Letter to the Editor: EMU Faculty Senate's response to Regent Stapleton

Editor's note: The following is a letter to The Eastern Echo and may not reflect The Eastern Echo's views on the matter.

December 7, 2014

Dear editors,

In a statement attached to an article published Fri., Dec. 5th in the Detroit Free Press, EMU Regent Jim Stapleton expressed his disappointment in the University’s relationship with the Educational Achievement Authority, although he finally voted to continue EMU’s Interlocal Agreement with that body for another year. In his statement, Regent Stapleton, noted that he was “disappointed in our Governing Board at the time this agreement was reached for not insisting on better communication with our University community about the decision we collectively made to enter into this arrangement.” He goes on very cogently and admirably to take much personal responsibility for the Board of Regents’ actions.

Later in the statement, Regent Stapleton also points to his disappointment “in our Faculty community who, irrespective of the fact our Administration and Board could have and, should have done more to communicate our decision to partake in this venture, in my judgment have never collectively held an open mind to our involvement.”

Universities such as EMU operate under the ideal of “shared governance.” That is, in matters of curriculum or decisions involving the faculty, the university administration is called to consult, collaborate with, and share the decision-making process and its responsibilities with the faculty of the institution. In this way, those with the most expertise on subject matters or educational pedagogy are brought into the process to ensure the decisions made are well informed and to the benefit of all. That process was not followed in any decision concerning the EAA. Yet, while it is true that the Eastern Faculty were initially shocked to hear that the University had entered into the Interlocal Agreement without seeking faculty ideas and recommendations, the faculty of the College of Education met early on with representatives of the EAA and, because they were then assured that the EAA intended actively to engage EMU faculty expertise and students in their efforts, they became far more amenable to working with the EAA. (This development was discussed more than once at a September 22, 2014 meeting of the EMU faculty with the University Regents, a meeting at which Regent Stapleton was present.)

As the work of the EAA was implemented, however, it quickly became clear that the Authority had little interest in developing ties with the Eastern faculty and were by and large firing experienced teachers in the Detroit Public School system and hiring new teachers from Teach for America, not EMU students, whom the faculty has trained and with whom they have developed strong, ongoing mentoring relationships. As the situation developed, the EAA continued to take little or no action to engage the University community more effectively. Moreover, Michigan public school systems and unions began to boycott our students for both student-teaching placements, which prospective teachers need for certification, and hiring. Therefore, the aim of the faculty turned from wanting to improve the relationship with the EAA to insisting we end it.

Nevertheless, even in its last letter to the Board of Regents, dated Nov. 12, 2014, the College of Education faculty emphasized that, “Our objections to the EAA-EMU agreement notwithstanding, we would like to make it clear that – with our long history in the field of education and our nationally recognized research, service and educator preparation programs – we stand ready and are committed to providing support and assistance to the students, teachers, counselors, and administrators in the Detroit Public Schools as well as in other school districts in Southeastern Michigan.”

Early in his statement, Regent Stapleton also says he is “disappointed in our University’s Administration for not doing more to embrace our participation with this effort.” While the EMU faculty’s problems with and critiques of the EAA may not have been sufficiently communicated to the Board of Regents by the University Administration early on, the President and the Provost have in fact worked hard for at least the last year to try to rectify the Authority’s relationship with the University. The Provost actually became a member of the EAA Board in order to attempt to do just that. The EAA’s response nevertheless seems to continue to reflect the apathy they have shown toward the University faculty and community as a whole. Now the administration, as demonstrated by President Martin’s call to the Board on Friday to end the Interlocal Agreement, has also appeared to conclude that the relationship is beyond “fixing.”

I hope this gives some context for the powerful public reaction to the EMU Board of Regents’ decision on Friday to continue our relationship with the EAA, albeit with stipulations and conditions, for another year. Those stipulations and conditions have in fact been made clear to the EAA from the outset; indeed, they are included in the agreement itself. In the meantime, Eastern Michigan University’s strong reputation as a school that trains excellent teachers has become tarnished, and our students are being boycotted, both for student teaching and for hiring, throughout Michigan.

The Faculty Senate of Eastern Michigan University has, on two occasions, passed resolutions strongly recommending that EMU end its relationship with the EAA. While we respect Regent Stapleton’s reasoning for his decision (and that of all five other regents who voted to continue the relationship with the EAA), we stand by our recommendation and unequivocally state, it is time for EMU to end its relationship with the EAA. It is hurting EMU students, it is damaging the reputation of EMU, and most importantly, it is hurting the children of Detroit.

Yours sincerely,

Sandy Morey Norton, Prof. of English Language and Literature

President of the Faculty Senate

and

Perry C. Francis, Prof of Counseling, COE Counseling Clinic Coordinator

Vice President of the Faculty Senate

Eastern Michigan University

Office of the Eastern Michigan University Faculty Senate

216 Halle Library

Ypsilanti, MI 48197


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