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Posted on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin falls short of multiple goals in review

By Kellie Woodhouse


Susan Martin and former EMU regent Roy Wilbanks during a Sept. 18, 2012, Board of Regents meeting.

Melanie Maxwell I

Tension that surfaced between Eastern Michigan University's governing board and president last year appears to remain an issue at the Ypsilanti school.

In a fiscal 2011-12 performance review, EMU regents said president Susan Martin fell short of enrollment goals, failed to develop a strategic vision for the school and inconsistently consulted regents prior to making decisions.

"All regents should feel informed and updated on all matters requiring board engagement to their particular level of interest and satisfaction," the October 19, 2012, review states. "Performance in this regard has been inconsistent. Board input on significant policy direction merits more serious attention."

The review was obtained by through a Freedom of Information Act request. It was signed by former regent Roy Wilbanks and current regents Francine Parker, Mike Morris and Mike Hawks, who asserted that regents were "sometimes not alerted to major issues affecting the campus" and cited Martin's decision to close satellite campuses without informing regents.


Eastern Michigan regent Francine Parker during a regents meeting.

Melanie Maxwell I

Also in the review, the board praised Martin for exceeding fundraising goals and increasing on-campus housing.

The October review came five months after the board's executive committee formally reprimanded Martin in May for getting into an argument with an alumnus and behaving "in a way inappropriate for your position" which "reflected poorly" on EMU. Martin was drinking alcohol prior to the April argument, according to the letter and Martin's admissions afterward. The board threatened to fire Martin if a similar incident ever happened again.

In the October review, the board said Martin is "without question a visible and active president" but stated that with "visibility comes responsibility to represent the university at all times in the best possible light."

Martin's five-year employment contract expires on July 7, 2013, and is up for renewal in the coming months. She is also eligible for a $10,000 performance bonus in July, to be awarded at the discretion of the board.


Eastern Michigan University President Dr. Susan Martin address the graduates during EMU's 2012 winter commencement.

Courtney Sacco I

Per her contract, Martin's salary is nearly $310,000.

Martin and board members declined to talk about the review. They issued the following statement:

"One of the principal functions of a governing board is to provide annual feedback that ensures goals and objectives are monitored and measured. It is a matter of good governance that should be encouraged at every level and at every institution. As a matter of record, we do not publicly discuss details of job performance evaluations for any employees."

In the review regents asserted that "some goals were met, others not, and in some cases improvement is required."

The board praised Martin for increasing on-campus housing levels, exceeding fundraising goals, reviewing academic programs and reorganizing the way EMU manages student enrollment.

Susan Martin's to-do list

Fiscal 2012-13 goals developed by regents.

  • Increase credit hour enrollment by 1 percent
  • Increase graduate enrollment, which is declining
  • Improve probation, graduation, retention rates
  • Achieve positive accreditation for Physician Assistant program
  • Integrate College of Education with charter schools
  • Complete strategic plan
  • Achieve a balanced budget
  • Seek "cost saving opportunities in benefits," including employee retirement.
  • Plan for next fundraising campaign
  • Grow endowment
  • Engage external consultant to improve human resources
  • "Support a climate and workplace where employees can thrive and support our students"
  • Improve student services
  • Evaluate the impact of administrative changes
  • Increase alumni, faculty and staff participation rates in university advancement
  • Develop a five-year plan to decrease energy reliance
  • Improve board relations and communications
  • Source: Susan Martin FY13 goals.pdf

EMU last year raised $11.5 million in gifts, an increase of $6.4 million from the year before and $2 million above the school's fiscal 2011-12 goal. On-campus housing increased by 10 percent this year, to 3,315 students.

This summer and fall Martin also assisted in reaching a contract deal with three of EMU's labor unions, an accomplishment the board deemed "notable" in the review.

"The planning process, new bargaining team and work done prior to the successful ratification were evident," the review stated.

The review also cited a decline in enrollment, which in part caused EMU to dip into its reserves by $2 million. From fall 2010 to fall 2011, credit hour enrollment decreased 1.4 percent. "We expect that a strategy to address this matter is forthcoming," the review states.

The shortfall was the first budget deficit of Martin's tenure, the review states. According to a December financial report, the school's budget is balanced this year. Enrollment is up by 4,650 credit hours.

The review said that while EMU increased its six-year graduation rate last year, four-year rates have been stagnant. EMU's current six-year and four-year graduation rates are 37.2 percent and 12.9 percent, respectively.

The review said Martin hadn't presented a strategic plan for the school, which she was supposed to have completed by June 2009. "This goal remains unmet," the review states. "This should remain an area of focus for you and the institution as a whole."

The regents wanted Martin to evaluate services provided to students and staff, such as the ombudsman and human services offices, but said in the review that Martin failed to complete those tasks. Regents also told Martin she did not properly handle layoffs and payroll issues.

Evaluations were also an area where Martin didn't meet goals. Regents want Martin to evaluate her leadership team, offer professional development and develop a chain of succession.

"You have made a number of leadership changes. It is important that those leaders are evaluated," the review states, explaining that Martin did not complete fiscal 2010-11 evaluations and, as of October, was late in completing 2011-12 evaluations.


Eastern Michigan regent Mike Morris during a September 2011 regents meeting.

Melanie Maxwell I

The review continued: "Developing a collegial environment within your executive council will be important. All members of the team should feel encouraged and supported."

On September 18, 2012, regent Beth Fitzsimmons said in an interview that she thought Martin's contract would likely be renewed this year.

"I don't know of anything other than that," Fitzsimmons said, adding that in an informal June conversation board members "all said we supported her."

Also in a September 18 interview, regent Thomas Sidlik said "things couldn't be better" at EMU, and noted the uptick in enrollment EMU experienced this fall. Sidlik has since retired from the board. He asserted that the May letter reprimanding Martin was "a bump in the road."

The review, authored a month later, paints a different picture.

"Some goals were met, others not, and in some cases improvement is required. A clear focus should remain on goals that are important and unmet as well as a commitment to devote attention to areas that require your improvement," the review states. When listing goals assigned but not completed, regents included "board relations and communications."

"Board members not equally consulted on matters," the list states. "Lack of follow through on key issues. Represent university in a positive manner at all times."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.


Joe Kidd

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 8:58 p.m.

I do not see how the board could expect a president to increase enrollment. From this article I think the board should be replaced, not Martin. These "goals" might be unreasonable. Also evaluation of employees? Over my decades of work I found evaluations completely worthless. Now I wonder if any of Eastern's regents are qualified to hold these positions.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

mixed bag but her four legged chair has only three legs.

Buzz Buzz

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:54 a.m.

I find it fascinating that people not close to the situation are coming to the defense of this President, who clearly is failing in her role. Did you even read the Review Letter? Enrollment goals were NOT met. Graduate enrollment is DOWN. Improvements in retention and graduation rates are STILL an issue. NO strategic plan for EMU. NOT informing the Board of Regents that a satellite campus was closed? EMU can do a lot better. She needs to go.

Joe Kidd

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 9:02 p.m.

It is easy to criticize, isn't it, Buzz? How about you give us some ideas on how to accomplish these unmet goals. Start with enrollment goals. How would YOU increase enrollment? Then to on to retention and graduation rates. A big reason for students to not finish is $$$. You got a pot of gold in your pocket? What is your strategic plan, Buzz?

Rachel Barsch

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 3:30 a.m.

While you raise good points, Buzz, I cannot agree that Martin is clearly failing in her role. Retention, student success, persistence, enrollment numbers are falling in many higher-education institutions. If this were endemic to EMU then perhaps the failure of duty would be clearer. After the publishing of MEAP scores-- and please, I do not want to discuss the validity of this test as a proper assessment-- we should not be surprised at low completion rates. Many high-school graduates are not ready for college, and more than just the President at one college needs to focus attention to this.

Rachel Barsch

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 1:02 a.m.

I am in pursuit of a graduate degree in Public Administration at EMU and besides the stimulating courses that force critical-thinking skills on students, the atmosphere that has been created by President Martin is one of the reasons I have enjoyed pursuing higher education. Several recent hires--including Geoff Larcom and the new Alumni head reinforce this feeling. As a student who has so enjoyed my time at EMU, and someone who witnessed a different culture as an EMU undergrad, this dismays me. Although we don't have the whole story, know all of the information, or are privy to board-president interactions and dynamics, as reported, this feels like a set-up. Many criticize the board, and perhaps this evaluation is right, but the United Way recently announced Fitzsimmons as the "woman of the year" in Washtenaw County, and thus I would like to believe that the board is credible, is looking out for the best interests for various stakeholders, and would not oust such a well-liked administator. However, until evidence other than "falling short of multiple goals" is presented, and more documented support from the board to help with this, my support goes to President Martin. She is a big reason that I love Eastern Michigan University. I urge the board to continue her contract and continue to work with her to achieve these "short-fallen" goals.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 12:29 a.m.

EMU has been third-class among the "direction universities + WSU and Oakland" for a long time. And it faces some natural obstacles (undeniably, Ypsilanti ain't East Lansing, Ann Arbor, Rochester, etc.) EMU has had some pretty crazy presidents. The whole "drinking episode" seems to have been overblown. If I have a drink and am accosted by a moron, that doesn't mean I was not accosted by a moron. That's old news at this point anyway, and the board maintains Ms. Martin on the job. Thank goodness that Susan Martin and not I must try to satisfy this board.

Jessica 'Decky' Alexander

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

As someone who has spent almost every day in the walk-ways and the hallways of EMU for the past 17 years, I can simply state that being here and working here under President Martin is just better and sunnier. Certainly there is still work to be done, and if you ask President Martin, she would be the first to agree. But in just four years, EMU has not re-branded itself, but branded itself in ways that authentically reflect its student body and its place in our regional university system. This 'branding' is the direct work of President Martin, and those she has hired and guided. Her priority for stability over other areas has allowed us to actually begin to look at some of our systems' breaks and fissures, and thus work to improve all areas of the institution not just our image.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

Regarding the alcohol incident: the Regents were justified in being concerned about this, particularly since she has a history with it. As the face of the University, her behavior must be above reproach. Getting into a drunken argument about the mascot does nothing for the University's image. Further, her excuse was lame: 'I forgot to eat.' Having worked with/consulted for many institutions, communication with the Board is key. A Board in the know is a happy Board. I understand that there is a fine line between governance and management, but there are ways to ensure that the Board keeps to their governance role. The bottom line: more communication is better. What have the Regents done to impede progress on Martin finishing her to-do list? I don't find anything about that. Has someone physically intervened on the strategic planning process and stopped it? The evaluations? Anything else? Doubtful.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

Please do better research. I believe the only satellite campus that will close is in Flint. Eastern is only offering one class there this winter.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:43 a.m.

Please do YOUR own better research. The Flint location closed several semesters ago.

Brett Petersmark

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

I can say as an alumni, it has been a pleasure to have a President that cares! Her enthusiasm and energy is a joy to be around!! Isn't the point in every review to find areas to improve? I really find it dissappointing that the Board of Regents doesn't share it's personal reviews with the public like it has with Dr. Martin. Let us know when so we can read the Regents reviews publically. I have experienced a dissagreement with a current board member that was much more heated than Dr. Martin run in and that wasn't even made an issue. Everyone on the Board was aware of the incident. Dr. Martin has demonstrated that if it is broke we need to fix it. Making change for Eastern Michigan University from the Regents down historically has been difficult. It has been met with much resistence. 67% of the people who have voted regarding Dr. Martin's performance has given their opinion of above average "B"to Excellent "A". It certainly looks like the Regents are the one's that are out of touch.

Ypsi Eastsider

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 6:17 p.m.

I applaud the regents for making this public, but to be effective the regents must also evaluate their own success and failures as a board. Don't forget some on this board were the same ones that approved the presidents house, failed to disclose conflicts of interest for purchasing and contracts. One regent whose other job pays him millions per year in salary got his kid in on a full ride Football scholarship. Another regent, thankfully now gone, never showed up for meetings. This report and last years Regents letter are paving the way for the Regents to replace Martin. There is a former judge, rhymes with Shelton, that some members on the board want to hire as the new president at EMU. They have wanted him since 2007 and they will eventually get their way. Thus, the tragic dysfunction that are the EMU regents will continue to fail the students, community, and taxpayers they are supposed to serve.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

What you said! In spades. President Martin is better than the entire bunch of them.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

they didn't make this public, they aren't that (intentionally) that transparent. FOIA'd this info to get it.

Top Cat

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 5:56 p.m.

When you have a real job and making these kind of bucks, if don't perform, you are out the door. Nuf Sed-


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 11:12 p.m.

TC , I agree, to bad the " don't perform" logic didn't work against Barry..


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

Not NEARLY "nuf sed." This is a complicated situation that can't be summed up by "if you don't perform."


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

Hopefully the Wilbanks effect won't persist past his expiration date.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 5:16 p.m.

What is the point of new student housing if the enrollment down?? So, she is good at fundraising - that's great - she should be in charge of that - but the rest? NOT. Some of the professors at EMU are sorely lacking in education and common sense and spend much of their time comparing EMU to UM to the students which is very odd - case in point ... higher ed student affairs program in particular the intro class - spends more time talking about UM than social justice - inept- Most of the other professors and instructors are exemplary and student focused - the kids get much more interaction with actual instructors than UM which ultimately leads to better comprehension of subject matter. Still the president of EMU is not paying attention to what is important to the school and busy raising funds to what end if the school is drowning in reputation and bad management?

Zachary Jones

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 4:49 p.m.

"Regents also told Martin she did not properly handle layoffs and payroll issues." -- as of last paycheck we still had part time lecturers that hadn't gotten paid. EMU/Martin's fiscal goals have been met on the backs of those that work for EMU. Not being able to pay or find work for your staff and educators reeks of insolvency. The EMU administration took a 3% pay raise (on average) and staff and educators took a 1.7% (on average) pay raise -- the rate of inflation, so really we got nothing. What is the mission of EMU: Bureaucracy or Education? People, there are problems here: too many Deanlets doing Martin's job.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

From my perspective, as a parent of an EMU student and an adult with a recent MBA from EMU, I think that Susan Martin has done a lot to improve the quality of university life at EMU. There has been a great marketing effort to brand EMU, there have been many improvements in overall campus security, and the campus beautification projects make EMU aesthetically pleasing to the eye. The amount of financial aid available to students, through scholarships, is very generous, and it allows many students the ability to attend EMU and ultimately earn a college degree. There have been many improvements in the infrastructure on campus during recent years: The completion of the Science Complex, residence hall renovations and improvements, the renovation of Pray-Harrold, and major parking lot and road improvements. EMU's College of Business offers a quality education, and has been recognized by The Princeton Review for the ninth consecutive year as an outstanding business school. I'd like to know what the EMU Board of Regents' agenda is...Education First? They need to recognize a good thing when they see it, IMO.

Are Your Fair?

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 2:33 a.m.

It has been quite a five-year run, hasn't it?

Bertha Venation

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 4:32 p.m.

Looks like quite a "to do" list to me.

Paula Gardner

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

This is not an opinion piece. The positive and negative aspects of the evaluation are both represented in the story, and headline reflects that the number of unmet goals cited by regents is more than the number of met goals cited.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 12:02 a.m.

If you have never been the recipient of a biased review whitewashed by HR, you are a lucky girl indeed!


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 4 p.m.

President Martin's evaluation is being published only because dirt sells more than anything else. She's done an excellent job, and even with those that are top performers you can easily find dirt. Hang in there President Martin, we all love you! should allow us to grade Governor Rick Snyder like we did with President Martin. Governor Snyder has heaped up a mountain range of dirt by taking advantage of the defenseless citizens of Michigan for his own greedy benefit with his super majority in all branches of State Government. Make Snyder a one-term nerd!

Paula Gardner

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 4:28 p.m.

I think it would be helpful to other readers if you'd define 'excellent' or point out where you disagree with regents.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 3:40 p.m.

This article is definately not a fair and impartial represetation of the review. Would anyone at like to explain why a newspaper which is supposed to report on facts is writing opinion pieces. Please move this from the front page to the opinion section.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

Falling shorts of goals is common during reviews, I would imagine. That does not mean you did a bad job and that does not mean a dereliction of duty or failure to lead. There are always reasons for why goals are not met and not all of those reasons are based on skill, knowledge and ability; some are external. If the boards statements are factual and objective, I have no issue with their review and they did note her significant contributions. Were similar reviews given to past presidents who did not meet the same goals? If so, then this is par for the course and basically, not real news. Did she violate protocol by not informing the board of major changes? Or is the board just insecure and ego-driven and feels the need to micromanage? These are important questions that need answered before we bash or praise said review. Having said all of that, it sure seems like the board of regents has an agenda and does not like her. Martin is popular with students, respected by faculty and staff, a tireless promoter of all things EMU and an effective leader. She remains the public face of the university and someone all (students, staff, faculty, alumni) can be proud of. It is very hard to figure out the motives of the board in this instance. Is the board threatened by her? Are these attacks politically motivated? I say yes. The manufactured "drinking" incident that was poorly handled will give ammunition to some who want her gone but (in my opinion) many feel that incident was overblown (by the board and who gave it more coverage that the recent student homicide.) EMU and Martin were dragged through the mud over that indecent unnecessarily. I think the board is smart enough to renew her contract because they know the bad press EMU would get (and the backlash from concerned parties) is not worth pushing her out - which does seem to be what is happening very subtlety. EMU does not need a fresh start in the presidents office. EMU needs continued stability.


Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

the Board of Regents is a political body and politicians the world over,no matter what they're called are all the same.they lie,steal,cheat and have their own agenda.those that work for them better follow along or they will be history.

Rachel Barsch

Thu, Feb 14, 2013 : 1:05 a.m.

Stability is one of the key changes that EMU (from the vantage point of a student) gained when they hired Susan Martin. And I agree that EMU NEEDS this.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 3:11 p.m.

Good president, awful board.

Peter Eckstein

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:52 p.m.

No presidential mansions built, no coverups of crimes committed on campus, and impressive fiscal stability. As a distant observer, the only negative comment that resonated with me was the failure to consult over the closing of satellite campuses. This sounds like it should have been a board decision. A lot of the rest seemed like a failure to provide a lot of paperwork to the board. Running the university well seems like a higher priority.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Go ahead and fire her and shoot yourselves in the foot again! She's the best thing that has happened to Eastern since they hired President Porter. The campus looks great, enrollment and dorm occupancy was up this fall. The strategic plan is almost finished. A comprehensive marketing analysis was completed last June!! The regents seem to know less than the public/alumni. When the key manager and chair of the strategic planning committee is out for a year with a life threatening illness it's not supposed to effect the process? Duh!!!


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 1:45 p.m.

Seems rather obvious her contract won't be renewed. Martin appears to be too much of a loose cannon. Advising the board on policy matters - before acting - is fundamental. Not doing so implies a serious disconnect. In the end, her credibility will always be tainted by the drinking incident. A fresh start is needed for both sides.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 1:36 p.m.

Susan Martin is, by FAR, the best president EMU has had since Porter. Part of what makes her good and VERY popular with Alumni is that she doesn't play the political hack games the regents seem to want. Right now that board's integrity is in question. Dr. Martin's? Much less so.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 3:53 p.m.

You said it! Given the past presidents--and I served under many of them--she's the best the school has ever had in 40 years!


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 1:58 p.m.

It also appears that the reserve spent was replaced by fundraising efforts. Strategic planning is an ongoing process that all stakeholders participate in. I suspect there are progress reports. I hope the current board priorities do not get in the way of other important tasks that must be accomplished. I agree that Susan Martin has been a most accomplished leader. Dr. Porter is also the last EMU President worthy of note, in my memory.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Must be hard to work in an environment where your board rubs their hand together in delight every time you're not at the level of absolute perfection. They have been gunning for Dr. Martin for quite a while. When I read about things that have been issues since 2009 (4 years!) that tells me that her overseers told her that those items were not of the utmost concern and they are now using the lack of completion against her. I don't know why she wants to stay in that toxic environment. I'm wondering if these evaluations have been made public like this in the past. I understand why it would be of interest considering the last incident, but it also seems a bit if someone reached out with the information?


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

Read "And Still I Rise" by Maya Angelou. It may lead you to understand the indomitable spirit of successful people.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 12:15 p.m.

Looks like what many employees may get - especially a junior (president) who needs some growth into the position. It looks like so far the community also thinks she has done fair, many "A" and "B" grades. Given the revolving door in that position for the past two decades it's probably best to invest and grow. With that said - I've had little to no interaction with her or her office, and as an Alum and former volunteer the view may be different from inside the walls.

Jack Gladney

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 12:04 p.m.

She fell short of some of her goals. So what? The regents should show some patience and encouragement if she has remained clean and sober. People today are so quick to judge. Give her some space, please. The last thing she needs right now is a bunch of negative 'stinkin' thinkin'."

Steve Hendel

Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

So what? EMU is not a social welfare organization, and Ms Martin is paid over $300,000 a year to perform as it's President. it is not unreasonable to expect her performance to be measured according to the goals set for it. 'Clean and sober' in such a position should be an expectation that goes without saying, rather than an excuse for non-attainment of goals.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 11:53 a.m.

Based on this evaluation, either her contract should not be renewed or if she has made great progress then give a 1 year renewal to see if progress continues. Many of those shortcomings are very significant.


Wed, Feb 13, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

To bad we couldn't use the same logic on our re-elected Barry..You're spot on with your comment!!