Welcome to the 2017-2018 Academic Year

September 6, 2017

Dear students, faculty and staff: 

Welcome to the 2017–2018 academic year! The start of fall classes on a university campus is always exciting. I want to wish all of you — new and returning students, new and returning faculty, our dedicated staff — the very best as we start the new academic year.

We had a wonderful start to the year with our move-in weekend. I would like to thank the hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni volunteers who helped. Just as important as your strength in carrying boxes and TVs, was the warmth of the smiles and the kind words that I witnessed. Thank you for making our new community members feel welcome.

We also had an energizing and fun-filled orientation weekend — with many informational and school-spirit oriented events. I want to thank everyone, particularly our New Student Orientation Assistants, for working so positively to ensure our new students get off to a great start.

As we begin the new academic year, there is important news to share:

Faculty and academics

We are pleased to welcome 25 new faculty members and eight new full-time lecturers to the Eastern Michigan University community this fall. I have had the opportunity to meet many of our new instructors – they are wonderfully talented educators and will join our world-class faculty and lecturers to enhance the strong academic reputation of our University. For new and current students, I encourage you to get to know at least one professor every semester – take advantage of their office hours so you get to know them, and they get to know you.

First-year student enrollment

Preliminary fall semester enrollment indicates Eastern Michigan University has enrolled the third largest entering first-year class in its 168-year history. While final enrollment numbers will not be available for another week, preliminary figures indicate that more than 2,790 first-time students are beginning their college education at Eastern this fall.

The entering class continues Eastern’s momentum in recent years, in which the University has grown in first-year enrollment in the face of declining demographic trends for high school seniors in the state of Michigan. Since fall 2011, Eastern’s entering class has grown by 31 percent.

The entering first-year class also displays solid academic preparation with higher ACT scores and high school GPAs, reflects an increase in the number of international students and spotlights the strong level of diversity to be found on Eastern’s campus, with 30 percent of our new first-year students representing diverse communities.

Complete details about this fall’s enrollment can be found in the fall enrollment news release.

Summer construction

This was a summer of extensive construction, as you can clearly see as you return to campus. Projects include the installation of a new turbine to power the University’s co-generation unit at a cost of $19.6 million. This project will make Eastern one of the most energy-efficient universities in the state – providing 93 percent of our electricity, 98 percent of our heat, and generating more than $2.8 million in annual energy savings. It will result in an annual reduction of 32,600 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Other energy conservation measures include the retrofitting of outdoor and indoor lights to energy efficient LEDs, along with updated plumbing fixtures and HVAC equipment controls.

The University’s primary electrical service loop, known as Loop 1, was the most pervasive and visible project, with ditches, fencing and various barriers throughout the southern and eastern portion of campus. Loop 1 provides primary electrical services to 20 buildings on campus. At a cost of $7.5 million, the project was necessary to replace an aging system that was no longer reliable.

Many projects were initiated related to swing space to accommodate the closing of Strong Hall and the upcoming construction to completely refurbish the building. Renovations at Sill, Roosevelt and King halls, as well as in Mark Jefferson, were part of that project. 

Campus safety and security continued to be a priority, with the installation of more security cameras, now numbering more than 800, and 100 new light fixtures featuring brighter campus lighting.

Other renovations include the lobbies and corridor of Legacy Sponberg Theatres, final completion of the four-phased renovation of Wise Hall, as well as many new dining options and renovations in the Student Center food court area. A complete wrap-up of the activities and related costs can be found in this EMU Today summer construction story.

Confronting racism and hate with inclusion

During these challenging times, and particularly in the wake of the shocking, violent and hateful events in Charlottesville last month, I want to be clear on several principles we hold tightly to at Eastern as we enter a year in which we will continue to embrace our diversity and unity as a caring and empathetic University community.

We stand together in strongly condemning the violence, racism, anti-Semitism and hate that took place in Charlottesville and at other recent events around our nation. No community, including our own, is immune from the hateful and racist actions of people who oppose the values of diversity, inclusiveness and respect.

Racism and bigotry have no place at Eastern Michigan University. I am pleased that the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, which I appointed last year, has taken a strong stand on this matter in its statement issued in late August. I also commend our Student Government leaders for their stance on these issues and their message to the student body on September 5.

In light of the violent confrontation in Charlottesville and elsewhere, universities around the nation are challenged in protecting the values of First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceable assembly. This is evident in the rejection by several universities to appearance requests by a white nationalist speaker, and the lawsuits against those universities that have been filed or threatened. At Eastern, we fully encourage and support civil discussion on a wide range of viewpoints while also standing by our commitment to protecting the safety and well being of our campus citizens and community.

We also stand with our diverse campus community against attacks on students and others based on their national origin. Eastern proudly welcomes hundreds of international students and scholars each year; they are an integral part of our campus and we will continue to support them as they pursue their educational and career aspirations.

I proudly co-signed a letter last year, along with hundreds of other higher education institutions, supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As a result of the administration’s decision this week to repeal DACA, students across the nation face anxiety and confusion. I have joined the presidents of other Michigan universities and the Michigan Association of State Universities in signing a letter that will be sent to each member of the Michigan congressional delegation, encouraging them to expeditiously pass a legislative solution that will preserve the provisions in the current DACA program. 

We will continue to support Eastern students who may be impacted by this action to ensure their continued success, and will continue working with other organizations and our elected officials to find a permanent pathway to allow these students to complete their education.

Only by working together will we be successful in confronting these issues and supporting the values of our University. I look forward to working with the Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, a new student diversity and inclusion advisory board that will be launched this fall, and our entire campus community in the weeks and months ahead as we continue to build a campus environment that embodies our values of respect, equality and inclusiveness.

Diversity and inclusion training

In the beginning of 2017, a comprehensive diversity awareness curriculum initiative was implemented by University Human Resources. Members of the University’s leadership team were the initial participants in the training, which is now being expanded to include direct reports of the leadership team. The training will be further expanded to others on campus in the months ahead, and complements bias awareness training we launched last year for faculty and administrators who are tasked with recruiting new faculty.

A couple of other reminders:

Join us next Monday, September 11 at 8:40 a.m. for a Ceremony of Remembrance of the 16th anniversary of 9/11. A brief ceremony will take place at Eastern’s 9/11 Memorial, which features a beam from the World Trade Center, located behind Pease Auditorium at the corner of Cross and Perrin streets.

Homecoming week is October 16–21. You can learn more about the most spirited week on campus on the Homecoming website.

An ongoing schedule of all campus events can be found on the Calendar and Events page of the University’s website.  

Again, best wishes to everyone for a great 2017–2018 academic year!


James M. Smith, Ph.D.
President, Eastern Michigan University

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