Takeaways from CMU Board of Trustees April 20 committee meetings

The CMU Board of Trustees met in committees on April 20 in the Lake Superior Room and livestreamed via Chipcast.

The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees met on April 20 to prepare for its April 21 formal meeting.

The board met in committees from 1:15 to 6 p.m. The meetings were live streamed and there were 25 seats open to the public to attend in person.

The trustees discussed the Mentor Collective Program, the Washington Commons Project and concerns from faculty and students.

The board will meet for their live-streamed formal meeting at 11:30 a.m. on April 21, which will also have seats for people to attend in-person.

Academic and Student Affairs Committee

Interim Provost Richard Rothaus gave an update on CMU’s status as a test optional institution. CMU adopted this status during the pandemic to provide incoming students the option to submit test scores during their application. The university will be extending the policy for the next recruitment year.

"We're interested in looking at some key indicators for example, what's our year one to year two retention data with students who entered CMU on a test optional stance," Rothaus said. "We don't know because we're not in year two yet."

The committee moved on to discussing the CMU Mentor Collective Program in which freshman  and transfer students are paired with an upperclassmen mentor. 

Vice President of Recruitment and Retention Jennifer DeHaemers and Executive Director of Student Inclusion and Diversity James Span provided an update on the program. Currently, the program is working on training and recruiting mentors for the upcoming academic year. 

Additionally, the update gave information on the mentor-mentee matching system. This system looks at similarities, such as common interests, background, academics and professional aspirations, between mentors and mentees to provide a better fit.

The committee closed with discussing innovation of CMU's global campus. Elizabeth Kirby, interim dean of the College of the Arts and Media, and Ernie Bedford, executive director of Global Campus, discussed the idea of changing the name of Global Campus. 

"There are so many online out there," Kirby said. "(Students) aren't finding us."

Finance and Facilities 

Johnathan Webb, associate vice president of Facilities Management, and Kathleen Gardner, executive director of Student Affairs, gave an update on the CMU Campus Master Plan.

“We have not stayed competitive with other institutions in the state,” Gardner said.

The plan includes a three-step process of renovations on Carey and Troutman Halls, demolishing Kewadin Village and Northwest Apartments and the construction of Washington Commons by the Fall 2024 semester.

Gardner said the purpose of the project is to appeal to older students with modern on-campus  housing, so they can serve as role models, contribute to campus life and have year-round housing. 

“This is designed for upper-class students,” Gardner said. “Not for families,”. 

Washington Commons will replace Kewadin and Northwest because “they have reached their end-of-life,” according to the CMU Facility Condition Index.  

Once the board approves the demolition of Northwest Apartments and the building of Washington Commons, there will be 100 fewer apartment opening on on campus. 

Currently, the Board of Trustees has approved $14 million to complete the design of Washington Commons, construction of Lot 75 and the demolition of Kewadin Village. The university is still waiting on an approval of $121 million from the board to build Washington Commons, modify Lot 22 and demolish Northwest Apartments.

Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services Nicholas Long said the income from the project alone will not cover the debt. 

“If we don’t make the adjustments to the budget, we would improve, but it would take more than 10 years to get to the point of a positive financial result for our [residence life],” Long explained. 

The topic of Washington Commons will be revisited by the Board of Trustees by Sept. 30.   

Trustees-Faculty Liaison Committee

Gregory Smith, history department chair, and Tracy Davis, English language and literature faculty member, discussed balancing faculty workload.

Smith said that faculty have had increased responsibilities in the realms of teaching and service, while still expected to produce research. He said that making classes more engaging has created a greater time investment, but a better environment to teach and learn in.

Additionally, Smith said service expectations for faculty has expanded into the areas of public relations, designing newsletters and alumni relations. 

Davis prefaced that she enjoys the service portion of her position, but her time dedicated to service work has been increasing.

“We need to be able to manage,” Davis said. “I will say my colleagues are doing an amazing job doing it, but I worry about what’s coming, like how long can they maintain it.”

The faculty also mentioned the finalists in this years New Venture Challengewill present on April 22 from 1-8 p.m. in the Health Professions Building.

Trustees-Student Liaison Committee 

The committee discussed updates on behalf of the Residence Housing Association, Campus Life, and the Student Government Association. 

RHA updated the board on recently passed legislation which aims to change the night-time dorm check-in policy. 

SGA Vice President Dylan Baker gave an update on Campus Life and talked about the recent success of the SGA election. Baker was pleased to see an increase in participation both from voters and candidates.

SGA President Katelyn King discussed recent successes of the food pantry, including a partnership with Chartwells and an initiative to stop ticketing in the parking lots during hours of operation. King said the food pantry wants to bring in more visitors, but the biggest issue is location and the state of the facility. 

“When it rains the pantry begins to experience flooding in the space,” King said. “In addition to the flooding, there are many exposed wires and electrical hazards.” 

King suggested some alternative spaces, but Board of Trustees Chair Richard Studley said the Food Pantry cannot change locations until the university finds a large space that has proper cooling and electrical amenities.

Trustee Sharon Heath expressed concern for the hazardous state of the current location and asked for an update on the space at the next meeting. 

Newly elected SGA President Taylor Idema gave a statement regarding her concerns with the state of the Honors Program and read a list of questions on behalf of the students in the program.

For SGA next year, newly elected SGA Vice President Natalie Brant requests tuition breakdown to promote transparency between students and faculty, and also wants to achieve inclusivity by adding a Student Disability Services Liaison to the Board of Trustees. Brant is also advocating for a women's center and a lounge for students with disabilities.