EMU is the poster child for spending on college sports out of control on HBO Real Sports Ep 229: “College Costs”

Once again, EMU is is the poster child for out of control spending in sports, this time on the HBO show Real Sports in a story reported by a guy named John Frankel. Eastern comes out looking pretty bad, and in reality, I think the actual situation right now is even worse.

While the trailer suggests this is mainly about Eastern, the episode is at least as much (if not more) about Rutgers in New Jersey. They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars right now in order to buy their way into contention in the Big Ten (which, logically, is now 14 universities). In the last 12 years (at least according to the guy they interview in the show), Rutgers has lost over $300 million on college sports. Making matters all the worse is Rutgers has spent a ton of money on coaches that they’ve had to fire and buy out. Though one thing Rutgers potentially has going for it is since they are the enormous flagship university for the state of New Jersey, they might be able to pay off a lot of that debt thanks to alumni and just being a part of the Big Ten.

And they also talk to the president of Paul Quinn College, Michael Sorrell, and how they gave up on football. I think Sorrell makes great arguments and I love the fact that they turned their football field into a small farm/enormous garden to grow food for campus, but given that Paul Quinn College has under 300 students, I think the comparison between it and Rutgers and EMU is pretty thin.

Those problems with this report aside, it does captures a lot of what is going on at EMU and what has been going on here for years. HBO interviewed EMU professor and EMU-AAUP former president/former treasurer (I’m actually not sure what his role in the union is right now) Howard Bunsis. According to Frankel (and I guess Howard), EMU has lost $52 million in athletics in the last two years. “For all the spending, Eastern Michigan has not had a winning football season in 20 years. It’s lone claim to fame? It draws the smallest attendance of any team in all of top tier division one football. Yet this year, the team outfitted the team in three different helmets and three different uniforms, and paid its coach more than anyone else on campus.”

They did an interview/feature of a student named Kelly Adams, someone they described as a “non-traditional student,” which is of course a pretty typical student at EMU. I’m not sure she added a lot to the discussion other than to put a name and a face with what I think is a pretty typical student at EMU.

And Frankel interviewed Interim President Donald Loppnow, and his answers were pretty, um, bad. Frankel asked about Ramone Williams, the EMU student who was in the news in late 2015/early 2016 because he was homeless, living more or less in campus buildings and in his car. Loppnow said something like “a lot of our students have difficult circumstances.” Then Frankel asked about the EMU Food Pantry that has opened up– I think just this last semester. It went like this:

“And how much funding does Eastern Michigan provide for the food pantry?”  Frankel asked.

“At this point it’s strictly through donations, but we’re looking at building it into ongoing service.” Loppnow said.

“So that’s zero.”

“I wish that we could do a lot lot more to address these needs.”

“But you’ve got the money, you’re just spending it in a place that isn’t helping those in need.”

“I understand what you’re saying” said a visibly uncomfortable Loppnow. “It’s part of the overall debate, and frankly, we will be funding these areas that you indicated.”

Mark Maynard has a good post here where he quotes from a long news story where EMU Regent Jim Stapleton claimed that the board was looking at “everything,” including football. The Freep has a story here with the predictable “not planning on cutting athletics but all option are on the table,” but at the same time maintaining the idea that participating in division one athletics is an “investment” by the university. MLive followed with a story of its own and the usual hater of all things EMU comments.

But here’s what all these stories are leaving out and why I’d argue this situation is even worse:

EMU is in the midst of a budget crisis. It’s been a rumor for a long time and was the subject of an email from none other than Interim President Loppnow earlier this week where he announced that there wouldn’t be across the board but “strategic” budget cuts across all units.

What the EMU administration hasn’t been talking about is this current budget crisis is essentially a self-inflicted wound. It’s not a result of cuts from the state– that funding I believe has been fairly stable or slightly rising for few years– but rather the result of everyone on the Board of Regents and in Welch Hall believing the unrealistic projections in terms of enrollment and tuition dollars that were being presented by President Susan Martin and Provost Kim Schatzel. Well, now these two– both of whom come out of business backgrounds, mind you– are long gone: Martin retired, and Schatzel wrapped up her term as provost/interim president in December and is now the president at Towson University in Maryland.

So, what we’re looking at here is a financial crisis that is the result of bad management by the university’s top leaders and negligent oversight by the board. Maybe this latest of many stories about money pit that is athletics at EMU will truly make the powers that be take a “hard look” at the football team and such. More likely, the new president and the BoR will double-down on football, and we’ll be cutting past bone in academics yet again in the name of looking at “everything” and making “strategic” cuts.

And do not even get me started on the DID crap! (Though I’ll be blogging about once the dust there has settled…)


There was a joint report issued by the EMU Faculty Senate, the EMU-AAUP, and EMU Student Government about the budget woes at EMU and the ridiculousness of EMU athletic spending. I uploaded it as a slideshare.net document here. Lots of charts and graphs, and the recommendation is EMU ought to get out of the MAC and join the Horizon league which doesn’t require us to be in football.


About that slide show at the University of Houston on how to be a professor and avoid being killed: a few miscellaneous thoughts

Texas passed a law last year that makes it legal to carry concealed weapons on college campuses in that state. The University of Houston faculty senate put together a controversial slide show offering some debatable and/or dubious advice that became a story in Inside Higher Ed, the AAUP blog, local Mark Maynard’s blog, and lots of other places. Here’s a link to the actual PowerPoint slide show, but the slide everyone is talking about is this one:


So, several thoughts, more or less in this order:

  • I am very much against these kinds of concealed weapon laws and the rampant arming of America and my hope is that there will be a swing in the U.S. Supreme Court (RIP, Scalia) and in federal and state legislatures in the next few years and some level of sanity can return. I have no problem with people having guns to hunt or shoot targets or whatever, and I guess you can get a gun to protect yourself if you want (though I think there is a lot of evidence out there as to why that’s a bad idea). I think there are reasonable lines to be drawn in terms of licensing gun owners, restricting automatic weapons, concealed weapons, etc. Sadly, nothing is going to change for at least the next few (5? 10?) years.
  • Frankly, the biggest concern I have about these kinds of rules allowing more guns on campuses is for students. As Casey Boyle pointed out on Facebook the other day, dumb accidents are bound to happen– as it is, half of our students are carrying around cracked up smart phones they dropped; imagine the number of students shooting themselves or others because they drop their damn gun. And don’t even get me started on the dorms and student apartments because it doesn’t take a gun safety expert to see that adding guns into the mix for young twenty-somethings who are drinking/smoking weed/whatever else (did you know college kids did these things?) is not a great idea. As it is, there’s a shooting pretty much every weekend at some college campus in this country, usually at some late night off-campus party. This isn’t going to help.
  • And I think that the argument that people with concealed weapons could stop the “crazy shooter” from killing is goofy. I didn’t attend this session (it was a scheduling thing for me), but there was an “active shooter” training for my department not so long ago, and as I understand it, one of the things that happened was someone burst into the meeting unannounced with a gun (obviously fake) and demonstrated just how impossible it would be for anyone but Jason Bourne to save themselves or anyone else against someone who has the element of surprise and a loaded gun. So I don’t know if this new law is going to lead to more shootings, but I sure as heck know it isn’t going to stop many/any.

On the other hand….

  • Let’s keep in mind that the fear that the UH faculty senate is responding to with these slides is not new with this law. This list of school shootings in the  U.S. on Wikipedia says that the first school shooting in this country was in 1764. (This list lumps K-12 schools and higher ed schools into the same category.) Obviously, the number of shootings and their accompanying deaths and injuries has been increasing, and those increases have been pretty dramatic in recent years.
  • Guns are really only the most dramatic problem faculty face from potentially dangerous students. The last EMU-AAUP contract has some language on “Student Conduct” because there were a number of incidents of students harassing faculty (typically male students and female faculty). As I wrote about in the old EMUTalk days here, there was a case at EMU where it took the administration six weeks to remove a disruptive student from a particular case, and there was at least one story that I heard about a faculty member who had a restraining order out against a student and that student was in her class and the university was slow to do anything about it.
  • The point is these threats are a) not new, and b) not limited to guns. Again, I think this new law in Texas is alarming for all kinds of different reasons, and I certainly would not be happy if the same thing were happening in Michigan (and for all I know, it will be happening in Michigan sooner than later). I’m just saying that working in schools have always had this element of danger because schools are “soft targets” filled with a lot of vulnerable people. Back in 2013, I blogged about a ridiculous article that claimed professors had the “least stressful” job. One of the categories of stressors in this article was “meeting the public,” and as I wrote back then, the people who think professors have it made because they only work with students forget the fact that students are “the public.” And to quote myself: “Every professor/ lecturer/ adjunct/ graduate assistant I know can tell you several hair-curling stories about dealing with students/the public who were insulting, mean, weepy, drunk, scary, crazy, potential violent, lazy, rude, and/or all of the above. Honestly, working with the public/students is often the best and the worst part of the job, and it is definitely one of the sources of stress in my life.”
  • Taking guns out of the equation, those first three bullet points (no pun intended) on that slide are actually not bad advice. I blogged last August in sympathetic terms about trigger warnings, and there’s something to be said for that here. Teachers should be “sensitive” when discussing sensitive topics. I don’t know about “dropping certain topics from your curriculum,” but if you’re teaching something that is going to get students so angry that it might incite violence, well, maybe that ought to be re-thought. I’m very much for challenging students’ thinking and assumptions about the world, but that’s different than trying to create conflict.
  • Most faculty already do some flavor of the last three bullet points. I don’t give students my phone number or my home address, and while I’ll meet grad students I know at a coffee shop near campus or this near-campus hangout called The Corner, I generally limit my face to face access to students (outside of the classroom or my office) to some place on campus like the student center. I try to meet students by appointment as often as necessary– not really for safety reasons but because it’s more convenient for everyone. When I meet with students in my office, I always leave the door open, though that’s more about avoiding the appearance of  sexual harassment or some other false student charge against me. (And by the way, I’ve never had any sort of charge like that from a student, but I’ve always felt like it’s best to meet with students in a semi-public space. Better safe than sorry).
  • Frankly, this slide bothers me more:


Really? you want me to take a poll of my students on this? Isn’t that liable to call out the one who has the concealed weapon? Isn’t that more likely to piss people off?

  • And then finally, the gallows humor/practical parts of me says that maybe this is another reason why it’s worth it to teach more online.

So, what do we know about EMU’s new president, James M. Smith?

The super-duper secret search is over and with much surprise and little notice, the EMU powers that be/Board of Regents announced a new president on Friday, James M. Smith. Of course, by “super-duper secret search,” I mean the (IMO, bad) decision by the board to do a not at all open search and to use the same head hunting firm the University of Iowa used to hire its current controversial president J. Bruce Harreld, a business wonk with no notable academic experience and who recently suggested that unprepared teachers ought to be shot. And of course, this was also a search where the faculty senate and the EMU-AAUP made the (IMO, bad) decision to not participate in the search process based on some sort of high road principle involving taking one’s ball and going home that I still don’t quite understand.

But that’s all over now, and it looks like the main fear most of my colleagues and I had, that this super-secret would result in a president who had negligible academic experience or was clearly a political/crony hack or whatever, it looks like that hasn’t happened.

So who exactly is this James Smith guy?

Well, “James Smith” is a pretty tough name to Google (one of my colleagues suggested that might have been one of the reasons why the board picked him), so a search like “‘James M. Smith'” controversy” is pretty useless. The same cannot be said about a search like “‘John Fallon’ controversy” now, though it’s worth remembering my searching about Fallon back in 2005 didn’t turn up anything either.

As far as I can tell, the basic bio EMU has provided is about right. Smith is president of Northern State University in South Dakota, which I will admit does sound like a made-up name for a university (a “northern” in “South” Dakota? Really?) and he’s been there since 2009. Northern is like Eastern in that it seems to be a regional university that comes out of the normal school tradition, though it’s a lot smaller, like 3600 or so students. Smith has been looking to move on for at least a couple years; he was a finalist in the presidential search at Murray State in March 2014. Before Northern, he was Vice President for “Economic Development” at Bowling Green State; before that, he was dean of BGSU’s Firelands College; before that, he had various administrator/professor gigs at Indiana-South Bend and Texas A&M; and before that, he got a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Miami (Ohio); and even before that, he was apparently an elementary school teacher and principal. In short, the board definitely did not hire someone from outside of academia.

I think there are two potentially interesting issues that could come up between now and when Smith officially takes over in July. First off, EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller sent an email out to faculty the other day saying that they “are researching whether the contract violates the terms of our union contract regarding tenure and rank.” The union and the administration have been wrestling for several years (or so it seems) over the ways that administrators who are also tenure-track faculty get promoted and such while in administrative roles, and it was a bit of a controversy last year when for a couple of administrative positions (including one I applied for) the search committee brought in candidates from outside who would have to be tenured into a home department. In at least one case that I know of, the department said they wouldn’t give that person tenure.

I suspect at the end of the day, the Board will get its way. But this really has been an issue in recent years in that I can think of at least four (probably more) folks who were hired in as an administrator who subsequently (and in most cases, rather quickly) crashed and burned and then had to resort to a position as a tenured professor, and that has often enough caused some trouble. We don’t just hand out tenure like it’s a forgone conclusion, even at a place like EMU where the requirements for tenure and promotion are modest. So to just automatically give Smith tenure especially given he was hired in secret with zero involvement from the faculty in the department where he’d be tenured– well, that’s more than just a paperwork formality.

The second thing I wonder about is Smith’s wife, Connie Ruhl-Smith. As far as I can tell, she too is an academic interested in academic leadership, and she seems to be a reasonably active scholar. What is her role at EMU going to be? According this 2011 article, at Northern State she was the “director of special initiatives;” is that going to happen at EMU? How would EMU’s policies about employing relatives figure in? I guess we’ll see this as it evolves.

But on the whole, it looks to me like Smith is a pretty good hire. The scary thing about any kind of hiring is you never really know how it’s going to work out until it’s too late to undo it all, but I’m cautiously optimistic that EMU’s new president will probably work out.

New and old thoughts on the challenges of fycomp and/or “why students can’t write” through the lens of John Warner

John “Just Visiting” Warner had a very good column/blog entry at Inside Higher Ed the other day called “I Cannot Prepare Students to Write Their (History, Philosophy, Sociology, Poly Sci., etc…) Papers.” It’s a smart piece; here’s how it starts:

Occasionally, one hears grumbling from faculty who assign writing in their courses about the apparent lack of preparation of students to successfully execute those assignments. They wonder what’s happening in the general education writing courses when so many students seem to arrive in without the skills necessary to succeed at college-level writing, particularly research-based analytical work.

As an instructor of first-year writing it can be hard not to take these things personally.

I do my best to help students succeed for the future writing occasions they’ll confront in college and beyond, but the truth is, I cannot properly prepare them for what’s coming.

And then from there, Warner goes on to a list that I’ll build on in a moment/after the break.

Warner’s piece really struck a cord with me for a variety of different reasons, most of them timing around the end of the semester and what-not. This isn’t new territory for anyone involved in first year composition– certainly not for folks who have some kind of quasi-administrative connection to writing programs– and, personally, I long ago stopped taking these things personally. The first time some professor from outside of writing studies (though not always from outside English or even the field of writing studies, frankly) or some administrator confronts you with “hey, how come students come out of that first year writing program you teach in (and/or run) can’t even write a decent sentence?!” you get angry and/or you kind of get that whole deer in headlights freeze. The 200th time you get some version of this question/confrontation, you just kind of smile and sigh.

Warner’s article here is basically a list– a good one, and one that I thought was worthy of embellishing, at least for my own purposes. After all, I’m finishing up this semester as the associate director of the first year writing program and while Derek Mueller is on sabbatical in the winter, I’ll be in the director’s chair. I might need this post in the near future. Maybe others will find my expansions on Warner’s points interesting and useful as well.

Continue reading “New and old thoughts on the challenges of fycomp and/or “why students can’t write” through the lens of John Warner”

EMU in the CHE for all the wrong reasons, again: More secret presidential search follies

The latest news in the EMU presidential search process is it was one of the topics in this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, “In Search for College Chiefs, Faculty Input Can Feel Like a Mere Formality.” It’s behind the paywall, but let’s just say I “have my ways” and I did read it.

First off, the best observation in this CHE piece is not in the article itself but in the first comment I read, one signed by James H. Finkelstein. To paraphrase: the problem with what the EMU Board of Regents is doing (along with a lot of other boards since this article is about this trend at lots of other schools) isn’t that it’s a confidential search; it’s a secret search. A confidential search would be one where there’s no public information about the search leading up to the finalists, but once everyone knows who the top three or four candidates are, there is some kind of public “presentation” of these finalists to the university community. A secret search is one where there’s no public information at all, not about candidates who applied, about finalists, ad nothing about the final interview process. Someone just opens a door one day, introduces the new president, and that’s that.

Now, I don’t think anyone has a problem with a confidential search. If you are a mucky-muck provost or president or dean or whatever and you are looking to make the jump to president at a place like EMU, you don’t to give your current employer the impression that you’re on the job market. Everyone knows that; heck, it’s the same thing for most faculty looking to move from one job to another. But by the time the search is down to finalists, I think it’s fair to say there isn’t much need for confidentiality.

Look, we’re not picking a pope; we’re trying to hire the president of a public institution that involves tens of thousands of alumni, students, staff, faculty, and administrators who all deserve to have at least some role in the process. And frankly, I’m suspicious of a finalist who doesn’t want contact with people at the university and beyond the hiring committee before taking the job.

Second, I think this article does a pretty shitty job characterizing Martin’s presidency and departure. A quote:

The search at Eastern Michigan comes on the heels of two presidencies that ended in controversy. Susan W. Martin, who resigned in July, had been reprimanded by the board for having an “inappropriate” alcohol-fueled exchange at a public event. Her predecessor, John A. Fallon III, was fired, in 2007, amid outcry over the university’s bungled response to a student murder.

There is a lot of pressure to get this one right, and regents say a closed search provides the best chance of that.

This is a classic example of a journalist bending reality to fit the argument they want to make: that is, the last two presidents were so controversial that now the board has to do a secret search to “get this one right.” So much for the objectivity of journalism, right?

Say what you will about Martin’s presidency (I thought she was pretty good, certainly the best president I’ve dealt with at EMU) and you can even say what you want about the board reprimand over some kind of drunken argument (though I think that was mostly a bogus hack job promoted by some former board members who wanted her out). But there was zero connection between Martin stepping down as president and this reprimand, none, and to suggest that there was a connection– that is, that this reprimand is what lead to Martin resigning in disgrace– is slimy.

They get Fallon about right though.

Third, I hope that the Faculty Senate does take search chair/BoR member Michelle Crumm up on her offer to add faculty to the committee. As I wrote about before, I think simply walking away from the search entirely is a dumb and pointless protest. In my view, faculty could make a lot more difference by participating in the search committee and, simultaneously, advocating for at least some openness in the process.  And as Crumm points out, two more faculty on the committee would mean three out of the twelve members of the committee would be faculty. That’s a hell of a lot better than none, even if the search remains secret.


Hey EMU-AAUP & Faculty Senate: Quitting the Presidential Search Committee is a bad idea

A little less than a month ago, I wrote here about the problems of the EMU presidential search being conducted by the Board of Regents essentially in secret: that is, instead of bringing in candidates for a public vetting process of one sort or another, the search committee is going to do their work and at some point, they’re going to hire someone and that will be that. I think that’s a bad idea for all kinds of different reasons and my take is that the committee ought to bring in finalists to do some public presentations. They could easily do that because by the time they’re down to the three or four people they might want to hire, the cat is out of the bag about who is applying for the job for everyone. As far as I can tell, this could still happen but it’s not likely.

Anyway, there have been a couple of articles as of late in mLive about all this. Yesterday there was “Faculty tension mounts as EMU’s private presidential search moves forward.” And then this morning, it appears that the EMU-AAUP and the Faculty Senate have “doubled-down” on being tense and/or mad about the search process, as reported here, “EMU faculty members may abort advisory roles if presidential search kept private.” Here’s a quote:

Citing a lack of shared governance over the Board of Regents decision to conduct a confidential, private search, Howard Bunsis, the treasurer and spokesman for the EMU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the school’s all-union council voted to pull its lone representative from the advisory committee.

Judith Kullberg, a political science professor and the vice president of the faculty senate, also said the faculty senate would vote to remove its representative on the advisory committee if the board didn’t change the process to give faculty members the opportunity to vet potential presidential candidates.

She added that the faculty would not add two additional members to the advisory committee, which board chair Michelle Crumm suggested as a solution to the faculty’s complaints about its lack of representation in the presidential selection process.

That’s dumb.

I understand and even agree with Bunsis’ and Kullberg’s basic point about faculty governance, and like I’ve already said, I think they should at least bring the finalists to campus not only for the sake of the EMU community but for the sake of the candidates. I think we owe these people a little more information about what they are getting themselves into, and I don’t see how any of the potential presidents could get much insight about EMU if they only encounter people on the search committee.

Unless the plan is to hire Schatzel, though if that were the case, it seems to me they could have just skipped the search process.

But one thing is for sure: for the faculty to take what input they might have in the process now– and again, the board chair wants to put more faculty on the committee, which would indeed give faculty more input into the process– and throw it away is just dumb. It’s a pouty “I’m going to take my ball and go home” kind of ploy that won’t work because– surprise surprise– it ain’t the faculty’s ball to take home.

So I hope they rethink this. Go ahead and keep voicing opposition to the closed search process and keep pointing out that faculty ought to have more of a role here, I have no problem with that. But giving up the seats on the committee as a protest is just plain dumb.

Wanted at EMU: Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Writing: Writing Pedagogy/Curriculum Development

As the chair of the committee, I’m pleased to invite applications for a new faculty position here at Eastern Michigan. The ad is below and I’m happy to answer any questions anyone might have, but just a few things to mention not in the ad:

  • Here’s a direct link to the position on EMU’s academic HR site: http://goo.gl/9xYe0X
  • For all kinds of reasons, I think EMU is a great place to work. We have a long tradition of a strong faculty union, which I think has been quite successful in helping set the terms of work and negotiating good contracts. Our department gets along well with each other, and the colleagues I work most closely with in written communication are fantastic. We have a really interesting and diverse student body and a very well-established first year writing program, major, and MA.
  • I’m not going to lie, we do have winter here in Michigan. That said, I really like living in Southeast Michigan. The whole area is affordable, and there are nice neighborhoods within walking distance from campus (I live in one of them). As the home of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor is one of the great “college towns” in America in terms of libraries, restaurants, stores, bars, book stores, theaters, events, coffee shops, etc. We’re on the edge of Metro Detroit which has all of the trappings of any major metropolitan area.


The Department of English Language and Literature at Eastern Michigan University invites
applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor in writing with emphasis in writing pedagogy, curriculum design, and writing studies, beginning Fall 2016. We seek a colleague who will collaborate on the development of a series of intermediate writing courses, in addition to teaching first-year writing and teaching a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses in the Written Communication Program.

Candidates will hold a PhD in Rhetoric and Composition, Writing Studies, or a closely related field by August 2016. The ideal candidate will have scholarship, teaching experience, professional experience, and a research program reflecting a commitment to first-year writing, curriculum design, and writing pedagogy. The candidate will join an established, vibrant community of teacher/scholars, which includes nine tenure-track faculty in the EMU Written Communication Program.

All applications must be made online at: http://agency.governmentjobs.com/emichedu/default.cfm
Our review of applications will begin on October 15, 2015, and will continue until the position is filled. Application materials should include a letter of interest that specifies teaching and research agendas, a CV, a statement of teaching philosophy, and a writing sample. Please direct questions to the Search Committee Chair, Dr. Steven D. Krause, skrause@emich.edu, 612 Pray-Harrold Hall, Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197.

If contacted, you will be asked to present three letters of reference and official transcripts of your highest degree earned at the time of interview.

EMU enrolls approximately 23,000 students and offers an outstanding benefits package and a collegial work environment. EMU’s distinct mix of comprehensive academic resources, strong community initiatives, focus on Education First, and nationally-recognized undergraduate and graduate student research achievements set it apart. The EMU campus is located in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor community, five miles from downtown Ann Arbor and 35 miles west of Detroit, MI and Windsor, Ontario.

EMU News: When should concern turn to panic with the presidential search?

Loyal readers of EMUTalk.org will note that that site is no longer: the account has officially expired, though I still own the domain name and it is redirecting now to emutalkarchive.wordpress.com. It’s a free wordpress install that is a complete archive of the site, nine years worth of posts and comments.  And I suppose it could become a “real site” again, if need-be.

But as I always said, one of the main reasons why I hung it up at EMUTalk.org is I felt like it was all my voice and I already have a blog, one where I intend to keep posting the kinds of things I used to post on EMUTalk.org. Which brings me to my point, the EMU presidential search.

EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller sent around an email this morning with the subject line “EMU Presidential Search to be done in SECRET!” It sounds the alarm about the search process for a new president at EMU. You can read the whole thing after the jump, but here’s how she starts in her opening paragraph:

On Monday, September 14, 2015, Regent Crumm sent an email to the campus community announcing that the search for the new EMU President will be a closed one.  This means that the entire President search will be done in secret.  We will NEVER know who the candidates are – we will only know who gets the job in the end.

And then it kind of goes on from there.

But the added concern/panic factor is the EMU Board of Regents is using Parker Executive Search to find candidates, the same head hunter firm that the University of Iowa recently used in its hiring of a new president. And my alma mater has ended up hiring J. Bruce Harreld, a guy with no academic leadership experience, though he apparently knows a lot about fast food. In other words, the worry is we’re going to get stuck with a similar kind of business wonk, and not a particularly distinguished business wonk at that.

I’m of two minds about all this.

On the one hand, the EMU-AAUP has a way of leaping to conclusions, and I don’t think we should panic quite yet. Presidential searches are never “open” affairs. When EMU hired Susan Martin, there was a process where an executive head hunting firm vetted candidates and somehow we ended up with four BoR approved finalists (I can’t remember how they did that). Then the candidates all gave presentations and there was opportunity for faculty, staff, students, alumni, etc., to give input. But it was just input; at the end of the day, the Board of Regents hires the president.

As Moeller points out in her letter, the University of Michigan hired its current president completely in secret, which is the process I think they’ve always had. In other words, the board is saying we’re just following “standard practice.” Don’t get me wrong, I think the BoR should seek input from the campus community. But to me, Moeller’s argument against the way they did it at Michigan, that– “please note that EMU is not the University of Michigan”– isn’t persuasive.

As for Parker Executive Search: this is a company that does a lot of these kinds of searches, and the real problem with the sham hire the University of Iowa did for its president is the state of Iowa. It’s a long story, but all accounts suggest a political hack job that has a lot more to do with the (Republican) Governor and (Republican) chair of the state board of regents and their dislike of the University of Iowa and the Democratic voters in the county where the University is located. Plus there’s a complicated scheme in the works in the state to redistribute some of the money that U of Iowa brings in now to the other two state universities. In other words, the politics here in Michigan generally and at EMU in particular are very different.

On the other hand, this does have a whiff of something that could go bad fairly quickly.

I think one of the reasons why Susan Martin got off to a good start as president were the candidate forums brought the campus together and gave folks at least the impression that the board was listening to them. Skipping that process entirely could be bad for everyone, including both the Board of Regents, the search committee, and whoever it is they decide to hire. I mean, that’s why Iowa is getting such bad press right now; does EMU (and the Parker firm for that matter) really want to have similarly bad press?

So I guess I want to hear a little more from the powers that be about how the search is going to happen before I panic and/or send out emails WITH LOTS OF CAPITALS! But I think everyone agrees no one who cares about EMU ought to wait too long.
Continue reading “EMU News: When should concern turn to panic with the presidential search?”

MOOCs and PR: That’s not exactly what/all I said

Here’s an example as to why I am often not all that interested in talking to reporters. I was quoted in Crain’s Detroit Business in the article “Massive online courses grow; what’s in it for the universities?” by Kirk Pinho. Here’s how I’m quoted:

Steven Krause, a professor in the Eastern Michigan University Department of English, Language and Literature who co-edited the 2014 book Invasion of the MOOCs: The Promises and Perils of Massive Open Online Courses, said that in many ways MOOCs are good public relations for universities.

“It represents, for UM or Ohio State University or MSU a little less so, PR. And it’s not a huge cost to them. It’s more about trying to attract a student to apply to UM rather than take a MOOC online. It’s essentially advertising,” he said.

That’s not inaccurate, but it’s not at all complete, either.

Pinho called me up to talk MOOCs after getting my name from one of the PR folks here at EMU. He told me he was pretty much done with his article and was contacting me at this point to get some additional thoughts. He seems like a nice guy; we chatted for about 30 minutes about a variety of different things, mostly MOOCs.

Just to be clear, Pinho isn’t misquoting me or misrepresenting me. I do think that MOOCs represent a form of PR for the universities offering them. It’s just that I said a lot more than that. For example, I think that the University of Michigan et al feel a completely earnest and legitimate obligation to give back to the community at large, sort of along the lines of what Geralyn Stephens from Wayne State says in this piece. Pinho and I talked a bit about some of the possibilities of “internal” MOOCs, along the lines of what Stephens talks about as well. We talked about completion rates and how one of the problems with MOOCs is the definition of “student” and how that also problematizes things like completion rates. And on a completely different topic, we also talked a bit about how companies like Coursera seem to be making a pivot away from higher education and more toward “just in time” training and certificates.

And anyone who has read this blog at all knows that I think MOOCs are about a whole lot more than PR.

Anyway, I realize Pinho is just trying to do a job here and this is just one out of seemingly hundreds of articles that are “out there” in the MSM along the lines of “gee whiz, what’s up with all this MOOC thing I am hearing about?” I am guessing that Pinho’s editors were the ones who cut the shit out of his piece to make it fit, etc., etc. It just gets kind of frustrating to see what I thought was the least interesting thing I said to be the only thing that makes it into this article.

But at least the book got mentioned again, so that’s a good thing.

The end of EMUTalk is near/EMU-AAUP contract negotiatons

I’m always surprised when August arrives. Summer goes along with June and July– and that’s especially true for me this summer since it’s the first time I haven’t taught a summer course since I came to EMU, probably only the second or so time in the last 25 or more years. That’s not to say that I haven’t been working at all– I’m doing sabbatical things, I was involved in EMU’s first Cyberdiscovery camp, I’ve done a bit of quasi-administrative work, and so forth. Still, the summer pace is slower and the summer schedule is a bit more abstract, even “lazy.” But when August rolls around, I know that it means that the end of summer is near.

And with this summer, the end of EMUTalk is also near. I won’t be renewing the domain name or server space when the bill comes due this September– though technically, if someone else wanted to start up their own version of a site with the EMUTalk.org domain name, I suppose they could. Also before September, I am trying to figure out a way to download the entire site and then post it someplace as a file– that is, while it wouldn’t be an active blog anymore, it would at least be available as a “text” for anyone who is interested. If anyone knows the technicalities of converting a wordpress site into one big file, let me know.

But this is not to say that these kinds of posts/comments/discussions are disappearing entirely. For one thing, the EMUTalk Facebook discussion group already has 72 members– and you can join too!  Just login to your Facebook account and either click that link or search for EMUTalk. For another, I will continue to blog about these kinds of things at stevendkrause.com (including this post!), and I am thinking that I will be rearranging my site into more distinct categories, one of which will be “EMU.” Stay tuned.

Anyway, the one thing that is going on this summer that is EMUTalk-like news is faculty contract negotiations. There’s a meeting on Tuesday, August 4 at noon in Roosevelt Auditorium. According to Susan Moeller’s email to faculty the other day, this is the meeting where the bargaining team will show the administration’s first offer in terms of money and benefits. I won’t be making it to this meeting (I’ve got other plans), but I hope to hear from some folks who go here in the comments. But I don’t recall a meeting like this with the faculty this early in the process.

I think this is a positive thing and a pretty good indication of changing times. In the past, it seems like we would have a faculty meeting like this later in the negotiating process, and during one of these late August/early September meetings, the bargaining team has asked for a vote to authorize a strike, and sometimes, it would get real ugly real fast. Nowadays, it seems like the administration and the union have been able to get along and negotiate with each other in a much more (for lack of a better word) “mature” fashion.

The other thing that feels different now than things felt in the past is even the less than techno-sophisticated EMU-AAUP has a blog of sorts where we’re getting regular updates from the union about the negotiation. It’s not exactly a freewheeling and open discussion space, and the site itself is kind of a work in progress, better than what they had before but still not quite ready for prime-time, IMO. For example, take a look at the masthead picture on the negotiations blog:


As far as I can tell, that’s a picture of some building in Germany; I certainly don’t recognize that as an EMU building, and I’m pretty sure there’s no signage for the “Stadthalle” in Ypsilanti. Sure, maybe I’m picking at nits here, but that’s a pretty easy problem to fix.

Anyway, if you look at the actual updates on that site, it looks like things are moving right along. A few of the things that I’ve noticed (because they might indirectly impact me) are dealing with the uneven distribution of overload teaching and summer teaching; faculty won’t be able to be on full release to do administrative work; big changes to the graduate council and also electing the president of the faculty senate directly from faculty; more FRFs; and contractually mandated help with Concur. So as long as we get a modest raise and insurance costs remain about the same, then I think we’ll be in good shape.

Anybody have any other thoughts on the negotiation process so far?