Trustees temporarily pause Washington Commons development

CMU to focus first on budget, stabilizing enrollment

| Author: Ari Harris | Media Contact: Ari Harris

During its formal session Thursday, April 21, the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees voted to temporarily delay a decision on the proposed Washington Commons residential community project.

Following discussion in the Finance and Facilities Committee meeting Wednesday, the board agreed to revisit plans for the four-building residential community on or before Sept. 30, allowing the university to focus first on the budget process and to address concerns raised by students, faculty and staff.

Trustee Edward Plawecki Jr. said the decision to postpone will allow the university to pursue the most prudent path forward.

“We will continue to take in meaningful information to make an intelligent decision, which will be in the best interest of Central Michigan University,” he said.

In a written proposal for board action, the trustees also noted, “providing quality, affordable student housing on campus remains an important part of our enrollment strategy and will remain an important part of CMU’s capital improvement plan.”

The board voted to move forward with previously approved projects, including demolition of Kewadin Village apartments, the development of a new parking area, lot 75, for first-year and special event overflow parking, and design and modifications to existing parking lots 39 and 43.

Board Chair Richard K. Studley said trustees are working with university leaders to prepare a variety of budget scenarios for the year ahead. Instead of across-the-board cuts, CMU will instead make strategic investments in priority areas and reductions in areas that make sense, he said. 

“In the upcoming budget process, know that our top priority must be student success,” he said. “We will encourage and support those programs that have rigor, relevance and excellence and can produce demonstrable results in terms of student success.”

CMU President Bob Davies said he will present a balanced budget proposal to the board at its June meeting. 

Other board action
Trustees approved 2,509 May graduates, who will be recognized during commencement ceremonies May 6-7 in McGuirk Arena, inside the John. G. Kulhavi Events Center. 

“Earning a college degree is never a small feat; earning a college degree during a global pandemic is truly a monumental achievement,” Davies said. “Our graduates have shown remarkable grit and determination.”

Trustees also presented emeritus status to nine long-serving CMU faculty and staff members, accepted the contributions report for the quarter ended March 31, approved naming opportunities, and approved new scholarships and endowments.

Highlights from Wednesday’s committee meetings included:
  • In the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, Interim Provost Richard Rothaus said CMU’s Academic Senate has approved an extension of test-optional admissions for another year. Rothaus said many students were unable to complete standardized tests, such as the SAT, for their college applications during the pandemic, and some still struggle to complete them. Trustees also received an update on the success of the Mentor Collective peer-to-peer mentoring program from James Span Jr., executive director of student inclusion and diversity, and Jewel Larkins, assistant director of mentoring initiatives.
  • During the Trustees-Faculty Liaison Committee, faculty members Greg Smith, History, and Tracy Davis, English Language and Literature, shared reflections on the struggle to balance requirements of research, teaching and service necessary for faculty tenure and promotion. Trustees also heard a presentation on the New Venture Challenge, which holds its closing event Friday, April 22 from Julie Messing, director of the Isabella Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship, and David Nows, entrepreneurship department chair.
  • Trustees thanked outgoing Student Government Association leaders Kate King and Dylan Baker, and welcomed incoming leaders Taylor Idema and Natalie Brant, during the Trustees-Student Liaison Committee meeting.

President’s report
In his opening report to the board, CMU President Bob Davies shared an update on CMU’s enrollment projections for the coming year.

“We can, and we should, celebrate these first steps in the right direction. But we also need to recognize that these are preliminary and we will still have enrollment challenges and pressures,” Davies said.

Davies noted that CMU currently projects enrollment increases for first-time-in-any-college, transfer and international students, as well as increases for both undergraduate and graduate students in CMU Global Campus and online programs.

He also acknowledged a wide range of accomplishments and achievements by CMU faculty, staff and students, such as:
  • CMU now leads Mid-American Conference schools for growth in scholarly output, and has received more than $17.1 million in grants so far this year — an increase over the prior year.
  • Two students recognized for academic and service excellence: Macy Knoblock, Goldwater Scholarship recipient, and Christa Paull, Newman Civic Fellowship recipient.
  • Carl Lee, chair of the Department of Statistics, Actuarial and Data Sciences, who was named Distinguished Professor of the Year by the Michigan Association of State Universities.
  • John Nichol, School of Music, recognized with a MAC Outstanding Faculty Award for Student Success.

“Our university is strong,” Davies said. “It is strong because of the efforts of our faculty, staff, students, alumni, supporters and partners. We are viable, and the work taking place at our university every day is vital to our community, our state and the people we serve.”

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