Detroit, Eastern Michigan University, Education — December 17, 2015 at 12:26 pm

UPDATED: EMU College of Education faculty vote to censure Regent Mike Morris over conflict of interest with the EAA

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NOTE: This post has been updated.

On December 11th, the faculty of the Eastern Michigan University Department of Teacher Education, part of EMU’s College of Education, passed a unanimous vote of no confidence in the “leadership” of the EMU Board of Regents in response to their decision to remain in their partnership with Gov. Rick Snyder’s failed experiment on Detroit school children known as the Education Achievement Authority (EAA). Citing four areas where improvement was required in order for EMU to continue their involvement with the EAA, these faculty members showed that the EAA has not improved on a single one of them.

EMU isn’t just any university with a education program. It is, in fact, the first “normal school” of its type. From their “About” page:

Founded in 1849 as the first “normal school” west of the Alleghenies, Eastern Michigan University is one of the largest producers of educational personnel in the country.

The College of Education at EMU provides outstanding leadership in education. Our graduates are highly sought by school districts and other employers. Our alums have achieved many recognitions and positions of prominence.

What’s a “normal school”? It’s a school to train people to be teachers:

A normal school was a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers. Its purpose was to establish teaching standards or norms, hence its name. The normal schools were to train teachers for common schools, which were being established rapidly in new towns in the state of Michigan. In 1849, when Michigan State Normal School was established, Michigan had only been a state for 12 years.

In 1899, the school became the Michigan State Normal College when it created the first four-year curriculum for a normal college in the nation. Normal began the 20th century as Michigan’s premier teacher-preparatory school and became the first teacher-training school in the United States to have a four-year degree program.

Michigan State Normal School eventually came to be what we know today as Eastern Michigan University. In other words, it was founded for this very specific and important task. This is why their involvement with a failed education experiment is so egregious and nonsensical.

In a statement to the press justifying their continued involvement with the EAA, Mike Morris, the Chair of the EMU Board of Regents, said the happiness of his faculty and students is irrelevant:

Mike Morris, the chair of Eastern Michigan University’s Board of Regents, said if he had to choose between staying the course with the school’s commitment to its interlocal agreement with the Education Achievement Authority, and having a happy faculty, staff and student body, he’d choose to keep the contract with the EAA.

“I see the eyes of those kids (in Detroit schools) who are having a chance to be successful and I hear their parents talk about ‘This is different and so much better. I really think my children have a chance to be successful,'” he said. […]

“It’s not like I didn’t hear those voices (of the EAA protesters) today. It’s not like I don’t care. But I care a lot about those kids (in Detroit) and I don’t want to see them shut out. That’s really what it’s about,” Morris said.

These comments are beyond puzzling considering that the data shows that EAA students are NOT progressing academically and, in fact, are actually REGRESSING.

At the same meeting where they passed the “no confidence” vote, the Department of Teacher Education faculty also censured Regent Morris. Because he sits on both the Board of Regents and on the Board of the EAA itself, he has an inherent conflict of interest and is in violation of the EMU’s Code of Ethics which he signed as a member of the Board of Regents.

Here is their censure statement:

December 16, 2015

Dear Regent Mike Morris:
On December 11, 2015, the Department of Teacher Education at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) unanimously voted to censure you for your public statement following the December 8, 2015 Board of Regents meeting, a statement that attests to your demonstrable conflict of interest.

The details of the censure are as follows:

Regent Morris stated to the press that he would rather maintain the Education Achievement Authority contract than have a happy faculty, staff, and student body, in clear violation of his governance responsibility to hold the welfare of the university paramount. (See http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/12/emu_regent_says_hed_choose_eaa.html.)

Regent Morris’ statement is in direct violation of the Code of Ethics he signed as a member of the Board of Regents at Eastern Michigan University and demonstrates the effect of his conflict of interest in serving on both the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents and the Board for the Education Achievement Authority. As the Chair of the Board of Regents, Regent Morris should at least be held to the same standard of ethics as his fellow board members. Regent Morris’ statement to the press is an egregious violation of Article 2, Paragraph 1 of the Board of Regents’ Code of Ethics: “A conflict of interest exists whenever a Regent, a Regent’s family member, and/or a business associated with a Regent or Regent’s family member has an actual or potential financial interest, or any other interest in a matter pending with the University that may impair independence of judgment or objectivity in the discharge of the Regent’s public governance responsibilities.” … “Business Associated with a Regent is defined as any organization, corporation, partnership, proprietorship or other entity of either the Regent or Regent’s Family Member:

(a) Receives or received any present/past compensation, or has any contractual right to future income;
(b) Served or serves as an officer, director, partner or employee;
(c) Held or currently holds any financial interest.”

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

The Faculty of the Department of Teacher Education

This censure is believed to be the first of its kind at EMU. Though it carries no legal weight, it makes a profound statement when the faculty of an historic university program for training teachers speaks with one voice to express their vehement opposition to the actions of their so-called “leadership”. I use the word “leadership” loosely here because what the Board of Regents is doing under the oversight of Mike Morris is not leadership at all. With seven of the eight Regents being Snyder appointees, this situation is more akin to minions doing the bidding of their overlord.

In the words of one EMU activist, “The Board of Regents is acting like an Emergency Manager for a University.”

EM-U, indeed.

UPDATE: As of Friday, December 18th, 2015, the entire College of Education has signed on to both the vote of No Confidence and the censure of Board of Regents Chair Mike Morris. Other colleges within the EMU system are expected to follow suit soon.

  • Doug Scott

    It is stunning how Regent Morris would sacrifice EMU’s education reputation and current students’ training needs for mandating no rigorous efforts to change or end the EAA agreement. His position is the worst of political acts.

  • judyms9

    It appears that Regent Morris’s “leadership role” is nothing more than making sure the funding keeps making its way to the EAA.

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