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:

negotiationsblog

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:

Continue reading

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.

Quit Smoking at EMU!

If you’ve been on campus this summer, you have probably walked by one of these signs over the last month or two. Well, today is the day:  EMU is going Tobacco Free. I have two general thoughts about all this.

First, as a former smoker who gave it up over twenty years ago, I have gotten to the point where I now pretty much hate any whiff of cigarettes or cigars or whatever, so I am all for this ban. If anything, it seems to me like this tobacco ban should have been in place a long time ago. Just as points of comparison: U of M has been smoke-free since 2011, and Washtenaw Community College banned tobacco in 2005.

Second, we will see how this transition and the enforcement of this policy works out. I look forward to not having to walk through a cloud of smoke outside of Pray-Harrold Hall, but I think it will take a little time to really convince smokers that they aren’t supposed to be smoking there. And I’m not so sure EMU is ever really going to be able to ban smoking in parking lots and the like.

“EMU’s 7.8% tuition increase means $1M less in state aid, $10M revenue increase”

As mLive reports, “EMU’s 7.8% tuition increase means $1M less in state aid, $10M revenue increase.” Here’s a quote:

The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents unanimously approved a 7.8 percent tuition increase for students for the 2015-16 school year.

The increase exceeds the state’s recommended cap of 2.8 percent. As a result, the school will forfeit $1 million of its state aid, but officials at the school said it will gain $10 million in revenue from the increase.

It will be interesting to see how this works out, but I have a theory about all this.

If you do a search of EMUTalk.org for the 0/0/0 campaign back in 2010 or so and reflect on what has happened as a result, I think it’s pretty easy to see it wasn’t all that effective. Keeping tuition super-duper low didn’t increase enrollment all that much– maybe a little, maybe not at all. Further, EMU hasn’t been rewarded by the state for keeping tuition down. And to top it all off, to the extent that Martin will take the blame for this, she’s retiring.

So really, what does EMU have to lose here? Other than millions of dollars if they were to hold to the state caps? Like I said, it will be interesting to see how this works out over the next year or so.

Faculty Contract Negotiations Begin This Week; What Do You Want?

EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller sent around an email about contract negotiations set to begin this week. Bargaining Council has been meeting since May 1 and has “around 30 proposals ready to take to the table” (more on that in a moment), there’s a “kick off picnic” on Tuesday, and negotiations proper begin on Thursday.

The “motto” for this year (I’m not sure this is a motto so much as it is an advertising tag line, but whatever) is “United We Stand– Divided We Beg,” and the EMU-AAUP has been making some modest efforts at branding, PR, and social media. Check out the Facebook group, for example.  Some of this I like quite a bit– for example, I like the idea of the interviews about why the EMU-AAUP. So far, I’ve only seen this one of Howard Bunsis:

On the other hand, I am not at all a fan of the motto, I suppose because while I am a firm believer and advocate of collective bargaining for faculty for all kinds of reasons, I don’t see the alternative of the union as “begging.” Rather than a message of “If you’re not with us, you’re screwed,” I’d prefer a message along the lines of “We are stronger with a union” or “Look what the union has done for you before.” Or something like that.

And I really don’t like this:

Ick.

But I digress: this bargaining season also reminds me that the end of EMUTalk is approaching in a couple of months– September at the latest, and, assuming a happy end to the negotiations this time around, maybe earlier. Long-time readers will undoubtably remember that EMUTalk.org started as the result of what I think everyone agrees was the absolute ugliest negotiations ever in 2006, when the administration’s team walked away from the table, when we were out on strike for about 12 or so days, and when the contract wasn’t decided until it went to a “fact finding” and arbitration process that wasn’t really settled until well into 2007.

After that mess, contract negotiations have been a lot more productive and quite frankly, the last contract we got– which, among other things, lead to more funding for research and a process for a raise and promotion after the full professor rank– was probably the best deal I’ve seen since I’ve been here. And while I have no inside knowledge at all– I just have heard some rumors– I’m cautiously optimistic about this go-around too.

The administration has pretty much the same negotiating team at the table as they had last time, the EMU-AAUP’s team is pretty similar, EMU’s finances and state support seem reasonably solid (at least as far as I can tell), and I think there are good reasons for both sides to make a fair deal and to make it quick and with as little controversy as possible. After all, EMU is also about to start a search for a new president, not to mention a new VP for the graduate school and a new dean for our largest college, Arts and Sciences. We want to attract the best candidates possible for these positions, and the last thing the administration needs at a time like now is some kind of ugly and protracted fight with its faculty. At the same time, the whole “right to work” bullshit puts the faculty union in sort of an awkward position too– or at least a less certain one. So in a way, there’s a sort of “mutually assured destruction” thing going on here. And I think that’s a good thing.

I don’t know what is included in the 30 or so proposals coming out of bargaining council (and if anyone does know, that’d be interesting to hear), but I’m pretty sure there is going to be something about the faculty harassment issues highlighted by the infamous Yik Yak incident. My guess is that there will be the usual suspects regarding a percentage wage increase and how much we pay for health insurance, and there might be something in the mix this time about TIAA-CREF. As I recall, administrators now don’t automatically get the institutional contribution of a 11% of base salary, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the administration wants this for faculty too.

Which gets me to the question part of things: what do you want? I have to say that other than the usual– more money, good insurance, good benefits, etc.– my needs are pretty modest.

  • I certainly don’t want any of the gains we made in the last contract to go away, and I’d be surprised if they did.
  • I’d like to see some clarification about summer teaching because the way that’s been handled in CAS for the last couple years has been kind of confusing and/or crazy.
  • One of the things in that nutty flying letter video that comes up is “academic freedom,” which I obviously think is important and maybe, given some of the craziness going on around the country right now, maybe there is space in the contract for some language regarding that.
  • I’d like to see us exit once and for all from the EAA nonsense, and I frankly think the administration would like that too. The problem is the Board of Regents on that one.
  • I don’t think it’s going to happen, but it would be nice if there was agreement that we have a 3-3 teaching load rather than a 12 credit teaching load, a disparity that makes for inconsistent practices across departments.

So, what do you want?

 

 

 

“Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU”

From the Detroit News comes “Hurons logo, harassment prompt meeting at EMU.” Here’s the opening paragraphs:

U.S. Justice Department officials came to Eastern Michigan University this week to meet with president Susan Martin and a Native American campus group to discuss concerns over the continued use of the school’s Hurons logo after students allegedly harassed a Native American elder in April.

At the meeting Tuesday, Martin refused to remove the logo after being asked to by the EMU Native American Student Organization, according to Mark Fancher, a staff attorney for racial justice for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. Fancher attended the meeting at the request of the student group.

Martin returned the Hurons logo, which depicts a Native American face with paint and feathers, to the EMU Marching Band uniform in 2012 to promote what she calls the university’s history and pride. It is hidden under a front flap.

“She takes the position the logo was retired. Its presence under the flap does not equate its return,” Fancher said. “Martin says it’s a part of the university’s history. My response to that is yes — it’s a disgraceful part of the history. It is causing harm to the students. It needs to go.”

The article goes on to recount the recent incident where students were dressed up as mock Indians and they yelled at and threw a beer at Ypsi local Nathaniel Phillips, who is Native American and who is always described in these articles as a “Elder.”

I don’t think it was a good idea to put EMU’s past logos– including this one– under a hidden flap on the band uniforms, and I also am pretty certain that there is no cause and effect relationship between these uniforms and these drunken college kids yelling “We’re fucking Hurons!” at this Native American man who happened to be walking around Ypsilanti one night. Rather, I think the cause of that unfortunate incident was the combination of the fact that EMU once was “The Hurons,” Phillips is himself Native American, and those dumb kids had too much beer.

And I suspect that the powers that be at EMU were attempting a PR move that would have satisfied the “once a Huron, always a Huron” alumni, and now it’s coming back to bite them. I am almost certain my colleagues in the EMU communications office are wishing they had a “do-over” on that one.

But on a slightly different note: I have to say that as a professor who studies and teaches about rhetoric, I am pretty fascinated about the power of this hidden symbol. Remember: this logo is on the uniform but out of sight. Members of the band would know it’s there of course because they’re putting on the uniforms, but if the fact that it was there had not be publicized, we would never know that it was there.

So symbols– even the idea of a symbol, not even its actual manifestation of its presence to an audience– are incredibly powerful, and not merely as a metaphor. They are powerful enough to cause a meeting between the DOJ, the ACLU, EMU officials and lawyers, and student groups. That group of people certainly spent some time debating the removal of an image that few people can actually see. That’s pretty fascinating to me.

 

 

“EMU creates chief diversity officer job after racially charged incidents”

I would have posted about this earlier, but I was (as they say) “away” from the Internets. But as reported in mLive (and as the campus saw in an email from President Martin included in the mLive story), “EMU creates chief diversity officer job after racially charged incidents.” Here’s the paragraph where Martin talks about this new position:

This is why I am announcing that we will add a new position to the University’s senior leadership team: Chief Diversity Officer. This individual will serve as the senior executive on the leadership team responsible for efforts related to diversity, inclusion and equity. The individual will advise the president, senior leaders and campus units on policies, processes, and practices intended to foster a most diverse and inclusive campus where all members of the university community can thrive and contribute to the University’s mission and core values.

I guess I have kind of mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it seems to me like this particular incident deserves an actual response from Martin, at least something along the lines of “I think those students behaved badly” or what-have-you. And I’m just not so sure hiring another administrator is a solution to this.

On the other hand, a “Chief Diversity Officer” is a position that apparently does exist on a lot of campuses. As far as I can tell, it’s a position that tends to bring together under one leader things like Title IX issues, equal employment issues, and to address issues like this infamous party. So maybe it’s a good idea.

“EMU investigating allegations of racism where off-campus students were dressed as Native Americans”

I was going to post the email that Geoff Larcom sent around about this, but then this morning, I see it’s been picked up by the mainstream media too. The best story comes from WXYZ channel 7 (Detroit’s ABC affiliate), “EMU investigating allegations of racism where off-campus students were dressed as Native Americans.”
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The video is definitely worth watching. Basically, Nathan Phillips, who is described as a Native American man in his 60s who has lived in Ypsi for eight years, came across a loud party last weekend. Here’s a quote from this piece that explains what happened next.

When he approached closer, he saw about 30 to 40 students partying and noticed that about half of them were wearing “Redface” and sporting feathered headpieces.

Phillips asked the students what they were doing. They told him they were honoring Native Americans and told Phillips, “We’re the F-ing Hurons!” EMU’s nickname used to be the Hurons before the university changed it to the Eagles in the ‘90s.

Phillips responded, “This isn’t honoring us, this is racist. And as soon as I said ‘racist,’ it turned from honoring the Indians to, ‘Go back to the reservation, you F-ing Indian, get the F out of here.’”

In the scuffle, someone threw a beer can at Phillips.

The video also features Michelle Lietz, vice president of the Native American Student Organization at EMU (who is also a grad student in my department, by the way), and she said she and her organization worked all week to get EMU to investigate this. To quote again from the piece, “Lietz said, ‘It’s a great opportunity for them to finally come out and condemn this sort of behavior.'”

Jeesh.

First off, this is obviously stupid and condemnable behavior, so I do hope EMU comes out with some kind of statement or action that is a little more “meaty” than “We’re going to look into this and get to the bottom of things.” Second though, since this happened off-campus, I’m not sure there’s much that EMU can do about it.

But third, isn’t really about time to put this “we’ll always be the Hurons!” nonsense to rest? Honestly, it’s been over 20 years now that EMU’s mascot switched to the Eagles. The “F-ing Hurons” involved in this incident weren’t even born yet.

And I think this is just another example of the mistake of not picking up the emu as a mascot, too.  I have no evidence to support this claim of course, but I’m completely convinced (in my own head) that had we become the EMU Fighting Emus none of these “Always a Huron” incidents would have taken place because they wouldn’t make sense. I mean, sure, we were the Hurons, but how cool is it now that we’re the emus?!

Susan Martin stepping down as EMU President

I was just thinking this morning that not a whole lot has been going on around EMU lately– certainly nothing worth posting much about on EMUTalk. And then just now I heard that Susan Martin has announced her retirement as EMU President.

Here’s the official press release; she sent around an email to EMU students, faculty, and staff, though interestingly, I didn’t get it in my inbox. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve switched over to Google for my campus mail or what– I assume I still work at EMU. Martin’s plan is she’ll be stepping down effective July 7, she’ll be on sabbatical for a year, and then she’ll join the faculty as a professor in Accounting and Finance. BTW, for those not familiar with the process here: it is very typical for lots of administrative-types to get a year sabbatical at the end of their time administrating, especially if they aren’t fired and/or if they plan on returning to the faculty for the year. Oh, and it turns out she will be in the same department/college as EMU-AAUP movers-and-shakers Susan Moeller and Howard Bunsis. That ought to make for some interesting hallway chats.

Why she’s stepping down now? I suspect it is some combination of  getting kind of “burnt out” by the job/frustrated with the Board, a sense of “I’ve done enough/done a lot,” and preparing to retire. I don’t know exactly how old Martin is, but if she was about 22 when she finished her undergraduate degree in 1971, that’d put her somewhere around 66 now. So my best guess is she’s doing what a lot (most?) academic administrators do: come back to teach for a couple years and then retire.

I’m sure there will be lots more to be said here over the next couple of months. For the most part, I think Susan Martin has been a good President at EMU, probably the best of the ones I’ve experienced. So you know, more power to her.

It is kind of funny though that she’s retiring from EMU and I’m “retiring” EMUTalk.org at about the same time. Coincidence?