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.

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.


Fire in Phelps Hall! And this one is not a drill!

Folks at EMU received a couple emails from communications VP Walter Kraft about a fire in the dorm Phelps Hall that forced students to evacuate. And then this morning, I stumbled across this story from Detroit WDIV (channel 4 on your television “dial”), “Fire closes Eastern Michigan University’s Phelps Hall dorm.”

Long story-short, no one was seriously injured, everyone got out (though one student had to be taken out of a window), people who weren’t on the effected floors got to go back to their rooms, and there is some number of students at least temporarily displaced by this.  Ironically enough, there was a fire drill in this dorm earlier in the evening so when the real “this is not a drill” fire alarms sounded, there was initially a bit of confusion.

Susan Martin Finalist for President of Florida Gulf Coast University

Remember Susan Martin, EMU’s retiring president who then went on to be interim president at San Jose State University? Well, she’s apparently still wanting to do some president-type stuff. As reported by the news-press.com web site in the article “FGCU committee selects 4 finalists for president,” she’s seeking the job there.

Fun fact about former EMU presidents and FGCU: infamous ex president John Fallon was actually in the running for the job there back in 2007, though he didn’t make the cut.

About the EMU Board of Regents Meeting; Farewell, Regents Fitzsimmons and Stapleton; Smith Inauguration

Geoff Larcom sent around an email about the most recent EMU Board of Regents meeting yesterday. Here it is:

Yesterday, in its regularly scheduled meeting, the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents approved two new academic programs, in mechanical engineering and a doctoral program in the practice of nursing. The two programs are in response to the strong market need for engineers and nurses with advanced degrees, along with strong student interest.

In other Board action during the meeting:

A $13.8 million capital budget for fiscal 2017-2018 was approved that helps set stage for completion of Science Complex, and sets aside funds for improvements in academic facilities, classroom and campus technology, further enhancements in campus safety and security, and in parking.

An average 2.5 percent increase in room and board rates for fiscal 2017-2018 was approved. The room and board increases are all below the five-year average for Eastern, with the residence hall increase being the lowest during that time period, and apartment and meal plan increases representing the second lowest levels in the past five years. The increases seek to maintain the University’s commitment to offering affordable on-campus living and dining experiences for students.

Complete materials from the meeting can be found on documents page of the Board of Regents website.

President Smith provided a summation of campus activities over the past several months in his regular President’s Report to the Regents.

Please also note that you are invited to attend inauguration ceremonies for President Smith on March 2, 2017. The ceremonies will celebrate EMU’s history while looking forward to a vibrant future. Complete details can be found on the inauguration website.

Two other points/highlights:

  • This meeting marked the farewell of Regents Beth Fitzsimmons and Jim Stapleton. Stapleton in particular has been a controversial figure on the board over the years.
  • There’s also information about Smith’s “Inauguration,” which seems kind of like a not completely necessary event to me (but hey, what do I know?). I am going to be out of town that Thursday, March 2, so I don’t need to think about this too much. But I am curious about who can go to this. I am guessing that faculty and staff can attend for free– though maybe not, I really don’t know– but I’m not sure what the case is with students. I do see that according to the inauguration website, I can buy an individual ticket for $150. Hmm. I realize this is a fund-raiser and I’m all for that, but it seems kind of an odd event to make into a fund-raiser. I mean, even the inauguration of Trump was free for anyone to attend.

“EMU Police working aggressively to solve incidents of racist vandalism that took place last fall”

From EMU’s PR/Media folks comes “Eastern Michigan University Police working aggressively to solve incidents of racist vandalism that took place last fall.”  It’s a press release that details the various things that the EMU Police have been doing to try to track down the people who did the racist graffiti in the fall 2016 semester.

I suspect that the EMU Police and other authorities are in kind of a tough spot in trying to find who did this stuff because they are certainly under a lot of pressure to find who is responsible, but there probably aren’t a lot of good ways of finding out. They’re trying their best, but that still isn’t going to satisfy everyone.

Incidentally, the one thing that I’ve noticed as a very visible thing on campus that might or might not be related to this incident, I’m not sure: for some time now, there has been a sidewalk under construction that runs between the back of King Hall and the south side of the Marshall Building. The first major graffiti was on the wall of King in this out of the way courtyard that opens on to Marshall– that is, on the side of the building where this sidewalk is going in. Now, for all I know, this sidewalk has been in the plans for years. Still, it’s interesting that it is going in now.

“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.

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?