President Smith's Monthly Message – EMU Today, Wednesday, Dec. 12

It is hard to believe the end of the semester is upon us. It seems like only a few weeks ago that I was crisscrossing campus meeting new students and their families on move-in day. Today officially marks the beginning of finals week, and we know how important and hectic that is for our students and faculty.

Many positive developments have occurred over the past couple of months. Our University was named a “Best in the Midwest” by The Princeton Review — a distinction the University has earned every year since 2002. The organization also named the College of Business as a “Best Business School” in the U.S. for the 15th consecutive year.

Our strong commitment to diversity and inclusion is evidenced by our No. 1 ranking in Michigan as LGBTQ-friendly. We are ranked 3rd in the nation as veteran and military-friendly. And, we celebrate dozens of nationally-ranked academic programs. 

These awards represent powerful points of distinction for Eastern — and I thank all of our outstanding faculty and staff for their dedication, commitment and hard work.

Earlier this week, however, a disturbing incident occurred that troubles us all. Provost Longworth and I sent an email to students after a positive message supporting the Jewish community that had been painted on the student speech wall near the Rec/IM and Pray-Harrold was defaced with an anti-Semitic message. The University condemns this hateful act that was targeted at our Jewish community, and we will continue to work with all of our campus and the surrounding community to support respect and inclusion at all levels. View the full message and Student Government’s statement regarding the incident.

Meanwhile, as we plan for the future, the University has initiated a comprehensive review of campus student housing to develop a housing master plan. While our housing staff and facilities team does a remarkable job at creating a positive and welcoming environment for our students, it is evident that a considerable number of our buildings are in need of upgrades and investment. It also is clear that our mix of room configurations does not meet the needs of our students.

The housing master plan update presentation [PDF] has been shared at meetings with the University Budget Council, Student Government, Residence Life and administrative leaders. The presentation includes extensive data based on student feedback, room configuration and pricing compared to peer institutions.

The level of investment identified in this analysis is significant — it is detailed in the presentation. We are beginning the process of considering options for funding these needed enhancements, and will provide further updates and gather feedback on this process as we proceed in the weeks and months ahead.

A reminder that Friday marks the final Board of Regents meeting for the year. You can look for an excellent presentation about the upcoming overhaul of the Rec/IM as part of the presentations. Two new academic programs are being proposed, and the capital budget priorities for next year will be discussed. Please visit the Board of Regents website for additional details.

Finally, one of our most significant events of the year takes place this Saturday. Nearly 1,700 students are graduating this semester. We look forward to a great celebration of student success at Saturday’s commencement ceremony. I encourage you to attend — you will see Eastern at its finest.

In closing, I would like to thank all faculty and staff for your ongoing efforts to support our students.

Go Green!

James M. Smith

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