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Posted on Tue, May 8, 2012 : 4:40 p.m.

EMU reassessing dismissal practices after mistakenly sending notices to 7,700 students

By Kellie Woodhouse

Eastern Michigan University is "assessing and evaluating" its student notifications after GradesFirst, a third-party communications provider, mistakenly sending roughly 7,700 students dismissal notices Friday.

EMU Director of Communications Walter Kraft said the dismissal email was intended for 133 students but due to "some sort of operational issue" GradesFirst sent it out to a much larger group.

The school originally thought the dismissal email went to the entire 23,500-member student body but further investigation revealed that about 7,700 students received the notice.

"They apparently caught it as it was happening," Kraft said.


"As a result of your Winter 2012 academic performance, you have been dismissed from Eastern Michigan University," the original Friday email states. "Any enrollment for upcoming terms will be cancelled and you will be ineligible to register for classes."

EMU sent its entire student body —including the rightfully dismissed students— multiple apology and clarification emails on Friday and Saturday, including one from university President Susan Martin, who called the dismissal emails "a terrible mistake" that caused "undue alarm and concern."

The 133 rightly dismissed students were sent additional emails and hard-copy letters confirming their dismissal.

EMU currently has a $15,000-per-year contract with the Alabama-based company.

"Their role is to help us get out communications like this and help us manage the list of people who would receive messages about their academic standing," said Kraft, who added: "They contacted us fairy early as this was happening on Friday and apologized."

EMU spokesman Geoff Larcom said it's "still to be determined" whether the school will continue its relationship with GradesFirst.

"We're discussing and evaluating the entire process and how it could be improved in order that nothing would happen again," Kraft said. EMU has fielded dozens of complaints and inquiries from students and parents "with questions about what happened and just trying to find out if it was indeed accurate," he added.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Susan_Martin.JPG

EMU President Susan Martin

"It was devastating," said EMU sophomore Desmond Miller, vice president of the college's student government. "Our emails were just flooded with students concerns, their questions. It was really a hectic day once that happened."

John Vergo was one of many individuals affected by the misfire who posted on EMU's Facebook page afterward.

"My girlfriend had gotten this email and was crying uncontrollably for 2 hours. We couldn't get a hold of anybody and she was in terrible pain," he wrote. "We take our education very seriously and it was a great relief to get this email from the president."

Added EMU student Renee Walton: "I don't think it is really that serious. I am an Honors College student and received the email. I knew it was an error as I know my standing."

Miller said many of the students he spoke with that received the email were "actually on the Dean's List."

"It truly was a glitch in the system," he added. "It's terrible that it happened but it did happen and we were able to reassure students that it was a mistake."

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



Wed, May 9, 2012 : 1:52 p.m.

I hope the President receives his dismissal notice! The sooner the better!


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 11:14 a.m.

Just wondering....133 students were academically dismissed at the end of winter term, correct? That couldn't be handled internally? really? You are paying $15,000 annually for someone to send out a couple hundred emails for the whole year? Obviously the list of failing students came from your own internal system, not the vendor's system. So how hard is it to send out 133 emails? Holy smokes. Please let me know when this gets bid. I'd be glad to send out 133 emails twice per year for $15,000.

Rob Pollard

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

I had never heard of this company either (and their website either is down or I can't get it to load) but a quick Google search shows a lot of universities/colleges use this service as a web-based system for handling all sorts of things related to student retention - from scheduling tutoring appointments to publishing progress reports. Schools big (like OSU, and small ( use it. In short, it seems reasonable to pay for this software, b/c it involves potentially every student (i.e., not just 133) who might need assistance. Still, a thorough explanation needs to be forthcoming for how this happened. There should be double/triple-checks on sending this type of "dismissal" email.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 1:33 p.m.

I'd have to imagine the system does more than generate a mass email to failing students. If not, it's just another example of the public sectors gross overspending while crying they need more funding from taxpayers.

Matt M

Wed, May 9, 2012 : 10:27 a.m.

Ah yes, well this is a good opportunity for commenters to bash privatization, the millennial generation, sub contracting, Alabama, and ECU's karma. Great job everyone!


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

Educational institutions have outsourced a lot of data-related functions to private companies. The belief is that those companies will provide the same, if not better service at a lower cost. This incident is a reminder that there are often drawbacks to such privatization; my friends who work in education know of many others.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 11:15 a.m.

Come on, Matt. At least we didn't bash each other! :-)


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 5:13 a.m.

Oh, poor poor EMU ... ever heard of karma? This is what happens when you spend years and years screwing over faculty, staff and students. "some sort of operational issue" ... YA THINK?


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

Do you need more proof the millennial generation is self-absorbed, insecure, and not ready for prime time? ""My girlfriend had gotten this email and was crying uncontrollably for 2 hours. We couldn't get a hold of anybody and she was in terrible pain," he wrote. A few hours of false anxiety and it was if their lives were crushed. I read similar posts on Facebook about how students needed to go through a "healing" process after this tragic event. You would think these students just went through the Dexter tornado or something similar. I fear for the future if the students (who were on sound academic standing) think this is a big deal... it was a mistake. Good gosh, grow up.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Since you asked, I am always around kids of that age - but so what! these are college students - aged 18 and up ---- adults I think of the paradox of kids the same age, going to Iraq and Afghanistan and showing incrrebile bravery - and then I think of these kids, whining and crying because their feelings were hurt - and the paradox concerns me


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 10:44 a.m.

I think you have never met an 18 year old girl. Ever.


Wed, May 9, 2012 : 2:02 a.m.

Sub-contracting strikes again. Keep the jobs at EMU and do things right.

Wolf's Bane

Tue, May 8, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

Alabama-based company? You get what you pay for. Free Bird.


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 9:44 p.m.

Privitization always improves results, right?


Tue, May 8, 2012 : 11:48 p.m.

Oops, make that privatization. I outsourced the typing of my comment to an Alabama company.