'Only the beginning'

CMU Board of Trustees meets, takes action


Central Michigan junior Danielle Lewis addresses her concerns to the Board of Trustees, Thursday, April 18, in the Bovee University Center President's Conference Room. 

The presidential conference room may be on the third floor of the Bovee University Center, but those three floors didn’t stop the music from the protest outside the building from seeping into the room Thursday. 

The faint music was yet another reminder of the question of the day: How will the Board of Trustees respond to the racial slurs used by students and staff? 

If you ask the Chair of the Board Todd Regis, trustees are responding not just with words, but with action. He presented an action plan on behalf of the board at its formal session on Thursday. 

“Together with the president and other university leaders, we have taken immediate action on these most recent incidents,” he said. 

Regis added a list of actions they will be committing to: 

  • Working with Dr. Shawna Patterson-Stephens to provide necessary resources to strengthen DEI initiatives and mitigate future incidents; 
  • Champion CMU’s 5-year DEI Strategic Plan by supporting its actionable goals and priorities;
  • Authorizing the immediate establishment of yearly required DEI training for all CMU students, faculty, staff, administrators and trustees to be implemented fall of 2024;
  • Ensure the presidential search emphasizes commitment to fostering inclusiveness in the community. 

“This will not be the extent of our action,” he said. “This is only the beginning. We will continue to engage with our students, faculty, staff and alumni partners to identify opportunities to strengthen inclusiveness at CMU.” 

Four student leaders participated in public comment during the meeting: 

  • Imani Ellsworth (junior)
  • Danielle Lewis (senior)
  • Kendall Wallace (junior)
  • Carnell Poindexter (sophomore)
Central Michigan junior Imani Ellsworth gives her proposal to the Board of Trustees, Thursday, April 18, in the Bovee University Center President's Conference Room.

Wallace also spoke at the Trustee-Student Liaison Committee meeting Wednesday, and has been an active organizer of protests happening on campus. She said the action plan is a great start, but it needs student input and time to see if it comes through. 

“I don’t know if we can be immediately satisfied … but I’m glad there is an action plan,” she said. 

When she addressed the board, she emphasized the importance of transparency in the whole process.

“There’s not a lot of opportunity for us to communicate with the board. … When there is an issue, we don’t know who to turn to,” Wallace said. She also said she would join a revitalized Black student union. 

Lewis emphasized the importance of learning intercultural competency, not just cultural competency. 

She said the difference is not just learning about a culture or understanding the history, but being able to apply that knowledge in human interactions. Investing in programs with this kind of education will apply not only to the African-American community, but other minoritized communities as well, Lewis said. 

In the future, Lewis said she’s going to keep doing “exactly what we’re doing now,” by asking questions, involving the student body in decision making and moving concerns up the chain of command. 

“This is not my first rodeo … but this is the first time the Board of Trustees has moved forward so quickly,” she said. 

Ellsworth reminded the board to bring in people of diverse races and backgrounds to instruct these DEI trainings. 

“You cannot teach diversity, equity and inclusion as a cis white person,” she said. “You can’t teach what you don’t know.” 

She also invited the board to attend Saturday’s peaceful protest, and said they’re expecting a good turnout from the CMU community and even invited other schools to participate. 

President Bob Davies said he would be at the protest on Saturday, and thanked the students for speaking and organizing. 

“You have demonstrated incredible leadership in the last week,” he said. “To our students, faculty and staff, I appreciate you for participating in this dialogue.”