BLOG: Presidential Perspectives

Embracing our promise to be responsible and accountable

Note for readers: The following post was adapted from an email sent to CMU students, faculty and staff Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. 

Over the past few days, you have likely seen headlines regarding CMU’s decision to award scholarships to students impacted by a messaging error last weekend. In today’s message, I want to ensure that the members of our university community understand what went wrong and how we have chosen to follow our Leadership Standards and core values to make things right for our prospective students. 

Our messaging error
This year, CMU invested in a new recruitment and enrollment management system that allows us to more proactively communicate with and respond to the needs of future students. Late last week, while testing this new platform, messages about the Centralis Scholar Award were inadvertently posted in the student portal. Nearly 60 prospective students who were logged into the portal during that time saw a message indicating they had been selected to receive the prestigious scholarship when most had not, in fact, been chosen.

Understandably, many of these students were extremely excited, and they began sharing the good news with their families and friends. When they later learned that they had seen the message in error, many experienced tremendous disappointment, frustration and sadness. 

Making it right
We made a mistake, and we needed to make it right. At CMU, we hold ourselves accountable for our actions — integrity leads the list of our core values. Our Leadership Standards require us to be responsible and accountable; so when we err, we own our mistakes and we take corrective action. In this instance, this meant honoring our offer. 

Our admissions team immediately reached out to impacted students to make amends. We first offered each impacted student a moderate increase to their existing scholarship award, but quickly realized this did not live up to the expectations set by our message. Therefore, we increased each impacted student’s award to the equivalent of a full-tuition scholarship.

Let me be clear: These are outstanding prospective students, and each of them is deserving of scholarship support. Every applicant to the Centralis competition was already eligible to receive other CMU scholarships, including the Maroon and Gold Award. They were chosen to compete for Centralis because they demonstrated exceptional scholarly achievement and a passion for learning, service and leadership. Each will make a wonderful addition to our community of scholars if they choose to attend CMU.

Will this cost us additional money? Yes. As we do every year for a variety of reasons, we will find ways to slightly adjust our budget. I can tell you with confidence that we will award these scholarships from our general fund without using donor dollars or shifting resources away from the budget for any division or department on campus. This will not negatively impact current students or employees, or other future students — including the students who were selected to receive Centralis and Centralis Gold awards. 

We set the leadership standard
As champions of lifelong learning, we are embracing this moment as a learning opportunity. We quickly identified the cause of the miscommunication, and we are providing training and information to staff to ensure that similar mistakes do not occur in the future. 

This is what we are known for at CMU: We are a community of scholars who choose to do the right things for the right reasons every day, even when it is hard — especially when it is hard. This has not been an easy lesson, but we can hold our heads high knowing that we acted in alignment with the core values and leadership standards that define our community. Above all, we can take pride in knowing we made the choice that was best for our students. 

Blog: Presidential Perspectives posted | Last Modified: | Author: by Bob Davies, CMU President
The views and opinions expressed in these blog pages are strictly those of the page author.