Graduation speaker selection process examined

Snyder

Snyder

Trevor Drew

While the outcome has been anything but, NMU President Fritz Erickson said in a statement to The North Wind that the selection process for this year’s May commencement speaker was “pretty routine.”

“The committee reviews the nominees and votes on whether to recommend them for NMU Board of Trustees approval. There is no deadline for commencement speaker nominations, and nominations can come from anyone within the university community,” Erickson said.

According to Erickson, nominations are made to the NMU Commencement Speaker Selection Committee (CSSC), which is chaired by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kerri Schuiling, and consists of two students, three faculty and three staff members.

The selection committee that chose Snyder followed all rules and regulations required, CSSC member, former ASNMU president and junior biochemistry major Tristan Ruiz said.

“The way they chose Gov. Snyder is the same way they have been choosing everyone else. The only reason it has become a big thing is because Gov. Snyder happened to be chosen,” Ruiz said. “That doesn’t mean the process is the best it can be.”

In an email obtainted by the North Wind, on August 1, 2017, Schuiling’s assistant Linda Hares sent committee members one nomination and asked whether the committee supported it. Attached to the email was the original nomination letter from NMU Foundation CEO Brad Canale.

“I respectfully nominate the Honorable Richard D. Snyder to deliver the May 5, 2018 Northern Michigan University commencement address and to receive an honorary degree,” Canale wrote in his letter. “Governor Snyder has been highly supportive of the Upper Peninsula and NMU. In particular he has been an advocate for the NMU dual enrolled Middle College program, [email protected] and the Educational Access Network.”

Ruiz said he voted in favor of Snyder because he was the only option and was unsure if a negative vote would lead to the selection of a new speaker. This was the entirety of his involvement with the selection process as a committee member, he explained.

“I looked at it, and it was one nomination for Gov. Snyder, so I thought ‘I guess I don’t really have an option,’” Ruiz said. “This is the person that is going to be speaking because I don’t see any other nominations. I guess no one else submitted anything.”

To improve the process, Ruiz said he thinks there should be more effort from the university toward making the NMU community aware of how they can nominate speakers, adding that a university-wide email being sent out seeking nominations would be an effective method.

“I don’t think the university was trying to be shady,” Ruiz said. “I think, honestly, the university is used to doing it this way because it’s the easy way to do it, and it hasn’t been a big deal in the past,” Ruiz said. “But I imagine that they’ll want to put more effort of being transparent out there.”

While there is no deadline for submissions, and anyone from the university community can send in a nomination, Chief Marketing Officer Derek Hall said whether people know this or not can play into who gets nominated.

“Can the university seek out nominations in a more public way? I’m sure we could,” Hall said.

When asked how students can submit nominations for speakers, Hall referred to the commencement speaker and honorary degrees committee procedure webpage, which states: “Members of the University Community will be invited to submit nominations to the Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degrees Advisory Committee, which should be accompanied by an appropriate biographical sketch and letter from the nominator.”

As Hall was reading the procedure, he noticed confusing language.

“That’s interesting,” Hall said. “‘Will be invited.’ What’s that mean?”

Attempts to contact CSSC chair Schuiling were made, however, she was unavailable for comment.

In an email obtainted by the North Wind, on August 1, 2017, Schuiling’s assistant Linda Hares sent committee members one nomination and asked whether the committee supported it. Attached to the email was the original nomination letter from NMU Foundation CEO Brad Canale.

“I respectfully nominate the Honorable Richard D. Snyder to deliver the May 5, 2018 Northern Michigan University commencement address and to receive an honorary degree,” Canale wrote in his letter. “Governor Snyder has been highly supportive of the Upper Peninsula and NMU. In particular he has been an advocate for the NMU dual enrolled Middle College program, [email protected] and the Educational Access Network.”

Ruiz said he voted in favor of Snyder because he was the only option and was unsure if a negative vote would lead to the selection of a new speaker. This was the entirety of his involvement with the selection process as a committee member, he explained.

“I looked at it, and it was one nomination for Gov. Snyder, so I thought ‘I guess I don’t really have an option,’” Ruiz said. “This is the person that is going to be speaking because I don’t see any other nominations. I guess no one else submitted anything.”

To improve the process, Ruiz said he thinks there should be more effort from the university toward making the NMU community aware of how they can nominate speakers, adding that a university-wide email being sent out seeking nominations would be an effective method.

“I don’t think the university was trying to be shady,” Ruiz said. “I think, honestly, the university is used to doing it this way because it’s the easy way to do it, and it hasn’t been a big deal in the past,” Ruiz said. “But I imagine that they’ll want to put more effort of being transparent out there.”

While there is no deadline for submissions, and anyone from the university community can send in a nomination, Chief Marketing Officer Derek Hall said whether people know this or not can play in to who gets nominated.
“Can the university seek out nominations in a more public way? I’m sure we could,” Hall said.

When asked how students can submit nominations for speakers, Hall referred to the commencement speaker and honorary degrees committee procedure webpage, which states: “Members of the University Community will be invited to submit nominations to the Commencement Speaker and Honorary Degrees Advisory Committee, which should be accompanied by an appropriate biographical sketch and letter from the nominator.”

As Hall was reading the procedure, he noticed confusing language.
“That’s interesting,” Hall said. “‘Will be invited.’ What’s that mean?”
Attempts to contact CSSC chair Schuiling were made, however, she was unavailable for comment.