Provost Gary Shapiro: Last year’s vote of no confidence was ‘not pleasant’

By Tony Wittkowski | Senior Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Last year’s vote of no confidence against University President George Ross and Provost Gary Shapiro came as a shock to Shapiro.

During a meeting with Central Michigan Life staff members Friday, Shapiro said he felt he had been doing his best to fulfill his job responsibilities last year.

“I will say it was not pleasant. It was not pleasant professionally, it was not pleasant personally,” Shapiro said. “To have a vote of no confidence where I believed I was acting appropriately and had been fulfilling my job responsibilities to the best of my ability (and then) having the faculty disagree was disturbing.”

Shapiro taught in CMU’s sociology, anthropology and social work department from 1978 until 1989. He was appointed director of institutional research in 1989, assistant vice provost for institutional research and planning in 1993, and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 1995. He served as interim registrar and vice provost from 1994-95. Shapiro was dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences since July 1997, and served as interim provost in 2007 and from July 2009 until April 2010, when he was named provost.

Shapiro said he formed friendships with other faculty members throughout the years and those friendships seemed to dissolve at the end of last year.

“What was disturbing is some of the people that I thought I had friendly relationships with engaged in some of those activities without talking to me about them,” he said.

After the initial vote of no confidence on Dec. 6, a second vote was brought forward in Academic Senate, but was later dismissed.

The proposed second vote occurred after the provost and president went to different departments to listen to the problems of the faculty in person. At least one department refused to meet with Ross and Shapiro, and others expressed either support or discourse for the situation.

“I found meetings with faculty to be very beneficial in the sense that we could hear their concerns directly rather than being filtered through a spokesperson or the newspaper,” Shapiro said.

The tensions caused by events last year did nothing but harm the university, Shapiro said.

“The conflict and discourse that we had last year was harmful to the university. I think our faculty and administration are really concerned about our students and I don’t think that conflict was helpful to them. It was distracting and not functional for the purposes of the university,” he said.

Looking forward, Shapiro said unity between the faculty and administration is essential in order for relations to improve.

“One of the things that really bothers me is we talk about both sides of the aisle as if that divides us. We shouldnt have an aisle betewen us. We should be committed to the university. We are one university.”

Open lines of communication, increased transparency and regular meeting with departments and deans are on Shapiro’s list of things to improve this academic year.

“The people I have been talking to have been saying ‘let’s move forward together.’ There’s still distrust on both sides, but the way you gain trust is not by words, but by action,” he said. ”I can’t just say ‘I’m going to to communicate more’ to make people happy unless my actions follow my words.”

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 12, 2012)

Shapiro outlines academic prioritization, university goals for the 2012-13 year

By Tony Wittkowski | Senior Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Almost $3.7 million of university funds will go toward supporting the highest priority programs from University Provost Gary Shapiro’s academic prioritization recommendations in 2011.

Academic prioritization began as a joint project between Shapiro and University President George Ross. The report evaluates 401 programs, placing them into priorities ranked one through five. Priority five programs are “candidate(s) for reduction, phase out or consolidation with another program,” while priority one programs are “candidates for enhancement.”

Since the prioritization results have come out, some high priority departments have received additional funding, graduate assistants and new regular faculty members. While the highest priority programs will receive the most money, $800,000 has been set aside for second priority programs.

“What’s happening is we’ve put money aside from our central funding to support these high priority programs,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said one or two staff people have been hired so far, but most of the searches are still underway for new faculty.

“There are currently many searches being conducted in each of the academic colleges for new regular faculty positions which are intended to support and strengthen our high priority programs,” he said.

The possibility of another academic prioritization report being released in five years is being considered.

“I assumed the university will continue to do this kind of prioritization on a regular basis,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro said three years would be considered too soon to rank the university programs, while seven to 10 years down the road would be too long.

“Things change, the external environment changes, policy changes and certain fields become more popular and in demand,” Shapiro said. “We have to review them on a continuous basis because some programs have already begun the process of transition.”

Salma Ghanem, dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, said her programs have received rankings anywhere from a Priority 1 to a Priority 5.

“All the rankings were based on a matrix including importance of the program, quality of the program, opportunity for growth and opportunity for program improvement,” Ghanem said. “We appealed a couple of the rankings and they were changed.”

Ghanem said academic prioritization is a valuable process and should probably be done every five to 10 years.

In the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, dean Pamela Gates said at least 10 percent of CHSBS appeared in each of the highest and lowest priority rankings.

All 97 programs were evaluated at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels for CHSBS.

“We were able to identify strong programs that needed additional investment to grow even stronger and we were able to identify less successful programs that needed significant work to be viable,” Gates said.

A couple of the ranking changes were discussed, but the changes were not significant issues and were not appealed through the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Academic goals for the 2012-13 school year 

Following a year full of turmoil, the university is focused on improving academics this year.

One of the main goals for the university is to continue getting the College of Medicine up and running in time for the first class in the summer of 2013.

“The College of Medicine remains a very high priority,” Shapiro said. “We already have over 1,700 applications.”

Another main issue set to be addressed is communication between administration and faculty from contract negotiations last year. Shapiro said it is a matter of speaking to more than one person and not having someone hear information through the grapevine.

Additionally, the university will try to increase the number of CMU students studying abroad as well as the internationalization of the university’s curriculum and campus.

“It’s critical that our students study abroad and be exposed to other cultures,” Shapiro said. “We recognize that not everybody is able to do that and are making some efforts to include international aspects in our curriculum.”

The university will put an emphasis on the increase of funded grants and scholarships and the quality of faculty scholarship and research.

Also the university will complete its planning for attaining academic space for renovations.

“There are space issues that involve every college on this campus,” Shapiro said. “Both the amount of space and the quality of space.”

Shapiro said his goals will take time, but they are important and in the best interest of all students.

“These are not one year goals that will disappear next year,” he said.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 10, 2012)

Some faculty side with Frey, say tensions remain with administrators

By Tony Wittkowski | Senior Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Faculty Association President Laura Frey recently outlined lingering faculty problems going into the new academic year, calling on administration to improve communications and transparency.

Now, other faculty members are speaking up.

“I think Laura’s position is certainly a valid one,” said Timothy Connors, professor of communications and dramatic arts. “I think there are issues in which the way bargaining was conducted that have not yet been addressed.”

Connors, FA president before Frey became leader, said communication between the two sides was the problem and it will greatly benefit everyone if both are willing to be more transparent.

“Things were said, positions were taken, and bridges were burned,” Connors said. “And unless there is a conscientious effort on everyone’s part to rebuild and to be willing to address those issues, there is going to be some lingering discontent.”

But the extent of tensions between the FA and administration varies between faculty members and administrators.

“My personal experience is that there are some members of the administration who genuinely understand the faculty’s concerns and are concerned about the relationship between the administration and faculty,” Connors said. “There are others who believe it is the administration, right or wrong.”

Connors said dissenting opinions are common among faculty members.

“There are some faculty for whom, no matter what the administration does, they won’t be satisfied,” Connors said. “And there are some faculty who have completely forgotten everything that happened last semester and decided it’s a new day. Let’s move forward.”

Other faculty members are unsure of what’s to come from a new contract, but still realize last years problems are not easily forgotten.

“I believe there are still tensions from last year,” said Elizabeth Alm, professor of biology. “I don’t think faculty problems were properly addressed.”

More than a dozen faculty declined comment about the relationship between the FA and the administration.

Connors said he hopes faculty members are prepared to do the best thing for students this year.

“I expect that all the faculty have come back, committed to their jobs, committed to serving the students the best they can, and are committed to making CMU a good place to study, a good place to work,” Connors said.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 31, 2012)

Data center construction ‘on schedule’

By Tony Wittkowski | Senior Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Construction on the new data center for the university has been going on for nearly a month, and everything is running according to schedule.

According to a February Central Michigan Life article, the new building, approved by the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees in December, will be located between the Combined Services Building and the Engineering and Technology Building. The cost is not to exceed $5.4 million.

Steve Lawrence, vice president of Facilities Management said since July, the plan has been to issue primary construction contracts.

“The work to date has focused on relocating underground utilities to make way for the new building,” Lawrence said.

The data center is currently located in Foust Hall. Lawrence said the estimated date of completion for the new building is June 2013, and all equipment will be moved out of the old building at that time.

Roger Rehm, vice president of Information Technology, said Foust Hall is not an ideal location for the amount of equipment needed in the data center.

“The current space is not designed to be a data center. It is poorly designed for both electrical and climate control systems and has too much vulnerability to water damage,”  Rehm told CM Life in February. “(The new building) will be situated at a higher elevation than the present facility. It is designed to provide better and highly flexible power and climate control systems.”

One of its main purposes will be to store the equipment, hold servers and house a large electrical service room with a backup generator for the university.

“The data center houses computer networking for the university, but right now they are positioning some of the utility lines,” Rehm said.

The data center will only require one employee inside for preservation.

“It’s really just a utility building; people will only go in there for maintenance,” Lawrence said.

The location for the new data center was chosen in case an addition was needed in the future.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 26, 2012)

YouTube sensation Zach Wahls speaks at Safari

By Tony Wittkowski | Senior Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Before Jan. 31, 2011, Zach Wahls was your ordinary college student.

However, it was on that day when Wahls became known across the country for his compelling speech about being raised by his two mothers. His audience that day: The Iowa House Judiciary Committee.

As with most great feats, his speech was put on the Internet, and has since gained over 18 million hits on YouTube, while also getting him an interview on the Ellen DeGeneres show.

“It was terrifying. If you watch the video clip, I was shaking,” Wahls said about being on Ellen.  “They found my mom’s number and called me during the middle of a snow day.”

Now Wahls is touring the country talking in front of 40 universities in the fall alone. One of his stops included Central Michigan University’s Pearce Hall for Leadership Safari.

While speaking three separate times in front of audiences reaching more than 300 people, Wahls addressed the issues that he had to deal with his whole life including same-sex marriage, support for LGBT rights and the many levels of politics that surrounded them.

“They aren’t my gay parents,” Wahls said during his presentation. “They don’t live in a gay house, they don’t drive a gay car, and they don’t have a gay dog. They are just my parents.”

When it came to writing his speech, Wahls did not have much trouble since he had been debating for years before.

“There were a few different drafts that I went through while I was writing the speech,” Wahls said. “I settled on the one that I knew the best which was about my family.”

CMU reached out for him to come, and right away Wahls wanted to make things clear that he wasn’t a diversity motivational speaker. He wanted the experience to be more of a conversation.

“This is a very hot issue for people our age, and this is the defining civil rights question of our generation,” Wahls said. “It’s kind of a big deal that my parents would not be married if they were with me today in Michigan.”

Some of the issues Wahls addressed personally affected some of the students in attendance, which included DeWitt senior Megan Winans.

One of Winans’s closest friends growing up was openly gay, which affected her relationship with her father.

“I did theater, so a lot of my friends were gay,” Winans said. “So it was kind of a culture shock for my father.”

Rochester senior Allison Walsh was another student was hit home by Wahls’ words.

“It really struck the message that we do have a lot of college students that can change something if we don’t like it and how media can be an outlet,” Walsh said.

Walsh saw the YouTube video of Wahls over the summer for a current event, when she took a diversity class for her major.

“I think the thing to take away from him is that marriage is marriage and that there is not really a specific way to define it,” Wahls said. “Like he said, a lot of people focus on hating the other groups instead of focusing on the big issue at hand.”

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Aug. 22, 2012)

Data center construction ‘on schedule’

By Tony Wittkowski | Senior Reporter | Central Michigan Life

Construction on the new data center for the university has been going on for nearly a month, and everything is running according to schedule.

According to a February Central Michigan Life article, the new building, approved by the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees in December, will be located between the Combined Services Building and the Engineering and Technology Building. The cost is not to exceed $5.4 million.

Steve Lawrence, vice president of Facilities Management said since July, the plan has been to issue primary construction contracts.

“The work to date has focused on relocating underground utilities to make way for the new building,” Lawrence said.

The data center is currently located in Foust Hall. Lawrence said the estimated date of completion for the new building is June 2013, and all equipment will be moved out of the old building at that time.

Roger Rehm, vice president of Information Technology, said Foust Hall is not an ideal location for the amount of equipment needed in the data center.

“The current space is not designed to be a data center. It is poorly designed for both electrical and climate control systems and has too much vulnerability to water damage,”  Rehm told CM Life in February. “(The new building) will be situated at a higher elevation than the present facility. It is designed to provide better and highly flexible power and climate control systems.”

One of its main purposes will be to store the equipment, hold servers and house a large electrical service room with a backup generator for the university.

“The data center houses computer networking for the university, but right now they are positioning some of the utility lines,” Rehm said.

The data center will only require one employee inside for preservation.

“It’s really just a utility building; people will only go in there for maintenance,” Lawrence said.

The location for the new data center was chosen in case an addition was needed in the future.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on August 26, 2012)