“Eastern Michigan Football: Giving Meaning to a Meaningless Bowl Game”

My life being what it is right now, I’m unlikely to watch today’s “big” game in the Bahamas that I assume includes a halftime show/Popeye’s chicken eating contest between the two teams. (Okay, maybe not, but you have to admit that would be an awesome addition to the event). But I did read what I thought was a pretty good commentary about it all, “Eastern Michigan Football: Giving Meaning to a Meaningless Bowl Game” by Matt Pelc. I think Pelc does a pretty good job of capturing my own mixed feelings about the whole thing. It is clearly a meaningless game, but even I can understand why the players and at least a few fans are excited about the first bowl appearance for the Emus since the Reagan Administration.

Still, as Pelc points out, this does not mean everything with Emu football is now just hunky-dory:

Make no mistake, these thorny issues will not evaporate from the Ypsilanti air because of one bowl appearance in three decades. The dollars and cents of raising tuition while funding an unpopular football program is still an issue which should be revisited.

While attendance is up, and the program is receiving a lot of love nationally for its pseudo-Cinderella story of never going to a bowl game in the age of bowl games, will they slide back into oblivion in 2017?

That first link from Pelc is from a Freep.com article, “Despite winning season, future of EMU football questioned.” In the nutshell, that article rehashes old arguments: football is fun and it’s great that the team did well this year (Though that’s relative, isn’t it?  If Michigan had gone 7-5 this year, they probably would have fired St. Harbaugh), but students are paying 80% of the team’s operating expenses with their tuition, and a lot of that money comes from Pell grants and student loans.

Back in July when James Smith started his job as President of EMU, he gave an interview to WEMU. In responding to critics of EMU’s athletic spending, Smith said (among other things) “I think leaving the Mid-American Conference would be very difficult, if not tragic for a school like Eastern. Mostly we’ll look at new revenue sources, how we strengthen those revenue sources, and what we can do in some creative ways.” It’ll be interesting to see what those creative revenue sources turn out to be.

Anyway, congrats to the team, I hope that dozens of fans who made the trip to the game have fun, and I hope the Emus defeat the powerhouse team that is Old Dominion. And I hope there is a bunch of free chicken .

“EMU is expanding online degree programs” with the help of “Academic Partnerships”

I was actually out and about today when I heard this story on Michigan Public Radio, “EMU is expanding online degree programs.” A quote:

Eastern Michigan University has entered into a 5 year agreement with Academic Partnerships, a private company, to offer four fully online degree programs.

According to Kevin Kuchera, EMU’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, the programs will increase educational opportunities for non-traditional students while generating revenue for the University.

The four programs are RN2BSN (Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing), Master’s in Educational Leadership, Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and Bachelor of General Studies (degree completion).

It is “interesting” to say the least that a) this is coming out at the very end of the semester, hours before the beginning of the Christmas break, and b) there was nothing about this from EMU about this; rather, the story broke from Michigan Public Radio. Anyway, a couple of thoughts and then I hope others have comments and such:

  • Personally, I have no problem with online programs/online courses in principle as long as they are done well. I’ve been teaching online for about ten years and I think it can be a legitimate way to learn and educate– with lots of caveats that I won’t get into right now. However, I worry a lot about the partnership that EMU has entered into with Academic Partnerships, which strikes me as the worst kind of “Edu-preneur,” interested in trying to suck as much money out of the education sector as possible. The Atlantic had a pretty good article about this, “How Companies Profit Off Education at Nonprofit Schools.” The short version is this is a sketchy arrangement, one where Academic Partnerships is likely to profit a lot more out of this deal than EMU, and also a deal where students generally are the losers/pawns.
  • I had heard some rumors about this coming about, but it sounds like these programs went through with pretty minimal faculty input. That’s kinda bad.
  • I’m not sure I worry much about the nursing program or the graduate programs in Education, but the Bachelor of General Studies degree has lots of potential for problems. This was actually something I wrote about on the old EMUTalk back here, which is when this “General Studies” degree was first floated. Back then I pointed out we already have a program in “Individualized Studies” at EMU, so I don’t know what this degree is supposed to be about. In any event, I’ve had students in the current “Individualized Studies” program– particularly in some of my online classes– and I have to say these students tend to be kind of misfit toys with a ton of credits (usually from three or four different community colleges and universities) who are trying to figure out a way to be a college graduate. I guess it’s good that we should try to help them out, but I’m not sure making this a degree program with lots of students in it.
  • My current work/book project is on Massive Online Open Courses, and I’ve done a fair amount of research looking back at the history of previous movements in distance education. Long-story short: higher education has been trying to come up with a way to bring education to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to college for a long time, and simultaneously to increase revenue. There were correspondence programs in the late 19th/early 20th century, courses by radio and television in the middle of the 20th century, and of course “traditional” online courses starting around the early 1990s. Sometimes, these delivery methods just became “normal” (correspondence and online courses), and sometimes these methods morphed into something else (courses by radio and TV became public radio and public TV).  But one thing has proven to be consistent with these earlier movements and with things like MOOCs: they didn’t “transform” education as we know it and they ended up not being nearly as profitable as the edu-preneurs promised and/or hoped.

Video of President Smith’s first “Listening Session”

Via the Book of Face Faculty Senate page comes this video, “EMU Listening Session, Dec 9, 2016.” This was the second of these sessions, with four more scheduled for winter 2017.

I skipped around in the video because it’s kind of long and it’s a busy time of the year, but I’ll mention two things for now:

  • It seemed like what Smith wanted to do is what all administrator-types want to do: he wanted to talk about his strategic plan. What everyone at the event wanted to talk about was the dumb way EMU has handled the racist graffiti incidents on campus and the dumb way EMU has punished students for sitting around in the student center. I get the impression Smith wasn’t exactly prepared for that.
  • One issue that came up several times was about hiring diverse faculty and about training for search committees for this– that is, the administration says that faculty are being trained for this when they really aren’t. I think it’s complicated.

    I chaired a search last year, and there was a “training” of a sort in the sense that all the chairs and department heads for various searches were called to a meeting and they Academic HR gave us a slide show that I would describe as common sense. As a member of a committee this year, there’s been no training for the likes of me.But there are two things here that make this sort of targeted hiring for diversity difficult– not to mention the fact that Michigan passed an amendment to its state constitution in 2006 outlawing “preferential treatment” in hiring and lots of other things. First, the people on the search committee don’t know the race or ethnicity of applicants when we’re looking at their file– and by the way, that’s a good thing because not knowing makes it less likely for the committee to discriminate. Second, most people who go to graduate school and earn a PhD in my field are white, meaning that the first thing we really need to do to increase the diversity of faculty is to increase the diversity of graduate studies. That’s a long-term plan.

EMU on the radar of right wing (fake news?) site “The Daily Caller” over Black Student 10 point plan

Funny what comes up in my Google feed about “Eastern Michigan University.” A site called The Daily Caller— which is web site that has  right wing leanings and which walks the line of what is or isn’t fake news– published  “This Taxpayer-Funded University Is Scheming To Make EVERY MAJOR Teach ‘Black Studies.’” According to the article, this “scheme” is going to “compel every department on campus to inject a “black studies” course into “the curriculum of every major.” Ugh.

Oh, and apparently another right-wing/vaguely fake news site, Campus Reform, also published a similar story with the headline “EMU to require ‘black studies’ course in ALL majors.”

More helpfully, The Daily Caller article links to a press release from EMU about the Black Student ten point plan, which tries to explain what EMU is attempting to do in relation to these goals.

What’s interesting to me here is the way these two different web sites presume this is a bad thing. I mean, setting aside some of the logistical problems with the Black Student ten point plan for a second: what’s so wrong about trying to increase diversity and awareness of the African American experience?

Tiran Burrell’s Open Letter to President Smith About the Bad Handling of Things by Student Conduct

Just the other day, I also received this letter from EMU alum Tiran Burrell about the mess with the student reprimands/suspensions/whatever is going on with the sit-in actions in the student center. I learned about Burrell’s letter from an email from Michael Wood the other day, and now that I have permission, I’ll share Burrell’s email here (and again, if anyone has something they want to share here, send it in!):

Dear Eastern Michigan University Regents & Administration:

As a Eastern Michigan University Alum, current graduate student, and African American male, I am disappointed and disgusted with the manner in which you all have handled the situations around the hateful graffiti on campus. You all have been seemingly adverse in your actions to, first of all, make your students feel safe and wanted at this university. You all have failed to send further correspondence on behalf of the University since our previous meeting with myself and other student leaders. You have failed to provide any further updates for your students on the investigation of the racist graffiti incidents. You have failed to do anything to show students any glimmer of hope that you all actually care about the concerns of the general population of African American students.

More after the jump:

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Michael Wood’s Open Letter on the Student Code of Conduct

Back in early November, Michael Wood– the acting president of the EMU Black Student Union and one of the students who was initially charged in the whole student center sit-in situation– wrote an open letter addressed to EMU President William Smith regarding about his role/punishment here. Way back when, he sent me a copy of the letter. Now that EMYoutalk.org has started, it seems like this is a good time and place to publish that letter.

Dear President Smith:

I am a Secondary Education: Language, Literature, & Writing major here at Eastern Michigan University from Flint, Michigan. Flint is still enduring a water crisis and is one of the most poverty stricken and violent cities in America. I say this to infer: where I come from it is not enough to be smart, you have to have heart. My time at EMU is supposed to be a pathway to a better life and an environment where I do not have to live under intimidation, oppression, and intolerance. This has not been the case and while I endure many micro aggressions everyday on campus the blatant and repetitive hate speech and terrorist actions have exposed EMU to have a race problem. This has been a traumatic experience which has affected me emotionally, physically, and mentally. While I have “heart”, this semester is weighing heavily upon me and others.

(the rest after the jump).

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A few random thoughts to share on the new EMYoutalk.org

The new version of this site is still taking shape, but I thought I’d share a few thoughts about how I think things will be different (hopefully) with the new site versus the old one. 

  • It’s going to take some discipline on my part, but I want to try to limit my own posting/managing of the site to the evenings while I’m watching TV and while I’m otherwise not doing something else. Besides my usual day job of teaching and the like, I really do have a book to write. As a slight tangent: y’all are liable to see some posts here from me about Massive Online Open Courses, the subject of my book project.
  • Part of what I am planning on doing with the EMUTalk Facebook group is to solicit contributors. This has to be a group effort, folks. So if you have things you want to post, please email me and let me know.
  • I’m still working on the details of this, but one of the reasons why I decided to give this site another go was some reassurance from one of my colleagues that they’d help out. You know who you are!  Beyond this person, if there are others out there who want to be a part, let me know.
  • Funny story about why this is EMYoutalk.org rather than EMUTalk.org. I let the domain name registration elapse because I thought I was done with all of this. When I floated the idea of restarting the site, I saw that the domain EMUTalk.org was for sale for $25– not outrageous, but still more than a domain name usually costs. After I brought this up on the Facebook group, the cost for the domain jumped to $500. So, um, EMYoutalk it is.

Michigan Firehouse Museum Open House On Sunday, December 18, 1-3pm


One of the things I got myself involved in a couple of years ago (via a neighbor of mine) is being on the board for the Michigan Firehouse Museum and Education Center, which is a nifty museum about firehouse stuff on the corner of Cross and Huron near Depot Town. If you’ve never been, like firehouse stuff, and/or have kids (who always like firetrucks, right?), this is a good time to check it out.

“Swoop’s Food Pantry helping EMU students who need meals”

From Mlive, “Swoop’s Food Pantry helping EMU students who need meals,” a nice write-up about a nice effort to support students at EMU. But I can’t help not recall how the idea of developing a food pantry came up in the HBO Real Sports story in April that featured EMU as one of the poster children for sports spending being out of control. Spending millions on football while students go hungry isn’t “education first.”

Hey, did you miss me?

Okay, let’s restart this and see what happens.

Things are going to start slow around here because I’m kind of busy with the day-job right now, but here it is, the reborn EMUTalk.org I mean EMYoutalk.org. As I mentioned on the Facebook group the other day, this rebirth was prompted by one of my colleagues who a) pointed out that there’s been a lot of crazy shit going on around campus this year and we (meaning all of us that cares about this community) need a place to speak about about this craziness, and b) this colleague of mine said he’d help out.

So, how have you been? What’s new? What do you want to talk about here?