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Letter to the University Community from The Ferris Foundation (Sept. 21, 2018)

There are moments in our personal lives that actions are taken, or words are spoken that may produce either proud memories or profound regret for ourselves and our families.

So too, in the life of a University; actions may be taken, or words spoken that enhance the entire community or diminish the reputations of all involved. Words have meaning, and actions have consequences, when they occur in the pursuit of personal gain to the detriment of the entire community the community must speak out.

The authors of this letter are members of the Ferris State University Foundation Board of Directors. Collectively, we are professional and trades men and women, including current and former Ferris faculty from all over the country who have had the benefit of a Ferris education and wish to ensure that benefit accrues to current and future generations of Ferris students. We are proud citizens of the Ferris community.

For several years we have been working with President David Eisler, his administrators and the Board of Trustees to sustain the promise and reputation of a Ferris education in the face of dynamic economic and demographic realities that challenge that promise.

Since early spring we have observed with growing frustration, the pace and substance of the University’s contract negotiations with its tenured faculty. While we respect the faculty’s collective bargaining rights, they, as educated people, must face the realities of funding higher education in our state and indeed nationwide. Since the great recession, parents are raising smaller families. In the same period, Michigan lost a significant number of young persons who moved out of state to find work and took their now college age children with them. Higher education funding nationwide is still below what it was in the 1990’s. The results of this dynamic are evidenced in the parents and the students themselves who are being crushed under the costs of higher education.

We believe that our faculty are bright, highly motivated people who should continue to be compensated justly and that the economic package presented by the University reflects that belief. We further believe that many of our faculty recognize this. Unfortunately, some others apparently do not.

Recently, we became aware that the faculty association leadership intends to escalate their effort to embarrass and attack the character of President Eisler by pursuing a vote of “No Confidence” in his ability to lead our University. Further, they intend to promote this action against the backdrop of our upcoming Homecoming activities. This attempt to infuse anger and recrimination into what is an annual celebration of the achievements of the entire Ferris community demands a response from the balance of the community.

President Eisler is a blessing to this University and the community it serves. No matter the season, the hour or location, this man is working tirelessly and honorably to serve the interests of our University and the community it serves. The results of his efforts are obvious, not simply on our campuses, but also in the success of our students. He was among the first University presidents in the state to realize the potential risks presented by the dramatic demographic changes in Michigan’s population. He proactively instituted multiple efforts to not only attract more students but dramatically increase fundraising strategies to support those students and their parents. Student scholarships, faculty support and fully funded construction of campus teaching, learning and housing facilities that attract and serve more students are at an all-time high.

Understanding that a key factor in Michigan’s economy is access to training in the skilled trades, President Eisler put his fine reputation to work for us in order to secure for Ferris the only university capital outlay grant in the last legislative session. This grant enables us to complete the funding formula for the soon to be opened Swan Center on the Big Rapids campus. This facility will essentially double our capacity to educate students in welding and advanced manufacturing.

Soon, we will commence fully funded work on the renovation of the Hagerman Pharmacy Building, the construction of the Janke Golf Learning Center, an Internet Security Learning Center and an expansion of “next generation” data analytics programs in the College of Pharmacy, the College of Business and the College of Health Professions. All these programs and facilities came to fruition under the leadership of President Eisler, working with private donors, the State of Michigan and the Ferris Foundation to create a 21st century learning and teaching environment for the Ferris community. All of this was done while fostering the growth in our endowment from a mere $18.4 million to nearly $83 million during his tenure at Ferris, for the benefit of students, faculty and staff.

Encouraged by the results we have experienced under President Eisler’s leadership, we will redouble our efforts in support of the entire Ferris community. However, our efforts are in danger of being made substantially more difficult by activities such as the planned “No Confidence” vote that can serve only to undermine the leadership of the very man whose vision brought us together in the first place. Such actions have the potential to diminish not only President Eisler, but all of us.

We ask only that faculty members consider the consequences of your words and actions, and make choices that fulfill the promise of your profession, and advance the future of your students and the entire Ferris community. If our University community is to live up to the fullness of its promise, all voices need to be heard, but we should also give hate and anger no safe harbor. We again invite all of our University’s faculty to join with us in making Ferris State University an even more vital place to teach, to learn and give.