Yesterday we heard from a faculty member about the Education Achievement Authority “public forum” held on the campus of Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In that account, we learned that the forum was little more than a staged promotional event for the EAA.
Today, we hear from David Chapman, an organizer with the EMU student group Students for Ethical Participatory Education (SEPE). The group is part of the People Against the EAA Coalition and, like the faculty members who attended the forum, they found the forum to be a sham with no true dialogue. And like Professor Rebecca Martusewicz, Chapman renews the call for EMU to sever its relationship with the EAA.
Here is his open letter, delivered to EMU Provost Kim Schatzel yesterday.
March 13, 2014
Dear Provost Kim Schatzel,
I’m writing regarding yesterday’s forum with Chancellor John Covington. Just prior to the event, you approached me inquiring about the tension present in the People Against the EAA Coalition. I responded that it seemed that the forum was designed with the intent of presenting only one side of the EAA complex by hosting a stage full of pro-EAA characters, and that somehow we had assumed that the lack of representation of other voices would be rectified by a Q&A. As it turned out, organizers planned a Q&A in which not only would we not have our own voice to articulate our own questions but we would not have the ability to respond to the answers given by the panel. Thus inevitably our position would be silenced, negating any possibility for constructive dialogue, further diminishing the relationship and respect between students, faculty, community members and the administrators of both EMU & EAA.
As foreseen, this was precisely what occured over the course of the event.
To create the conditions for an actual constructive dialogue within the framework of a public forum, there must be open access to communicate one’s own position, respond to positions presented, and respond to the responses. This was taken away from everyone in the audience when we were made not only to write questions on index cards, but accept our lack of agency to push dialogue further through response. Furthermore,a stage full of pro-EAA folks will only ever present the positive aspects of these education reform initiatives. Had there been College of Education faculty, EMU administrators and EMU students present on the panel as well, then in good faith we could call such an event a public forum.
Instead, we witnessed the production, not of democracy, but of spectacle, an offense to both student, faculty and community power as well as to the legitimacy of EMU’s administration. For a public institution that claims its duty is to meet the needs of the public through its services, what we saw yesterday is the antithesis of that aim. We cannot be silenced; our demand still stands: EMU must cut their contract with the EAA to act in good faith to the people that allow for EMU to exist: students, faculty, alumni, the greater Southeastern Michigan community.
Students for an Ethical and Participatory Education