The Higher Learning Commission Report on EMU

Hey, we’re back here at after a long time away! The Facebook group for EMUTalk (kind of like EMYoutalk) has been going along great, and so I haven’t seen much of a reason to post here. But this seemed like something worth making available to everyone, including those few people left not on Facebook.

Anyway, the scoop/a little context: for a while go now, EMU has been going through an accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission. I won’t go into the weeds here to explain what HLC accreditation means, but the short version is this is one of the agencies that evaluates and assesses all kinds of institutions of higher learning to make sure they’re doing what they say they’re supposed to be doing. Accreditation– particularly for established universities like the EMU’s of the world, as opposed to less stable/more fly-by-night proprietary schools– is important, but kind of a pro-forma/quasi-automatic issue. For a university like EMU to lose accreditation would be a huge national news kind of deal.

Oddly, EMU hasn’t made the full HLC accreditation report available to the public. The administration has talked about the report in slideshows to EMU administrators and folks like that, but as far as I know, the full HLC wasn’t available publicly. Just the other day though, someone (who wants to remain anonymous for what I assume are obvious reasons) emailed me a copy of the whole report.

Here it is.

Now, this is a 90 page document and most of it is pretty boring bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, at least to my eyes. But there are a couple of parts of the report that are, well, “problematic,” mostly noted with the slightly damning HLC language “met with concerns,” and I’ve highlighted what strikes me as especially kind of eyebrow-raising in red.

In section 4.C (page 43), which is about “The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs,” the HLC said (my emphasis added):

Although the current strategic plan indicates an intention to improve retention rates – particularly for men of color and single parents – no documentation was provided or found to show that the institution has defined goals for student retention, persistence and completion (although at one point the VP of Enrollment Management stated that there was a goal to increase retention by 4% annually). The Degree Completion and Retention (DCR) Plan was developed to address the low overall retention rate of the university, and of the particular populations identified. The plan included numerous action items, but no benchmarks. Actions have been taken by the institution, in accordance with the plan to improve retention rates, and include participation in the Gateways to Completion (G2C) Project (which included collection and analysis of relevant data); improvements to advising; use of Starfish early notification system; and implementation of the BrotherHOOD and SisterHOOD initiative. However, it is disconcerting that the institution does not appear to have 1) established specific goals or benchmarks, 2) has revisited the plan, or 3) has a process whereby progress is monitored or reported.

The Office of Institutional Research and Information Management (IRIM) shares data with key administrators and the institution identified examples wherein particular data were used to enact change. For example, student survey data were used to support advising offices at the college level, and data on success of first-year students provided information to advisors regarding course selections. But again, there was no apparent systematized process or documentation that provided evidence of benchmarking goals, responding to data and tracking progress to determine the impact of changes.

When asked how the administrative team “knows” when they’ve reached a goal or been successful, the institution responded that they look primarily to see if they are “doing better,” and that they have considered looking at other institutions to compare performance levels.

Then in section 5A, page 46, which is about “The institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.” This is an especially long and wonky section (at least in my view), but it’s really important. The HLC wrote (my emphasis added):

Eastern Michigan University has three main sources of revenue. These consist of approximately 71 percent student tuition and fees, 24 percent state appropriations and 5 percent other revenue (EMU Revenue Graph). Since 1980, EMU has seen a significant shift in both state funding as well as the increase in student tuition and fees. Evidence (State Funding vs Tuition) shows that in 1980 the amount of funding from the State of Michigan was 72.5 percent while tuition and fee accounted for only 27.5 percent of the budget. This is in sharp contrast to 2016 where state funding only accounted for 23.9 percent of the total and student tuition and fees made up the difference of 76.1 percent. When comparing the increase in student tuition and mandatory fees within the state of Michigan, EMU notably ranks second to the lowest of the 15 state institutions in percent increases over the past 10 years. Evidence provided shows a high average increase of 6.1 percent to a low of 4 percent. EMU has a ten year average increase of 4.6 percent.

The Composite Financial Index (CFI) paints a picture of the financial health of the institution at a specific point in time. The Index is built with the values of its four component ratios. These ratios include the primary reserve, net operating revenue, return on net assets, and viability.

Once each of the four ratios are calculated, there is an additional process measuring the relative strength of the score and its importance in the mix of creating a composite score. This results in the production of one weighted score for each indicator and when added together the result is the CFI. This numerical analysis is required each year by the Higher Learning Commission from every institution.

A scale is used to analyze the CFI by the HLC. For public institutions a score of 1.0 to 10.0 would be considered “above the zone.” A score of 0 to 1.0 would be considered “in the zone.” Finally, a score of -4.0 to -0.1 is considered “below the zone.”

In 2012 EMU fell below the zone with a CFI of 0.3. The following years show CFI calculations of: 0.6 for 2013; 0.7 for 2014, -0.02 for 2015; -0.02 for 2016; and 0.04 for 2017. At the time of the team visit, the 2018 reporting year (fiscal year ending June 30, 2017) had not yet been calculated.

As reviewed in Appendix J of the Federal Compliance document, due to being “in the zone” for two consecutive years Eastern Michigan University submitted a Financial Recovery Plan that was reviewed by a Financial Panel of HLC financial peer reviewers. This plan outlined various elements that EMU felt contributed to their deteriorated financial standing. Items included reduction in state appropriations, state mandated tuition restraints, flat enrollment, strategic investment on capital projects, significant investment on campus safety, and variation in investment returns.

Four strategies were developed to correct the financial stability of EMU. These included strategies to increase enrollment, implement campus wide plan to improve student success, comprehensive actions to increase revenue, and develop and implement multiple cost reduction measures. The goal of EMU was to be “above the zone” in 2017. This goal was not met.

Nowhere in the assurance argument did EMU present or discuss the CFI challenges. During a focus visit with senior leadership, team members were aware that the CFI was still “below the zone” but no specific corrective plans were shared as the 2017 goal to be “above the zone” was not met. State appropriations continue to be flat, credit hours have declined over the past five years, capital constructions projects continue to expand, student support for institutional scholarships and grants continues to increase, but no clear plan to reduce expenses was documented. Several examples were verbally mentioned such as not filling vacant positons, voluntary retirement options, the reduction of some fringe benefits for employees, and outsourcing of the food service auxiliary operation.

In visiting with the Board of Regents, they too were aware that EMU’s CFI was “below the zone.” The board does have a Finance and Investment Committee as part of their internal structure. One member of this committee indicated the BOR was “committed to fixing it.” This committee should take an active role in helping senior management develop an immediate, realistic plan to improve the CFI.

Although EMU is meeting all of its current financial obligation, debt payments and payroll expenses, the long term financial stability of the institution continues to be a concern. New long-term debt projects should be carefully evaluated and focus should be directed toward reducing operating expenses in an effort to counter balance declining state revenues and dropping credit hour enrollment. The original CFI correction plan to move the institution back into “above the zone” status was not successful. A revised plan must be developed that is realistic in meeting the current economic and financial climate of the community and university.

EMU appears to have adequate faculty and staff in place to fulfill the mission of the institution. Data provided (EMU Faculty/Staff Headcount) through the human resources office shows the number of fulltime faculty in FY08 to be 683 compared to 688 fulltime faculty in FY17. When including both full time and part time lectures, these academic professionals show an increase over the same time period from 1,229 to 1,390. All three categories showed a slight variation from fiscal year to fiscal year.

Total full time staff working at EMU during FY08 were 1,052 compared to a slightly lower number in FY17 of 1,042. Over that span of time a shift in the type of support staff is reflected. Most notably is a reduction of 63 clerical/secretarial positions while increases in athletic coaches increased by 10, campus police and police sergeants increased by 11, and professional/technical staff increased by 28. Part time and seasonal employees, along with a cross section of student workers, help fill the additional staff void where needed.

EMU has a number of campus buildings designed to provide instruction, student support, auxiliary services and campus housing. Upon review of the evidence provided, dollars are allocated each year to help maintain and enhance the campus buildings and infrastructure. A detailed 5-year Facilities Renovation matrix template has been developed with a scoring rubric (EMU 5 year Facilities Renovation Plan and Scoring Rubric). Addendum documents provided on site show information relating to FY17 through FY20 budget breakdown by various categories and projects. No “project scoring” has yet been completed for the FY17 or FY18 year. Completing this matrix appears critically important and will be needed in tracking and evaluating the progress of this plan and for future capital planning.

An impressive and comprehensive Five Year Facilities Renovation Plan was published in May of 2016. This document provided as additional evidence after the assurance argument was submitted outlines in great detail the condition of campus buildings and infrastructure. A campus tour was taken by two of the team members during the accreditation visit. Buildings toured included the Student Center, Mark Jefferson Science Building (recently renovated, 180,000 square feet of old space plus 80,000 feet of new space) and the Halle Library. During a vehicle tour of the rest of the campus buildings noted included the under renovation Strong Physical Science Building (a 1.5 year projected project), upgraded power plant, recently purchased Trinity Chapel (now Honors College) along with a number of the academic buildings and student housing units. Recent upgrades in campus lighting and safety were also noted during the tour.

EMU appears to be a campus dedicated to keeping up with technology. The Educational Environment and Facilities Committee (EEFC) meets on a regular basis as documented through a plan of work and minutes from meetings. On site meetings with faculty, staff and students confirmed that computer lab space was available, updated computers were available for employees, and wireless connections were updated around campus. One verbal concern from housing staff focused on some student housing units having slow internet access. Assistance from private sources was being investigated.

Eastern Michigan University relies on several different levels of budget input each fiscal year. The Provost and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) each receive input during the spring from their respective areas. The Provost is responsible for the student affairs budget as well as much of the auxiliary budget and capital expenditures. The physical plant unit reports to the president and also recommends capital projects needing budget consideration. EMU has a University Budget Council that provides input and guidance as the budget is being discussed as well as a Faculty Senate Budget and Resource Committee. Both of these committees were present during focus visits on campus and confirmed the budgeting process. The President has final say in the proposed budget before the document is submitted to the Board of Regents yearly for approval. Board minutes confirm that budget requests are approved.

EMU references the Institutional Strategic Planning Council (ISPC) as providing input with budgeting and strategic planning. The ISPC link on EMU’s web site shows the last official minutes to be from the spring of 2015. Upon visiting with the areas represented on the ISPC committee, they are currently an inactive committee. During the focus topic meeting with this group, the question was asked about the strategic plan referenced in the assurance argument which reflected that strategic theme on Institutional Effectiveness and Service and Engagement were flagged as being a proposed change. Discussion with the group confirmed that about a year ago the plan had been confirmed by the President. The team recommends updating the strategic plan and correcting all links on the web site to reflect the final document.

Upon review and discussion of the strategic plan, evidence is very minimal or completely lacking on tracking of progress or completion of goals or objectives. The team recommends that the President assign individuals to track and keep updates to the document. The President should also discuss with senior leadership to see if the ISPC needs to remain an active campus committee.

Discussion in the assurance argument references unit-level goal setting and outcome measurements linking back to budget decisions, however, no direct evidence was provided. Employee performance reviews were cited as directly tying to the strategic plan, but no examples were provided. Union contracts require this activity to be occurring so the institution needs to have documentation available.

As overall state revenues support in Michigan have declined over time, EMU strives to remain affordable, accessible, and to provide opportunity to students. Evidence of this strategic decision can be seen in the increase of institutional aid provided to students. From FY11 to FY17, scholarships allowances have increased as evidenced by the external university audits.

Training and professional development are important for faculty and staff. Faculty can utilize the resource of the Faculty Development Center to help with syllabus design, information technology, as well as general teaching and classroom guidance. The web site calendar shows a variety of regular workshops available to employees including SPSS and grant writing opportunities. Staff training opportunities are quickly referenced on the HR web site and include such topics as Excel training and Conscientious Leadership: Employee/Labor Relations. Other workshops are offered to all employees that are more individually centered such as Credit Reports & Scores and Dealing with Debt. During both faculty and staff open forum’s employees confirm that they were aware of professional development opportunities and many had acknowledged they had attended trainings. Regular training for new staff is also presented to employees.

EMU has a formal process in place for budgeting. Processes are also in place for monitoring at the departmental level. As confirmed during the focus visit with the finance team, The Office of Budget and Finance sends weekly expense reports to budget administrators. These expense reports will track purchases and provide account balances remaining for the fiscal year. Individual meetings are held with departments on a regular basis. One such standing meeting involves reviewing expense with athletics the first of each month.

There’s certainly a lot more here that I haven’t quite figured out; I’ll leave that to other readers.

Rarely is this site about Emus

I’ve been gone/traveling for the last three weeks, so I haven’t had a lot of chance to think too hard about EMU news like the failed dean search in the College of Arts and Sciences or the annual budget woes or what have you. In the meantime, enjoy this video, which probably ought to be called “baby Emu annoying basset hounds.”

A few more thoughts about the contract negotiations between the EMU administration and the EMUFT union

Here we are, almost at the end of the academic year, and just to complicate matters further, the EMU Federation of Teachers (the union that represents lecturers and part-time lecturers at EMU) and the administration are off to what sounds like a rocky start for contract negotiations. As noted here on the EMUFT’s web site, in this Michigan Radio story, and in this WEMU story, the administration’s “opening bid” in these negotiations is a 25% pay cut for new part-timers. So folks newly hired at EMU to teach part-time would earn $900 a credit hour instead of the current rate of $1200.

Now, I don’t know a whole lot about what the lecturers and part-timers are negotiating for with this round. Frankly, since they just got done negotiating a contract last year, I’m surprised they are at the bargaining table at all. That said, I think there are a few things worth mentioning:

  • I don’t care how you slice it (as in “the administration isn’t serious about this” or “that’s just an opening tactic” or whatever), for the administration to begin negotiations by proposing a 25% cut is I believe what is technically known as a “dick move.”
  • For folks who don’t understand this: lecturers generally but part-time instructors in particular are where a place like EMU makes back a lot of the money it spends on dumb stuff like overpaid administrators and coaches. A really simple example I know well from my experience/work with the first year writing program: classes taught by part-timers rake in a lot of tuition money.  Undergrads pay about $1000 per course at EMU once you figure out all the fees and stuff. The capacity for a section of first year writing is 25, so (assuming that everyone is paying in-state tuition) it’s pretty easy to ballpark the revenue of each section of first year writing is about $25,000. Even if you knock off some of that for paying the bills/keeping the lights on, that’s still a pretty healthy return on investment when that class is taught by someone only making $3600.
  • Higher education’s relationship with part-time labor generally has been problematic for decades. EMU is far from unique in this regard. Personally, I have a lot of mixed feelings about what to do with the adjunct problem, as I’ve blogged about before (here’s an example of a “modest proposal” to reduce the number of adjuncts with MOOCs, and here’s my review/reaction to a movie about adjunct labor called “Con Job”). I think higher ed has an “addiction” to cheap labor when it comes to teaching (particularly in gen ed sorts of classes). But I also think that part-time instructors should be just that, part-time. Too many folks have been trying make their part-time work look like a full-time job by teaching at multiple places and for too long.
  • As it is, we are increasingly having some “staffing challenges” when it comes to hiring people who are qualified and willing to teach at the current part-time rate. This is a relatively recent change, at least in my field. Based on my completely unscientific recollection, there were more people applying for part teaching ten years ago in my program than there are now. So this move by the administration– even if it is just a bargaining tactic– could make things even worse, which of course ultimately impacts students. It might also inspire some current part-timers to realize that with an improving economy and job market, there are other options out there.

By the way, if anyone involved in the negotiations wants to post something more here at EMYoutalk, let me know. I extend this opportunity to the administration too, though I don’t think they’ll take me up on it.

Teacher Ed to Academic Partnerships: Thanks, But No Thanks

Someone who prefers to remain anonymous sent me the following response from the faculty in Teacher Education to the administration about EMU’s newest online BFF Academic Partnerships:

The Teacher Education Department voted not to work with Academic Partners at its February faculty meeting. While we appreciated the time that you spent with us in March, faculty members have not changed their position. The reasons for this position are as follows:

1. Faculty members do not feel that there was an opportunity for input regarding the decision to work with Academic Partners. We received information regarding the selected programs and the services Academic Partners offers after the decision was made.

2. Faculty members have major concerns regarding the effect that marketing only certain programs will have on our other graduate programs and our resources. These graduate programs would be at a distinct disadvantage in attracting students, given the tuition discount that would be offered to the Academic Partners programs. Additionally, there are concerns about the allocation of future faculty lines if such an enrollment imbalance occurs.

3. Faculty members have concerns about the staffing of courses for the Academic Partners programs. At present we only have two faculty members who can teach in the selected Curriculum and Instruction Master’s. Should enrollment take off as promised, who would staff the rest of the courses? Will we eventually be put in a situation where we will have to hire Academic Partners faculty in order to staff a class or will we simply be given part-time lecturer lines as opposed to tenure-track positions?

4. Faculty members feel that working with Academic Partners could create unnecessary tension between EMU and the public school teachers in our community because of the company’s past history.

5. Finally, there are considerable concerns about the privatization of the marketing plan for our programs as well as concerns about an online model of education which may ultimately disadvantage the very populations which we serve.

We are very proud of our outstanding graduate programs and would be more than willing to work with you on a marketing plan that better suits our needs and mission.


CAS Dean Candidates Interviewing this Week

It’s that crazy time again, the end of not only the term but also of the school year. Just to make matters worse, my department has been thrown into what certainly feels like a new level of crisis because of some significant and last minute changes to the way stuff is done. I’m going to intentionally leave it vague like that for now, but once again, I believe the academically correct term for describing the situation is “clusterfuck.” 

Anyway, to add to all of this, EMU is interviewing finalists for the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). A word about academic pecking orders for those potentially reading this not familiar with these things: the academic part of things at EMU, like most universities, is divided up into colleges (and then there are departments within colleges), and CAS is the largest of the colleges by far. In theory, the Dean works for the Provost and the department heads within CAS would work for (or at least report to) this dean. Needless to say, it’s a significant leadership position.

I’m going to try to go to at least some of these, though we’ll see how it works out. Personally, I only have two questions I’d ask if given the opportunity: first, some variation of a question like “This equivalency mess you’re about to step into: um, how are you going to deal with train wreck coming this Fall?” and, closely related, “Can you explain to me how it is possible to add together a combination of threes and fours and arrive at 12? That is not ALL threes or ALL fours, but a mix of threes and fours– can you explain that math to an English major like me?”

The first candidate (he’s going to be on campus today and presenting to anyone interested at 1:30 pm in 108 Marshall Hall) is Roy Barnes. He’s an associate dean at the University of Michigan-Flint. He’s a sociologist, though he seems kind of like more of a business scholar/academic in the sense that his scholarship is about how corporate boards operate. I’m not sure I get that. Anyway, as far as I can tell from looking at his CV (all the candidate CVs are here, though it looks like you have to have the right EMU credentials to see these documents), Barnes has been at UM Flint since grad school and he’s been one version or another of administrator since 2002.

The second candidate is Charlene Gilbert and she’ll be doing her public presentation on Tuesday, April 11,  at 4:00 pm (again in 108 Marshall). I won’t be able to go to her presentation because of something else I have scheduled and that disappoints me because she strikes me as the interesting wildcard in this pool. Gilbert is the “Dean and Director” of Ohio State University at Lima (which I guess means she’s completely in charge of what is a satellite campus of THE Ohio State University), but she’s only been in that job since 2014. Prior to that, she was chair of women’s/gender studies at the University of Toledo (and if that department is anything like EMU’s women’s studies department, it means she was chair for a very small group of faculty). Prior to that, she did some other administrative work at Toledo along with being a professor there; prior to that, she was faculty at American University in DC and SUNY-Buffalo. The “wild card” part of things for me though is she is a documentary filmmaker whose terminal degree is an MFA in filmmaking.  Don’t get me wrong– her CV notes excellent achievements as a documentarian and she’s an impressive speaker and presence on various YouTube videos (here’s one link, but do a search for her and you’ll see more). I’m just not sure she has the administrative experience or academic background to make the jump to being dean of CAS.

The third candidate (she’ll be doing her public presentation thing on Wednesday at 1:30 in 108 Marshall) is Vandana Kohi. She’s also trained as a sociologist, though her PhD from Michigan State describes her field as “demography.” Interestingly enough, her MA and BA both come from universities in India, what I presume is her native country. She’s been one flavor or another of administrator at California State University at Bakersfield since about 2000 or so, and she’s been in an interim Associate VP position since 2015. Also on her CV is work in CSU’s faculty senate and time as the “Faculty Rights Officer, California Faculty Association,” which I think is the union for CSU faculty out there.

The fourth candidate– Thursday at 1:30, 108 Marshall– is Andrae Marak. His PhD is in Latin American Studies (I am not sure, but I think that he sees that work fitting into both Political Science and History) and he’s been some flavor of administrator at Governors State University (he’s the interim dean of CAS there now), Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus (never knew there was a Columbus, Indiana before), and also at California University of Pennsylvania. That appears to where he started down the tenure-track in 2004. He’s probably the most “academic” of the lot in terms of publications and presentations and the like– though all of the candidates have impressive things on their CVs in that sense.

So we’ll see how this works out. I don’t know what it says that there are no internal candidates here (did no one here who could have applied wanted it? was no one here really viable? was the committee determined to bring in someone with a fresh view?), but I do think the head-hunting firm and committee has an interestingly diverse pool in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and scholarly backgrounds. This is my own bias, but I’m kinda glad that all of these folks seem to lean more toward the “arts” than the “sciences” of things– though sociology is sort of in-between of course.  All I know is whoever takes this job is in for a very VERY bumpy ride, probably for at least a year.

Rhonda Longworth Named Provost

Well, “EMU names Rhonda Longworth new provost,” though a more accurate headline to that Detroit News article might be something along the lines of “Longworth continues as provost” since she’s been in the interim role for over a year now. A few weeks ago, I blogged about the four finalists coming to campus. Here’s what I wrote about Longworth then:

It was probably inevitable that Longworth would be in the mix since she’s been in the interim position for a while now– not to mention the fact she’s had other administrative positions in Welch Hall in recent years. I don’t know what her chances are of getting the job, but quite frankly, I hope the committee and the president give one of these other folks a chance. I don’t really know Rhonda as a person that well, but I’ve always had pleasant small-talk exchanges with her, so this is nothing personal from my point of view. But for better or worse, she’s been the point person on both this equivalency mess and the controversial “Academic Partners” agreement. So if she gets the job, then I think it means that the powers that be must think that everything at EMU is just hunky-dory– a “stay the course” hire, if you will. And to be honest, I think that would send a pretty bad signal.

So now I guess we’ll have to see how this works out and if anything changes now that Longworth gets to cross “interim” off of her business card. I’m not optimistic.

As I understand it, the “Academic Partners” thing is the subject of a grievance the EMU-AAUP is pursuing right now. But for me, the more pressing issue is the equivalency mess. I had a tiny bit of hope a new provost would take a look at what Longworth and former EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller wrought and put the brakes on implementing this in the fall. Now it’s probably going to be full speed ahead. And it’s not going to at all pretty– at least not in my department.

First, you can’t add threes and fours together and get to twelve: that is, 3+3+3+3 = 12, 4+4+4 = 12, but 3+4+3 or whatever combination of threes and fours ≠ 12. Go figure that a bunch of English professors have noticed this mathematic fact but the business and science people who were at the table to craft this equivalency deal didn’t figured this out. Further complicating the issue is faculty cannot be scheduled for more than twelve credits in a semester because that would mean that person would be teaching an overload, which means additional pay (and of course EMU doesn’t want to do that).

Anyway, what this means in our department is we are inevitably going to have a fair number of faculty scheduled for 10 or 11 hours because there are courses that are going to be worth three and courses that are going to be worth four. In my mind, that means that anyone who is schedule to teach 12 (with the approved equivalencies), has a grievable complaint against the department head for every faculty member scheduled to teach less than 12 simply because it’s not a fair and balanced teaching load across all faculty. In my department, I think this could result in hundreds of grievances.

The other problem that’s emerging (at least in our department) has to do with reassigned time to do quasi-administrative work. English is a large department and there’s really no way that one official administrator– our department head– can do all the various administrative things that need to be done. So what we do is grant release time to some faculty to be program coordinators to take on some of this quasi-administrative work. I’ve done this before and I was getting ready to do this again for the Written Communication program. The work involves a lot of recruiting and advising (particularly with graduate students), more meetings, more paperwork, more responsibility, etc. What this has meant is program coordinators teach two instead of three courses a semester. I’m pretty sure there are similar arrangements in other departments at EMU, particularly larger departments.

Well, based on the way things are moving right now, this arrangement is potentially going to go away: that is, because of the ways these equivalencies might or might not be applied, the reassigned time of being a program coordinator might not be enough to continue what has been the practice for decades in our department. Given that there is no contractual obligation for faculty to step up to be program coordinators (this is an internal arrangement in departments), reducing the release time dramatically reduces the reasons why anyone would volunteer to be the program coordinator. In theory, all of the quasi-administrative work being done by the coordinators– and there are I think eight faculty in my department who are coordinators right now– I assume would fall on the desk of the department head.

Oh, and let’s not forget the first year writing program. There’s a director of that program who is on a half-time release from teaching and an associate director (that’s me right now) on a third-time release from teaching to do all of the things that need to be done to run a large first year writing program. Depending on how this plays out, that’s all in jeopardy right now.

So yeah, Longworth being named Provost– while perhaps inevitable– doesn’t exactly make me optimistic that this equivalency mess is going to be solved anytime soon.

Ugh, Now We’ve Got alt-right Jerks

Well, this is just great. Now we get to deal with alt-right/neo-nazi-types.

Here’s how I found out about this on Facebook:

A friend found this in the Halle library, one who is a Middle Eastern WoC. It was not left on some random table. This was on a sign next to the elevator. This is absolutely unacceptable. Eastern Michigan University this is hate speech and needs to be investigated. No Nazi propaganda on our campus.
#TruEMU #OurHouseEMU
Spread this like wildfire.

I posted this on the EMUTalk Facebook group, and according to the conversation there, the administrative office of the library did verify that this is for real, the cards have been removed, and they are going to “investigate further to ensure this sort of material isn’t anywhere else.”

Mark Maynard has posted about it on his blog, and I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more about this in the MSM soon. Stay tuned.

Update #1: The Office of the President sent an email about all this, and apparently, these cards were all over campus this past weekend. Here’s a PDF of that email.

Update #2: There is this article in Mlive– perhaps best not to read the comments.

I have to say that one of the dilemmas/challenges here is trying to figure out when how much is too much when it comes to paying attention to these tings. On the one hand, yes of course, the EMU community should be made aware of this and should condemn it. On the other hand, at what point are we just giving these people what they want in the form of too much attention?

Heather Lyke Leaving EMU (Good Riddance, IMO)

The Freep web site reports “Sources: Heather Lyke to leave Eastern Michigan to take Pitt AD job.” There are a couple of interesting tidbits in this article. First, the piece rehashes a lot of the ongoing controversies about spending and football at EMU. But second, it gives a bit more of a taste of what the plans for spending upwards of $35 Million on athletic stuff might look like:

The plans currently call for the outdoor track to be removed from around the football field. The existing soccer fields would be reoriented in direction and a new track placed around it.

The existing football building in the far end zone of Rynearson Stadium would be torn down. In its place would be a new 70,000-square-foot building that would have a turf field inside for the football and soccer teams to use. There would also be a 300-meter indoor track and improved weight room, big enough for entire teams to train at one time. The building would also allow the university to have nine or 10 suites facing the football stadium. The current 68 premium seats in the stadium are sold out. A new scoreboard would be added to the stadium.

A new 22,000-square-foot building for wrestling and gymnastics would also be built, allowing them to move out of Bowen Fieldhouse and Warner Gymnasium. That space would then be available for academic programs and intramural sports to use, most likely.

Sure, why not? The best thing EMU could spend money on right now is this nonsense, right? Oh, and the “improvements” to intramural athletics and things like the REC/IM are basically going to amount to letting students use these other spaces once the athletic programs move out.

I wrote a bit about Lyke in a blog post on my own site last May, “An Open Letter/Blog Post About Sports at EMU.” I was following up on an open letter from the administration about the HBO Sports story about the ridiculous amount of money being wasted at EMU (and similar places) on football and also about an interview Lyke did with Michigan Public Radio.  Just to quote myself a bit about Lyke here:

It turns out that the guy interviewing Lyke, Lester Graham, has a child attending EMU. At the 4:35 or so mark in that interview, Graham asks flat-out “how does my EMU student benefit” with EMU being in Division 1 athletics.

Lyke responds “What your student gets, you know… when you chose Eastern Michigan, and the time that they chose they knew they had division 1 athletics–”

“–not a factor,” Graham interrupts. “Was not a factor.”

Then Lyke, digging furiously, says something like “Correct, so it’s, um, it’s not a factor in wether or not they um they… you know, I would hope that that student find value in adding diversity to the, you know, landscape and the culture of the university. There are kids that have unbelievable talents in all sorts of things. We have an unbelievable forensics team, we have an unbelievable slam poetry team at Eastern Michigan, we have fabulous art…” and so forth.

Graham pointed out that none of these things have anything to do with support to the athletic department, and Lyke goes back to the earlier statement that we are not thinking about getting out of the MAC or football, full stop.

So yeah, I don’t see a great loss in leadership here. Goodness knows I don’t know how these kinds of hiring decisions are made, but hey, good luck, Pittsburgh.


The Four Finalists for Provost: Some Initial Thoughts

Yesterday, VP for Communications Walter Kraft sent out some basic information on the candidates coming to campus for the Provost position. Here’s the meat of that email:

Students, faculty and staff:

Below are links to information about each of the four finalist candidates for Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, along with their respective schedules:

Rhonda Longworth, Ph.D.: Monday, March 13, 8- 9:20 a.m.

Robert Knight, D.M.: Tuesday, March 14, 8-9:20 a.m.

Louay Chamra, Ph.D.: Wednesday, March 15, 8-9:20 a.m.

Ricardo Brown, Ph.D.: Thursday, March 16, 8-9:20 a.m.

All sessions will take place in the Student Center Auditorium.

Each candidate has been asked to prepare a brief introductory presentation. The remainder of the time is for questions and answers.

I won’t be attending any of these interviews, but that isn’t going to stop me from offering some thoughts on all of this (and I of course encourage your comments as well, especially after these sessions happen). More after the break. Continue reading

Quick! The Provost Candidates are Coming!

I (and I think everyone else at EMU) just got an email from VP for Communications Walter Kraft about “open campus” forums for candidates for the Provost position. And these forums are going to be happening very soon and very early:

Candidate No. 1: Monday, March 13, 8- 9:20 a.m.
Candidate No. 2: Tuesday, March 14, 8-9:20 a.m.
Candidate No. 3: Wednesday, March 15, 8-9:20 a.m.
Candidate No. 4: Thursday, March 16, 8-9:20 a.m.

All sessions will take place in the Student Center Auditorium.

Now, I realize that these interview days are probably jam-packed with all kinds of other activities for these candidates. I also realize that ultimately the decision on who will get this job rests entirely with the search committee and the president– that is, these forums are really a courtesy and/or good public relations. No one is going to get hired or not based on their performance at this. Still, I have to say that one way to assure candidates for this job have as little contact with the general EMU community as possible is to announce these events with a week’s notice and to schedule them all for eight in the morning.

Also interesting is we aren’t going to get information on any of these candidates until “later in the week;” I’m not sure why they couldn’t just tell us now, but whatever.

I might be able to go to see “Candidate No 1.” and “Candidate No 2,” but alas, I’ll have to miss the other two for because I’ll be at a conference. Anyone else planning on going?