A professor told the Regents that education was not a priority at Eastern Michigan University during their meeting Tuesday. Susan Moeller, president of the EMU American Association of University Professors, was the voice behind this concern.
“I was speaking to the regents because the administration had not released any new faculty searches,” said Moeller. “Every year people retire and leave. We’re down to 57 percent regular faculty, and the other 43 percent are lecturers and part time. Searches are being held back, and I’m unhappy that they spend so much money on athletics and not academics. It’s important that we have full time faculty.”
Moeller has felt that, over the years, EMU’s concentration hasn’t been centered on academics, but on sports.
“Over the last few years, the budget for academics was cut by four million dollars,” she said. “They need new programming. They redid the football stadium before they redid the academic buildings.
“Evidently, the labs in Mark Jefferson were worse than some high school labs. We need to hire faculty, maintain facilities for students and increase library budget so students have access to new information.”
University President Susan Martin sees things very differently.
“I think if you look at it, you won’t find [sports being the priority is] the case,” Martin said. “Enrollment had been declining. But last year, in spite of he economy we had 27 successful faculty searches.”
The reason the opinions of the AAUP and the Regents differ greatly on budget might lie in their beliefs about what draws a student to the school.
“It is my understanding that the chairman believes if he has a good winning football team, people will attend Eastern because of the football team. We don’t believe that,” Moeller said. “We believe that they attend for the programs.
“Students will go to Michigan games before they go to EMU games. Sports are good and get students scholarships, but I don’t think commuter school students are interested in the school for the sports. It’s not for the good of the school. Football is very expensive, it would be better if they took football money and gave it to academics, then they wouldn’t have to raise tuition as much.”
Martin said the budget numbers speak for themselves.
“We had no increases in athletics budget this year aside from necessary pay raises,” she said. “We will spend over 80 million dollars this year, and 75 percent of that will be on academics.”
Although, Moeller believes putting sports above academics isn’t working as well as the Regents would like it to.
“They think that if they get a lot of attendance at football games, they’ll get more students to come to football games and more students to live in the dorms,” she said. “The football coach makes more than the president. They keep putting money towards the football team to get them to win, but I haven’t seen them win yet. Places like Oakland University that have good academic reputations don’t even have a football team.”
But, Moeller’s comment did exactly what she intended it to do: Get the Regents’ attention.
“The speech worked quite well,” she said. “37 searches for faculty were released the next day.”
“We increased our searches from last year and sent out 37 searches,” said Martin.
“We are faculty and we believe in the university and academics. Education first.”