GV Board of Trustees meets for first time in 2023


GVL / Bethann Long

Jack Blake and Elizabeth Schanz, Staff Writer and News Editor

On Feb. 24, Grand Valley State University’s Board of Trustees (BOT), the body responsible for the governing and management of GVSU, held its first meeting of 2023.

The meeting covered student employee wage concerns and ideas for improvements for the GVSU campus called the “Campus Master Plan” which outlines potential changes for both the Allendale and Pew campuses.

Board of Trustees Vice Chair and member of the Finance and Audit Committee, Elizabeth Emmitt, detailed the “Campus Master Plan.” Emmitt said the plan reflects the university’s goals and provides a roadmap for its capital resources and any efforts in the future.

Gregory Sanial, the vice president of finance and administration at GVSU, said the ideas as of now are to create new academic programs, replace older on-campus housing units and “reupholster” the life on campus through student life and commitment.

One of the goals for the Allendale campus is to improve pedestrian areas. Additionally, they proposed making Campus Drive, the central road on campus, to be designated for pedestrian and bus traffic. Most car traffic would be diverted to Laker Drive, located on the West side of campus.

The plan includes a “phased replacement” of the original living centers on the Allendale campus built in the 1960s: Kistler, Robinson and Copeland. This replacement would make the facilities more modern. Similarly, there is a plan to renovate and expand Kirkhof Center and continue to enhance athletic facilities.

The plan also includes many changes for the Pew Campus. Sanial said the board wants to create that “walking campus feel” that some argue the Pew Campus lacks. This would be done by creating more “green space,” student centers and a student store of some kind.

Updating classrooms and technology is also a large goal in the plan.

“What we are really looking to do is position the Pew Campus for innovation and digital learning,” Sanial said.

One major project in the “Campus Master Plan” is the “Blue Dot” which would expand the facilities of the Eberhard Center located on the downtown campus. The Blue Dot is planned to include 3D fabrication labs, audio and visual production labs, research and design labs and community and study spaces for students. Similarly, there is a plan for changes to the Health Campus to improve upon the classrooms and technology for nursing and health science curricula.

Earlier this month, two new trustees were appointed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Governor and were approved by the Senate. They were welcomed to their first meeting as GVSU BOT chairmen.

The first new trustee, Ron Hall, is the CEO of Bridgewater Interiors, L.L.C., in Detroit. During his opening statements, Hall said he’s “thrilled to be appointed to the Board.”

Executive Vice President of PADNOS and attorney, Shelley Padnos, is returning to the BOT after a hiatus, having previously served from 2007 to 2014.

The board meeting opened with public comments from students. A member of GVSU Young Democratic Socialists of America, Owen Frassetto, said he thinks student employees should have higher wages and the “accommodations for student workers at Grand Valley are currently inadequate.”

He said there are many policies in place for student workers which he feels show the university doesn’t advocate or care for the study body as well as it should.

“If a student worker misses more than two days of work for sickness they may be subject to termination and even blacklisting for getting hired on campus in the future,” Frassetto said.

President Philomena Mantella’s update detailed a welcome for the new trustees, as well as an acknowledgment of the recent tragic shooting at Michigan State University on Feb.13 that resulted in the death of three students and five critical hospitalizations.

“Our hearts are heavy, but our resolve is strong,” Mantella said.

The BOT meeting followed a campus safety briefing by Mantella and GVSU safety officials on Feb. 23. Mantella said she has a personal commitment to working with leaders across the state and nation to enhance campus safety.

Mantella said interest in GVSU is at an “all-time high.”

“We’ve seen record numbers in our institutional applications,” Mantella said.

Chief of Staff to the President and Vice President for Inclusion and Equity, Jessie Bernal, gave updates on demographic shifts at GVSU in recent years. 

“We have become increasingly more diverse since 2019,” Bernal said.

Bernal said GVSU is one of the leaders in the state in enrolling first-generation and low-income students.

“Nearly a quarter of our incoming class identify as students of color, and nearly a quarter of our recent hires have been people of color,” Bernal said.

More information on BOT and meeting minutes will be found online.