Eastern Michigan University, Labor, unions — February 8, 2023 at 9:44 am

Student op-ed: Eastern Michigan University lied about construction agreements on FOIA request


The following guest post was written by Liam Reidy, a student at Eastern Michigan University.

University Leadership Should Adhere to the Same Rules as Students

Eastern Michigan University’s mission statement proclaims five core values that govern how students, staff, faculty, and leadership live our daily lives on campus. We should expect that these core values inform every action of the University. These core values are:

  • Excellence: We provide an exceptional environment to our faculty, staff, and students. We improve our performance continuously and strive to be the best in everything we do.
  • Respect: We care for our people, communities, and the environment and show respect for the dignity of the individual.
  • Inclusiveness: We create an environment that supports, represents, embraces, and engages members of diverse groups and identities.
  • Responsibility: We are accountable – individually and in teams – for our behaviors, actions, and results. We keep commitments.
  • Integrity: Integrity and transparency are critical to our institutional effectiveness. We pursue the highest level of personal, intellectual, academic, financial, and operational integrity within the University community.

The leadership of our University has failed to live up to these important core values, especially integrity and responsibility. Recently, the Michigan Carpenter’s Union filed a complaint against the leadership of Eastern Michigan University claiming that the University lied when answering a Freedom of Information (FOIA) Request that was filed last summer. This is an affront to the values we students learn at every step of our education and practice daily to represent the fruits of that education.

The FOIA request asked for agreements between Eastern Michigan University and Gilbane Development Company, the construction firm that is building new student housing on campus. When asked for those copies last summer, the University said they did not exist. Nevertheless, the agreements were signed in January and March of last year, long before University leadership said they did not exist. This was a brazen lie. If a student on campus lied this brazenly – akin to cheating on an exam – we would incur penalties up to and including expulsion from the University.

President Smith failed to live up to University standards and we students must hold him accountable for this breach of our core values. The policies of the University emphasize that the President of the University is responsible for implementation of FOIA:

To the extent required, the Board of Regents delegates to the President of Eastern Michigan University or his/her designee: 1) the responsibility for processing and deciding appeals to the University of final determinations by the University’s Freedom of Information Officer denying all or a portion of a request made under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act: and 2) the authority to establish and amend as necessary an Appeals Procedure consistent with the provisions of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

Some people may not think that one FOIA request is important. The truth is that whenever leadership fails to abide by values and creeds by which we live, trust between leadership and the students collapses. Distrust between students and leadership is not sustainable and undermines the mission of any University, just as cheating undermines the reputation of the university and the value of education. The leadership of Eastern Michigan University must commit to candidness and transparency about the construction of new student housing and answering FOIA requests promptly and honestly.

Finally, the leadership ought to apologize to students and the broader Eastern Michigan University community for bringing shame upon Eastern Michigan University.

I must address briefly my fellow students, who may have reservations about supporting a union. Hiring union contractors means that we can trust workers who are extensively trained and fairly paid. Union workers are active members of our community and our support for our workers is necessary for a healthy community. Indeed, productive work is essentially human. Productive work is invariant across all races, genders, and creeds (or lack thereof). On my reading of Darwinism, work is the only capacity that differentiates us humans from our simian ancestors. Therefore, supporting the union is what every student ought to do.