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Posted on Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

EMU President Susan Martin on argument involving alcohol: 'I made a mistake... and I own' it

By Kellie Woodhouse

Thumbnail image for 022112_Susan_Martin.JPG

Susan Martin

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin says that she "just got angry and lost my temper" during an argument with an alumnus in Washington D.C.

The argument, however, threatened to damage the university's reputation and "involved the consumption of alcohol," according to a letter from the Board of Regents executive committee placed in Martin's personnel file.

In the May letter, the board told Martin they were concerned about her alcohol consumption and that if a similar incident occurred she would be dismissed.

In an interview with on Tuesday, in the hours after EMU publicly released the letters, Martin admitted that she "was drinking at the time that I lost my temper," but declined to say how much alcohol she had consumed.

"I should never lose my temper," she said. "I made a mistake."

Michael Ferens, the alumnus Martin argued with, told the argument was about EMU's former mascot, the Huron Indians. He said Martin reacted to something he said about the former mascot. EMU changed its mascot from the Hurons to the Eagles in 1991.

Martin called the argument a misunderstanding.

"It was over in a minute and we moved on quickly," she said. Ferens called the incident "minor" in an interview with

"We immediately moved on," Martin said.

The board's letter said Martin "explained [her] conduct as a result of having not eaten and then consuming alcoholic beverages."

Martin said she does not have a problem with alcohol. She did acknowledge receiving a DWI violation in 2005, which she says she reported to the board of regents before beginning as president in 2008.

"I had one incident driving while impaired," she said.

In its letter, the board executive committee cited "prior incidents discussed with you," but did not elaborate.

In a letter to the board, Martin said she told board chairman Roy Willbanks about the April argument four days afterward.

"It will never recur," she said in the interview, explaining that she must be clear-headed to tackle the "very demanding and challenging" job of being EMU's leader.

"I made a mistake in this incident and I own" it, she said.

According to Martin, the incident lasted "a couple of minutes," was resolved and then the two moved on discussing other university-related issues.

Daniel Mathis, interim executive director of alumni relations, was present during the argument. He declined to comment at length, but said: “There was a misunderstanding and it was resolved, from my understanding."

Martin said the argument occurred at Washington restaurant "right after the event" during early evening. According to the event's Facebook page, the reception ended at 8:30 p.m.

Martin, who earned $295,000 in 2011, according to W-2 information obtained by, said EMU is attempting to be open about the incident to "minimize any impact whatsoever to the university."

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter. reporter Katrease Stafford contributed to this article.


Stella W

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

How can an argument and a few drinks damage EMU's reputation more than a murder cover up and gross overspending by the two prior presidents? This seems like an ant hill made into a mountain. She has been a great president at EMU and I'm startled that something this petty and political made it into news.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 4:24 a.m.

Since when is losing your temper fro one minute grounds fro dismissal. Come on- she's a human being. Did she threaten violence? Did she embezzle money? Was the guy she got angry with scared or traumatized in any way? No. No. No

BSW Grad

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 3:59 a.m.

As a recent BSW graduate, I feel Susan Martin has done an excellent job turning EMU around. The new buildings, not increasing tuition and several other wonderful things she has accomplished since she started her position. Yes she made a mistake in the past but having two drinks can cause a person to get a drunk driving offense. Everyone has arguments and for anyone to say that don't should look twice at themselves. For everyone saying she should be fired better look at themselves before throwing stones at someone else because they better be perfect, never made a mistake that they regret and never been involved in an argument. Look at all the positive aspects she has given to EMU.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

That sounded like an infomercial.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 2:27 a.m.

Just as I suspected, she's a Human!


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 12:30 a.m.

Looks like EMU will have a new President soon.

EMU Insider

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 11:26 p.m.

I found her response to the Regents (which is really essentially to the taxpayers of the State of Michigan) to be quite distasteful, disrespectful and inappropriate. "I lead a very intense and high visible life." "I have a very demanding schedule with regular public appearances and speaking engagements." "I live in a public house that employees enter regularly and I often have guests stay with us overnight." SO WHAT? YOU'RE THE PRESIDENT AND MAKE $300,000+ -- she also received a $7,500 bonus last year. What does ANY of this have to do with her "bad behavior," which she herself called "un-presidential." She needs to be fired immediately -- no ifs, ands or buts about it.

Jake C

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 4:33 a.m.

So it's okay to yell at a donor/client/customer just because you have a stressful job? That kind of thing would get you fired at Starbucks or McDonalds. But if you earn $300,000 per year, some people apparently get a free pass.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 4:26 a.m.

What crime did she commit? she probably has a very stressful job. You've never gotten angry fro one minute?

EMU Insider

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 3:31 a.m.

@Heard That B4: my issue isn't in reference to "the argument." It's the fallout, especially her response to the Board of Regents. This woman isn't a leader, but no one is at Eastern Michigan University. This yet again reeks of a "cover-up."

Heard That B4

Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 2:30 a.m.

Interesting that you would have so much harsher of a reaction to the alleged "argument" than the alum involved. Do you have other specific issues with the EMU President that you wish to share? I have had the opportunity to speak with Sue Martin on several occasions and I personally find her to be refreshingly down-to-earth and an incredibly enthusiastic advocate for the school, its students and alumni. She's done an excellent job since taking over at a difficult time in EMU's history.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 12:02 a.m.

I think it will happen....just takes a little time. After this her relationship with the board is severed. Thus, the end is near.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 11:11 p.m.

Are you serious?

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

I have no insider knowledge of this entire situation, but you can ask any substance abuse counselor, probation agent, judge, or prosecutor and they will all tell you that most drunks have driven drunk anywhere from 25-75 times before their first arrest. Not admitting you have a "problem" is one of the most significant signs of alcoholism.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 3:11 a.m.

We all pay for others' DUI in our car insurance.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 3:01 a.m.

Those who think DWI is cute and harmless may never have talked to anyone who has seen the results of DWI or anyone who has known anyone with a friend or relative affected by a driver who shouldn't have been behind the wheel. DWI can kill people.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 11:05 p.m.

Yes and isn't it frightening how many people dislike hearing it? A whole bunch of denial!


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 10:09 p.m.

i gotta say, this one smells really bad. If the incident was as minor as described, then why and how did it come to this letter? Also, if you read the letter, it states: "In addition to the conduct in Washington DC, AND the prior INCIDENTS discussed with you..." This is obviously not a one-time occurrence. This sets a abominable example for EMU students. In the "real" world this behavior is not will be fired, especially if it occurs more than once. Take a look at EMU's mission statement and explain how her behavior - in any way - supports this. unbelievable.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

Totally agree. Her behavior was inappropriate in every way, there is no two ways about it.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

We know she was apprehended once while driving and issued a DWI citation. We don't know if she only drove once while intoxicated.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

So, I suppose EMU should fire her for maybe, possibly, conceivably, theoretically, plausibly, perhaps driving while intoxicated and not being caught or witnessed. She disclosed the DWI and EMU still hired her. Let's stick to known facts, not mere speculation.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Now annarbor dot blog calls this a "scuffle?" Do you know what that word means?


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 11:04 p.m.

I think "kerfuffle" would have worked....

Julie Baker

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 9:33 p.m.

We changed it. Thanks.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

"...the argument was about EMU's former mascot, the Huron Indians..." So, was martin for or against the Huron Mascot? Enquiring minds want to know.

so much nonsense

Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 8:43 p.m.

Sure sounds to me like the Board is using a little incident to "UVA" the President out of her job. The alumnus who she argued with thought it was minor and over in minute. How does that justify such a strong disciplinary letter in her personnel file? How does that justify public humiliation by leaking the story to the press? Something is not right. It sounds like the beginning of a "UVA" sort of story where members of the board are trying to push her out using anything they can get their hands on. Sad because she is the best President EMU has had in quite along time.


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

Sure sounds like a Martin Lackey to me. Just signed up, voting people down, nice try at the PR boost for Martin. Fail.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 8:56 p.m.

If it was so minor why did the two apologize to each other? By email, no less. That seems to me to be an insincere way of apologizing. Most heated arguments are over in a minute because you have run out of room to escalate. I'd like to hear from the witnesses because obviously at a public function there were many.


Tue, Jul 10, 2012 : 8:41 p.m.

kudos to martin for doing the interview and not trying to hide anything


Wed, Jul 11, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

She had no choice.