EDITORIAL: Time for rest after an incredibly difficult year

Views of CMU’s Warriner Hall around sunset, Monday, Nov. 8.

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated Judy Idema was "removed from her position as Assistant Director." Idema was not removed, her position as Associate Director of the Honors Program was eliminated. The story ahs been updated with the correct information. 

Just one week left. 

In a matter of days, students will complete their remaining exams. Seniors will walk across the stage. Wooden carts will crowd residence halls. Traffic on Mission Street will be significantly less chaotic.  

A very interesting year at CMU is ended. It’s time for some reflection.

This year saw some much-needed relief from COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Not only have health and safety guidelines loosened but we also saw increased campus involvement with more in-person events and activities. 

COVID-19 vaccination and testing programs helped keep the campus safe. Now, we’re seeing a much-needed, hard-earned return to normalcy. 

Some other highlights include a historic win at the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, CMU being nationally recognized for its sustainability efforts and a long-awaited development project being completed downtown – offering a new place for residents to live and to shop local. 

This year also saw CMU being thrust into the national spotlight for its very public mistakes and poor leadership from administrators and the board of trustees. 

Enrollment saw another year of decline making it the forefront of conversations about CMU’s future. In January, 58 prospective students received a congratulatory message saying they had won the Centralis Scholarship by mistake, resulting in the university offering full-tuition scholarships to each of the students.

Back on campus, many more incidents led to backlash from students, faculty and staff. 

CMU switched its campus food provider from Aramark to Chartwells and absolutely botched the rollout. Many students complained about the quality of the food and lack of dining choices and hours. Staffing shortages persisted leading to some dining halls closing early or indefinitely.  

Students had to navigate an unfinished website when they returned to campus after holiday break. Reports of missing content, broken links and crashes flooded social media. Some, but not all, concerns with the new cmich.edu have been addressed as of April. 

Faculty repeatedly claimed a lack of shared governance at Academic Senate meetings regarding COVID-19 protocol, budget cuts and more. 

Their concerns were echoed by students when the board of trustees attempted to move forward with the Washington Commons residential halls project without much consultation from the campus community. The board has delayed the approval of the residence halls but has moved forward with other aspects of the project. 

Administrators continue to hold townhall listening sessions for this and other topics on campus  - but it's debatable how much listening they are actually doing at those sessions

Trustees also conducted a performance review of Davies. Its 25-question survey completed by less than 200 “university stakeholders” resulted in overwhelmingly positive results for Davies. 

Chair Rich Studley called Davies' performance “outstanding” before awarding Davies a $35,000 base salary increase and a $75,000 one-time bonus.

However, when CM Life surveyed the campus community (receiving 501 responses from people with cmich.edu emails) with the same questions used by the board, results were overwhelmingly negative toward the president’s leadership. 

In April, a "fact-finding" report about the beleaguered Honors Program and the problems that took place last spring was released with little context or detail. Last year, the elimination of the Honors Program Associate Director position held by Judy Idema resulted in a protest by many honors students. The Faculty Association stated problems with the program, and pressure from their union, directly resulted in the forced resignations of Provost Mary Schutten and Associate Provost Julia Johnson in the fall. That also failed to make it into the report.

It seemed like everyone whose livelihoods depend on a healthy CMU had to contend with a campus controversy. And the campus watched as many good CMU employees either left the university or were asked to leave.

After a tumultuous year, it’s certainly time for a well-deserved break. 

But as you pack your bags and finish your last assignments, it’s important to remember how much you matter here. You’ve shown it by engaging with CM Life – the voice of the student body.

This year, CM Life published many letters to the editor and multiple guest columns submitted by students, staff and community members – the most we have received since before the pandemic.

Engaging with student media amplifies your voice and sends a clear message to those in power:  “We will be HEARD; We will not be IGNORED.”

Use this summer to rest and prepare to come back to Mount Pleasant to make the most out of another year at CMU. 

For those who are graduating, you will certainly do amazing things with your CMU degree. Take the lessons you learned here and work to make the world a better place. 

From all of us at Central Michigan Life, thank you not just for your readership, but for your continued engagement with and support of our work. 

We can’t wait to see you again in the fall. Until then, we'll be watching campus while you are away. We've got you covered, CMU.