Faculty criticize new university website at first Academic Senate meeting of the semester

A panel of deans discusses Marquee Programs with the Academic Senate Jan. 18 in the French Auditorium.

At its first meeting of the Spring 2022 semester, the Academic Senate brought up issues with the new Central Michigan University website.  

Due to technical difficulties at the meeting, the usual livestream link for the audience was not available. 

Vice President for Marketing and Communication John Veilleux and Interim Director for Digital Media Crystal Washburn joined the meeting to answer questions. 

Missing or incorrect information, broken links, crashing and department miscommunication were among some of the issues identified by senators. 

According to Veilleux, the old version of CentralLink had about 20,000 pages - 7,000 of which were included on the new website. He said the decisions on which of those pages to include were made by academic colleges. 

Senator John Allen said his colleagues on the College of Science and Engineering Communications Committee were not consulted on what content would make it to the new site. 

Senator Martha Frank said the new site “seems completely aimed at prospective undergraduate students and ignores prospective graduate students.” She said her department, mathematics, has no information for new graduate students. 

She said faculty research interests and funding are not listed for her department, which are important for attracting graduate students.

“I don’t know anybody in the graduate committee that was allowed to have any input on what went on the math department page,” Frank said. “We can’t wait for these fixes. This seems like it’s been bungled from the top down here. I am very frustrated.”    

Senator Joanna White said important information for the School of Music’s recruitment has disappeared from the website as well. Things like faculty bios, department program information, links to social media accounts for live streaming events were all things she reported missing.

Allen echoed the concerns for student recruitment.   

“In a time of dwindling enrollment, this is a slip-up we cannot afford,” Allen said. “It is a woefully underprepared website and I think the students have recognized this.”

Veilleux said if anyone notices missing content, they should work with their department collaborators to get the information displayed correctly. Veilleux also said the site is crashing “quite frequently and quite regularly.”

“For some reason beyond our control, we are unable to allow mass access to the system,” Veilleux said.  

Some senators asked whether the site was tested first to see if it would work. Veilleux said it was tested thoroughly. It is unclear when the site will be stable, he said. 

Marquee Programs discussion

A panel of Deans from each academic college also attended the senate meeting to continue answering questions about the Academic Prioritization Program. The panel was a continuation from the Nov. 23 meeting. 

Launched in Fall 2020, the process is a response to budget restraints and declining enrollment. The process, conducted by then-Provost Mary Schutten and the academic affairs division, identified programs with the highest rates of interest, completion and cost-effectiveness. 

Schutten provided a list of those 24 programs identified as "marquee."

Some senators asked how the advertising messages were chosen for departments. Senator Tracy Collins was concerned that some programs might have been excluded for being a “thinking program and not a doing program.” 

President Bob Davies said it was not a consideration.  

Interim Provost Richard Rothaus said departments do not keep “watchlists” for at-risk programs. Rothaus said Marquee programs will likely not be addressed again while he is in the interim position. 

"I think anyone at this university would probably really get annoyed if you described their program as a 'doing' program and not a 'thinking' program," Rothaus said. "There is a reality; English doesn't photograph quite as easily for We Do billboards as Meteorology or Archaeology."

Senate meetings are held from 3:30-5 p.m. bi-weekly on Tuesdays in the French Auditorium. Livestream and recording links are usually found on the senate website.