Central Michigan University President George Ross apologized to the Central Michigan University community for misgendering a student.
Kai Niezgoda, who is transgender and queer, went to go ask George Ross a question at his “Walking Together” event, which was meant to start a dialogue of diversity issues on campus.
In front of a crowd of hundreds of students and staff, Ross referred to Niezgoda as “young man or young lady.” Niezgoda is part of Insider‘s contributor network.
Ross apologized for the way he addressed Niezgoda.
“It (his remarks) exemplifies the opportunities we have to recognize something we’ve said that hurts others and make it right moving forward,” Ross said in the email. “I’m taking this opportunity to follow my personal apology to the student with an apology to CMU’s transgender community and all students, faculty and staff. I’m sorry, and I’ve learned from the experience.”
Niezgoda said Ross apologized personally after the event and appreciated that he owned up to his mistake publicly.
“The key issue here isn’t the act of misgendering, which is relatively commonplace as a microaggression in my life,” Niezgoda said. “I think the takeaway really should be that it’s time for administration to do more to show solidarity with the LGBTQ community and the trans community specifically.”
A recent survey shows more than half of students students believe the university does not give transgender issues enough attention.
“I challenge him (Ross) and our administration as a whole to follow up those supportive words with actions,” Niezgoda said. ” There are a lot of resources available through the Office of LGBTQ Services and Transcend, and I hope Dr. Ross will take advantage of them.”
So how much money does CMU spend on institutional diversity?
In addition to the way Ross answered Niezgoda, students asked Ross why the university did not allocate more money for LBGTQ services.
According to the operating budget, CMU spends a little more than $1.3 million on institutional diversity, including the LBGTQ services.
CMU gives $57,461 to the LBGTQ services – about 88% goes to staff compensation.
CMU spends $186,500 of state appropriation for institutional diversity. The university also matches funds for the King-Chavez-Parks Future Faculty Fellowship, which is meant to provide Michigan’s most educationally disadvantaged citizens to have the opportunity to complete college degrees and experience career success.
The institutional diversity section of the budget doesn’t include classes on diversity issues, scholarships given to historically under-represented groups or the Title IX office.
Also, the operating budget is only the amount of money the university is planning to spend.
For example, Insider previously reported CMU spent $300,000 more on marketing last year than indicated in the operating budget. In past years, CMU spent barely any money on marketing.
Niezgoda, an intern at the Office of LBGTQ services, said the limited budget makes it difficult to reach students.
“I can tell you the programming we put on is almost always limited by necessity to events we can put on at no cost,” Niezgoda said. “In addition, the great majority of our work is done by volunteers. It is undeniable our reach could be greater and our work could be more effective were we to have a more adequate budget.”
Ross said in the email there would be a similar event to discuss diversity on campus in January.
Arielle Hines is the editor of CMU Insider.