Schuiling appointed as interim NMU president

Faculty negotiations continue

Kia Jane Richmond, right, a professor in the English department at Northern Michigan University, takes part with some of her colleagues in what she called “informational picketing” outside the Northern Center on Friday, where the NMU Board of Trustees held its meeting that morning. Faculty and administration have been at odds over a faculty contract. (Journal photo by Christie Mastric)

MARQUETTE — Kerri Schuiling, who most recently served as provost and vice president of academic affairs at Northern Michigan University, was named interim NMU president at Friday’s NMU Board of Trustees meeting.

She succeeds Fritz Erickson, who was terminated by the board on Sept. 24. Board Vice Chair Steve Young mentioned the need for more leadership and forward thinking as causes for Erickson’s termination at that meeting.

The board unanimously approved Schuiling as interim president, effective immediately, until the board selects a new president. Board Chair Tami Seavoy and Young were authorized to negotiate an employment agreement with Schuiling to present to the board for review and approval, and authorize a request to make a recommendation to the board regarding a presidential search firm.

“I want to say that I’m personally deeply impressed that there was no need to look outside of Northern Michigan University to identify an interim president,” Trustee Donna L. Murray-Brown said.

Seavoy said the board has full responsibility for hiring the new president.

“We look forward to engaging others in helping to identify the greatest needs of this university so we can align the qualities of our next leader with the needs of the university and move forward in the right step for the right time,” Seavoy said.

Trustee Robert Mahaney said the action taken regarding Erickson was not made lightly.

“We understand that it has consequences on the university,” he said. “It led to us having to make a tough decision. Today, as I think about Northern — both as a trustee and as a member of this community and as a Yooper — Northern’s future, I think, has never been brighter.”

Mahaney said the biggest challenge is “ourselves.”

“Are we going to come together? Are we going to work together? Are we doing to seize these opportunities?” he asked. “It’s very easy to focus on the things that aren’t going maybe as well as we’d like. But at the same time, we’ve accomplished so much. My hope is that very shortly, we’re going to be announcing some exciting news about additional investments in this university in infrastructure, academic innovations, and facilities and programming, that’s going to launch this university to the next level.”

Mahaney also congratulated Schuiling and expressed his appreciation for her willingness to be interim president.

“She was scheduled to retire in January,” he said.

Schuiling was appointed provost and vice president in 2014. In that capacity, she was lead developer of the Forensic Research Outdoor Station, the NMU Center for Rural Health, and SISU: The Innovation Institute. She also supported the creation of medicinal plant chemistry baccalaureate program launched in 2017.

Earlier roles included dean of NMU’s College of Health Sciences and Professional Studies, dean of Oakland University’s School of Nursing and associate dean and director of NMU’s School of Nursing. Schuiling is a 1973 NMU graduate. She holds a master’s degree from Wayne State University and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. She is certified as both a women’s health nurse practitioner and nurse-midwife.

“I look forward to continuing the ongoing positive collaboration, working with my colleagues on the administration, faculty and staff in continuing to move the university forward to achieve its mission and goals,” Schuiling said in a statement.

In other business at Friday’s meeting, the board:

≤ agreed to four new academic programs: a plant-based wellness certificate, a cannabis operations certificate, a bachelor of fine arts in acting, and a master of science in administration and outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism. All go into effect fall 2022.

≤ approved the newly ratified contract for the Administrative Professionals union UAW 2178, which nearly 67% of voting members supported. It includes increases of 2% to base salary in the first year, a 2% one-time payment in year two and a 2% to base in years three through five. The agreement also includes a revenue-sharing program tied to specific growth in student enrollment. The union represents 215 employees and the contract remains in effect through Sept. 30, 2026.

≤ approved the facilities five-year master plan and capital outlay request, which universities are required to submit annually to the Michigan Department of Management and Budget. The priority project identified by NMU on its capital outlay request is a new Business Innovation Center.

≤ authorized the purchase of two Marquette properties –1700 Tracy Ave. and 908 Center St. — at a cost of $327,000 plus related miscellaneous expenses.

≤ agreed that Broadcast and Audio-Visual Services operations be reorganized under the management and supervision of the vice president for the Finance and Administration division, that the Office of Graduate Education and Grants and Contracts be renamed College of Graduate Studies and Research, and that Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment be renamed Institutional Effectiveness.

≤ agreed to grant emeritus status to the following: Alan McEvoy, professor of sociology; John Rebers, professor of biology; Jaspal Singh, professor of English; Linda Hares, administrative assistant, Academic Affairs; and Eric Smith, director-broadcast and audio-visual services.

≤ approved the following meeting schedule for calendar year 2022: Feb. 17-18; April 28-29; June/July TBD; Sept. 23-24; and Dec. 15-16.

Faculty negotiations continue

Several members of the NMU-American Association of University Professors faculty union spoke at the meeting to address the current lack of a faculty contract.

The union on Tuesday voted down a tentative agreement, with the tally being 137 “no” and 92 “yes” votes.

The union and administration had been negotiating over base salary increases and other forms of compensation, with the two sides unable to come to an agreement before the one-year contract expired July 1. Mediation between the two parties began that month.

Mediation comes at no cost from the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which resolves labor disputes involving public and private sector employees through a variety of means, including appointing mediators.

Seavoy stressed that the board of trustees does not have a role in negotiating a contract.

“We look forward to having a contract come before us after the parties continue with their good faith negotiations, which have been ongoing,” Seavoy said. “We very much appreciate everyone’s work on this contract.”

Lesley Putman, chief negotiator for the union, said that in 2020, a “state of uncertainty” existed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. So, the faculty took actions to help NMU, including a pay freeze.

“Here we are, a year later, and we don’t see any reason to maintain these concessions,” Putman said. “The university did not suffer financially from COVID. The university was compensated by the federal government for all the extra expenses need(ed) for dealing with the pandemic.”

NMU-AAUP President Dwight Brady said that in the last 24 hours, through “respectful, thoughtful discourse,” significant strides were made for an agreement that will guide faculty and administration over the next five years.

“If nothing, this process has demonstrated that it is possible to engage in collective and collaborative bargaining,” Brady said. “It doesn’t always have to antagonistic or dramatic, but it does always have to be right.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.


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