Mark your calendars: Cary Nelson coming to EMU on November 19

Mark you calendars, folks: Cary Nelson is going to be giving a talk at EMU on November 19 at 7:30 in the Student Center Auditorium.

It ought to be interesting because of what this poster says Nelson is going to be talking about, the efforts of various academic organizations to boycott, financially divest, and otherwise sanction Israel. But it ought to be interesting because of what Nelson will probably have to spend most of his time talking about, which is his rather outspoken defense of the firing/dehiring of Steven Salaita for his offensive (depending on who you ask, of course) anti-Israel twitter rant last summer.

I blogged about it a couple of times here already– for example, “Chancellor Phyllis Wise Explains the Firing of Steven Salaita” (or, U of Ill “doubles down” on a pretty indefensible position). Personally, I find Nelson’s position on this confusing and ironic (given that he’s an “outspoken advocate for academic freedom”) and just kind of wrong. So I’m kind of curious to hear what he has to say about all this in person.

“$325,000? New EAA chief better earn it”

From the Freep comes “$325,000? New EAA chief better earn it.” The headline kind of sums it up: it’s a column about EAA chancellor/superintendent Veronica Conforme’s salary and the EAA’s performance. Here’s a quote:

The EAA is the state’s Hail Mary attempt to improve the state’s lowest-performing schools, and so far, its track record can best be described as spotty. In its first year, the EAA had more than 9,000 students in its 15 schools. Now, enrollment is little more than 7,000. The reform district offers an extended school year and more personal interaction. These are tactics that could be effective. If it’s too early to say the district has failed, it has yet to deliver unbridled successes.

Enrollment is declining, and academic performance hasn’t skyrocketed. Worse, controversy — not to mention a lack of transparency — has dogged the district’s three years of existence. First, chancellor John Covington (who also made $325,000 a year, after meeting contract goals that boosted his salary) resigned after news broke that the district had spent thousands each month on travel. Before the start of the current school year, the EAA sent out letters to parents in neighboring school districts suggesting their children had been assigned to the reform district, which the district later said was a mistake. (You can imagine that this did not go over well with parents in suburbs with better-performing schools.)


And again, why is EMU involved in this? Will EMU stay involved in this?

“An Open Letter to My Governor…”

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here! It’s kind of a combination of being busy with my day-job, busy with my life, and being in kind of a “slow news” cycle right now, at least slow news relative to EMU.

Anyway, loyal reader and fellow EMU colleague Steve Wellinski sent me a link to this, “An Open Letter to My Governor….” This is by an EAA teacher addressed generally to Snyder. Here’s a quote:

As society continues its pervasive attack on teachers and the education system, I need only to look at the derogatory commentary that has been set forth my way by your own supporters. There is Matthew Schmidt, who scoffed at my 9-month school year, unaware that the EAA, an organization designed and regulated by the Governor he voted for, is a year-round school district. Fellow Christian, Dan Borkowicz spoke from the pew of his profile picture as he told me to “move,” a feeling seconded by Paula Krueger and Mike Head. Gary Rosenfeldt feels that any individual who questions unfair working conditions can always go to Wal-Mart, where undoubtedly, his tax dollars would be supporting my income short-fall anyway.

Supporter Gary Shooltz politely told me to “blame my union representative.” Can you tell me, Governor Snyder, who my local union representative is? Perhaps I can address the bed bugs, cockroaches, mice and ants that I have currently documented pervading my classroom without fear of district reprisal (the foundation of teacher tenure).

And so forth. I picked this quote because I think it’s fair to say that this is part of  what is in the mix about the EAA is opposition to organized labor. I think Snyder et al are under the impression that if we can just get the unions out of the way in the schools, all will be well. There are any number of problems with that point of view, not the least of which is it ignores the fact that most successful public schools in Michigan are unionized as well.

Football versus Star Wars: A Debate

I’m not really sure what I think of this, but news of this event was passed on to me by Geoff “filling your email inbox” Larcom so I thought I’d pass it along here: “EMU students want to know: Football or lightsabers? Check out the debate in the EMU Student Center on Monday, Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m.” Here’s a quote:

On Monday, Nov. 10, Eastern Michigan University students will come together to defend one of two well-known pastimes, football versus Star Wars/Trek.

The discussion will be held in the Kiva Room, on the third floor in the Student Center, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.  The event is free and open to the public and is LBC approved.

This debate is a chance for students to persuade a panel of three judges and the general audience, to vote for football or Star Wars as the best pastime.

More power to the debaters and anyone else interested, but I see at least two problems here.  First, while there are of course allegiances between the worlds of “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” no reasonable person would conflate them as is done here with the “Star Wars/Trek” thing. Second, obviously “Star Wars” is a more worthy pastime. Duh.

“EMU won’t renew Inkster school’s charter”

I’m not completely sure I understand this story and/or why it is big news– I received a press release sort of email from EMU and it has shown up in a variety of newspapers. Here’s a link to the mLive article: “Eastern Michigan University won’t renew Inkster school’s charter.” Here’s a quote from the story:

Poor academic performance, declining student enrollment and turnover in school leadership and governance were some of the reasons EMU listed as why it chose not to renew the charter.

“While these factors individually would not necessarily lead to a non-renewal decision, when taken together they cannot be ignored,” [Malverne] Winborne [Director of the EMU Charter Schools Office] said.

As a K-8th grade school, Gaudior Academy was chartered in 1996 and was EMU’s first chartered school. The school ranks at the bottom of the state’s top-to-bottom school ranking. Schools are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100. Several schools, including Gaudior, received a zero percentile ranking this year. The school received a first percentile ranking the year before and fifth percentile ranking the year before that.

EMU said it would work with Gaudior Academy’s Board of Directors to complete a transition process.

I guess this raises at least two questions for me:

  • What does EMU do with these schools? Do we act as sort of an accreditor who goes in once and a while to check things out and that’s about it? Or is EMU really “hands on” with this stuff? And if it is the case that EMU is invovled with the day to day running of charters like Gaudior, what does that say about our abilities with supporting elementary and secondary school teachers and students?
  • How is it that we are cutting our ties here but we’re still involved with this EAA nonsense?

“EMU receives $2 million federal grant to implement innovative program to educate students in STEM disciplines”

This news has shown up in a variety of places; here’s a link to the EMU press release: “EMU receives $2 million federal grant to implement innovative program to educate students in STEM disciplines.” This is basically to fund the Creative Scientific Inquiry Experience program. Here’s a quote:

The Creative Scientific Inquiry Experience focuses mainly on STEM students in their first two years of studies. It seeks to increase the number of STEM graduates through emphasis on customized academic support, academic service learning, career exploration and mentorship, and interdisciplinary, theme-based experiences.

“The CSIE program facilitates students’ progression to upper-level courses with a deeper understanding of course content and with participation in community-based problem solving,” said Nina Contis, a professor of chemistry at EMU who will serve as director of the Title III grant. “This grant will enable the University to significantly improve the success rate of students in STEM classes, particularly among underrepresented groups, through broadly implementing the CSIE program.”

I have my own reservations about the extent to which an emphasis on STEM is going to “solve everything,” but hey, this is good news for EMU no matter how you slice it.


Any midterm election thoughts?

I don’t have a lot of them, frankly. I think this has been a pretty non-event midterm elections.

As this piece from Addicting Info I came across on Facebook points out, the Republicans who have now won control of both the Senate and the House need to be careful what they wished for since it’s a lot harder to lead than it is to complain. Besides, the president’s party has always lost control of Congress in midterm elections since FDR.

I was a little disappointed that the Snyder-Schauer race wasn’t closer, but it is what it is. Given that Michigan government has been controlled by Republicans at all levels for a while now, I don’t see a whole lot of changes to higher ed issues in the state. And on the up-side, Terri Lynn Land got crushed, there were lots of progressive causes that did pass around the U.S. (minimum wage, legalizing pot, etc.).

I guess it’s also cool that (as mLive reported) “Nicole Brown elected to represent Ypsilanti’s First Ward in landslide victory.” I didn’t really know anything about Brown until this article, but she’s a 26 year old with essentially no previous experience. Frankly, I think given the state of affairs in Ypsilanti– hanging on the edge of financial solvency, for example– it might not be a bad idea to get some young people/fresh blood in there. And if “these kids” Nicole Brown and new mayor Amanda Edmonds drive this Ypsi bus into the ditch, well, then the old guard will have the pleasure of saying “I told ya so.”

EMU Regent Stapleton on the EAA Recording

I came across this via the book of face this morning. This apparently comes from a September 22 Board of Regents meeting, probably the one the BoR had a while back on EMU’s involvement in the Education Assistance Authority. So it was a public meeting, meaning that for anyone who was there, this is probably not news. But it is worth listening to for at least three reasons:

  • Stapleton is pretty blunt about how this all came about and what has been the result: that is, there was a dinner meeting with some regents and the Governor’s people (which of course raises issues about “open meeting” rules) where there was an “offer you can’t refuse” was presented. The Governor’s people wanted EMU to sign on to this EAA deal, which was presented as a) a state-wide school district and not just Detroit Pubic Schools; b)  an opportunity for recruiting students (because it was going to be statewide and such); and c) a way for getting “political favor” from Lansing: that is, we do this and we’ll get a better shake with state funding. Of course, none of these things happened. It’s also worth noting that Stapleton and the BoR agreed to this EAA idea and then decided to clue in EMU’s administration.
  • Stapleton is also pretty blunt about how he feels about the EAA. Listen to the recording, but the sense I get from him is he feels kind of swindled (which is about right) and I have a hard time believing he’s going to be in favor of signing back on to this.
  • He says a couple of times “there is fault on everyone’s side;” I call bullshit on that. It sounds to me like the BoR got talked into/forced into a bad deal by Snyder’s people here, and given that the faculty had zero role in getting us involved in this, for Stapleton to suggest now that we’re “all in this together” is pretty ridiculous.

Band Day at EMU football game

The Emus take on the CMU Chippewas today at EMU at 1 pm. The team from Mount Pleasant (which, as I like to say to a colleague of mine from that town, is actually neither a mountain nor “pleasant”) is a 14 point favorite.

But never mind that; it’s band day! As this piece on com says, halftime will include 19 area high school bands playing along with EMU’s band. It’s a fun spectacle.

So if it stops being windy and if I have time, I might take a walk over to the stadium to take a look from outside the gates. If I do, I’ll post some video.

“Professor beheaded in what witnesses first thought was Halloween prank”

I meant to post this yesterday, but I was busy at a conference and also busy with some very stupid day job issues I was trying to handle at this conference via email: from the Fox News web site comes “Professor beheaded in what witnesses first thought was Halloween prank.” Here’s a quote:

A man with a history of psychiatric problems beheaded his mother in her Long Island, N.Y., apartment late Tuesday and then dragged the body and head out onto a street, where onlookers initially thought they were witnessing a macabre Halloween prank, police and witnesses said.

Patricia Ward, 66, was killed inside her apartment by her son, 35-year-old Derek Ward, who jumped in front of a commuter train near the Farmingdale, N.Y., home moments later, killing himself, Nassau County police said.

Yikes, though when I first read this headline, I had thought that the victim’s only relationship with the murderer was that she was (presumably his) professor. It turns out Patricia Ward was his mother, and was also described as a “popular and devoted” instructor at Farmingdale State College.