“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.

“Alabama Football Follies”

A loyal reader sent me a link to this op-ed piece in the New York Times by Joe Nocera, “Alabama Football Follies.” It’s about the move to do away with football at the University of Alabama at Birmingham followed by the outcry and the reinstatement of football. It’s of interest here since EMU is specifically mentioned as one of the poster children for spending too much money on athletics:

Schools in smaller conferences — Alabama-Birmingham is in Conference USA — have struggled to keep up, especially state schools whose budgets have been cut by their legislatures. (According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state spending per student in Alabama has declined over 36 percent since 2008.) USA Today does an annual ranking of university athletic department balance sheets, and you can clearly see this trend. Rutgers University had a $36 million deficit; the University of Connecticut, $27 million; the University of Massachusetts, $26 million; Eastern Michigan University, $25 million — and on the list goes.

But there is one other part of this story that is a bit of a silver-ish lining. The president who cancelled football at UAB, Ray Watts, insisted that the university would not pay more than $20 million for football and if the “various interests” in the community wanted more (and they wanted a lot more), they were going to have to find the money themselves. And they did: “By the end of May, the city’s corporate leaders had pledged to make up the additional $17.2 million subsidy, and had made a promising start on raising the $13 million or so needed for the practice facility.”

I agree with Nocera, that there are many better ways to spend the money than on football. But at least there was significant community “buy-in” to football at UAB. Could EMU’s football team come close to raising money like this?

“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.

 

 

More lazy summer days & “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me”

Pretty quiet around here at EMUTalk.org, which is typical (summer, after all) and good. I’m still planning on closing things down here early in the fall and I’m still encouraging all of you to join the EMUTalk facebook group! You’ll be glad you did!

Anyway, a loyal EMUTalk reader (and also a member of that Facebook group!) sent me a link to this piece by Edward “not his real name” Schlosser writing for Vox, “I’m a liberal professor, and my liberal students terrify me.”  It’s an interesting piece. I don’t think I completely agree with it, though I have to admit that as a) a tenured full professor who b) is a middle-aged white male (and thus I am less vulnerable to various attacks and critiques, generally), and who c) doesn’t really teach a whole lot that is too controversial politically or culturally, particularly at the undergraduate level, I have little reason to be “afraid” of students’ accusations about me, liberal or conservative or otherwise. And I’m not sure that the conditions now amongst students regarding “political correctness” are that much different now than they were back when I was in college.

What I do think is different now though is the powers and perils of social media and the internet generally. All the problems and backlash that Schlosser talks about here were possible back in the 80s or 90s or so, but they become that much more magnified now. And I do think he definitely has a point that it’s problematic to make make too many assumptions about ideas and views based first on identity rather than the argument itself. Anyway, definitely worth a closer read.

“EMU Football Helmet Part of College Football Hall of Fame”

Two alternative headlines/titles for this post I had in mind were “slow SLOW news around here” and “What?!?” But I decided to go with what they had at emueagles.com, “EMU Football Helmet Part of College Football Hall of Fame.”  Apparently, the new helmets with “the flat forest green metallic color, featuring a chrome diamond plate Block E logo on the side” (I blogged about them way back in October) are featured as one example (with about 50 others) of an exhibit called “The Alternate Helmet — Modern Styles.”

Besides wondering who exactly would go to the College Football Hall of Fame and why, my other two favorite things about this story are the corporate sponsorships. That is, it’s “The College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience” and the Emus helmet is featured in the “Specialty Exhibit Delivered by UPS.” Heh.

“Report: Stepdad of Julia Niswender headed to trial on child porn charges”

From mLive comes “Report: Stepdad of Julia Niswender headed to trial on child porn charges.” The first paragraph kind of sums it up:

James Turnquist, the 47-year-old Monroe man who is considered a person of interest in the murder of his stepdaughter and former Eastern Michigan University student Julia Niswender, is headed to trial on charges on possessing child pornography, the Monroe News reported.

I don’t know a whole lot about child pornography, but the story here makes it sound like those charges are kind of trumped up. I have to wonder how much of this is really about holding this guy while he remains a “person of interest” in the Niswender murder.

Former EMU faculty “Father Bernie” O’Connor died

Sad news for those amongst us who have been around here for a while: I heard via the EMUTalk Facebook group that Father Bernie O’Connor has died of kidney failure at the age of 64. Here’s a link to a CBC article about him. A quote from that piece that kind of explains what he had been doing since right before and right after EMU:

He was twice named Michigan Professor the Year by the Carnegie/CASE Foundation.

He was visiting professor at Pepperdine Law School and was designated as a national expert in Constitutional philosophy from the We The People program in civic education.

In 2004, he was posted the Vatican during the papacy of Pope John Paul II to serve as political adviser and consultant to the Congregation of Eastern Churches.

On his return in 2011, O’Connor was appointed Chancellor’s Visiting Professor of Law and Humanities as Indiana University.

I can’t say that I knew Bernie all that well, but he was obviously a successful professor while at EMU, everyone knew who he was, and he seemed to know everyone. Part of it of course is that he was pretty visible as a priest– the collar and all. But he was also a genuinely nice guy, someone who would always say hi to me and remember my name after a jogging his memory a bit and ask how things were going and the like. He had seen me at least once with my then very young son and then always asked about him afterwords.

Too soon; rest in peace.

“Little recourse against faceless commenters”

A loyal EMUTalk.org reader sent me this link the other day, “Little recourse against faceless commenters,” a column by Froma Harrop in “Herald.Net” out of Everett, Washington. It talks about a variety of examples of bullying online and the problems of anonymous identities and the like, but the reason I include it here is because it makes reference to our own local Yik Yak controversy:

Three female professors at Eastern Michigan University were shocked to learn that some young scholars in their lecture hall had been on their cellphones attacking them with lewd public posts, complete with imagery. It was all done anonymously, courtesy of an unusually obnoxious social media app called Yik Yak.

Their lecture topic, post-apocalyptic culture, seemed somehow apt. And to think, this was an honors course.

One complained to her union rep as follows: “I have been defamed, my reputation besmirched. I have been sexually harassed and verbally abused. I am about ready to hire a lawyer.”

It’s not clear what a lawyer could do for her.

She really has only two options: 1. Rip the electronic devices out of the students’ grubby little fingers. Or 2. Choose to not give a fig what anybody says about her anatomy/age/hair color/sweater size.

Having been on that receiving end any number of times, I’d advise 2. The more obscenity and general abuse flourish online the less impact any of it should have. These days, even high schoolers need skin 10 feet thick.

And then the commentary goes on from there.

Say, speaking of different online forums:  remember that the sun that is EMUTalk.org is setting for good some time this summer/early fall, and if you haven’t done so already, now is a good time to join the Facebook group EMUTalk. It has the disadvantage of not being anonymous (well, unless you set up a pseudo-anonymous Facebook account), but it has the advantage of being about as close to an open-ended forum where anyone can post and comment as we’re likely to get. So if you have a Facebook account (and really, who doesn’t?) go and join the group.