Many Eastern Michigan University students were alarmed on Friday evening after reading an email informing them of their dismissal from the university. School officials are conducting an investigation to determine the exact cause of the issue, currently believed to be an operational error in the notification system.
Word spread quickly that approximately 7,700 students had been informed, “As a result of your Winter 2012 academic performance, you have been dismissed from Eastern Michigan University,” said to be from Molly Weir, associate director of University Advising and Career Development. Eventually students began to realize the emails were a mistake, especially after it came to light that several recent graduates had also received dismissals, including former Student Body President Jelani McGadney.
Student reactions to the emails were varied. Some, like sophomore Sammie Bialokur, knew what had happened before they received them.
“When I first got the email I had already heard about them,” Bialokur said. “My first thought was that it wasn’t possible because I got a 3.13 this semester and have a 2.85 overall GPA and am in good academic standing. I thought it had to be a mistake and that someone had hacked the server or something.”
Others, like senior Heather Antos, were extremely upset. “I am a dean’s list student that has never had a semester’s GPA below 3.5. When I got the email I was confused, shocked and definitely panicked. I read the email at least 10 times looking for any clues as to why I was dismissed; there weren’t any. Eventually I saw on Facebook that I was one of several students to receive the email.”
Antos also expressed her displeasure with the handling of the situation. “The fact that it took the university nearly four hours to even notice that something like this was going on made me extremely angry. Technical errors have happened before and these things should be more carefully monitored. As someone who values their grades and schoolwork as much as I do, receiving that email could not have been scarier.”
Some have taken the opportunity to turn the dismissal emails into the subject of jokes, including an EMU meme that said “I don’t always make the dean’s list, but when I do, I get dismissed from the university” and “I Survived False Dismissal 2012” T-shirts. The emails also received attention from media across Michigan, and even made news across the country.
In his statement EMU’s Vice President for Communications Walter Kraft said, “The investigation is under way and we have not yet determined the exact cause, but there are some things we do know. First, this was not a matter of a security breach, hacking or anything of that sort. There was no inappropriate access to any records or student information.”
He went on to explain that the dismissal email was originally intended to go out to about 100 students, but was instead sent to roughly 32 percent of the student body. It was confirmed to be an error in the notification system, managed by an outside company, GradesFirst.
Kraft stressed that the situation was being taken seriously. “Make no mistake about it, we consider this matter very serious and we take full responsibility. We will continue to investigate to determine exactly what went wrong and take whatever steps are necessary to make sure it never happens again.”
EMU President Susan Martin was contrite in an email sent to students on Friday. “I deeply apologize for the incorrect email many of our students received this evening indicating they were dismissed from the university. This message was a terrible mistake and I regret the undue alarm and concern it caused. I care deeply about student success and for Eastern to send an alarming message to you indicating you were dismissed is an inexcusable mistake that I personally regret. We will investigate and determine why this happened and make sure it never happens again.”