Dueling Yik Yak emails

Yesterday, faculty and lots of other people received not one but two emails about the ongoing Yik Yak mess. I include both below; the first was from Provost Kim Schatzel  in the afternoon. She basically outlines the administration’s response to all this and what they are planning to do about it. Among other things, it includes workshops about workplace bullying, discussions about faculty classroom rights and responsibilities, and policy reviews of classroom management policies.

Then last night, EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller sent an email which was a forwarded letter/email from MSU’s Hilda Lindemann. Lindemann is the chair of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status on Women. That letter/email (are you following all this?) expresses support for Margaret Crouch because she was the one featured in the New York Times piece and because she’s a philosophy professor. (I’m assuming that the APA also supports Crouch’s co-professors, even though they aren’t philosophers and aren’t mentioned in the APA letter.) The APA group urges EMU to do something about it.

For me, I guess this begs two questions: first, do the actions/initiatives described in Schatzel’s email adequately address the demands being made by the APA?

Second, what are the other issues on the table in contract negotiations this year?

Don’t get me wrong– as I’ve said several times before, these issues are important, particularly as they spill over from the anonymous and digital world to the non-anonymous and physical classroom world. It’s just that this seems to be the only issue I’ve heard about from the EMU-AAUP for a while now. So for example, are there issues about things like health insurance, salaries, teaching load (and so forth) on the table, or is it all about classroom conduct?

The emails after the break.

 

In the order they were sent, first came Schatzel’s email, “Message from Provost Schatzel: Ongoing Dialogue Regarding Respectful Behavior on Campus.”

Dear Colleagues,

The ongoing campus dialogue regarding respectful behavior on campus in general, and disruptive classroom behavior in particular, is very important. It is the type of discussion that brings us closer together as a campus community as we work together to advance our classroom and instructional excellence.

Both President Martin and I are committed to honest dialogue and subsequent action all aimed toward the outcome of a respectful, safe, high-quality learning environment for all our faculty, staff, and students.

Most of you likely viewed the story in The New York Times on Sunday, “Who Spewed That Abuse? Anonymous Yik Yak Isn’t Telling,” which included Eastern Michigan University among other universities across the country dealing with issues related to social media in general and the anonymous messaging Yik Yak provides.

Given our institutional dialogue, especially my conversations with Faculty Senate as well as department faculties, and the national discussion on many of these same issues, several initiatives are being put in place to address more effectively these concerns on an ongoing and systematic basis:

  • The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards and the Office of the Ombuds will develop a wholly transparent process for communicating information about disruptive incidents that occur on campus inclusive of comprehensive reporting regarding classroom incidents and their outcomes. I plan to ask Faculty Senate to play a significant role in developing and disseminating this reporting.
  • Several faculty groups have requested that a faculty committee be formed to review and provide recommendations regarding the Classroom Management Policy/Process that will make it a more useful resource for faculty and other instructional staff. Again I plan to ask Faculty Senate to play a significant role in this important effort.
  • Also several faculty groups have asked for forums/workshops for instructional staff regarding their classroom rights and responsibilities. I have asked Dr. Chiara Hensley, University Ombuds, to lead that initiative and provide a schedule of sessions that will begin in April and continue throughout the 15/16 academic year and beyond. I intend for those workshops to be highly responsive to the needs of faculty and other instructional staff regarding classroom management concerns.
  • President Martin and I will meet with the EMU Women’s Commission on March 26. The purpose is to discuss gender-based classroom concerns and to begin a process to create more awareness, dialogue and discussion about these issues as well as ways to address these important concerns in a comprehensive and intentional manner for the campus.

I look forward to continuing our efforts together to further expand our understanding and approach to these issues with a more systematic and inclusive effort that embraces the rich expertise and experiences of our faculty and staff.

Sincerely,

Kim Schatzel, Ph.D.

Provost and Executive Vice President

Then Moeller’s email, “Letter of Protest:”

Dear EMU Faculty:

Below is an email I received from Dr. Lindemann from MSU along with an attached letter of protest.  Many of you have seen the article on the front page of the New York Times over the past weekend and the attached letter is a response to that article.  This letter of protest is from the APA standing committee on the Status of Women.

Many faculty and administrators at other institutions have been appalled at the way our faculty were treated during the YIK YAK incident by the EMU administration.

Please write the Provost and the President to encourage them to support any faculty who have disruptive students in their classrooms quickly and effectively.  We want the Provost to take immediate action when a student disrupts a classroom.  Immediate action will prevent other faculty from having to endure the treatment that Dr. Crouch did by the EMU administration’s inaction.

Susan Moeller
EMU-AAUP President/Chief Negotiator

—– Original Message —–
Sent: Thursday, March 12, 2015 1:37:43 PM
Subject: Letter of protest

Sue Martin, President

Eastern Michigan University

Dear President Martin,

The Committee on the Status on Women is a standing committee of the American Philosophical Association (APA). As a committee, we write to you to protest the treatment of one of the APA’s members, Dr. Margaret Crouch. A Full Professor, Dr. Crouch was subjected to offensive and abusive comments posted by members of her undergraduate class on the internet site, Yik Yak.

This incident was brought to our attention in a front page article that appeared in The New York Times on Monday, March 9, 2015. We were horrified to learn of this abuse, but outraged at the inaction of Eastern Michigan University despite Dr. Crouch’s complaints. It is no part of the job description of philosophers or of any professional teachers to endure abuse of any kind, much less from their students. Such attitudes as those that gave rise to the abusive comments posted on Yik Yak are the essence of disrespect, and poison the atmosphere of mutual respect and trust needed for serious classroom learning. Moreover, Title IX enjoins institutions to prevent hostile environments and to work to dispel them where they are known to occur. In this matter, Eastern Michigan has failed on multiple counts. The University should act immediately to prevent future recurrences and send the message to all students that such commentary will not be tolerated. We look forward to learning of your plans in this matter.

Sincerely,

Hilde Lindemann

For the Committee

Hilde Lindemann, Chair
Committee on the Status of Women
Professor of Philosophy
Michigan State University
hlinde@msu.edu

CC: Kim Schatzel, Provost

Susan Moeller, Union President

 

 

6 thoughts on “Dueling Yik Yak emails

  1. Why does it matter that Dr Crouch is a ‘full professor’? APA doesn’t care if she was only an adjunct, or Associate Professor?

    I wonder how Susan Moeller and AAUP would react to a professor being verbally abusive to another faculty member or staff member. I’d love to forward her some emails.

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    • As I understand it, there kind of are procedures to deal with the scenarios you’re talking about here, MathGeek. You can’t file a grievance against someone in your bargaining unit (at least that’s the way it is with the EMU-AAUP), so if things between two faculty members gets heated, it’s their supervisor/department head who is supposed to sort that out. If that doesn’t work– say the department head does nothing or does something that one of the faculty parties finds really outrageous– then that faculty person could file a grievance against the administrator, though I suspect it wouldn’t get far, unless the department head really did do something terrible.

      I don’t know how it would work if you had a problem with another employee in another bargaining unit, and I’m pretty sure that people who aren’t in any union (“APs,” which includes more than the deans and department heads and whatnot) don’t have a lot of recourse at all– unless it gets threatening abusive.

      But this is just the way I understand/assume it’s supposed to work. I could be off-target here.

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  2. Regarding MathGeek’s question, no one should endure harassment at work. Not all obnoxiousness is harassment, but if you experience something that seems like harassment from a faculty member, you should print the messages or write down the details (dates, words, observable actions, who was present, etc), because it is surprising how quickly the specifics can get blurred, and then inform the Department Head AND talk to the people at Diversity and Affirmative Action http://www.emich.edu/hr/diversity/ Even if you don’t think the behavior falls into the category of harassment, it’s good to let them know, because they may know of a pattern that you don’t know about. If it’s maybe not a matter of harassment but still gives you the feeling of an unsafe work environment, then as far as I know, it’s the department head’s job to deal with it, and ultimately the department head who would be named in a grievance for not dealing with it. I’m not a lawyer and not a university official – this is just my understanding of procedure.

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  3. As long as we are talking about philosophy…

    “When you are offended at any man’s fault, turn to yourself and study your own failings. Then you will forget your anger.” — Epictetus

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  4. While it is atrocious texting, EMU notified the police department, and they were unable to do anything about it. Not sure what else EMU can do.

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