“Stepfather of EMU student is a person of interest in murder case”

Well, this is icky: from the Eastern Echo comes “Stepfather of EMU student is a person of interest in murder case.” This headline doesn’t really tell the real story here though; I would have written something along the lines of “Murder victim and former EMU student Julia Niswender’s stepfather charged with child pornography, suspect in stepdaughter’s murder.” But that’s kind of a long headline.  Here’s a long quote from the beginning of the story:

James Turnquist has been named by Ypsilanti police as a person of interest in the murder of his stepdaughter, Julia Niswender.

Turnquist was arraigned on charges of child pornography Feb. 27 and is currently being held in the Monroe County Jail on a $100,000 bond, MLive reports.

MLive also reports that investigators are concerned that he may have knowledge related to Niswender’s death, but that the pornography case is unrelated, according to a release by the department.

The Ypsilanti Police Department could not be reached for further comment.

Julia’s sister, Jennifer Niswender, thinks that trying to link Turnquist’s recent charges back to her sister’s death is “absolutely absurd.”

Here’s a link to the mLive story about all this, btw.

 

“EMU-AAUP Message on Classroom Student Conduct– Response to Provost’s Email”

Remember the email exchange I posted about here, “Message to Faculty from Chief Heighes and Provost Schatzel” (which is more or less a response to Moeller’s earlier email on faculty safety)? Well, EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller has sent another email to faculty in response to the response (I’ve posted that email after the jump). I’ve been thinking about several things about all this; here are three points that occur to me.

First off, safety for everyone on campus needs to be taken seriously, and that includes the safety of the faculty, lecturers, part-timers, and graduate students who are teaching classes. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been teaching in one role or another for going on 27 years now, and while I’ve never been “threatened” by a student (as in someone suggesting bodily harm, etc.), I’ve had lots of students “intimidate” me over the years. Or maybe a better way of putting it is I’ve had students who have attempted to intimidate me but I’ve been able to deal with those intimidations without incident. Anyway, what I’m getting at is I don’t recall how I answered that survey question about “intimidation and threats” and it hasn’t been a serious problem in my academic career, certainly not while at EMU.

But I also realize that as a heterosexual white male (albeit not exactly a physically threatening one), I’m not as likely to be threatened/intimidated by an angry student as one of my colleagues who is female, non-white, LGBT, etc. Further, I think a lot of this has to do with age, status within the institution, and the courses being taught: that is, as a middle-aged professor teaching mostly advanced students, I am not as vulnerable to these kinds of threats as the twenty-something female graduate assistant teaching an unruly section of first year writing.

In other words, while I’m not sure how widespread this problem is (and I’m not sure the EMU-AAUP’s survey makes a great case that it is widespread), it’s still a serious problem that needs to be addressed. Look, we live in a country where about once a month someone in a school gets shot. Granted, the majority of these school shootings have taken place in K-12 settings, but stuff like that happens in universities too, and as several events over the years around EMU make clear (most recently the Demarius Reed murder), it can happen on or near campus. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the idea of a shooter in my class has certainly at least crossed my mind. I don’t let the possibility of it stop me from teaching (much in the same way that I don’t let the possibility that I’ll be killed in an automobile accident stop me from driving), but I do get a tinge of worry every time there’s another shooter in a school story.

And as a slight but important tangent: it seems to me that EMU has done a lot more work at making the campus safe for students and not as much for making campus as safe for its employees. Sometimes, those things are one in the same: that is, a beefed-up campus presence of DPS officers provides security for everyone. But the problems of students threatening/intimidating teachers is a good example of how that isn’t always the case.

Second, I just don’t quite understand why this has to be negotiated at the bargaining table and why it can’t be just “worked out” as common sense for lack of a better way of putting it. For example, take this passage from Moeller’s letter:

For example, recently a faculty member had a disruptive student in class for six weeks before the Provost would allow him to be removed from her class.  This student was yelling in class, ripping up his exam, and throwing it on the floor and stomping on it. The faculty member had gone to her department head many times with no results.  Finally the students in the class called DPS as the student was acting out so badly right as a class was ending.  The faculty member then refused to teach the class until the student was permanently removed.  Eventually the EMU administration did remove the student but not before the faculty member and students in the class had six weeks of dealing with a disruptive student.

How does this happen? For six weeks?! I have to assume that the details of the story is more complicated than this, though I have no idea how. As Moeller tells it here, it seems pretty cut-and-dry to me. It’s also interesting how as soon as the students got involved, the wheels of the process turned and the student was removed.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is this is the kind of example of a problem (along with the one about a professor who had a restraining order out against one of her students) that ought to be a no-brainer and shouldn’t require a specific and contractually negotiated clause that says something like “if a faculty member is feeling threatened by a student, they have the right to have something done about it.” It’s certainly a lot less complicated than the real stuff of contract negotiations– salary, insurance, rules for tenure and promotion, etc.

Third , I really think the union needs to be careful about the tone they’re taking in terms of our relationship with our students. Let’s not focus too much on bad apples and throwing out babies with bathwater and all of that: we’re talking about a handful of extreme cases, and the vast vast majority of students just don’t behave like this. We’re not facing an “epidemic” of bad student conduct, and as the various examples that have come up here recently, students are as impacted by the bad behavior of a few.

So instead of taking a stance that for me has a “us versus the students” tone to it, I think it would be a lot more productive for the EMU-AAUP to reach out to various student organizations to address these problems. I kind of understand the “us versus the administration” in the contract negotiation process, but in the years I’ve been here, students have been allies to faculty during negotiations and labor actions. We don’t want to lose that.

Okay, the whole of Moeller’s latest email after the break.

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Today is National Adjunct Walkout Day

Today is the grassroots/social media organized National Adjunct Walkout Day, as noted here, on the AAUP web site. The plight of adjuncts is all over the internets, but just one example here from Vitae, “The Adjunct Crisis is Everyone’s Problem.”

Of course, since EMU is on break this week, adjuncts don’t really have to make the personal decision about actually “walking out” of their classes or not (and the same goes for lecturers and faculty, too). Regardless, I have tremendously mixed feelings about all this.

On the one hand, I think that higher education’s reliance on part-time labor is (and has been for a long long time) a huge problem and one that is in terms of actual income clearly getting worse. I taught part-time for a few years back in the early 1990s, and I think part-timers are getting paid about the same now as I was getting paid way back when. I think higher education has something akin to an addiction to cheap teachers, especially when it comes to general education and labor-intensive courses like first year writing.

On the other hand, I don’t know if you can call something a “crisis” that has been (sadly) the status quo for over twenty years– at least in my field. Which brings me to the other issue, the other half of the addiction issue. The reason why universities continue to hire a lot of part-time teachers is because there is an abundant supply of them who are willing to take these jobs. So yes, universities need to start thinking more creatively and proactively about the adjunct problem, but degree programs that produce a high percentage of graduate students who will end up as adjuncts need to think about what they’re doing as well. And would-be graduate students and adjuncts also need to know what they are getting themselves into.

One more thing: in “celebration”/recognition of National Adjunct Walkout Day, I thought I’d share this, the movie Con Job: Stories of Adjunct & Contingent Labor:

What I’ve embedded here is actually an introduction; the movie itself is about 50 minutes long. I blogged about this last year on stevendkrause.com here, and as I said there (in much more detail), I found the movie simultaneously well-done and inspiring and infuriating.

 

“Charges flew after IU-Kokomo chancellor’s (former EMU Associate Provost Michael Harris) sudden exit

It’s kind of interesting/ironic/something that the day after I announce that I’m going to start phasing out EMUTalk in large part because I’ve been doing this more than long enough that I receive this tip from an alert EMUTalk reader about an administrator from that distant past. From the Indianapolis Business Journal web site comes “Charges flew after IU-Kokomo chancellor’s sudden exit.” The chancellor with the “sudden exit” was none other than former EMU administrator Michael Harris, who was a bit of a lightening rod when he was here way back when.

“Judge lowers bond of man accused in ‘bizarre’ sexual assaults at EMU dorm”

From mLive comes “Judge lowers bond of man accused in ‘bizarre’ sexual assaults at EMU dorm.” I hadn’t heard this story prior to this, but what it sounds like is a kind of crazy guy wandering around in the dorms.

EMUTalk.org news: The sun will be setting on the site in a few months, certainly by September 2015

This site started on September 14, 2006. So far, there has been almost 2,750 posts and just shy 14,000 comments. Since 2013, the site has gotten around 395,000 hits, which means that it really has certainly been hit over a million times since I wasn’t keeping very good track of those stats previously. It is and has been a good thing, and like all good things, it’s going to come to an end.

EMUTalk.org will probably start fading out this summer and be left as an archive of some sort by the beginning of the Fall 2015 term.

Why, you might ask? Before I get to that, let me first be very clear: no one is trying to get me to shut down this site. I’ve never have heard anything negative about EMUTalk from any administrator or other official EMU entity. In fact, the only conversations I’ve had with anyone officially tied with EMU have been completely supportive of the site. Regular readers know that PR guy and EMU’s most popular emailer Geoff Larcom often sends me stuff to post and I’ve received similar requests to post things on EMUTalk from other official campus groups.

And I have to say I think the administration generally kind of likes EMUTalk. I mean, I suppose you could argue that the EMU administration doesn’t interfere because they know that if they did it would become a very bad PR story about trying to squelch academic free speech and all of that. But I do have the impression that the powers that be generally recognize there’s a value in spaces like EMUTalk where folks can vent about topics of concern.

No, I’m not being asked by anyone to end EMUTalk. This is all my idea. Why? Well, sort of (but not exactly) in this order:

  • I’ve been doing this for almost nine years. That’s enough. I’ve gotten a lot out of the experience and I like to think the site has done some good, but I think I’ve gotten all that I’m going to get out of the experience.  I have other things I want to do (including with my own blog and/or a site that is more “official” site that I can incorporate into my teaching and work), so it’s time to move on and encourage someone else to take up the charge.
  • I’m at a stage in my career (I’ve been a full professor at EMU since 2007) where I’m kind of interested in some administrative/quasi-administrative positions. Kind of. Never say never, but I can’t see myself as a department head or a dean, but there are a lot of other kinds of administrative jobs that strike me as potentially interesting (though I don’t want to be to terribly specific about what I mean for what I assume are obvious reasons). Anyway, while the administration has been okay with me running this site in my current position, I don’t think they’d be all that crazy about me running this site– even as an unofficial hobby– if I was a suit.By the way, I don’t think blogging, writing op-ed pieces, and/or expressing opinions publicly are completely at odds with being some kind of administrator. Matt “Confessions of a Community College Dean” Reed is one of my favorite examples of how that can be done effectively.
  • It’s been a time-suck for a long time, but EMUTalk has become a more noticeable time-suck for me lately. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case. It probably has something to do with being on sabbatical, which has been an experience where I simultaneously have a lot of free time and, conversely, I feel a certain self-imposed pressure to get some shit done.
  • I’ve grown increasingly uncomfortable with me being pretty much the only voice/contributor. Way back at the beginning, there were a number of regular contributors to EMUTalk, people who had access to the site to post about whatever they wanted. Long-time readers will recall that caused a lot of chaos, so I reined things in with the hope that eventually there’d be new contributors and I’d take on more the role of editor where I could screen and (I guess for lack of a better way of putting it) control what did or didn’t get posted. That hasn’t worked out. Sure, I get emails to post stuff, but it’s still mostly just me. It’s not that the work is overwhelming (though see the previous point about time-suck), but I’ve started to grow tired of hearing myself talk, if that makes sense, not to mention I’ve gotten tired of taking on too many different fights and causes.
  • There are other places to participate in the kinds of conversations that take place on EMUTalk nowadays– not only the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, but also other web sites. I think that’s reflected in site traffic because while EMUTalk still gets 200-300 visits on a typical day, it’s not as many visits as it used to be. And hey, now that the EMU-AAUP are on both Facebook and Twitter, maybe they’ll step up and be a place for discussion.

There are probably some other reasons, but I can’t think of them now.

Anyway, I’ll keep posting stuff here for at least several more months.  Then sometime in the near future (maybe this summer, certainly by September when the contract is up for the domain name and server space), I’ll move the site to some kind of archive space and then pull the plug on EMUTalk.

But one more important thing: I’d be really really happy to help some person(s)/group(s) set up an alternative to the kind of EMUTalk-like space. I can help with the technical stuff, with getting the word out about a new site, offer words of advice/wisdom on what to write/what to publish, policies on commenting and all that, etc. Just let me know.

“Study says many Michigan charter authorizers succeeding but poor performers have more schools”

A loyal EMUTalk.org reader just sent me this link in mLive: “Study says many Michigan charter authorizers succeeding but poor performers have more schools.”  This is a story about a report about how there is a relationship between the number of charter schools being authorized by an institution and how well those charter schools are doing. Go read it and you’ll see what I mean. But here’s the quote that really stands out (and not in a good way):

While the majority of the authorizers in the study got an A or B grade, the majority of the students who attend charter schools in the state don’t attend schools chartered by those authorizers.

Central Michigan University received a C grade, while Oakland University, Detroit Public Schools and Saginaw Valley State University all received D grades.

Eastern Michigan University and Northern Michigan University both received F grades. Northern received zero points for improving chronically failing schools and just 14 points for setting standards for current schools.

“Student performance at the schools authorized by one of our ‘F’ authorizers, Eastern Michigan University, borders on criminal,” the report states. “All nine schools ranked by the state were in the bottom third of all schools statewide. All but one school was ranked among the bottom 25 percent of schools in the state.

Most of the authorizer’s schools demonstrated low student improvement, with eight of nine schools showing significantly worse improvement in elementary math than the average Michigan school.”

 

 

“Arbor Brewing Co. (aka The Corner Brewery) presents a case study in local business ethics and crowdfunding”

In Ypsilanti news comes “Arbor Brewing Co. presents a case study in local business ethics and crowdfunding” the Detroit alternative newspaper metrotimes. I thought I’d share it here because I know that the ABC Microbrewery (aka The Corner) is a place popular with EMU-types. I know the EMU-AAUP has had functions there, my department has hosted at least one official retirement party there (and a lot of unofficial gatherings as well), I’ve met with graduate students there, etc. This article makes me think that maybe it would be best to stop doing those things.

Here’s a long quote from the beginning:

Arbor Brewing Co. owners Matt and Rene Greff’s decision to ask customers to chip in $75,000 via Indiegogo to upgrade ABC Microbrewery’s piecemeal, partly outdoor kitchen to a safer, enclosed space, has sparked a lively discussion among customers and business associates in the Ann Arbor area.

Some labeled the campaign and the Greffs “scummy.” Others swore off ABC’s beer altogether. And many more simply muttered their disapproval, especially as posts celebrating the couple’s globetrotting popped up on social media, and they diverted resources to help open a brewery in Bangalore, India.

At the heart of that debate was the ethics of crowdfunding campaigns and the question: When does it become unethical for an established business to turn to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund basic improvements or expansions?

But ABC went beyond that gray area. A current employee who wished not to be identified tells the Metro Times that the Greffs charted new territory by pressuring staff earning less than a living wage ($9 an hour) to help pay to improve their own work conditions in a kitchen that lacked basics, like walls.

The staffer says employees were then asked to solicit funds from family and friends, and each was given an individual link to the Indiegogo page that would monitor their pull.

Then, with the goal met, the Greffs pink-slipped the kitchen staff.

As that unfolded, it was also revealed to MT that the Greffs have yet to pay back a dime to investors who in 2003 helped finance ABC Microbrewery’s 2006 opening. Mark Maynard, a widely read Ypsilanti blogger, and former Ypsilanti City Councilmember Barry LaRue say they, along with others, each put up at least $10,000 and signed a repayment plan stating investors would triple their money by 2016.

I had heard of the crowdsourcing thing earlier, either on Facebook or markmaynard.com, I can’t remember which. But what I recall at the time thinking was I suppose if people want to give what looks ostensibly like a successful business crowd funding money to be even more successful, well, I guess that’s their right. And maybe there’s a place for it for loved local businesses that have fallen on hard times– for example, Blimpy Burger reopened in Ann Arbor in part as a result of such a campaign.

But I don’t know, this doesn’t sound right to me. I want to support local businesses of course, and The Corner is just a great space for meeting with folks. It’s not quite as crowded and, well, “bar-like” as a regular bar like The Wurst Bar or The Sidetrack or what-have-you, and they also have beer. It’s a neat place to hang out. On the other hand, this article makes the Greffs look pretty sleazy and like borderline crooks to me. I want to patronize cool and local places, but I also don’t want to be taken advantage of by the owners complaining about not paying off their investors or building a kitchen for their employees while sitting on an airplane sipping Bloody Marys on their way to India to open a brewpub.

Hopefully local boy Mark Maynard will have something to say about all this soon.

“Message to Faculty from Chief Heighes and Provost Schatzel” (which is more or less a response to Moeller’s earlier email on faculty safety)

Faculty and a ton of other people received an email from Provost Kim Schatzel and DPS Chief Robert Heighes yesterday with the subject line “Message to Faculty from Chief Heighes and Provost Schatzel.” It’s about issues of safety on campus generally but specifically it’s a response to the emails about student harassment issues EMU-AAUP President Susan Moeller have sent out recently, including one last week. I include Moeller’s earlier email and this message from Heighes and Schatzel after the break.

I’m sure folks have thoughts they want to share here; I’ll kick things off with a couple of brief observations:

First,there’s an interesting disconnect in the scope of the problem. While Heighes/Schatzel say “each and every incident of concern is important to us,” they want to emphasize that this is a relatively small problem:

For all of 2014, our DPS records indicate there were 13 incidents in which a faculty member or lecturer filed a report with the Department of Public Safety regarding a classroom conduct concern. This is out of 257,938 classroom hours delivered on our campus. Of the 13 incidents that were reported, none resulted in criminal charges.

On the other hand, Moeller’s email said:

Our faculty survey results show that at least 100 faculty have had students threaten them in or outside of their classrooms.  This is a systemic problem at EMU, which culminates in a culture where students feel free to harass and bully faculty with no worry of any recourse. The recent situation in the honors college (where three female faculty members, in a course with over 200 students, dealt with harassment through social media) is a perfect example of just that. The Provost did nothing about that situation and the faculty members received more support from the press than the administration of this university.  It’s time to change that culture.

Part of the disconnect is the EMU-AAUP is basing its argument on feedback from faculty in a survey about a variety of issues that are on the table in these recent contract negotiations. In this case, it seems to me that both the administration and the EMU-AAUP are probably right: that is, it seems entirely possible that at least 100 faculty would report to being harassed in some sense by students over their time at EMU (though maybe the harassment that faculty have felt over the years didn’t necessarily mean they would have contacted DPS), and at the same time, only 13 of those incidents became a problem that involved DPS in fall 2014.

Second, there’s an interesting disconnect in the process. Moeller’s email lays a lot of the blame with the Office of Student Conduct, while the Heighes/Schatzel email says that the contact for these kind of faculty safety issues is DPS. Moeller says the response time from the administration has been too long, while Heighes/Schatzel says that it hasn’t been. Interestingly enough, both the EMU-AAUP and the administration cite a “Classroom Management Flow Chart (PDF)” that indicates the process for dealing with these problems. Which I guess means both the EMU-AAUP and administration are agreeing on the process but they’re disagreeing on how the process works.

And third, there are clearly still some issues on the table. Heighes/Schatzel don’t address the issue that Moeller has raised about how the administration and DPS have not permanently removed students from classes where it’s so bad that a security guard has to be set up outside the classroom or where there is some kind of court order. It also seems to me that there’s no reason why faculty shouldn’t have the contractual right to have a student removed from a class for disruptive and harassing behavior.

Anyway, the whole emails below for those who are interested and/or who haven’t read them yet.

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EMU’s Lost Landscapes and Old Buildings

 

This is kind of cool: via a colleague and friend on the Book of Face, I came across “EMU’s Lost Landscapes & Old Buildings” which is on the visitypsinow tourism site. For example, this illustration is a “birds-eye map” of campus from 1868, and there are lots of other cool photos too. It’s the work of Matt Siegfried, who graduated from EMU’s historic preservation program, and it includes all kinds of interesting “fun facts” about the history of EMU and the area.