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Posted on Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Roy Wilbanks: EMU 'Regents had to protect' university with Susan Martin letter

By Katrease Stafford


EMU President Susan Martin

File photo

Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents chair Roy Wilbanks said in an email to an EMU alumnus the “regents had to protect” the university, “hence the letter” in which the board formally reprimanded President Susan Martin.

The letter to Martin -among documents posted July 10 on the EMU website - followed an April event in Washington D.C. when she got into an argument with alumnus Mike Ferens after consuming alcohol.


Roy Wilbanks

From EMU

The letter warned Martin that her job could be in jeopardy over inappropriate conduct surrounding "misuse of alcohol," citing prior incidents that the board discussed with her.

Wilbanks declined an interview request, after offering a short, prepared statement last that concluded, "We will continue to move forward. And to that end, the chair is supportive of the president."

However, in the emails obtained this week by through a Freedom of Information Act request, Wilbanks offered a little more insight. He wrote to EMU alumnus Len Capelli that if the EMU community “can stick together” the university “will get through this difficult time.”

Capelli emailed Wilbanks July 12 to express displeasure in the information being leaked to the media about the incident. The posting of the information on the EMU website followed a FOIA request by the Detroit Free Press.

“The Board of Regents has prided itself on transparency, and yet who leaked the information to the press has not been discussed,” Capelli wrote. “… Why was it released now, what good could this expose possibly do for the university?”

Wilbanks responded to Capelli and said he has “no idea who the source is.”

Capelli implored Wilbanks to look into the matter.

“Negative press will never help the university and I think that you, you personally, as the chair, need to find out who leaked this to the press and make sure that the person responsible is censured, fired or resigns from the board, assuming it was a board member,” Capelli said.

In response to emails from, Wilbanks said all regents knew the letter would be going into Martin's file; and he would not disclose information on "prior incidents" mentioned in the letter or the time frame during which a conversation about so-called prior incidents took place.

Reaction to the letter of reprimand and Martin's response - which was followed by her announcement that she'd follow regents' recommendation to seek counseling - generated a range of emotion and opinion on the EMU campus since July 10.

Alumnus and former president of the EMU Alumni Association Board of Directors Eric Brown was part of the 2008 search committee that subsequently chose Martin to be president.

Brown said he was not notified of the president's 2005 drunken driving arrest at Grand Valley State University.

“One of the things she stated in the initial release of emails is she spoke about transparency, but if that’s the case, she would have disclosed all of that during the interview session,” Brown said, referring to the 2005 arrest.

Brown said if he had known about Martin’s arrest, he would not have supported her selection.

He's also concerned that the two presidents before Martin left their positions following controversy. Martin replaced John Fallon, who was fired in 2007 for assisting in the cover-up of student Laura Dickinson's murder on the Ypsilanti campus.

“It’s embarrassing that we have another situation bringing a black mark to the university," he said.

Brad Brady, president of the EMU Las Vegas alumni chapter, said that while the argument and Martin’s drinking “could be a concern,” he was comforted by the July 10 response to the EMU community.

In an interview with, 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."

Brown said he believes Martin explained herself.

"Whatever the case may be it’s already been addressed and been corrected,” Brady said. “You get in a situation where you’re traveling a lot, you’re trying to work with people and sometimes things happen.”

EMU student Bobby Woodruff said he was “taken aback” by the entire situation.

“We’re all a little surprised on how the regents have acted,” Woodruff said. “Whether or not she has a drinking problem, they’ve been chastising her like a child. I know some of the core values Eastern stands by are things like integrity and I don’t think they’re abiding by it and it’s really sad.”

Woodruff said he hopes Martin doesn’t let the situation deter her from continuing to do the work she’s done so far.

“I hope this draws attention to what the regents have done in the past,” he said. “It seems that they’re trying to strong arm her. It seems poorly timed and it would be a shame if she stepped aside, but I don’t think she would do that because she cares about the university. “

Thumbnail image for 071012_MICHAEL_FERENS.jpg

Michael Ferens and EMU President Susan Martin got into an argument at a Washington, D.C. bar.

Jessica “Decky” Alexander, EMU associate professor, said she finds the situation “strange." She credits Martin for increased campus safety, infrastructure changes and renovations.

“She’s done several things to create a good team here,” Alexander said. “There is a lot to be said. She’s about the university. Find me somebody that doesn’t believe that. If you were here five years ago, it was totally different.”

Ypsilanti City Council members Michael Bodary and Ricky Jefferson said the city’s relationship with Martin has been a productive one.

"I am not privy to the factors the regents use to justify a reprimand so I cannot speculate on their decision,” Jefferson said. “The relationship between the city of Ypsilanti and EMU is cooperative, and President Martin has encouraged the inclusiveness of all departments at EMU to make available its staff, students and resources to assist the city with achieving and maintaining sustainability."

In a statement, EMU’s faculty union, the AAUP, said “it is unfortunate this series of event occurred.”

“We understand why the board has taken the actions they have and we share the concerns expressed by the university community,” the statement continued.

Nick Patterson, the president of the EMU student group B.L.A.C.K. said his response, along with the reaction of several other students, ranged from shock and anger to disappointment.

“A lot of people are upset that she hasn’t really released a formal apology,” Patterson said. “For us, there should be a more intimate apology."

Patterson’s group, B.L.A.C.K., made headlines last year when it invited former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to speak at an event entitled, Redemption and Second Chances.

Patterson said his group will be reaching out to Martin in hopes that she would agree to speak at a similar event and address the situation to the university community.

“We said she shouldn’t be on her journey by herself,” he said. “We all want her to stay president. Anyone can make an error and be in high power. As student leaders, we will be reaching out to her to extend an invitation and to take this second chance and do something different.”

Katrease Stafford covers the city of Ypsilanti for Reach her at 734-623-2548 or You can also follow her on Twitter.



Wed, Dec 12, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

I would say cut the leaks,DEAL WITH THE LEAKER(S) and move on.

Michigan Man

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

All alcohol is evil and only bad karma will come from use/abuse of alcohol!


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 4:07 a.m.

Funny thing is every individual pictured in this article looks like they might of had a few now and again.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:25 a.m.

'Wilbanks declined an interview request, after offering a short, prepared statement last that concluded, "We will continue to move forward.' ...last that concluded...?? Huh?


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 2:06 a.m.

Michael Ferens Interagency Network Manager at Lockheed Martin Information Technology Washington D.C. Metro Area | Information Technology and Services Current: Interagency Network Manager; Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) at Lockheed Martin Information Technology Past:Program Manager; FEMA at Lockheed Martin Information Technology, Information Technology Specialist at Science Application International Corporati... Education: George Mason University, Eastern Michigan University Summary:OBJECTIVE Utilize program management skills, networking background, and recent MS in Telecommunications with certificate in wireless communicatio..

Paul Taylor

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:53 a.m.

What, in my removed post, broke the rules? Fairly benign compared to what passes for acceptable, non-censored posts. = epic fail.

Steve Hendel

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 11:57 p.m.

"The Board of Regents has prided itself on transparency, and yet who leaked the information to the press has not been discussed," Capelli wrote. "… Why was it released now, what good could this expose possibly do for the university?" Nonsense. "Transparency " would dictate that the information be released, not withheld, and certainly not used to prosecute the person who released it.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

the emu bored of regents have been able to do one thing since 91' SCREW UP !


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

Ms. Martin has been informed of the consequences if she repeats her behavior. That is an appropriate response.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 9:39 p.m.

So, the headline and first sentence makes this seem like a new item, but its totally constructed to make this old news seem new again. Really tacky. Really misleading. One can only wonder at the reason the same story was rewritten, with a new headline, after the initial story had aged and was no longer top news.

Dale R. Leslie

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

I was reminded of the wisdom of Samuel DiMaggio, retired line-o-typer at the AA News and a veteran of combat in World War II, about the personal indiscretions publicized by the media of public officials. "Did anyone die?" Sam would asked, to a group of silent responders. He had a unique way of putting life's events in perspective. Also, this quote rings true from the late Tom Roach, U-M regent emeritus, about President Clinton's alleged personal guffaws, "There but for the Grace of God go I."


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 5:02 a.m.

No. She was driving drunk. She locked her keys in the trunk AFTER she was pulled over. "...According to the report, the incident began when Martin was driving a red Mazda Miata on GVSU's north campus around 10 p.m..."

Paul Taylor

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:55 a.m.

Martin didn't drive drunk. She locked her keys in her trunk while drunk. There is a slight, albeit fundamental, difference.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 9:17 p.m.

Some of the issues regarding martin are related to drunk driving. With that in mind, the response to the question: "Did anyone die?" The answer is: not yet


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

If it was happened at UM health system, the department administrator would find out: Where is Michael Ferens? Who is his boss? Get Michael Ferens fired because he made our leader angry.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 9:23 p.m.

The major difference was Ferens was acting in the capacity of a private citizen. Martin was a public employee. Her trip was financed with taxpayer dollars.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

If it happened at UM health system, the department administrator would find out: Where is Michael Ferens? Who is his boss? Get Michael Ferens fired because he made our leader angry.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

My question is for editors of The gist of the story is the lead ... "Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents chair Roy Wilbanks said in an email to an EMU alumnus the "regents had to protect" the university, "hence the letter" in which the board formally reprimanded President Susan Martin." YA THINK???? You get the Captain Obvious award for the decade .... It was this letter that started the media blitz so it was obvious they felt the letter was needed (right or wrong) so my next question is before this story anyone who followed this saga was tell you the board felt the need to act (or in my opinion, over react) so why is this news now or worthy of another story that brings this up again???? NOTHING new was added to this story - NOTHING


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 8:49 p.m.

It HAS been six days since they had an article on Dr. Martin. I agree with you, lumberg, there's nothing new to this story. I believe this is the ninth article about the same story.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

Regents didn't "protect" any reputations...they made themselves and EMU look like laughingstocks.

Paul Taylor

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 1:05 a.m.

I agree, and hope the braintrust at doesn't censor your truthful statement, as they did mine.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 6:42 p.m.

A couple days ago EMU declined to grant tenure to a professor who had been accused of sexual harassment in 2007. Rightly or wrongly, the business professor was in purgatory for five years. I have no opinion on whether this was a good or bad decision. I will respect the desires of the people he harassed. When Martin's contract expires on July 7, 2013 will the Regents renew her contract? My opinion is there should be one set of rules. Let's see what happens next spring.


Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

So the question becomes, does the provost have one set of rules and the board another?


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

The Provost denied tenure....and the Provost works for Martin. Martin works for the board.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 4:24 p.m.

Roy!!! It your move!!! Or not to move!! You cannot get rid of Sue and put in one of your ringers so you can be the Kingfish again!!!!!

David Cahill

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

Transparency? EMU has always prided itself on its opacity.

Steve Hendel

Sun, Jul 22, 2012 : midnight

Ever hear of irony, julieswhimsies ?


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

Opacity actually means lack of transparency. I am sure that's not what you meant, Mr. Cahill.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Does EMU continue to have the lowest graduation rate among the state's publicly funded higher education institutions, or did they find time to fix that?


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Where to begin? First of all, Regent Wilbanks should be bending over backward to find who leaked the letter....unless, of coure, he is pleased that it leaked. I respect the president for her decision to stay and to follow through on the demands of the regents, but she should know that now her life will be torture. The regents will now nit-pick every single thing she does and eventually, she will leave because the psychological toll will be too much for her to deal with. Perhaps this was the ultimate plan to begin with? The letter itself is a joke - so patronizing and passive-aggressive. I know some of the EMU regents and my respect for them has gone down considerably due to how they have handled this situation. I agree with the remarks of Mr. Woodruff. As for Mr. Patterson, let me just say this - when Kwame actually admits to doing anything wrong and actually apologizes, then the president should come to you on bended knee. Translation: she's already apologized - she owes you nothing more. Would you like her to go to each dorm room, classroom, fraternity and keg party clutching her chest in tears asking every student for forgiveness and giving them each a big love-hug? Susan Martin has done some great things for EMU. I hope we're lucky enough to have her stick around to accomplish a few more before the regents terrorize her to the point where she has no choice but to leave. And when she does, she should forget this nastiness and remember only the good she did.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 7 p.m.

"...bending over backwards..." Whistleblower laws were written with people like you in mind.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Oops, I guess Mr. Capelli is not a regent, just an alumnus...


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

"The Board of Regents has prided itself on transparency, and yet who leaked the information to the press has not been discussed," Capelli wrote. "… Why was it released now, what good could this expose possibly do for the university?" Wilbanks responded to Capelli and said he has "no idea who the source is." Capelli implored Wilbanks to look into the matter. "Negative press will never help the university and I think that you, you personally, as the chair, need to find out who leaked this to the press and make sure that the person responsible is censured, fired or resigns from the board, assuming it was a board member," Capelli said. Looking for a "plumbers" group to stop the leaks, President Nixon, ummm, I mean, Regent Capelli?


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

To claim that this board of regents has prided itself on transparency is lacks credibility on the face of it. Accounting fraud building that President's house. Laura Dickinson's rape and murder. Those are just big ones recently. Basic hire/fire processes and proceedures. EMU has long-suffered from a lack of leadership and professionalism Regent level. It's also had more than its fair share of cronyism there. All of which builds to my conclusion that the board needs to check itself. Some of its members need to think about their abilty to credibly serve in that position. Some need to decide if they are for building a more successful EMU in its current role in Michigan's college system of if they feel EMU needs drastic changes to be more successful. Decide and make it public. Dr. Martin, on the other hand, has made a mistake that, from the accounts of the people involved, has been over-blown. More importantly, her work since taking this position has been exemplary and she is the first EMU President since John Porter that has had enough credbility to get badly needed things done in academics, administration, town and gown relationships etc. She has been TRUEMU. If you are going to claim transparency as a hallmark, do so with actions first not after some underhanded leak to the Freep. Thats not TRUEMU.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

First of all the board stated there were past "mistakes" aka incidents involving drinking that had been discussed with her. She has not denied that in any of her responses or interviews. Second, perhaps if your employer says you drink too much and embarrass them, you should just stop drinking. Third, a great person like Ms Martin should be helped if she has been told before about her behavior when drinking. do not know WHO leaked the story. Could it have been Ms Martin herself, encouraging supporters to defend her to the board? We cannot pretend to know WHO leaked the story. Could be either "side".


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

EMU needs to start searching for a new President. But, since it is run by Progressives, they will give her a pay raise and promote her because she failed! Who knows, maybe Michigan is interested in her.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

Which would explain why they just reprimanded her.....d'oh!! Don't think the Tea Party Tin Hat philosophy fits here XMO.

Lac Court Orilles

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

When will the media ever stop bashing Eastern Michigan University and begin reporting some positive news about it?


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

When EMU is shut down for good -- that's when.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 12:13 p.m.

This is just a sad story. The real issue is hidden from view. This is not about Huron vs.eagle, alcolol cunsumption, disagreement with alum. This is a pure political fight . Board is trying to get president to resign so they can appoint someone they can control. I will speculate their is something the regents want to do that Pres Martin is blocking. This is why term limits matter. It is to bad that running for office is such a bad process that most normal people are no longer interested.

Eric Brown

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 11:46 p.m.

There is only one way for the electorate and those with specific ties to a public insitution to hold the regents/trustees accountable. That is to do away with the selection process and let us elect those that inherit so much power at our institutions of higher learning. If it is set up and good enough for regents/trustees at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University to be elected; then by golly, it should allowed for the electorate to do the same at all of the publically funded universities.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

EMU board is not elected. It is appointed by the governor.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

Toxic personalities cannot tolerate success by others. It would certainly be welcome if we could vote those types off of this board of regents.

so much nonsense

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 11:47 a.m.

I agree that the Regents have embarrassed the University to no end. There have been no prior incidents shown or proven, just innuendo so that some regents can use them to push Martin out. I find it distasteful as well as lacking integrity to stoop to these levels. This should be a lesson to students and the public in how a smear campaign gets started. @Cash yes it really matters who started the witchhunt and leaked to the press Damage has been done to the University publicly by someone who has an ulterior motive, a motive which we know nothing about at this time, but can speculate about only. If these actions are ignored, we will not know if it will happen again. We will not know if outside pressure or forces were forcing someone's hand in all this. I for one WANT to know this. It matters and yes it is important. If it matters that the public knows she has an argument with alcohol present in the room, then it matters if outside forces or even internal forces at EMU have an agenda they are attempting to push upon the EMU community, the State and the public without regard for the ramifications.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

And what if the leak came from Ms Martin? Seems there is a certain group strongly in support of her against the board. So either way someone leaked that she was reprimanded.

so much nonsense

Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

A written reprimand put into someone's personnel file is not really the issue anymore. Leaking it to the press and intentionally making this public is the issue, especially if this was done by a Regent or by direction from a Regent. If a smear campaign is the intent of all of this, I think that the EMU community , the alumni and the public have the right to know.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Damage has been done to EMU? I don't think so...only if anyone is naive enough to think this kind of thing doesn't happen everywhere at all kinds of places of employment. Outside forces??? This isn't Watergate. An employee was given a written reprimand regarding their drinking issues. Move on.


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

Why not leave EMU and Martin alone have over reported this story....let's move on.....


Sat, Jul 21, 2012 : 10:22 a.m.

Mr Wilbanks is correct that as the employer the board must address any issue(s) that is potentially a liability to the university. Doing anything less would be irresponsible. Be sure that letter was written by an attorney. It's not Mr Wilbanks job to perform a witch hunt looking for the person or persons who leaked any news of this incident to the media. There are a lot of possibilities on all "sides"but does it really matter? I admire that EMU released the FOIA'd information. EMU could have gone through the multiple mechanisms used by other local public entities to stall the release and stonewall taxpayers. Instead they complied. Now? Move on.