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CMU President reflects on pandemic year, outlines future challenges

Brett Dahlberg
Central Michigan University President Bob Davies sits with his notes after an interview with WCMU News.

Central Michigan University is preparing to welcome students back to campus without a vaccine mandate. CMU president Bob Davies said making vaccination voluntary is necessary to keep the campus an inclusive place.

Students, faculty and staff will be required either to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested every week for the virus that causes it.

Davies says requiring vaccines would push some students and staff away from the university.

“When you look at a vaccine mandate, you’re going to be telling students, ‘don’t come here.’ You’re going to be telling faculty and staff, ‘don’t come here,’” Davies said. “I don’t think that’s what we want to do.”

Both Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are requiring vaccines.

CMU’s academic senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a vaccine mandate, but Davies says he heard from many other people in the community that they were opposed.

He says he personally is in favor of vaccines, but his job as president is to meet the needs of the university.

Davies says he knows students’ return to campus in the coming days will increase the number of COVID-19 cases in Isabella County, but the university is prepared.

“In 10 days’ time, we’re going to have students on campus. They’re going to be here. Guess what’s going to happen. We’re going to see an increase in cases,” Davies said. “We’re seeing that now in Mount Pleasant, as more people are coming back from their summer vacations.”

Davies says the university will work closely with local health departments to contain the virus.

Enrollment has been decreasing at CMU and many other universities during the pandemic, but Davies says the toll fell disproportionately on students of color.

He says it’s going to take a long time to reach parity between white and minority students.

“We’re not there yet, and we’ve got to admit that. We’ve got to admit that we have a long way to go. I’ve set a goal -- I call it a moonshot goal -- of equalizing graduation rates. That’s going to take a long time to hit.”

Davies says he wants to expand mentorship programs for first-generation college students and make sure that professors understand the obstacles that students face when they’re the first in their family to attend college.

Listen to the full interview with CMU President Bob Davies here:

Central Michigan University President Bob Davies speaks Friday with WCMU reporter Brett Dahlberg.

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.