Dozens of people, including Eastern Michigan University faculty members, gathered in front of Welch Hall and in the Halle Auditorium Tuesday to protest the university’s involvement with the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan.
“We hope to make the public and our community aware of the issues, and ultimately we would like to see our regents sever the agreement with the EAA,” Steve Camron, an EMU professor and one of the protest’s organizers, said.
The EAA is a state education system established by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011. It is tasked with improving education standards in consistently underperforming schools. It currently administers more than a dozen schools in Detroit and many of its student teachers are supplied by EMU.
Camron said EMU’s faculty had several problems with the EAA, including its ability to hire and fire teachers at its own discretion, choose what methods of instruction would be used in classrooms under its control and the fact the EAA’s board members are appointed rather than elected like a typical school board.
“We’re opposed to the undemocratic operation of a school that lacks public oversight,” Camron said.
EMU’s College of Education faculty aren’t the only ones opposed to the EAA. The teacher unions for six Washtenaw County school districts are already refusing to hire EMU student teachers because of the university’s affiliation with the EAA.
“They don’t like the fact we exist,” Terry Abbott, an EAA communications officer, said. “They’re very threatened by the fact we exist, and the reason is because we’re having a real success with the students.”
Abbott empathizes with the students.
“It’s unfortunate that some are finding themselves in that situation, and it’s just wrong of the unions to do that,” Abbott said. “We will do everything we can to help them, and will work with Eastern Michigan to help.”
EMU’s response to the protest was mixed.
“We respect and support the rights of our faculty members to share their positions on important university matters and we take their concerns very seriously,” said Geoff Larcom, EMU’s director of media relations. “We want our long legacy as a very fine trainer of teachers to continue to pay off for these students.”
Larcom added the university will continue to listen to and work with its faculty on the issue, but stated the university’s administration would not withdraw its support of the EAA at this time.
“We have a contract with the EAA and we plan to honor its provisions,” Larcom said.