Minutes of the Formal Session


Friday, October 16, 2020


A formal session of the Board of Trustees of Northern Michigan University was held on Friday, October 16, 2020, in Marquette, Michigan.  The meeting was convened at 10:00 a.m. by Chair Steven M. Mitchell.


Trustees present included:

Mr. Steven M. Mitchell, Chair

Ms. Donna L. Murray-Brown

Ms. Alexis M. Hart

Ms. Tami M. Seavoy, Vice Chair

Mr. James K. Haveman

Mr. Stephen E. Young

Mr. Robert E. Mahaney

Dr. Fritz J Erickson, ex officio


Trustees absent included:

Ms. Lisa I. Fittante (excused)


Senior Staff and Counsel present included:

Mr. R. Gavin Leach, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees

Dr. Kerri Schuiling, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr. Steven VandenAvond, Vice President for Extended Learning and Community Engagement

Ms. Deanna Hemmila, Executive Director – Board/Government Relations

Ms. Cathy A. Andrew, Secretary of the Board of Trustees

Mr. Kurt McCamman, Legal Counsel     



The meeting was live-streamed on YouTube at



Secretary Andrew took roll call of the Trustees and noted that a quorum was met with seven Trustees being present.  Chair Mitchell noted that Trustee Fittante was excused from this meeting.



The following action was taken:


It was moved by Trustee Hart, seconded by Trustee Seavoy, and supported by a vote of 7 – 0, to approve the agenda as written.



Vice President Lech read a memorial for Mr. Shane Hawkins, Dining Services Operation Manager, who passed away on September 4, 2020.

Provost and Vice President Kerri Schuiling read a memorial for Mr. Noah Simms, a second-year student majoring in general studies, who died on October 10, 2020.


A moment of silence was held in their honor.



Ms. Lisandra Perez addressed the Board regarding her perceived concerns about a lack of support for graduate assistants teaching classes face-to-face and the group’s request for health insurance, adequate compensation, and better protections during the pandemic.


Chair Mitchell thanked Ms. Perez for her passion, her comments, and he made the following remarks:

·       The Board of Trustees has a fiduciary responsibility to the university which they take very seriously.

·       The Chair of the Board of Trustees is the spokesperson on behalf of the Board which is why he responded to Ms. Perez’s letter to Trustee Murray-Brown.

·       The graduate assistants have the same access to the NMU Health Center as contingent faculty.

·       A 15-member task force has been established that includes graduate assistants and faculty whom have met with the budget director, HR director, and the three academic deans.  The task force will provide some recommendations by November 1 to the President who will take those to the Executive Council where a decision will be made regarding the recommendations.

·       The Board understands the pandemic is a serious problem and believes NMU has done a better job than any other university of protecting all parts of the Wildcat community – students, faculty, staff, administrators, and the community.

·       The small number of COVID cases NMU has had is a direct result of several factors of the hard work of the Board, President Erickson and his staff, the faculty, and the students who have been very responsible by wearing their masks all around campus, not going to large social gatherings, etc.

·       NMU tested everyone when they came to campus and are doing surveillance testing.

·       NMU cares deeply about every part of the community which includes the student employees – whether they are graduate assistants, front line in the residence halls, dining services – all are part of the Wildcat community and the Board feels deeply about all of them.


Dr. Eric Ottem addressed the Board regarding his concerns regarding an incident that occurred earlier this semester.  A new student reached out to a Teaching Assistant (TA) regarding their perceived feelings of a toxic environment that had developed in the residence halls.  Ottem said we have students from diverse backgrounds and no student should ever feel excluded or devalued; they should be welcomed not only by the faculty and staff, but also by their peers.


Chair Mitchell thanked Dr. Ottem for his comments and made the following remarks:

·       As a member of the Board he finds any idea that students would be discriminated against very troubling.

·       The NMU he knows is a place where everyone is welcome – no one should be bullied or discriminated against and this is a great concern to the entire Board.

·       NMU also has to balance the 1st Amendment rights of people to put signs up that don’t call for the cause of harm to others – those rights do not include doing anything that would be harmful to an individual in terms of bullying, discrimination, etc. which falls in the order of hate speech.

·       He assured Dr. Ottem that the Board wants to ensure NMU is a place where everyone is valued and cared about.


President Erickson made the following remarks:

·       He thanked Dr. Ottem for his comments and said he shares his concerns and vision for the future.

·       There are some things NMU is doing but there are opportunities to do more.

·       NMU is expanding training programs for Residence Advisors in the residence halls, developing mechanisms so when incidents like this happen the university can find ways to create dialogue to discuss this, but also to be supporting of students who really do legitimately feel they have been targeted.

·       He said hate has no place at this university.

·       He looks forward to continue working together with Jessica Cruz as she continues to expand and develop the various training opportunities that help prepare the campus community, as well as mechanisms NMU can continue to put into place to better respond to these types of incidents.


Trustee Hart asked if there were any polices – no tolerance policy / zero tolerance policy – for this type of activity and behavior?  President Erickson said, yes, there are; however, the line we run into is how do to address these issues but also protect people’s right of free expression.  Universities need to be places where there is an open exchange of ideas.  NMU is working to make sure that any time an incident happens it is reviewed, a determination is made, and if there is a violation of the university policy, it is addressed.



Dr. Russell Magnaghi, provided a report on a Moment in NMU’s History.  (Addendum #1)



Ms. Emma Drever, President – Associated Students of Northern Michigan University, provided a report on activities that have occurred within ASNMU throughout the semester.  (Addendum #2) Ms. Drever responded to questions from the Trustees.



President Erickson reported on activities and accomplishments that have occurred during the fall 2020 semester to date.  (Addendum #3)




Academic Affairs Committee

Trustee Hart, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, reported on a meeting held Friday, October 16, 2020.  A copy of the report is appended to these minutes.  (Addendum #4)


Extended Learning and Community Engagement (ELCE) Committee

Vice Chair Seavoy, Chair of the ELCE Committee, reported on a meeting held Friday, October 16, 2020.  A copy of the report is appended to these minutes.  (Addendum #5)


Finance Committee

Trustee Young, Chair of the Finance Committee, reported on a meeting held Thursday, October 15, 2020.  A copy of the report is appended to these minutes.  (Addendum #6)



The following action was taken:


It was moved by Trustee Seavoy and seconded by Trustee Murray-Brown to approve the Formal Recommendations.  (Addendum #7)


On a roll-call vote, the Board voted as follows:


                                       Aye                                                  Nay


                              Alexis M. Hart

                              James K. Haveman                       

                              Robert E. Mahaney

                              Steven M. Mitchell

                              Donna L. Murray-Brown

                              Tami M. Seavoy

                              Stephen E. Young



President Erickson said the negotiations with the AFSCME group have been concluded.  He said they are an important group to our institution and he appreciates the hard work and engagement they do.  They have ratified the contract negotiations and he urged the Board to approved the contract.  The following action was taken:


It was moved by Trustee Hart and seconded by Trustee Mahaney that the Board approve the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees’ Union (AFSCME) (AFL-CIO) Local 1094 Union Contract.


Discussion followed:


Trustee Seavoy said she appreciates the work both parties have done working towards getting this settled so quickly.


Being no further discussion, Chair Mitchell called the vote:


On a roll-call vote, the Board voted as follows:


                                       Aye                                                  Nay


                              Alexis M. Hart

                              James K. Haveman                       

                              Robert E. Mahaney

                              Steven M. Mitchell

                              Donna L. Murray-Brown

                              Tami M. Seavoy

                              Stephen E. Young


The motion carried with a vote of 7 for and 0 against.


Chair Mitchell thanked everyone for the great work that was done to accomplish this during the tough times we are in.



President Erickson made this announcement for the public record.



Chair Mitchell opened the floor to the Trustees for Good of the Order.


Trustee Mahaney made the following comments:

·       He is bothered by the premises of some speakers today regarding the community and the current social issues before us in this country. 

·       This has been a welcoming community to Northern students for over 100 years.  His take-away from some of the comments was the actions of a few are being portrayed as the actions of the community.  It is a welcoming, inclusive community; not perfect, but welcoming with a lot of good people.

·       He said the Board would be remiss not to recognize all the extraordinarily hard work in an era of uncertainty and hard times – he expressed his appreciation for the yeoman work that was put in by Vice President Leach, President Erickson, and the entire team.

·       He said it is remarkable that NMU has come through this as strong if not stronger financially than when this started.  A result of the work that was put in to the budgeting and financial management will provide tremendous opportunities for this university.


Trustee Haveman made the following comments:

·       He appreciates Ms. Burr’s presentation on the Center for Rural Health.  It will have a real impact in the workforce and overall collaborative approach to a healthier U.P.

·       He thanked Provost Schuiling for being the shepherd of this process.  This is just the beginning of a rural health center and will be an exciting for the university and the U.P.

·       He appreciates Dr. Ottem’s comments regarding acceptance and inclusiveness.  It’s something we need to continue working on in hiring, our sensitivity, acceptance, and tolerance.

·       He is encouraged the pieces in place right now continue moving in that direction as it's only then we will have a country that settles down and moves where we want it to be.


Trustee Hart made the following comments:

·       She recognized the efforts of the faculty, administration, and students with respect to the safety and respect that is being exhibited for each other and each other’s health as a university community.

·       The results that have been seen are fantastic.  Zeros across the board is ideal.  Looking across the county at what has happened at other universities, it’s indicative of the efforts and creativity that NMU has implemented as a university community to keep everyone safe.

·       It’s great to walk around the campus and see everyone in compliance wearing masks, etc. recognizing the general respect to themselves, their own health and the university community

·       She believes that diversity and inclusion is a foundational building block of a university.  The Trustees had the opportunity to hear some topics around this issue.  She was taken aback and surprised by an implication of a lack of understanding of some of these topics.  It’s important that our young people think with respect to making sure to address the topic that needs addressed instead of possibly judging a book by its cover.

·       She is happy that at the last meeting the Board approved the Indigenous Peoples Day which was very successful.

·       There is always work to be done and it’s important that we address together collaboratively and respectfully the issues at hand as we move forward to ensure a continued inclusive community for everybody.


Trustee Murray-Brown made the following comments:

·       Passionate commentary was heard from two members of the NMU community; these comments were imbedded in the immense feeling of not being respected, included, or physically or emotionally safe.

·       It is a delicate balance to hold tensions of contradiction.  Honoring our mission, vision, and values and at the same time hearing from others that our action, policies, or practices are different than our reality. 

·       She encouraged everyone to find ways to hold these tensions as opportunities for self-reflection and, perhaps, new ways to address some of the issues heard today – whether it’s the development of a task force or making routine practice to understand more fully who’s being impacted by certain policies and practices. 

·       She continues to be proud to serve as a board of trustee member and looks forward to how she can continue to support the work and vision of NMU.

·       She is in awe of the hard work of NMU, the entire team, entire wildcat community, on the management of COVID-19.  It is second to none.  She is truly appreciative of all that has been done so far and continues to be done to make our community safe.


Trustee Young made the following comments:

·       He thanked President Erickson and his team for all that is done to make the meetings safe and productive during this time.

·       What strikes him is the enthusiasm and passion of the faculty, staff, and students.

·       He watched a program on line during homecoming that was put together by students and faculty highlighting theatre and arts that was phenomenal.  This is an example of how this enthusiasm and passion has evolved.

·       It’s important to look at instances like this as an example of the innovation that is coming from our faculty, staff, and student that will position NMU well for the future as we come out of COVID.  These innovations will stay with us for a long time.


Trustee Seavoy made the following comments:

·       She was thankful the Board could meet in person on campus as in this day, so many boards are meeting virtually, which is necessary in many instances.

·       NMU has taken all the steps necessary to meet in person where the Board can see the enthusiasm allowing the Trustees to see what’s happening on campus by being here.

·       She thanked those individuals taking care of the technology, the administration for bringing everyone together, the efforts of the hospitality staff to keep everyone comfortable.

·       She said it’s been a great experience for everyone to be back together again, having the ability to see what’s going on on campus, to experience it, and to better govern the university.

·       She thanked President Erickson for being on top of what’s occurring with the graduate students.  Having the ability for them to protest and show the board what it is they are experiencing and having difficulty with is an important part of their educational experience and their civic engagement.

·       She appreciates that there is already a task force lined up and addressing the issue.


Chair Mitchell made the following comments:

·       He said looking at the dashboard, NMU currently has 9 total positive cases.  Total on campus to-date is only 75; 39 of whom are off campus students.  This is incredible … there are zero students in quarantine.  It’s stunning how well the university has done and is continuing to do.

·       He provided some information on his company and the diversity within it.

·       He touched on balancing the protection of individuals and the first amendment with freedom of speech.

·       He said he is proud to be a Wildcat because NMU does things as good or better than anybody else.

·       He said NMU has spent approximately $2.9 million on COVID related activities to protect the students – plexiglass, testing, etc. – and make this campus a safe place.



Chair Mitchell adjourned the meeting at 11:22 a.m.



Respectfully submitted,


/signed/ Cathy A. Andrew

Secretary of the Board of Trustees