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?

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.

Kullberg’s “Update on Equivalencies” Email Reveals Union/Administration Backroom Deals

Members of the EMU-AAUP received a bit of a bombshell letter and memo today from current EMU-AAUP President Judy Kullberg titled “Update on equivalencies from the AAUP.” I include the whole email and also the attached memo after the break. Though I was going to title this post something like “Moeller Secretly Sold Out the EMU-AAUP Membership,” and maybe that would be more accurate.

The issue of teaching equivalences and the train wreck of a deal that the EMU-AAUP and the Administration have negotiated has of course been a vexing and irritating discussion for quite a while. And it’s also complicated, so I don’t know if I can do much to get newbies/non-faculty-types caught up with this. I did blog about this in some detail on stevendkrause.com with the post “Why I’m voting for a Coalition for a New EMU-AAUP” and also with a post on this site back in early January, “Responding to ‘Setting the Record Straight From Susan Moeller, Outgoing EMU-AAUP.'” So if you are coming across this and wondering what all this equivalency stuff means, you might want to check out those posts.

Kullberg’s email outlines the timeline for how we got into this equivalency mess in the first place, and I’ll skip some of those details for my purposes here. The EMU-AAUP and the administration worked through summer 2016 to try to sort out the problems with the equivalencies. On August 30, 2016, Moeller sent an email to all faculty at EMU in which she said (in part) “Because of the difficulties with this process however the Joint DID Committee is not going to be able to complete its work on all aspects of the required DID changes by August 31, 2016, so the union has negotiated with the EMU administration a MOU to delay the August 31, 2016, deadline for our involvement in this process. The new deadline will be April 30, 2017.” (Bold in the original). Folks in my department kept working in the fall to try to figure out how these equivalences are going to work out, in part because there was an assumption that we’d have a chance to make changes through the end of the winter term in 2017.

Meanwhile, there was an EMU-AAUP election going on, an election that ran from November 7 to November 22. Now, I don’t know if Moeller et al sensed they were not going to be re-elected because of a general vibe, because of the chatter on social media, and/or because they took a peek of the ballots that were coming in. But they must have sensed something because on November 18, 2016 (a few days before the voting ended), Moeller and EMU Interim Provost Rhonda Longworth signed an Memo of Understanding that basically voided the previously promised April 30, 2017 deadline. (PDF)

And if that wasn’t bad enough: Moeller and the rest of the bunch voted off the old EMU-AAUP didn’t bother to tell the new leadership or anyone else, and they clearly did this on purpose. Here’s a quote from Kullberg’s email on this:

We, the new AAUP Executive Committee, took office on January 1 and began operations on Tuesday, January 3, 2017 (the university was closed on Jan. 1 & 2).  We understood that we had a mandate to revisit the equivalency documents as soon as our term began.  However, we discovered on January 6, while reviewing the actions of the previous EMU-AAUP executive committee, that outgoing EMU-AAUP President Moeller and Interim Provost Rhonda Longworth had signed an MOU on November 18 which terminated the DID review committee on December 22, 2016 and finalized its work on that date.  Neither Longworth nor Moeller have disclosed the existence of this MOU. (bold and italics in the original)

So, to sum up:

  • Moeller and Bunsis and the rest of the EMU-AAUP leadership encouraged folks in my department (and I presume other departments)  to work in the summer to try to resolve the problems created by this DID Committee agreement.
  • Then Moeller told the membership that we were going to have until April 2017 to iron out the problems with the equivalencies, which again meant lots more work on how to make this all work.
  • Then, in secret and probably after she realized she was going to lose the election, Moeller signed a deal that basically said a) we’re done talking about this, and b) all of you people who spent hours and hours working on this stuff in summer and fall of 2016 have wasted your time.

That’s a straight-up “fuck you, I’m burning the house down while you sleep in it” move by Moeller. She sold us out.

Continue reading

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.

Thoughts and Red Flags About “Academic Partnerships” and EMU

Hey, did you miss me again? Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written anything here. It certainly hasn’t been the result of a lack of news around campus– there have been lots of things posted on the EMUTalk Facebook Group. I’ve just been pretty swamped with both life and the day-job over the last month. But I am sensing a little breathing room now.

Anyway: last Tuesday, I went to one of the informational discussions about EMU’s deal with Academic Partnerships. I blogged about this a bit back in December. Because there was some push-back from faculty and the EMU-AAUP, Provost Rhonda Longworth (and other folks in that office) decided to hold a couple “Dialogue Sessions” with faculty about the deal.  There’s another one of these sessions coming up on Friday February 10, by the way.

On the plus-side of things, it appears this isn’t going to cost EMU anything– meaning I don’t think EMU is putting money into this on the front-end; it’s all Academic Partnerships’ resources and risk. So I guess that’s kind of okay. But there was a lot that came up directly and indirectly at this discussion that makes me wonder.

First, there’s the legitimacy of Academic Partnerships and it’s founder/CEO, Randy Best.  I was going to describe AP as “sketchy,” but that might go too far, though maybe not. One example of what I mean: When you visit their web site and click on the link “AP University Partners,” you don’t actually get a list of universities that AP has partnered with at all. It’s more of a “why universities partner with AP” (and the answer is to boost enrollment in online programs). Longworth et al seemed kind of vague about knowing what other universities AP is/has working/worked with. Not really knowing who else has partnered up with AP is red flag number one.

It’s not that hard to find some articles about AP deals gone bad. For example, “Deal Dead in Ohio” is a 2009 Inside Higher Ed piece about how a deal between “Higher Education Holdings” (which is what the company was called before AP) and the University of Toledo went bad. Also from 2009 and Inside Higher Ed comes “So Many Students, So Little Time” which goes into detail about an arrangement with Arkansas State that went off the rails. One line from that article I worry might be foreshadowing for EMU’s partnership: “Administrators are all very clear about what they demand upon entering these contracts; whether that’s what they actually get, however, is a matter of increasing debate.” That’s another red flag.

A little more Googling pretty quickly turns up some eyebrow-raising articles about Randy Best too. Best is not an educator who became an entrepreneur; he’s an entrepreneur (among other things, he used to be in a business that manufactured Girl Scout cookies) who got into education. Say what you want about the rise of MOOC providers like Coursera, Udacity, and EdX– and by the way, AP is not about facilitating MOOCs but online programs– but at least those providers were founded by educators who became entrepreneurs. The most damning article on Best comes from the Texas Observer, “Randy Best Is Going to Save Texas’ Public Universities, or Get Rich Trying.” It’s a long article that goes into Best’s background with how he got rich off of “No Child Left Behind” and then steadily built HEH which became “Academic Partnerships.” Red flag number three.

In the meeting with Longworth, we heard that AP provides what it calls “retention specialists” to recruit students into online programs and keep them enrolled. To me, that sounds way too much like the terminology proprietary schools use to scam/recruit students into worthless degree programs. There was also was some confusion/lack of clarity on the role of “academic coaches” assigned to these online courses/online programs– who hires them, what their qualifications are, and so forth. Red flag four.

And then there is just the whole “why does this make sense” question. The big program that AP wants us to launch as an online program is the BSN Completion degree (and apparently, that is still not a done deal yet with the School of Nursing). This is a very high in demand program all over the country because there is a lot of incentive for Registered Nurses to get the BS degree– in fact, it seems like most of AP’s business is in these kinds of programs. What AP brings to the deal, according to Longworth, is marketing and support, but EMU (and the School of Nursing specifically) gets to maintain academic control and integrity of its program. But the reason why EMU’s Nursing program can’t admit all of the students it wants to admit into the BSN Completion program right now is there aren’t enough faculty to teach in the program, and that’s all about maintaining academic control and integrity. It has nothing to do with recruiting/marketing to new students.

Conversely, if we had an online degree program in Written Communication (which is the program I teach in), we would probably need some marketing to recruit students. We’re kind of small, and while it is a great major for all kinds of reasons, it’s not in the same level of demand as the BSN Completion program. So if a company like AP came in and could help us attract students to an online degree in writing, well, that might be a good thing– because we have the faculty but we could use more students.

In any event, I tried asking a version of this question several times: Why does EMU need a company like AP to help “market” a program that already has a higher demand than we can possibly satisfy with our current faculty staffing? I don’t feel like that question ever got answered.

Last but not least, there’s the other program that AP is apparently interested in, which is an online degree of “General Studies,” which would basically be an online version of a program that exists at EMU now, the Individualized Studies Program.  How this would work seems pretty murky to me.

Right now, the program is run out of the University Advising and Career Development Center and it is basically set up to help students who have a lot of miscellaneous credits get some kind of college degree. I’ve actually had a fair number of these students over the years because I happen to teach a couple “Writing Intensive” courses online (and these students need at least one WI course just every other student at EMU) and I have to say these students are almost always “unique cases,” so to speak. I’m talking about students who have transfer credits from four or five different universities going back a decade, and they still can’t graduate because these credits aren’t in a coherent program of study.

Now, I’m okay with EMU’s ISP program as it is because it’s small and personalized, and if we can help individual students resolve their unique situation, that’s fine. But we sure as heck don’t want to get into a situation where EMU (via AP) is recruiting hundreds or maybe even thousands of these students into this program. That’s where we start crossing the line from legitimate online program of study into diploma mill.

Let me end with a longish quote from that Texas Observer article that sort of sums things up for me overall:

“’I think the big picture is that higher education is becoming more and more a business and less and less a public service,’ says Jack Zibluk, a former faculty senate president at Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, who spoke out against a deal with Best in 2008. ‘This may be part of the business of higher ed in the future, but my concern is, at what cost? What kind of education are you going to get as part of that business model?’”

Best’s critics aren’t against online education, but they wonder why a university, with all its resources and scholars, needs a for-profit company to develop online courses and recruit students. Couldn’t the schools launch online courses themselves and avoid turning over so much tuition money to Best? Some critics see administrators and for-profits like Academic Partnerships cashing in while faculty get saddled with more work. To them, the company looks like a pipeline from the public coffers to Best’s bottom line. It’s a familiar charge against him.


“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.

President Smith Listening (or “Listening?”)

I went to the latest of EMU President James Smith’s “Listening Sessions” on Friday, probably the only one I’m going to be able to go to because my January schedule is going to get pretty crazy busy pretty soon. This was the third one of these sessions, and there are three more to come. And for what it’s worth, here’s the schedule:

Session 4: January 17, 2017 2:00 p.m. 217 Porter

Session 5: January 18, 2017 10:00 a.m. 114 Owen

Session 6: February 3, 2017 10:00 a.m. Student Center Auditorium

So what happened? Well, if you saw this video I posted here back in December, then pretty much the same thing as that. Most (though not all) of the questions/comments from the people there were about the debacle of punishing student protesters for sitting around the student center for too long. My colleague Rob Halpern read from a letter he had recently sent to President Smith, one that is along the same lines as to what he wrote for RAW recently.  Rob sent me this latest letter and I’m posting it in its entirety in a separate post on the site. I think it’s fair to say that he captured in that letter the sentiments held by most people in the room. Honestly, Smith et al’s lack of willingness to do the humane thing and dismiss all disciplinary actions against these students for conducting a peaceful sit-in continues to perplex me and pretty much everyone I talk to about this.

And I think you have to say “listening” in scare-quotes because I really didn’t see a lot of that– or maybe a slightly better/different way of putting it is maybe Smith heard what people were saying, but I’m not seeing any evidence that there is any sort of corresponding action. These are more “listening” sessions, as in “let’s let people say stuff, say ‘I hear you,’ say something general back, and then pretty much ignore this and just keep doing what we’re doing.”

One obvious example the administration’s stubbornness on not forgiving these student protesters in the name of “rules are rules.” But I think another example that came up at this session is Smith’s take on football.

During Friday’s session, I had the chance to ask Smith about an interview he did with WEMU back in the late summer about the out of whack athletic department budget. Back then, Smith said something along the lines of “we need to find a different way to pay for football.” I asked him about that, and basically his response “we’re working on it.” Then some other people asked about some other things that need to be done on campus– facility upgrades, a potential new center for media studies facility, and so forth. Smith was interestingly more specific about this, arguing that because we’re not likely to be getting a lot of funding from the state for this sort of thing, we’re going to have to find some outside donors to contribute. So I said something along the lines of “Why don’t we just stop playing football? And what I think you’re saying here is while we’re going to need to get some outside donors to pay for things like a new media studies facility, we’re still going to spend tuition money on football.” His answer was “yes.”

So not listening, “listening.” And frankly, not leadership, but “leadership.”


Prof. Rob Halpern’s Latest Letter to EMU President James Smith

Dear President Smith ~

I hope this finds you well in the New Year.

I think we can agree—judging by responses across the University and elsewhere—that the current mode of adjudicating and reprimanding the Black students who have been sanctioned in the wake of a nonviolent Student Center sit-in is not working in accord with the community’s desire for high ethical standards, nor does it respond to the need to protect student and community wellbeing. By failing to acknowledge this, the Office of the President at EMU continues to compromise its integrity, while further diminishing the community’s good faith in your Strategic Plan when it comes to “Diversity and Inclusion.” Moreover, the actions of the University’s administration have attracted intense criticism across multiple communities, locally and nationally. Indeed, EMU’s reputation as a hospitable university for people of color has been significantly damaged under your watch, and not only by racist vandals, but by the action and inaction of your administration.

Students continue to struggle under hostile conditions to preserve a sense of their own wellbeing—emotionally and physically, socially and psychologically—in the face of an administration that many perceive has failed to protect it. To reprimand these students even minimally only serves to agitate the hostile conditions they are struggling to address. This is unacceptable. Any sanction—even the most symbolic—constitutes a form of punishment and is objectionable in the context of recent events and an affront to community standards and ethics. This is why so many faculty members at your recent listening sessions have spoken out against any form of sanction while insisting—in sync with your own apparent willingness to admit the possibility that the system might be flawed—that you temporarily suspend the disciplinary process currently in place until the community has found a way to assess the adequacy of the Student Code of Conduct as it is currently being administered under these circumstances. Given the situation, this is a perfectly reasonable request, and we are asking that you respond to it as such.

To make matters worse, we’ve learned that the students’ appeals are now not only resulting in the administration upholding these illegitimate sanctions, but these same students are being denied a hearing—that is, they are being denied a voice in this process—on the grounds that the charges are “not serious enough”. EMU seems to want it both ways: to punish students while simultaneously insisting that they are not being punished! The charges are apparently serious enough to warrant an aggressive process of routing out students by way of video technologies; serious enough to disrupt their final weeks of the semester with traumatizing reprimands and sanctions letters, several of which initially threatened suspension; serious enough to warrant hour long meetings (15 of them) with staff from the conduct office; serious enough for faculty to have organized support for these students, often serving as their advocates in their meetings with conduct officers; serious enough for faculty to write letters to families of sanctioned students explaining the embarrassing circumstances that have resulted in their son or daughter being dragged into a draconian process for acting conscionably and exigently in the spirit of Martin Luther King to combat racism on campus, only to be met with the heavy hand of an institutionally racist disciplinary order; serious enough to generate thousands of signatures demanding that sanctions be dropped; serious enough to attract the attention of the ACLU; but somehow not serious enough to warrant a hearing for students who continue to insist—as many of us here do—that the sanctions being administered and upheld are unjust and that even the most minor reprimand constitutes a violation of these students’ Civil Rights.

During that last listening session, you questioned your own power as President to intervene in this process; you also by turns questioned the “wisdom” of any such an intervention, perhaps because you don’t want to disrupt the smooth functioning of bureaucratically administered disciplinary process. It was absolutely clear, however, from the vocally unanimous faculty present at that session that you would have a mandate to intervene right now, and that the specificity of these cases—in the context both of our historical moment and the recent events here on campus—not only warrants, but demands that you intervene. Is it possible that you are beholden to supersensible forces and higher powers? Or, is the administration afraid of certain legal implications, as if honoring these students’ legitimate appeals might open a hypothetical floodgate for less legitimate appeals in some imagined future? If the latter fear has somehow contributed to our current impasse, then it is evermore clear that the Student Code of Conduct needs to be thoroughly re-examined to ensure against any potential confusion between peaceful, nonviolent protest whose goals and methods are in accord with community standards, standards that reflect a history of Civil Rights, and its opposite. Your hypothetical example at today’s session to the effect of “What if Pray Harrold were occupied by student protesters with whom we disagree?” is simply a red herring and misguided, and it needs to be addressed as such. Please don’t make the error of taking this analogy seriously. One approach to correcting this error—while pre-empting whatever fears and bad comparisons—would be for the administration to recognize these cases properly within a Civil Rights context. Thus we are asking you to act in accord with the standards of the community you are here to serve and address this in its proper context. In order to address this adequately and responsibly, the current process—whose integrity has already been impugned—together with its judgments, must be temporarily suspended.

It may be worth rehearsing the egregiousness of the University’s decision to reprimand students in the first place. These students expressed a genuine need to organize their voice, assert their presence, and secure for themselves a safe space inside a building on EMU campus, all in the wake of execrable racist tagging insisting that Black students “leave.” These students’ collective assertion was at once symbolic and material. Their collective action was also implicitly critical of the EMU administration’s response to the campus crisis, and it drew important attention to what many believe to be the inadequacy of that response.

The University’s directive that these students “leave” the Student Center echoes—quite literally—the racists’ demand that Black students leave campus. We all need to hear this echo! It is real; it is material; and failure to listen to it is consequential. Regardless of whatever official rule that bans students from the Student Center after hours, EMU’s decision to echo that racist demand by directing Black students to “leave” is reprehensible. Indeed, it is this directive that ought to be seriously scrutinized, apologized for, and corrected; and yet, it is because of students’ “failure to comply” with this inappropriate directive to “leave” that they are being sanctioned. The irony here is rather grotesque. While this echo might sound insubstantial irrelevant to the administration’s ears, it is loud and clear to the community. You have organized a series of “listening sessions”; now please offer the EMU community a model of careful listening!

These students deserve to have been responded to compassionately and supportively, imaginatively and collaboratively, by administration, DPS, the Office of Student Conduct (Community Standards and Wellbeing), and your office alike, not with directives to vacate a space and told that they are “free to continue their protest outside”: Their protest was precisely about being inside.

As long as the University continues to insist on punishing Black students for their protest, there can be no effective and honest way to move forward with a priority plank in your Strategic Plan. Another way of putting this might be: Without an adequate examination of how conditions of institutional racism are structurally reproduced under the sign of “colorblindness” here at EMU, your plan’s keywords “diversity and Inclusion” will only continue to hemorrhage, and reveal themselves to be empty fetishes.

Many of us continue to hope that you will recognize and make publically clear that the directive to vacate the Student Center ought never to have been issued. Moreover, for administrators and DPS to then devote hours pouring over video footage in an aggressive effort to identify a handful of Black student protesters—students who committed no crime, participated in no violence, damaged no property—as if DPS were seeking the vandals responsible for the racist tagging itself, is not only embarrassing and incomprehensible, it’s a waste of precious community resource.

Under these circumstances, any sanctions whatsoever amount to an unnecessary injury added to the injury of racist violence. To act as if this were simply an issue of “conduct” reveals EMU’s unwillingness to acknowledge the obvious: We are dealing here with highly volatile issues of race, in response to which the University has acted against the grain of its own pronouncements to foster a hospitable environment intolerant to racism. Insofar as the sit-in took place in response to traumatic racist events on campus, this is first and foremost a race issue and cannot be sanitized by allowing “conduct” to eclipse the context and the stakes.

You might say: What does race matter? The Student Code is colorblind. But if you genuinely believe this, then you, too, are blind. I don’t mean this disrespectfully, I am simply stating the obvious: The EMU administration has failed to acknowledge how its “colorblind” procedures are reproducing conditions of racism on campus. To fetishize “rules” and “process” under current circumstances is to abdicate discretion and resign the process to a “business as usual” logic that is failing the entire University community.

Before I conclude, I want briefly to draw attention and respond to several specific things that came up during your last listening session on 12/8:

— Please don’t trivialize the gravity of even the most minimal of “hand-slapping” reprimands. Students have genuinely been traumatized by the sanctions they’ve received from the Office of Student Conduct. I am often afraid that you can only see the gravity of these sanctions from within an administrative bubble that has sadly become inured to the wellbeing of its own student body.

— Please understand that any resulting antagonisms between students and administration (including DPS) is an effect of structural contradictions that must be addressed at their foundation.

— While you have made it clear that you are responding to the Back Students’ 10-Point Plan, the administration’s failure to take ethical responsibility and suspend all sanctions undermines the integrity of that response in its totality.

In short, to deal only with the super-structural effects of institutional racism is to address the problem superficially. Some of us are demanding that the disciplinary process be suspended until these contradictions can be addressed and responded to; otherwise, these antagonisms will only become increasingly volatile.

Again, EMU’s determination to obscure issues of race as if they were merely issues of discipline is a manifestation of structural racism at EMU. Failure to address it as such places the whole administrative structure on the wrong side of contemporary history. As one of my colleagues eloquently said to you at the last listening session when you were supporting a business as usual approach to discipline, “This moment is different.” In other words, hewing to a conduct code as if its application were colorblind and without acknowledging the implications of context, circumstance, history and situation, can only fail to nourish conditions for wellbeing and social justice at our university, and such a failure will mean a failure of your Strategic Plan.

Given that some of these students have already exhausted the appeals process—which is not only failing to yield a reversal of the sanctions but is insultingly preventing these same students who reject these condescending judgements from moving their appeal to a hearing stage—the decision to move toward correcting this damage is yours and your alone.

As President of this University, you have the power, the discretion, and responsibility to be a model of humility here. Please choose to respond responsibly to this situation. Please find your ethical and historical compass and act accordingly: Suspend this disciplinary process and dismiss these sanctions; apologize for the university’s mishandling of this situation under your watch and correct the course.

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond to this letter. I have copied others who might be interested in it.

Sincerely and respectfully yours,

Rob Halpern

Associate Professor of Creative Writing

Department of English