Protesters of the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan voiced their oppositions at the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents meeting Tuesday afternoon. These protestors, mostly members of Students for and Ethical and Participatory Education and the coalition of people against the EAA, filed into Welch 201 just before the meeting began with duct taped mouths. The world “Silenced” was written on the strips of tape over the protesters’ mouths
“There is a history of being silenced in our fight against the EAA,” Dave Chapman, a member of SEPE and the coalition of people against the EAA and a student at EMU, said.
Chapman iterated the ways in which he believes the university has continually silenced the opposition of the EAA.
“We were silenced… when President Martin made this deal without the consent or knowledge of anyone in the EMU community, apart from the Snyder-appointed regents,” Chapman said. “Big surprise.”
Before the Tuesday meeting, members of SEPE and the coalition of people against the EAA stood outside Welch with signs condemning the EAA and chanting, “Shame on you, EMU” and “Shame on you, Su Su Su.”
Protestors of the EAA used the Public Communications portion of the meeting to have their voices heard.
The Board of Regents allotted 30 minutes for Public Communications, giving the 14 people signed up to speak two minutes to make their statements.
Of the 14 people scheduled for Public Communications, 9 planned to speak out against the EAA. Two of these people were absent Tuesday afternoon, and the regents denied requests to have another person speak on their behalf.
One member of the coalition of people against the EAA offered to read the statement written by Josiah Seng—an EMU student who planned to speak to the regents about EAA alternatives and the role of the Board of Regents at the university but was absent for unknown reasons—and was denied the opportunity to do so by Vicki Reaume, the vice president and secretary of the Board of Regents.
“He didn’t make any arrangements with me, I’m sorry,” Reaume said. “We’re following official protocol here, and procedures.”
Howard Bunsis, accounting professor at EMU and president of the EMU American Association of University Professors, was the first to speak in Public Communications, and got straight to the point.
“As we have been saying, Eastern Michigan should cease and desist all connection with the EAA immediately,” Bunsis said.
Samir Webster, a student at EMU who only identified himself as an Ann Arbor Public Schools graduate and life-long Michigander, said he is sad that the EMU-EAA relationship divides the people with the common goal of ensuring everyone in Michigan is given a proper education.
Steven Camron, a special education professor at EMU and Chair of the College of Education Council, called for Regent Mike Morris and Provost Schatzel to immediately resign from the Executive Committee and from the Board of the EAA. He also asked for the regents to vote to immediately withdraw from the 2011 interlocal agreement that gave birth to the EAA.
According to Article VIII of the Interlocal Agreement between The Board of Regents of Eastern Michigan University, School District for the City of Detroit and The Education Achievement Authority of Michigan, EMU may only withdraw from the agreement immediately if, “the agreement amended and another state public university is party to the agreement.”
Also according to Article VIII of the agreement, EMU may withdraw after Dec. 30, 2014 if, “the university provides notice of its intent to withdraw on the first June 30th at least 180 days after the notice.”
“We’ll continue to be involved,” EMU President Susan Martin said of EMU’s interlocal agreement with the EAA. “Our Provost is just going on the board. We want to take a look at what their educational outcomes are as they go forward and hope that they’ll provide a better alternative for outcomes to learning that will get those students to come to Eastern.”
Camron said Northville Public Schools recently joined Taylor Public Schools and all of the public schools within Washtenaw County in boycotting EMU student teachers because of the university’s ties with the EAA. He added that Ann Arbor Public Schools has unanimously asked the university to, “do the right—the moral thing.”
“Your actions are negatively affecting our students,” Camron said. “The development, operations and instructional practices of the EAA run counter to our college’s mission, values and teaching. We believe this will affect our enrollment in the long run.”
Adam Malinowski, an EMU student and member of SEPE and the coalition of people against the EAA, echoed Camron’s demand that the regents withdraw from the interlocal agreement with the EAA and asked them to leave the university altogether.
“This is a coup,” Malinowski said. “We are going to take back our university and put it in the hand of who it really belongs to: the students, the faculty and staff.”
Chapman spoke of an incident Monday, in which he said Police Chief Bob Heighes threatened him and other members of SEPE and the coalition of people against the EAA with arrest.
“Police Chief Heighes not only threatened us with arrest at this meeting via phone call yesterday, but actually stalked me outside my own classroom to personally threaten me with arrest,” Chapman said.
SEPE and the coalition of people against the EAA had planned to bring cake to the regents at the meeting Tuesday, according to Malinowski.
“‘Let them eat cake,’ we thought,” said Malinowski.
Chapman and Malinowski said EMU Police put a stop to this by saying any physical or verbal disruption of the meeting would be met with immediate arrest.
Heighes said EMU Police stepped in because they heard people who going to throw cake at the regents. He said he reached out to Chapman and told him his attendance at the board meeting was not the problem, and made it clear that the throwing of any objects was forbidden.
“That would be an assault and I don’t want to go over that line,” Heighes said. “If you do throw something at people… you could be subject to arrest.
Will Daniels is a student at EMU, but he did not specify whether he had affiliation with SEPE or the coalition of people against the EAA. He spoke about the racial components of the EAA.
Daniels said he believes the suburban school systems in Michigan, untouched by the EAA and mostly populated by middle class, white students give their students the opportunity to succeed and become leaders; while the schools in Detroit controlled by the EAA, mostly populated by lower class, black children are systematically failed.
Martin said she viewed the passionate opposition of the EAA by the students and faculty who took the opportunity to speak during Public Communications at the meeting as a sign that EMU is a great educational institution with students who care.
“When you see students like that who are interested in what we’re doing, they’re interested in learning about [it], they’re interested in speaking their mind about it—I think that’s one of the things that makes Eastern a great university to study at,” Martin said.
The university also saw a strong opposition to their interlocal agreement with the EAA at a forum hosted earlier this month with the EAA’s Chancellor John Covington and a panel of EAA representatives. SEPE and the coalition of people against the EAA have made it clear that they will not rest until EMU withdraws from their agreement with the EAA.
“We will not be silenced, we will not go away,” Chapman said.