Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin held an informal open dialogue Tuesday with the campus community in the food court of the Student Center.
Martin brought a handful of campus officials to help answer any questions students had, in case Martin didn’t know the answer, or wasn’t able to give an as in-depth of an answer as the student might need.
Martin provided a brief overview of what was going on at EMU, events coming up and changes for the better such as the percentage of incoming freshmen with a 3.0 grade point average this school year increasing to 9,000 from last year’s 6,800.
Martin also discussed things that needed to be worked on, such as the budget.
“Our biggest challenge this year will be working to stretch our budget,” Martin said.
She also talked about upcoming campus events such as Martin Luther King Jr. day, a diversity forum, and reminded students and faculty to support EMU’s athletic teams.
Martin took time to congratulate the women’s basketball team for their recent win.
After giving the overview, Martin allowed questions and comments from the audience regarding campus matters.
Some students asked questions regarding financial aid and the advising system at EMU, in which Martin talked about plans to introduce “Red Lantern” to students, an online program
to help students self-assess for advising.
One freshman shared her story of not being able to afford books for her classes for the school year, because she was only given a $26 refund after financial aid.
Her main question to President Martin was what kind of help is available for student’s who come from low-income homes.
President Martin strongly urged the student to go to the financial aid office, but also directed her to Bernice Lindke, associate vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, for assistance.
Other questions and issues such as parking, lighting and usage of the EMU shuttle to the College of Business came up.
EMU Student Government President Antonio Cosme brought up the success of Club Halle, the student government funded program that keeps Halle Library open 24 hours during finals, and also provides students with food and free T-shirts.
“I wanted to know the chances of the University taking this on so it wouldn’t be such a burden for student government to take on Club Halle,” Cosme said.
Martin told Cosme there were plans of taking it on in next year’s budget.
After all of the questions and comments had been addressed, she offered students to come talk to her after about any questions or problems they wanted to talk about they weren’t comfortable talking about in front of everyone.
Martin explained the reason for holding the informal discussions.
“…A desire to be more accessible and more transparent, we wanted students to know how the university is run, get the information they’re asking for, and for [campus officials] to be aware of issues students have,” she said.
The idea for the “Conversations with President Martin” came from the vice president of communications at EMU, Walter Kraft.
“[The idea came from] talking with the president, and we wanted to foster open dialogue, for [the leadership team], but it also gives people an opportunity to ask questions,” Kraft said. “Having campus officials in the audience was no mistake either. “They’re here so we could connect people right on the spot, and resolve any issue a student had.”
According to Kraft, the conversations will continue to take place in the Student Center food court.
“The food court area is a great place for congregating; it has sort of a grassroots feel to it and we wanted an informal setting,” he said. “We wanted to go where the people are.”
The “Conversations with President Martin” will be a monthly event.
The next two open dialogues will be Feb. 8 and March 16.