Eastern Michigan University president to resign

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin will resign at the end of the school year, she announced today. She has been president since 2008.

“In December, I started to think about what I wanted to accomplish in my career,” Martin told an auditorium full of Eastern staff and faculty gathered for a budget update Tuesday morning. “I will be moving on.”

Martin was largely seen as a stabilizing force by many on campus. She was praised for her response to the off-campus murder of a student and for increasing police patrols. She also was the public face of Eastern’s zero, zero, zero campaign, where it froze tuition, rent and fees early in her tenure.

Martin paused several times during her short speech to gather her emotions. Her voice quivered several times as she talked. After she finished talking, she wiped tears from her eyes.

“This is a 24/7 job,” she told the Free Press, saying she has a house in the area and wants to live the life of a private citizen. As president, she lives in the official University House on campus, which is also used for a variety of official functions, parties and receptions.

Martin will return to the faculty and take a yearlong sabbatical, per the terms of her contract. She will join the business schools and joked during her comments that she will have to publish a few papers in the next year to qualify for her position.

Her contract is up in July 2016. She makes $340,000.

Martin and members of Eastern’s governing board have feuded, mostly in private, for several years.

Differences came out publicly in 2012, when the board sent Martin a strongly worded letter about her drinking in public. She agreed to enter counseling, although she said she didn’t have a drinking problem. Martin disclosed the letter to the public hours after the Detroit Free Press received a copy of her personnel record through an open records request.

Eastern has had a rocky run of presidents in recent years.

Martin took the helm in 2008 after scandals forced the two previous presidents from office. Samuel Kirkpatrick resigned in 2004 for overspending on the University House, the president’s house, and John Fallon was fired in 2007 after an administrative cover-up of the rape and murder of a female student in a dorm.

“I really didn’t know what I was getting into,” she said. “It was a troubled time.”

In a news release announcing the resignation, Eastern touted several accomplishments by Martin, including:

  • Strong enrollment growth for four consecutive years, including the Honors College, which has nearly doubled in enrollment since 2011, and which enrolled its largest freshman class ever in the fall of 2014.
  • Raising the academic profile of Eastern’s student body, with the average high school GPA of entering freshman rising from 3.05 in the fall of 2010 to 3.27 for the fall 2014 class. The average ACT score has also risen, from 21.1 in 2011 to 22.25 for the entering fall 2014 freshman class.
  • Increasing economic support of students, with financial aid growth of 100 percent over last seven years, to a total of $43.8 million for FY15.
  • Tuition restraint: Eastern has the lowest dollar tuition increase in the state of Michigan over the last six years.
  • Improving student academic support services, such as an increase in advising staff, and opening of the Francine Parker Advising Center, a special drop-in facility in the EMU Student Center to complement the main advising office in McKenny Hall.
  • Successful completion of the $50-million “Invest. Inspire.” comprehensive fundraising campaign.
  • Groundbreaking, construction and opening of the $90-million Science Complex, the largest capital project in EMU’s history.
  • The $42-million renovation of Pray-Harrold, the university’s largest classroom building.

She has also been praised for her recommendation that Eastern end its part in the controversial Education Achievement Authority. The board, however, did not accept that recommendation.

Early in her career, there were signs of discord between her and the board.

While the reviews included in her personnel file generally praise her work, giving her satisfactory to excellent marks, there are several notes that show the board wasn’t unanimously pleased with Martin – largely because some said they didn’t think she was following its orders closely enough.

In Martin’s 2009-10 review, the board counseled Martin to “provide careful attention and genuine consideration to board suggestions for improvement.” Later in the review, they wrote, “a number of board members feel that Board relations are inconsistent.”

However, she downplayed any conflict with the board on Tuesday, saying “this is my decision.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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