“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’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.

“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.

“Sweets & Selfies with Su-Mar at the Student Center”

From Geoff “Geoff” Larcom comes the following:

EMU President Susan Martin wants to thank students, faculty and staff with sweets and the opportunity for fun selfies as we end the academic year.

Students, faculty and staff are invited to come, say hello and rock your best smile if you want a selfie with President Martin from 1-2 p.m. on either Wednesday, April 22 or Thursday, April 23 in the Student Center. President Martin will be providing sweets on the first floor of the Student Center in the Fireplace Lounge, located across from the EMU Bookstore.

President Martin wants to sincerely thank so many across the campus for the love, support and hard work during her tenure as president the past seven years. As she says, “You helped lift Eastern up and made it shine as a beacon of opportunity for so many people to lead extraordinary lives. Thank you!”

And don’t forget to tag your photos #SueMar or share them with the President on Facebook Susan Martin (be her friend!).

First off, I think this is something more designed for “the kids,” as they say, so while I’m glad they’ve included faculty and staff, I have a feeling most selfie-seekers are going to be students. Second, be on the lookout for some amusing “SueMar” photos and tags on social media.

“Emu House” to be named in honor of outgoing President Susan Martin

From the Ypsilanti Courier comes “EMU to name renovated home for housing special University guests in honor of outgoing President Susan Martin.”

I had actually heard about this before because the EMU PR folks had invited me to an open house event for “emu house” last week– I couldn’t attend because of some other stuff on my schedule, unfortunately. Anyway, “emu house” is at 526 St. John’s Street, which is across the street from the dorms Best Hall and Wise Hall, and (for those of us who have been here a while) it used to be the EMU Credit Union way back in the day.

The place has been refinished into a guest house which (the article says) could be used for “visitors performing at Pease Auditorium for extended periods, new leaders who are unable to locate a residence quickly and others visiting the University for a major event.” Oh, also important to note here: emu house was made possible by the generous support of Ken Fine and his wife, Rebecca Canary, and also to William and Delores Brehm, who donated a lot of the furniture.

I think this is a great idea because we don’t really have a place on campus to house people who are here for an extended stay. For example (and this is also a plug), my friend and former colleague Annette Saddik has been at EMU this semester off and on as the McAndless Distinguished Scholar– she’s giving a talk tomorrow in the student center called “‘Act Naturally’: Embracing the Monstrous Woman in Tennessee Williams’ Late Plays”– and I know that it would have been a heck of a lot easier to put her up for a week or so at a time in this space had it been available. My hope is we can house future McAndless Scholars (and other visiting scholars) here.

But what of the name? Here’s a quote from the article:

The house is named “emu house,” which connects it to both the University and the large, flightless bird native to Australia, a few of which Rebecca adopted over 15 years ago and which still live (and infrequently reproduce) on their property.

The house will be renamed the “Susan W. Martin emu house” within 30 days of her final day as president and will retain that name for at least the next 100 years or until it has reached the end of its useful life. The plaque designating the new name of the house and honoring President Martin will be installed by early fall.

Of course, the real tribute would be a change of mascot, but one step at a time.