Thanks for everything, see you on Facebook and EMUTalkarchive

I’m starting this last post about two weeks before the start of the Fall 2015 term, just under three weeks before the account I’ve been using to host this site will lapse. I’ll keep the domain name for at least a year, but very soon, I’ll be shutting things down.

To keep up on new EMUTalk-type news, check out (and hopefully join!) the Facebook group page, For the entire archive of this site, check out It’s only an archive– that is, I won’t be posting there or maintaining with any regularity, but it is a record of the entire site, including comments.

We’ve been through a lot here, folks. There have been 2,799 posts and 14,165 approved comments (and counting). I don’t have great data on the number of visits, but considering the fact that the site has had about 423,000 hits since 2011 and there was a lot more traffic when the site started in 2006, I’m pretty sure the overall total is well over a million hits– not exactly sorts of numbers, but pretty large for a little site devoted talk about Eastern Michigan.

Writing and maintaining EMUTalk has been extremely rewarding to me in lots and lots of different ways. I feel like I helped create a space where all kinds of people could talk about EMU related issues, and I like to think that the conversation made positive contributions to the EMU community. I’ve had the chance to meet a ton of folks at EMU I would have never met otherwise, I’ve informally chatted with many members of the board over the years, and I’ve had coffee with administrators and other folks about the “PR function” of EMUTalk on campus. Geoff Larcom started sending me press releases about a variety of EMU events as if I was actually a “source.”

Heck, I even had long ago but not forgotten EMU President John Fallon in my office just to chat about stuff.

We’ve talked about ugly faculty strikes, about murders, about failed computer systems, about supposedly drunken presidents, about Hurons, about terrible football coaches, about dangerous apartment complexes, about parking, about general higher education ridiculousness. We’e also talked about fantastic students, great faculty, and even a few pretty good administrators once in a while, about outstanding achievements, about great ideas that came from folks on our campus, about the joys of college, and even about successful contract negotiations. Rarely has it been about emus.

Even though I’ve spelled this out already, I feel like it’s worth repeating why I’m shutting down. It boils down to four things:

  • I started the site as an effort in “citizen journalism” and there were a lot of different contributors in the first couple years. But, long story-short, it didn’t quite work out the way I was hoping.  And as a slight tangent here, the same fate has met most citizen journalism efforts. I’ve tried to restart the contributor thing a couple of times and of course I have posted lots of things based on emails I’ve received from many loyal readers. But it just started to feel like it was too much about me, and since I already have my own blog, I don’t really need another place about me me me.
  • When I was on sabbatical in winter, I realized that I was spending a lot more time on than I really thought I was. Or maybe another way of putting it: while trying to work on researching and writing a book and while I wasn’t teaching or on campus much, I started to really see how the 15 or 30 or so minutes every day on started to add up and take away from what I could have/should have been doing.
  • isn’t as popular anymore. There are lots of reasons for this, but a part of it is the drop-off of readers of blogs generally in favor of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Which is fine, and it’s why I wanted to continue this as a Facebook group: less work, more opportunity for others to contribute, and folks are already “doing” social media things.
  • It was time to do something different after nine years.

So I’ll keep blogging at my own site about all kinds of different things, including things having to do with EMU. I’ll certainly be posting to the EMUTalk Facebook group on a regular basis, and I hope you all a) join and b) do the same thing. But this, this is how ends.


“Awkward moment an emu mistakes an American tourist for a sex partner as he lies on his back to take photos of the amorous bird”

This seems like a fitting story for one of the last EMUTalk posts: From The Daily Mail comes “Awkward moment an emu mistakes an American tourist for a sex partner as he lies on his back to take photos of the amorous bird.” The headline is better than the pictures and video in the article, though the pictures and video are pretty good.

EMU-AAUP Tentative Agreement: What Do You Think? (And Nearing “Last Call” on is coming to you now from an undisclosed location in that vague region referred to as “up North.” The family and I are here relaxing  and preparing for the fall term, which is to say that we are sitting around enjoying nature while working on syllabi and other fall things, we are breaking up our hikes and site-seeing with bouts of reading material that will be assigned in a few weeks– or vice versa.

Anyway, this was all interrupted with news that the administration and the faculty union have reached a tentative contract agreement, one that will surly be ratified by faculty in early September when we get to formally vote on it.  More details/thoughts on all of it after the break, but I think this quote from the EMU-AAUP blog post on all this kind of sums up the overall feelings I have:

As with negotiations in 2012, we finished several weeks early, and there was a genuine spirit of good will and cooperation at the negotiating table.  Both teams operated in an environment of mutual respect, and we were still able to represent the faculty forcefully and responsibly.

I think that’s totally right, and congratulations to both sides of the table for that. Even though it has taken years for both sides of the table to figure this out (that is, all the tense negotiations that went on in the past, and the really ugly strike in 2006), it looks like the administration (and probably the board of regents, too) has come to realize that it isn’t in their interest to screw the faculty, and it looks like the faculty union folks are starting to realize that the faculty they represent would rather have leadership looking for sane and reasonable deals.

Overall, the contract looks like it’s a good deal. If I had any reservation about it– and this is a small one and kind of an odd one, too– it’s the “we will not be paying for parking, despite insistent claims by the administration.” I guess the EMU-AAUP folks see this as a “victory” of some sort, but to be honest, I think we’re at a point where maybe faculty should pay for parking simply because it doesn’t look good. We’re the only group on campus that doesn’t pay for parking, and that includes administrators and students. It’s not that big of a deal either way, but I think symbolic gestures matter, and I feel vaguely uncomfortable/guilty about the “special status” of free parking.

Besides, it could be a good bargaining chip: what could faculty get in exchange for giving up free parking?

And again, the end is near for I’m trying to find a good way to export the whole site and put it up someplace as just text so that if folks want to find it later they can, but I have my doubts about how well that will work. If anyone has any technical advice on that, let me know. In the meantime, be sure to join the EMUTalk Facebook group– oh, and I just customized the address so it’s easier to remember/email to folks:

Okay, more thoughts on the contract after the jump:

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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 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 (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?

“President Emeritus Susan Martin Interim President of San Jose State University”

Well, here’s an interesting bit of news: from the email sent to EMU’s campus from VP of Communications, Walter Kraft:

To faculty, staff and students:

Eastern Michigan University President Emeritus Susan Martin was appointed Interim President of San Jose State University (SJSU) a short time ago. SJSU is one of 23 campuses that are part of The California State University system. The announcement was made by California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and becomes effective August 18, 2015.

We are very pleased for Dr. Martin and her new opportunity, and congratulate her on the appointment. She had an outstanding impact at Eastern in her seven years of leadership and we wish her well as she moves on to the next phase of her career.

The rest of the press release is after the jump.

Goodness knows that I haven’t chatted with Sue about what’s up with this, but I would guess– and this is just a guess– two basic things about all this:

  • I bet she really is just a one year interim.  In fact, maybe SJSU decided to hire someone from the same “temp agency” for university presidents they hired between presidents a number of years ago at EMU– I can’t remember right now if it was between Fallon and Martin or between Kirkpatrick and Fallon.
  • I’m assuming that this means that Martin really is done with EMU at this point: that is, I’m guessing she isn’t doing something like taking a year’s leave from EMU and then coming back to campus as a professor. I’m also guessing that SJSU must be making her a pretty sweet offer for her to give up a year’s sabbatical on full salary.

The full announcement after the jump:

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So Long, President Martin!

This is the last day we’ll have Susan Martin to kick around as president– I guess she’s coming back on the faculty after a year sabbatical. There’s been a number of tributes and reflections and the like. For example, there’s this press release/recap on Martin’s accomplishments and mLive’s story about an “emotional farewell.”

Anyway, I don’t know what it says that she is retiring as president the same year that I’m retiring as sitedad, but I guess I’ll take advantage of the coincidence to offer a few last thoughts on the Martin presidency.

On the one hand, Martin has been a successful president, and I think her own recap of her successes while in the job speaks to that. On the other hand, the two previous permanent presidents (I’ll skip the interims) set the bar awfully damn low. There was Sam Kirkpatrick, who was more or less run out of town encouraged to leave after ticking off tons of administrators and regents and also building a ridiculously expensive house. Then there was John Fallon, the man who, as president, oversaw the infamous faculty strike of 2006 and who was also fired (more or less) for helping cover up a student murder. Like I said, no place to go but up.

Martin was perhaps a little boring in some ways and I didn’t ever get a real sense of an overall “vision” of where she wanted to take EMU– at least nothing beyond getting stuff done and surviving the never-ending state budget cuts. I always thought that the whole kerfuffle over her arguing with an alumni while allegedly drinking too much was way over-blown and probably fueled by some regents who had some kind of ax to grind. And I also think this mess about reintroducing the Huron logo on the band uniforms is pretty unfortunate– I’m guessing that she and her team wish they could have a do-over on that one.

Students liked her, most faculty thought she was pretty capable, she was involved and visible on campus, and she didn’t phone it in and/or use this job as some kind of stepping stone to whatever else. She ran stuff well and she cared at the same time.

So yeah, I think Martin leaves EMU better than when she got here. Congratulations, enjoy the sabbatical, and we’ll see you at some kind of EMU-AAUP mixer after you’re back on the faculty.

EMU-AAUP contract negotiations and an eye on the future

By the way, this is a post I’m writing for both and for and it’s the kind of thing I’ll keep posting on once the sun that is sinks below the horizon for good in September or so.

The faculty union, the EMU-AAUP, is in the midst of contract negotiations this summer, and so far, so good. I have no detailed or inside knowledge about what’s going on, but I have chatted with a few colleagues who “know better,” and this is what has happened so far (at least according to the EMU-AAUP web site):

  • There is nothing particularly contentious on either side of the table right now. Probably the biggest fight is going to be over administration’s contribution to TIAA-CREF because the administration changed the way this works for new administrators coming to EMU so that it is a noticeably worse deal than it is right now. It’s more complicated than that, but I guess what it boils down to is the administration wants to pay less for retirement than they do right now, and the faculty obviously don’t like that idea.
  • Apparently, faculty at EMU have fallen behind our peers in terms of salaries and such, and given that the finances and enrollments at EMU are generally pretty solid, we will probably see a decent enough raise both in terms of a flat percentage and also in terms of the “bump” between assistant and associate and associate and full. Of course, the union continues to want to negotiate these raises as a flat percentage, which benefits the highest paid faculty at EMU. It is no wonder that the leadership of the EMU-AAUP has been dominated by faculty in the College of Business and the College of Technology, at least that’s pretty much been the case since I’ve been here.
  • There will almost certainly be some kind adjustment in health insurance, though that’s just an educated guess based on the fact that there has been some kind adjustment on health insurance with every contract I’ve seen.
  • The EMU-AAUP site has a blog of sorts where they have been posting updates to the contract negotiations so far, and things seem to be going smoothly. It’s early of course, and they always start with the less contentious stuff, but it looks like there will be some kind of new language/rules on student conduct, there are some changes to the way contracts work for tenure-seeking faculty that makes things a little easier, and there’s going to be some kind of “electronic dossier system” that will end the ridiculous stacks of binders and such that faculty submit for tenure and promotion and the like.

So while I wouldn’t want to predict too much, I’m not too worried about this contract cycle. I’m frankly a lot more worried about what happens next.

The next contract will be the first under Michigan’s change to a “right to work” state, which means that workers in a bargaining unit (in this case the faculty) have the right to “freeload:” that is, the union will continue to represent all faculty for the purposes of negotiations and for grievances, including faculty who decide to not pay their union dues. If enough faculty opt out of paying the dues, the union will be weaker and eventually it could go away.

Just to make matters worse (as reported in Inside Higher Ed here, “Threat to Faculty Unions”), there’s a case that the U.S. Supreme Court is going to hear next year that could further weaken public sector unions. I’m not sure it would make matters worse in Michigan or not because the IHE article makes it sound that if the court decides that a forced “fair share” fee to a union is unconstitutional, then all states would become “right to work” states.

Either way, the future is worrying. Up until this point, the union hasn’t really had to do much in the way of convincing faculty that the union was a “good idea” because everyone had to pay their dues regardless of how they felt about it. Now if the union doesn’t pay close enough attention to the faculty as a whole, they will risk losing members.

I don’t think there is going to be a bunch of faculty who abandon the union anytime soon, especially in the current unpredictable climate higher education is in, and, as I have said many times before, I am all for the union. At the same time, I think the EMU-AAUP has to make some subtle changes in how it does things.

First, it needs to continue to be responsive to the constituency generally and not just to those who are loudest. A really subtle example of what I mean: the EMU-AAUP opened contract negotiation season with this video that depicts the “battle” that as about to come as akin to one of good versus evil and with all of the drama and special effects of a summer blockbuster. Now, I get that this is a parody and it’s supposed to “fire up” the base and all of that. But a lot (most?) faculty don’t see the administration strictly as the “them” that the “us” is fighting, and the “we’re here to battle” is not exactly a tone to take at the start of what can hopefully become a mutually beneficial negotiating process.

And along these lines, I think the union has to be a little more careful in some of its communication and sometimes knee-jerk responses. A good example of this for me personally is the whole Yik Yak mess: if the EMU-AAUP had held on to its initial position of banning Yik Yak on campus (they seemed to have backed off on that), I probably would have opted out of union dues as a matter of public protest. It’s easy for me to imagine lots of other scenarios where the union leadership does something that ticks off enough people to cost them a lot in dues.

Second, I think the EMU-AAUP needs to do more to emphasize the positive, and there really is a lot of positive with the union. They need better PR and better communication. They’re starting to do that with the revamped web site (though I think there are a lot of clunky elements to the new design), but I think it needs to go further than that. Rather than assuming that all faculty see the obvious benefits to the union, the EMU-AAUP needs to sell itself a bit better than it has done in the past.

Like I said, I don’t think faculty are going to leave the union anytime soon. The one percent or so of salary that faculty pay in dues is definitely worth it to me (though one thing the EMU-AAUP might do– if this is possible– is to have more of a sliding scale on dues that is tied to salary and/or rank, which would make the incentive for lower paid faculty to skip out on dues even less– just a thought). At the same time, the future of the EMU-AAUP and of academic unions generally seems murky to me.