CMU Trustees focus on actions to improve inclusive campus

Board increases support for inclusivity efforts and mandatory training

| Author: Kevin Essebaggers | Media Contact: Aaron Mills

During its meetings this week, the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees addressed recent incidents involving racist language and behavior on campus and the concerns raised by students, faculty and staff.

Chair Todd Regis began Thursday’s formal session by issuing a statement on behalf of the entire Board of Trustees.

“Hateful, racist and discriminatory language and acts will not be tolerated on our campus or within our university community,” he said. “We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the incidents of the past weekend and all incidents of hate speech, bias, discrimination and racism.”

Regis announced specific actions the Board of Trustees will take to address the issue, including:

  •  Establishing yearly required inclusive excellence training for all CMU students, faculty, staff, administrators and Trustees.
  • Working with President Davies and Vice President Patterson-Stephens to provide the resources necessary to strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
  • Championing CMU’s five-year Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice and Belonging Strategic Plan and supporting its actionable goals and priorities.
  • Ensuring that the current search for CMU’s next president emphasizes a commitment to fostering inclusiveness.

Additionally, Regis promised further action to engage with students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners to identify opportunities to strengthen inclusiveness at CMU.

“On behalf of the full Board, I make you this promise: We will stand with you, we will engage with you and we will work alongside you to make this university a place where everyone feels welcome, seen and supported,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Trustees  unanimously authorized the establishment of yearly required inclusive excellence training for all CMU students, faculty, staff, administrators and Trustees. The training will be implemented beginning in the fall of 2024.

In his opening remarks, CMU President Bob Davies also addressed the recent incidents. He also acknowledged broader issues surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion at CMU that he says demand attention and action.

“All of our students, faculty and staff deserve to live, learn and work in a community that empowers and supports them,” he said. “We are going to create that environment together.” 

Presidential search update

Chair of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, Trustee Denise Williams Mallett provided an update on the university’s effort to select the next president. She said a dedicated presidential search landing page has successfully been added to CMU’s website. The page serves as a hub for updates, community engagement and the search timeline.

Williams Mallett also reported that search firm WittKieffer has held numerous listening sessions to develop a presidential profile. More than 200 people have participated in these sessions and the firm has received more than 350 survey responses, she said.  

“I am pleased to report that the process is advancing well and has been supported strongly by the entire CMU community,” Mallett said.

Mallett said she expects to have a finalized presidential profile in the coming weeks, and that recruitment should begin around the first week of June. The committee expects to review candidates, conduct interviews and recommend finalists for the position this summer, she said.

College of Science and Engineering spotlight

Dean David Ford of CMU’s College of Science and Engineering was invited to present highlights of CSE’s recruitment, academic and research initiatives.

Ford said a partnership with the Engineering Society of Detroit is boosting recruitment efforts through the Girls in Engineering Academy. He said CMU will host a new cohort of girls this summer. He also applauded CMU’s involvement in hosting the FIRST Robotics competition on campus in March.

In the area of academics and research, Ford announced the addition of a Biotechnology major in the fall of 2024, and the securing of accreditation for several CSE programs.

 As a particular point of pride, Ford shared the growth of the InSciTe program.

 “We are figuring out ways to reduce barriers around the STEM fields and make it accessible and get students to believe they are a STEM-capable person,” Ford said.  

Enrollment optimism and FAFSA

During a meeting of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee on Wednesday, CMU Vice President of Recruitment and Retention Jennifer DeHaemers reported encouraging trends in new student enrollment for the fall 2024 semester. She said freshmen deposits are up 2% and orientation reservations are up 7% over this time last year. She also reported that transfer and international student enrollment is trending positively.

DeHaemers also addressed challenges caused by the federal government’s issues with the  Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA contains information necessary for colleges and universities to determine financial aid packages for incoming students; however, rollout and processing of FAFSA forms were delayed this year.

In spite of these challenges, DeHaemers said CMU is in a good position with FAFSA completions and has received more than 17,000 completed forms.

“We are beating the trend, because Michigan and the country are saying most freshmen and other new students are behind in completing FAFSAs, but we are actually ahead,” DeHaemers said.

Other committee business

In committee meetings held Wednesday, students, faculty and staff presented reports to Trustees on a variety of topics.

The Academic and Student Affairs committee heard from Rob VanDorin, director of CMU’s Career Development Center, on initiatives to help students explore and prepare for successful careers. These will support students from the moment they arrive at CMU through graduation and beyond.

The committee also heard from Interim Vice President of Student Affairs on the successes of First Gen Central and CMU’s Alternative Breaks program, which is now the nation’s second largest program of its kind. Luke Theis of CMU Competitive Gaming also offered a presentation on student success through Esports at CMU.

Finally, the committee listened to a presentation from CMU Provost and Executive Vice President Nancy Mathews on the Academic Senate’s support of using the Yale policy of Free Expression. Mathews also announced the success of recent Real Dialogue Institute training workshops and the Dialogue Institute Day of Learning.

The Finance and Facilities Committee received an update on campus maintenance and construction projects from Jonathan Webb, associate vice president of Facilities Management. CMU Police Lt. Mike Sienkiewicz also updated the committee on campus security measures, including building access controls and the campus security camera system.

The Trustees-Faculty Liaison Committee listened to faculty members Tracy Davis and Jonathan Truitt, who offered a presentation on the Center for Learning Through Games and Simulations. They highlighted the center’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning and student success through engagement and enhancement of critical thinking skills. During the presentation, Trustee Todd Anson made a personal financial pledge to help the center create a game-based DEI training module.

The Trustees-Student Liaison Committee began with a student perspective on this week’s events delivered by Kenndall Wallace. The meeting also included the introduction of and remarks from incoming student leaders of SGA, Program Board and Residence Housing Association. Student Government Association President Tyler Zimmerman and Vice President Ryan Biller updated Trustees on SGA activities, including the consideration of legislation to support environmentally sustainable projects on campus. The committee also heard reports from Hadlee Rinn, Program Board president, and Christian Toney, Residence Hall Association president.

Additional board actions

In Thursday’s formal session, Trustees expressed support for the CMU Research Corporation and approved an extension to the university’s formal relationship with the CMURC. Trustees agreed to fund the CMURC at a level of $500,000 annually through 2029.

Additionally, Trustees approved a motion authorizing the president to sign agreements related to the College of Medicine’s involvement in the Medical Diamond Project.

Trustees also approved several items on the consent agenda, including:

  • Authorizing the refinancing of general revenue bonds to realize cost savings.
  • Granting emeritus status to seven faculty and staff members.
  • Approval of 2,443 prospective spring 2024 graduates.
  • Granting an honorary degree to Robert Oros, Chairman and CEO of Hightower.
  • Appointing directors to the CMU Research Corporation.

An electronic copy of the president’s report will soon be available on the Office of the President webpage, and meeting minutes will be added to the Board of Trustees webpage following their approval at the next meeting. 

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