Fall-Semester Forum Recap

Monday 13, 2017

The fall semester university forum held Thursday addressed several topics, from the state budget cycle to facilities project updates to the commencement speaker selection process.

Gavin Leach, vice president for Finance and Administration, said the state budget cycle typically begins in early February, when the governor’s executive budget proposal is presented to the legislature. The House and Senate each follow up with their own proposals and a conference committee resolves differences between the two. If both houses approve the conference committee report, it is presented to the governor for his signature.

“Lately we’ve been finding out our state appropriation around late May or early- to mid-June,” Leach said. “The recommendations from the campus-wide Strategic Resource Allocation [SRA] process need to be taken into consideration as part of building the budget for the next fiscal year. Enrollment will dictate revenue and we’re hoping the weather is not as cold because utility costs have an impact.

“Public universities are required to submit capital outlay requests to the state each year. Last year, our top priority—the Jacobetti Complex renovation—just missed out on being in the top three selected for funding. It finished at No. 4. We hope it moves up and is included in either the governor’s executive budget or a future capital outlay this year. There have been no major renovations since the complex was built.”

Leach provided timelines for facilities projects that are either in progress or will commence in 2018. Two more residence halls comprising The Woods complex will open in January. The final two facilities will open next fall. The Lodge, a learning and lounging area near the new halls and accessible to the entire campus community, will open in mid-January. Renovation of the Marketplace dining area will get underway in May, with related work starting earlier. The university also will expand residence hall parking by the Learning Resources Center and pave the area in the spring.

The Don H. Bottom University Center’s two-year, phased renovation should begin in May after design work and funding is finalized. Leach said the Edgar L. Harden Learning Resources Center renovation is no longer on NMU’s state capital outlay request after more than a decade without being selected for funding. The university will do a 2.5-year phased project starting with the second floor.

Site work on the Forensic Research Outdoor Station (FROST) is complete. Construction management students are building an on-site storage facility. The building that will house lab space will be under construction beginning Nov. 30, with targeted completion in May.

NMU previously signed an agreement with U.P. Rehab Services LLC to lease space in the Legacy Building under construction on Washington Street. In February, NMU’s Cancer and Rehabilitation Center—a function of the Health and Human Performance Department—will occupy the space.

President Fritz Erickson addressed dissension related to NMU inviting Gov. Rick Snyder to speak at commencement. He said anyone has an opportunity to nominate speaker and the unfiltered recommendations are sent to the commencement committee for discussion and a vote. Some names have been rejected, but Snyder’s was accepted. The vote wasn’t unanimous, he said, but the Board of Trustees gave final approval to extend the invitation.

“I respect those who disagree with that selection,” Erickson said. “In my mind, it was an important selection to make because it reflects our commitment to consider multiple opinions and perspectives. We don’t hold a litmus test for people who come to our campus and present. Universities should support the free exchange of ideas. Of course, it’s easier to do that if it’s something we agree with. I don’t fault anyone who starts a petition or stands up and says it’s wrong. That’s what higher ed should be about. If higher ed backed away from controversy, who would we really be?”

Erickson highlighted some of the recent positive strides at NMU: a 10.8 percent increase in freshmen, which “no university in Michigan even came close to”; the most well-attended fall Wildcat Weekend ever; diverse groups of high school students from as far away as Arizona visiting campus; 120 new trees planted, with about 30 more to come in the spring; and a $300 million annual impact on the local economy. He also mentioned extensive media coverage of the new medicinal plant chemistry program, which will be the focus of an upcoming NBC Nightly News report. An NBC crew was on campus the day of the forum to shoot video and interviews. 

Kristi Evans
News Director