Survey says…lack of trust

Hannah Wiegand

From course cuts to tuition rates to an increase in the price of online classes, NMU students and faculty made it clear that they wanted to be involved in campus-wide decision making according to the results of a recent survey.  A total of 303 employees and 676 students participated in a survey that was sent out in November.re-BudgetTalk1_JR

Out of the 303 employees, only one adjunct professor participated. Over 80 percent of the students who participated specified that campus-wide decision making matters to them.

“We are the people investing ourselves into this university and our departments, and we want straightforward answers. We want direct lines of communication from the administration down to the students, and that is something that every student should expect at every university,” Jason Chenette, junior English writing major, said after the Town Hall Transparency Forum that was held in Jamrich on Thursday, Feb. 11.

Organized by the members of the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP), students and staff were invited to look over the results of a 2015 student and administration transparency survey during a public forum. Participants at the forum said  although they cannot be a part of day-to-day choices that are made, those who responded to the survey showed that they would like some say in big ticket items. Participants also expressed that if this is not possible, they would like a better understanding and explanation from the administration as to why certain decisions are made. They wish the administration understood that each decision not only affects them but also affects the entire campus.

Out of the 303 employees, 49 percent agreed they can make a difference within the campus-wide decision making process, yet 71 percent said campus-wide decisions are not effectively communicated. Of the student responses, 55 percent said the same about effective communication.

A total of 83 percent of employees disagreed that there is a climate of trust on campus, while 41 percent of students said the same.

At the forum, students and staff said they do not feel there is trust and made suggestions on how the university can change that. Participants also addressed that they want more forums like the one held last week so students and staff can have a chance to share their ideas with the community
of NMU.

Those who attended the meeting revealed questions, comments and concerns regarding decisions made within the university. The budget cuts to faculty, new and future construction on campus along with any future plans that are to be made at NMU were a big part of the conversation.

Many students commented on how they felt about the trust and communication between faculty, administration and students. Several students and members of the NMU community said they are frustrated and do not understand the reasons or intentions behind administrative
decisions.

Dale Kapla, assistant provost for undergraduate programming and faculty affairs,  attended the forum with a few other members of the administration.

“I learned that these types of open discussions are needed and very valuable and that we should have more of them,” Kapla said. “It was really enlightening for me to hear the students and to see that they want to be heard, and I always knew that, it’s just hearing it firsthand that they really care about their education and the institution, it is just really good to hear.”

Jessica Thompson, associate professor of communications and performance studies and co-chair of the AQIP, was happy with the turnout of the forum and impressed with what the students and others had to say.

“I was so impressed with some of the solutions the people came up with and that other people see these issues,” Thompson said. “I think just talking about this publicly is a big step.

“Ninety-five percent of a problem is recognizing you have the problem. And once you get it out there in the public dialogue, suddenly it is like ‘Okay, now we can work on building a solution.’ I feel like the audience did not come here to gripe. They wanted to be heard, but they came to figure out how we are going to move forward.”

President Fritz Erickson did not attend the forum. Instead he was in California for a fundraiser
for NMU.

“Not to have the top person here is a little frustrating, but I am happy he’s getting money for this university that needs it, but I do wish he was here, absolutely,” Elise Tillema, junior environmental studies and sustainability and English double major, said.