From union negotiations to mental health services

CMU Board of Trustees Committees meet before full session

The Chair of the Finance and Facilities Committee Edward Plawecki presents a brief summary of what the committee has been working on at the Sept. 28 Board of Trustees meeting.

On Feb. 5, the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees held a series of public committee meetings. They discussed a variety of topics such as the consolidation of mental health services, union negotiations, and the withdrawal fee. 

Four committees held consecutive meetings with the board:

  • Academic and Student Affairs Committee
  • Finance and Facilities Committee
  • Faculty Liaison Committee
  • Student Liaision Committee

Central Michigan Life staff watched each of these meetings. Here's what was discussed at each.

Academic and Student Affairs Committee

Two new programs are being launched at Central to benefit students and citizens’ mental health.

Renee Watson, the Vice President of Student Affairs, said that the department is planning to rebrand the CMU Cares initiative by combining and connecting it with other mental health services on campus. She said they are aiming to combine all of the mental health service departments into one building.

“Student life, health, and safety is critical to their success,” Watson said. “We want all students to remain and be well.”

She said this remodel would also help these different mental health departments communicate better with one another and become a “tight, integrated model.”

“The goal of this model is to reduce some of the stigma associated with these offices, leveraging staff expertise and the synergistic wellness model to realistically care for students,” Watson said.

Additionally, Allison Arnold, the director of the Rural Health Equity Institute, announced they will be launching a telehealth program to serve those in rural areas who are in need of mental health services. This is being done by launching a satellite at the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce.

“We are thrilled to be able to provide our services both here and by serving our region,” she said.

Arnold said 20% of Michigan’s population resides in rural areas, and those in rural areas are more likely to face issues with poverty, inaccessibility to public transportation and health services and higher rates of suicide. 

She said the telehealth services could help those in rural areas get access to suicide prevention materials, and it could help local communities gather data on what’s affecting their community members most post-COVID.

“The success of rural communities is absolutely essential for Michigan prosperity,” Arnold said.

Enrollment and application numbers were also discussed at the meeting, and it was found that the university has received over 21,000 applications as of Feb. 2024. 

Jennifer Dehaemers, the Vice President of Student Recruitment and Retention, said there was an increase of around 3,000 applicants compared to fall 2023, and they expect to see an increase in admission numbers in the fall of 2025.

“We’re really excited about the number of students that are participating… and that should make a difference in enrollment in the long term,” she said.

Additionally, the Board also discussed that FAFSA processing has been delayed yet again and the Department of Education will not be processing forms until March of this year. As a result, they have seen a decline in students submitting their initial $200 deposit by 11.6%, as parents are unsure of the aid their students will receive.

To combat this, Dehaemers said the university is pushing back the deposit submission deadline from May 1 to June 1, and they may offer refunds as needed. 

“It’s estimated that over 2 million more students will be receiving a Pell Grant this year,” she said. “I think that this additional investment is going to help families understand where it might be the best place for them to get their education, and also where they can afford it.”

Finance and Facilities Committee

During today’s Finance and Facilities Committee meeting, CMU Vice President Mary Hill presented four items that are up for approval at tomorrow’s full session of the board. 

The first was renovations to the Merrill Dining facility, which Hill said is funded by CMU’s contracted food company Chartwells. This was part of the 2021 contract. 

The renovations also bring in the deferred maintenance plans for the building as they were approved at the December meeting of the Board of Trustees. 

“We’ll be wrapping that all together so that we can be efficient and economical on that project,” Hill said. 

Also on the table for tomorrow’s full session is permission for the president to sign contracts with the three campus unions that are up for bargaining: 

  • Central Michigan Command Officers Association (CMCOA)
  • Fraternal Order of Police (MiFOP)
  • Michigan Educators' Association (MEA), which is affiliated with the Faculty Association

“This is a standard procedure that we do at this time every year when we have collective bargaining that will begin,” trustee Edward Plawecki said. 

Hill also brought forward an increase to the tuition of the College of Medicine. 

For the 2023-24 academic year, these were the tuition costs (not including fees and indirect costs): 

  • In-state: $43,952
  • Out-of-state: $64,062

Coming in the 2025-26 academic year is an increase of 3% to in-state tuition and 5% to out-of-state tuition, making this the tuition cost: 

  • In-state: $47,535
  • Out-of-state: $70,618

“The rationale would be the increased cost that we continue to have through inflation just by running the programs,” Plawecki said. 

The land owned and operated by CMU called “Veit’s Woods” is being considered for city construction of a bike path to campus. 

“We’re requesting that the Board of Trustees authorize the president to grant an easement to the city of Mount Pleasant to construct a path connecting the CMU campus with the Chipp-A-Waters park,” Hill said.

She added that this would be part of a statewide “rails-to-trails” program aimed at creating a bike path that connects Detroit to Traverse City.  

The last item reviewed on the agenda would allow the president to sign off on the sale of an estate by a 1966 alumnus, Hartley Lenover, who granted 25% of the value of his property in Sarasota Florida to CMU. 

The sale-in-progress by Lenore’s estate manager allows for a $400,000 home value, Interim Vice President for Advancement Jennifer Coffer said. This would bring $100,000 to CMU by donation. 

Trustees-Faculty Liaison Committee

AnnMarie Bates, the coordinator for the Summer Speech Language Specialty Clinics, and Allison Peart, the director of the Approved Autism Evaluation Center announced some of the interprofessional partnerships they have developed within their clinics. 

According to the meeting agenda, these partnerships provide educational experience, collaboration and a unique training experience for health professions students. 

Key takeaways from the presentation: 

  • With the expanding needs of the families and children they serve, the Carls Center for Clinical Care and Education will work to bring in professionals from diverse disciplines. 
  • Interprofessional partnerships within the clinics gives students real-world experience into the collaborative efforts needed to address the needs of individuals seeking care. 
  • The need for healthcare providers, especially diagnostic service providers has grown in the area, leading to years-long waitlists.

Reporting on this meeting is incomplete due to technical difficulties on the part of the session's livestream. 

Trustees-Student Liaision Committee

The Trustee-Student Liaison committee meeting had four items on the agenda, a Student Affairs Update, Student Government Association (SGA) report, the Program Board Report and the Resident Housing Association Report. 

Student affairs partnered with central sustainability on a policy audit. They looked into purchasing habits and what was being purchased in regards to student engagement through a lens of sustainability. 

Megan Vandamme and Tiffany Jurge, members of the Central Sustainability team, explained the achievements and goals of the project.

“From this research we created and proposed achievable and impactful goals that will foster more mindful purchasing moving forward to lower the carbon footprint and reduce waste and overconsumption at CMU,” Vandamme said.

Ryan Biller, SGA vice president, shared changes to the constitutions and bylaws of the SGA. 

“This past fall while attending the SGA conference in Washington D.C we did an audit to the SGA constitution and found that we were missing a third branch of government, the judicial branch,” Biller said, “The proposed judicial branch includes five justices to be elected by campus election… their job is to provide advice and rulings based on the SGA constitution and bylaws.” 

They also have worked to streamline sections of the constitution and bylaws to make it simpler for students to read and understand. 

SGA President Tyler Zimmerman also discussed the $50 withdrawal fee to in person classes. Jennifer Dehaemers has previously been part of this discussion, and further explained how the withdrawal fee would affect students with extenuating circumstances or errors in advising, including tuition refunding.

“There is already a provision for students to appeal for extenuating circumstances when they need to withdraw from classes, and those require… death, serious illness, those kinds of things, or an error on our part… tuition can be refunded during that process," Dehaemers said. 

"So while the $50 fee is nonrefundable for students who have extenuating circumstances, there is a process for them to go through to be able to get tuition back."

There is also an offset policy that was introduced this fall, occurring up through the 25th day of the semester, where students can swap a three credit hour class for another without having to pay for both. 

Hadlee Rinn, Program Board President, gave an overview of upcoming events including Maroonsy, an end of the year carnival celebration on April 26, Valentine's Day events and more. 

“We would like [Maroonsy] to be obviously a campus event but we’d like the Mount Pleasant community to be involved as well,” Rinn said.

Program Board is also transitioning their E-board, as six of 12 E-board members are not returning next year, with applications for President and Vice-President open until Feb.12 and the rest of the director applications open from Feb. 23 to March 11. 

Finally, the RHA President Christian Toney introduced new changes to RHA, including that their inventory becoming available to the public and residents to be used towards their own events, and measures for accountability and transparency. 

Aliza Punches, RHA’s director of administration, also shared resident’s opinions on the new layouts of the dining halls. 

Positive feedback surrounding virtual dining at Merrill is students saying they can order on their way too or from class and have it usually done when they get their, as well as consistent menus and the student choice options. 

However, students also expressed issues with the 15 minute wait between orders and the food being mostly fried or greasy, with less fresh food options than Dine and Connect and the Eatery. Other issues include it only being open Monday through Thursday.

“I know they said it’s been a budget issue to have it open on the weekends, a lot of people would like it to be open at least on Fridays,” Punches said. 

Tomorrow, at 11 a.m. on Feb. 6, is the full session of the Board of Trustees, which is open to the public. Their agenda is available on the CMU website, along with a link to livestream the meeting.