021


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An aerial view of Franklin Street as Mainstage gets underway, Sunday, Aug. 29.

Just like the rest of the world, during 2021 Central Michigan University was absorbed by masks and vaccines. 

COVID-19 framed the campus atmosphere for the whole year. CMU went through budget cuts, investigations and layoffs. 

While dealing with the ongoing struggles of the year that never seemed to end, students continued to protest what they believed to have been an "unjust firing" and cafeteria food that met no one's expectations.  

Over the year, student-athletes claimed three Mid-American Conference titles.

As 2021 comes to an end, here's a look back at some of the year's biggest stories Central Michigan Life covered on campus and across the country. 


Shayn Campbell and others smack the tarp during a kickoff, Sep. 11, Kelly/Shorts Stadium.


JANUARY

  • CMU faculty members and state officials discussed and reacted to the riot at the United States Capitol Building during Congress’ Electoral College Count on Jan. 6. David Jesuit, chair of the Department of Political Science at Central Michigan University, said the violence during the riots did not surprise him.
  • Eight members of the CMU Marching Band performed in a virtual marching band showcase with 1,500 other performers. The performance premiered at halftime of the College Football Playoff national championship game on Jan. 11.
  • Mount Pleasant Vice Mayor Amy Perschbacher removed a personal Facebook post after sparking criticism among users. The post was an image of a "Thin Blue Line flag" being peeled back to reveal a black swastika in front of a white circle on a red background. Perschbacher said the post was provided without context and has since apologized.
  • Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, discussed mental health advocacy during Central Michigan University's Martin Luther King Jr. week. As the keynote speaker for the Multicultural Academic Student Services' MLK week, Fulton talked about keeping herself happy in wake of her son's death, helping other families who were victims of gun violence and her hopes on Jan. 20.
  • Central Michigan University Police Department officer Joshua Chapman hosted weekly video game tournaments and participated in challenges as part of his student engagement efforts. For Chapman, the tournaments were an opportunity to create a safe, respectful space with some friendly competition.
  • Miykael Norfleat was sentenced Jan. 27 in Isabella County Trial Court to a minimum of 31 years in prison for the April 2020 murder of Raven Tre-Von Edelen at his residence in Campus Habitat apartments. Norfleat, 22, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed robbery and assault with a weapon. He also will pay $2,900 in restitution and $198 in court fees.

February

  • Mount Pleasant restaurants reopened indoor dining services for the first time since Nov. 18 the previous year. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services restaurants can now serve indoors at 25 percent capacity.
  • Over the month of February CMU celebrated Black History month with various organizations and fraternities at CMU with 11 different events, mostly online, designed to educate students about and celebrate black history in America.
  • Academic Senate extended approval of the use of HyFlex modality for all classes regardless of class requirements through Spring 2022 to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The School of Music continued its tradition of showcasing student and faculty-made jazz music in concert, this year the concert was live-streamed for free through the School of Music.
  • Hip-hop artist Rakim spoke to CMU’s School of Music and College of Business over a virtual seminar. Rakim speaks at length about his history with music and how he became successful in life by following his passion.
  • Central Michigan District Health Department hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on CMU’s campus in Finch Fieldhouse on Feb. 17 and 18. CMU medical students and volunteers ran the event and administered vaccine doses to students and other Mount Pleasant locals.
  • Special Olympics Michigan, headquartered in Mount Pleasant, hosted its annual Polar Plunge fundraising event on Feb. 23. Due to the pandemic, the event was held virtually and featured submitted videos and photos of participants plunging themselves in ice cold water with the goal to raise $500,000 for special needs athletes. They exceeded to goal and made $675,000.

March

  • CMU’s Dow Science Building was evacuated because of a “chemical incident.” A hazardous chemical was found in a storage facility on the first floor of Dow Hall causing a building-wide evacuation; the building was later deemed safe for entry.
  • CMU President Bob Davies delivered the annual State of University address virtually, Davies discussed the future of COVID-19 guidelines changes over the course of the pandemic. Davies also announced future goals to accommodate pandemic changes.
  • Sharon Heath and Regina Beauboef were named to CMU’s Board of Trustees by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 5. 
  • CMU announced that student employees have all become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine during the temporary upcoming on-campus vaccine clinic. 
  • Central Michigan Life was named the Michigan Press Association’s Division 2 College Newspaper of the Year 2020 and Best Online Newspaper during a virtual ceremony.
  • CMU women's basketball defeated Bowling Green 77-72 and claimed the 2021 Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship and clinched the automatic birth the NCAA Tournament. The Chippewas would fall to Iowa 87-72 in the opening round. 
  • CMU appointed external counsel Matthew Schneider to lead an investigation into CMU’s journalism department university employees in relation to claims made against T.J. Bucholz of Vanguard Public Affairs.

April

  • Central Michigan Life was named "Best All-Around College Newspaper" by the Society of Professional Journalists during its Mark of Excellence Awards.
  • On April 16, students protested what they believed to have been the unjust firing Honors Program Assistant Director Judy Idema. Idema recieved a letter saying her position had been eliminated on March 31.
  • Men's basketball coach Keno Davis was fired after nine seasons. He finished the 2020-21 season with a 7-16 record and an overall record of 142-143.
  • With the 21st overall pick in the 2021 WNBA Draft, the Connecticut Sun selected CMU's Micaela Kelly. She became the second Chippewa drafted into the WNBA.
  • Two CMU students were shot during a party at Deerfield Apartments on April 23. Kenneth Wayne Thomas Jr., 21, a Navy veteran who recently returned after two years of service, was charged with two counts of assault with intent to commit murder.
  • Junior pitcher Jordan Patty threw CMU's first perfect game in program history. The Midland native struck out 11 batters in seven innings in a 14-0 win over Miami (Ohio). 

MAY

  • Tik Tok and Instagram comedian Jalen Robinson shared how he has used comedy to cope with the loss of his childhood best friend. Robinson has 1.3 million followers on Tik Tok under the profile @jrobdarcel.
  • CMU's new Chief Diversity Officer Shawna Patterson-Stephens discussed her excitement and goals for her position, which began June 1.
  • CMU baseball defeated Toledo to claim the 2021 MAC Championship. It was the program's second-straight conference title and 15 overall.

JUNE

  • CMU baseball partook in the 2021 NCAA Regional Tournament in South Bend, Indiana. The Chippewas dropped the opening contest to Notre Dame 10-0, defeated Michigan 8-2 and Connecticut 14-9 before being eliminated by the Fighting Irish 14-2. 
  • Michigan State Police were called to Union Township on June 28 for a reported sexual assault/homicide. Isaiah Gardenhire was arrested the following Tuesday in Flint after turning himself in. Gardenhire was accused of sexually assaulting his girlfriend and fatally stabbing her daughter. He was also accused of holding a man and a woman captive in their home, sexually assaulting the woman and stealing their vehicle. Gardenhire was held on 12 counts and was arraigned in the 76th court. However, his arraignment could not be completed due to his lack of cooperation.
  • CMU Provost Mary Schutten announced 24 academic programs determined to be "marquee." These programs were chosen during the process of academic program prioritization that started the previous January. Schutten announced that there were three categories of programs: "marquee" programs will receive the most funding and marketing, middle programs "have the potential to become marquee," and "watchlist" programs would receive the least funding and marketing. Schutten did not announce which programs were on the middle and watch lists, stating that they were not yet complete. 

JULY

  • CMU Communications announced the "Get Vaccinated, Win Prizes" incentive program. Students who were vaccinated could enter a drawing that would continue throughout the semester. Four drawings took place throughout the fall semester. Each drawing had one winner who received a full semester of tuition money, another 100 students received $75 Visa gift cards.
  • CMU once again hosted the annual Special Olympics Summer Games. This was the first Special Olympics held after the 2020 games were cancelled due to COVID-19. Athletes and parents expressed excitement about the return of the games and reflected on how they felt about the previous year being cancelled. 

AUGUST

  • CMU's academic senate executive board met for an emergency meeting to discuss passing a resolution to call for a mandate requiring students, faculty and staff to get vaccinated in order to come to campus. The resolution, which passed 52-2 with seven who did not vote, was a call to university leadership to mandate the vaccine; no official policy was passed.
  • An in-person MainStage event kicked off the 2021 academic year while CMU students returned back-to-school for mostly in-person classes. 

SEPTEMBER

  • CMU Study Abroad earned the Institute of International Education's 2020 Seal of Excellence. Over five years, the program has received 40 percent more student participation. 
  • CMU Food provider Chartwells addressed student and parent complaints involving food shortages and supply chain issues. Amanda Armstrong, Chartwells Central Division Senior Director of Marketing, said the company was paying close attention to supply shortages and that students could rely on them for a variety of “convenient, healthy and delicious” food.
  • CMU partnered with Mid Michigan College to expand its degree options and offer a complete undergraduate Bachelor of Science in nursing education. The new partnership would allow students to earn the Registered Nurse and Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree within one program. The program saves students time and money by creating a course outline that results in a degree at the end of four to five years.
  • CMU announced that Richard Rothaus, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, had been appointed as interim Provost after the current provost, Mary Schutten, announced that she would be stepping down, Rothaus will take over starting January 1, 2022. College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Associate Dean Marcy Taylor will be the new interim dean. 
  • CMU Field Hockey pulled the biggest upset of the Catherine Ostrich era. Kaitlyn Bowker's goal sealed the Chippewas 1-0 victory over No. 23 Kent State. 
  • The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission met on Sept. 23 in Warriner Hall to discuss the state of the ongoing redistricting process with the region. The commission's stop at CMU was part of an ongoing, university-exclusive tour to net a wider audience and differing opinions on its proposed maps.

OCTOBER

  • After 24 years working for the city of Mount Pleasant, City Manager Nancy Ridley announced her retirement. Ridley was involved in two fundamental efforts during her time as city manager: the West Broadway Revitalization Project and the purchase of the Mount Pleasant Center property. 
  • CM Life sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the university's General Counsel Office asking for a copy of CMU's contract with Chartwells. It was delivered with all financial information redacted, even though other universities sent CM Life intact contracts. 
  • CMU's Vice President for Advancement Heidi Tracy announced she is stepping down from her position after less than two years. President Davies appointed both Jennifer Cotter, executive director of advancement and campaign and Marcie Otteman, executive director of alumni relations and development strategies, to co-lead advancement and alumni engagement efforts.
  • CMU Campus Dining and Chartwells announced a change in hours for two on-campus eateries and gave additional Flex Dollars to students with meal plans. Campus Dining sent a statement to students explaining their current state of labor shortages, supply chain disruptions and dining hall closures.
  • After spending seven months and more than half a million dollars on an investigation into three journalism staff members based on allegations, CMU characterized the allegations as unfounded. The three staff members returned to work in August, the week before school started.

NOVEMBER

  • With three second-quarter touchdowns from Kalil Pimpleton, Central Michigan secured a victory against rival Western Michigan at Waldo Stadium with a final score of 42-30. This win was the university’s first win over the Broncos since 2017. 
  • President Bob Davies sent out an email to the campus community releasing the enrollment information for fall 2021. According to the statistics given at the time, there were 11,441 undergraduate and 3,980 graduate students enrolled at CMU. These numbers were noticeably less than in previous years. Davies cited competition and COVID-19 as reasons for the recent decline in enrollment; however,  CMU has been seeing a decline in enrollment over the past 10 years.
  • Mount Pleasant City Commission held its first meeting under new city manager Aaron Desentz. After welcoming Desentz, the commission discussed the updated contract with R.I.S.E. Advocacy Inc. for mental health services assistance.
  • CMU graduate and Navy Commander, Desmond Walker, was selected for the “Career Achievement in Government Award” during the 2022 Black Engineer of the Year Award STEM conference. The event recognizes and celebrates the hard work and success of those that haven’t received recognition for their outstanding achievements.
  • Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Joseph accepted a new position as village manager of Paw Paw, Michigan. Joseph's last day with the City of Mount Pleasant was Nov. 26.
  • CMU made its debut in the America's Thanksgiving Parade as a part of its $375,000 three-year partnership with The Parade Company.

DECEMBER

  • The four brothers, and only members, of the Phi Beta Sigma worked to keep their organization together and serve the community.
  • CMU Football announced they will be participating in the Barstool Arizona Bowl on Dec. 31. Academic Senators and other CMU community members shared their disdain.
  • Following the Oxford High School shooting, a CMU co-ed business fraternity sold stickers to raise money for families of the shot students.
  • Two CMU students won the Campus Sustainability Student Leadership Award from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) for their work promoting sustainability at the university.
  • With commencement scheduled for Dec. 18, 1,319 are slated to receive degrees and certificates.

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