Home GRCC Board of Trustees Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer delivers an insightful presentation, alongside administrators giving...

Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer delivers an insightful presentation, alongside administrators giving updates on wellness and finances at Nov. 15 Board of Trustees meeting

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A screenshot of BOT Secretary Kathleen Bruinsma, Trustee Salvador Lopez and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer B. Afeni McNeely Cobham during the BOT livestream (GRCCTV)

The Grand Rapids Community College Board of Trustees opened the floor to Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer B. Afeni McNeely Cobham and other members of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) to discuss the many initiatives the department creates for students and faculty on Monday, Nov. 15.

“…Not only do we want all family members (GRCC community) to feel connected, but we have to remember that we are preparing the next generation of scholars or workforce practitioners to enter into these environments and contribute to our society,” Cobham said.

Cobham played a video explaining how the department came about, why it is necessary and the steps the department continues to take to inspire social awareness relating to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

“(GRCC) faculty decided that in order to collectively carry out GRCC’s mission, we must bring equity and inclusion to the forefront of our thoughts and practices,” said assistant professor Kate Kryger during the opening video.

“Providing equity-centered development and support to faculty is critical to achieving and teaching the learning goal(s) at GRCC,” added GRCC assistant professor Laura Kennett.

Vice Chairperson Kenyatta Brame reflected on his time as a student as he recalled the courses that had the most impact on him were ones that related to diversity and inclusion. Brame asked Cobham what classes she would recommend students take at the college in order to better understand the meaning behind ODEI’s initiatives. 

“I’m going to rely on my colleague (Dean of Instructional Support) Sheila Jones,” Cobham said. “We talked about it over the summer but didn’t get to move forward on this idea of identifying all the classes that had an equity lens or framework to them. Perhaps this idea of… (creating) a diversity minor using classes already in place.”

Jones  noted that “we (GRCC) don’t have cultural competence general education learning outcomes and our faculty are currently revising outcomes to align to that so that it will be more prominent than it’s been across our general education curriculum.”

Monday’s meeting also included the college’s financial update led by Vice President for Finance and Administration Lisa Freiburger. The update regarded the approvals of GRCC’s property tax resolution and two Michigan New Jobs Training agreements, as well as the financial, investment and purchasing agenda for October 2021.

According to the financial update, the tuition and fee revenue has exceeded the budget previously adopted in June 2021 as the enrollment rate exceeded expectations for the academic year. 

“In March (2022), as we typically do, we will be looking for a tuition review recommendation and approval,” Freiburger said. 

The department will also look to amend the college’s state aid in the winter semester. 

A property tax resolution is an annual resolution required by the state statute that allows the college to collect property taxes in the summer semester instead of the winter. GRCC’s current property tax is approximately $44.6 million, with a millage rate of 1.7307. The college has 47 taxing jurisdictions that help to collect the property tax.

However, as predicted earlier this semester, GRCC has seen a rollback in the millage rate, which is causing the college to lose $4.4 million a year in revenue due to an original 1.9 mills being voted on by the public when the college was first established. Due to the Headlee amendment that was passed in 1978 and amended to the Michigan Constitution, it restricts the amount the college can collect when property taxes rise higher than the rate of inflation, causing the $4.4 million loss annually. 

President Bill Pink also segwayed into the college’s wellness programs that continue to provide opportunities and information to assist in keeping the GRCC community healthy in all aspects. Pink introduced Director of the Ford Fieldhouse Whitney Marsh to the podium, as well as Interim Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Leigh Kleinert via Zoom, to discuss the college’s wellness initiatives going forward.

“Wellness has been in the forefront of everyone’s mind during the pandemic,” Kleinert said. “(It) connects students, employees and community members with resources available to them on campus to lead healthier lives… we’ve compiled a pretty extensive list of the current wellness opportunities that we have, and we’ve learned that many (wellness events) are not well attended or actually taken advantage of.”

Marsh added to Kleinert’s comments, saying, “We have established ‘wellness Wednesdays’(and) each week we will be featuring a person or a place on campus ready to support anyone in their wellness journey. 

“We also want to make sure that students have a voice in this committee and in this initiative, so we have partnered with the student organization Phi Theta Kappa to promote wellness.” Marsh continued. “But we also want to know what the students are needing and wanting in their wellness journeys and how we can help support them.”

The BOT meeting schedule for the upcoming winter semester can be found here.