“Better University” Coalition and students deliver demands to EMU president

Students and staff funnel into the Welch Hall stairwell to university president's office.

Students and faculty gathered outside Welch Hall Tuesday, March 27 to deliver summarized demands for budget changes to the president’s office.

As a follow up to the union budget meeting on March 22, some 50 Eastern Michigan University campus members met at the fountain between Welch and McKenny Hall at noon for a march up to the president’s office. The crowd consisted mostly of students, many of who were members of sports teams recently cut from the university’s curriculum due to budget concerns

“I’m here because most of my friends are on the swim and dive team and they’re the most passionate guys I’ve ever met,” said Chelsea Shouse, a student at the protest seeking to support her friends. “I feel like they [the university] is making a big mistake because they’re taking away some of the hardest working men I know and women.” 

The union meeting had set aside an hour to have attendees craft budget solution suggestions for the university to use in place of the cuts, such as taking money out of the football budget and taking the university out of the Mid-American Conference (MAC.)

Student Blake Stringer said cutting sports teams that don’t do as well was a better then cutting heavily awarded sports. 

“It sounds harsh but you could probably cut some other sports that don’t put in as much effort or don’t care or aren’t winning as much,” he said. 

Before heading into Welch, Andrew Maniotes, an arts and design professor at EMU, lead chants and addressed the crowd.

“We don’t appreciate having teams that win, teams that have All-Americans, teams that have near Olympic qualifiers that are now being cut,” he said. “With no reason and no consultation, and short notice – that is also a staff cut.” 

Chants included ‘chop from the top’ and ‘we are the community, listen to the community’, along with the brief singing of ‘We Shall Overcome’. Apryl Pipe, an EMU dance instructor and the secretary for EMU Federation of Teachers, spoke to the crowd as well. 

“I think it’s pretty easy [to make decisions] when you can sit in a posh office looking at numbers on a spreadsheet that correspond to numbers in this crowd, individuals like you, and people across this campus,” she said. “It’s pretty easy when you don’t have to look at us, talk to us or learn about us.” 

The crowd eventually moved up to the second floor of Welch Hall while chanting until they reached the president’s office. The demands included: 

  • Immediately halt the implementation of cuts to staff and the swimming and diving, wrestling, softball, and tennis programs pending a full review and a decision-making process involving campus stakeholders 
  •  Halt new building projects that would increase EMU’s debt load
  • Immediately enact a moratorium on the sale or license of University assets, including the proposed concession of University parking operations.
  •  Cut administrative bloat. EMU has 247 administrators making $25,000,000 a year in [sic] in wages alone. EMU has 677 faculty members. That’s a ratio of one administrator for every 2.7 faculty members
  • Leave the MAC and join the Horizon League or Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. This would lead to a substantial reduction in athletic spending, and eliminate EMU’s projected 2018 budget deficit. EMU could still have a football team
  • Implement a plan in collaboration with faculty, lecturers, and staff to boost retention at EMU. This plan will include substantive responses to anti-black racism and hiring staff to fill all vacant positions that provide critical services to students
  •  Make public all internal budget documents used by the EMU Executive Council 

EMU president James Smith stepped out of the office while the crowd filled the entire hallway and one member read off a letter asking the president to look over the demands given to him. He thanked those in the crowd for being there before addressing the list of demands. 

“I will look at these – I’ll certainly talk to chairmen Webb, I don’t know what they’ll all say yet but obviously I have to dialogue with the Board,” he said. “Wednesday is tomorrow; I’m not sure how quickly I can get a hold of the chairman he lives part of the year when the weather is cold.” 

The statement of the chairmen being away gleaned boos from the crowd. Smith said he wasn’t making an excuse, just stating a fact. Several members of the crowd threw questions about the president’s ability to contact the chairman and the president cutting his salary, divulging very briefly into arguing before Maniotes hushed the crowd and spoke through a megaphone.

“We would like everyone to have a seat at the table, please,” Maniotes said. “And we respectfully ask that you read the demands and consider them.”

Smith agreed and promised to do so before the crowd dispersed. A planned sit-in is to be staged on Wednesday, March 28, from 12 – 5 p.m to hear back from the president about the demands. 

Logan Burton, a student on the men’s swim team, one of the sports that got cut, explained how the cuts have made a massive impact on him. 

“I may be a senior this year but I’ve spent the past four years representing Eastern, doing it to the best of my ability and to have the rug just pulled out from under us at the end – it hurts more then anything,” he said. 

The university’s men's swimming team's GoFundMe has reached $18,836 of its $90,000 goal as of March 27. 

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