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Posted on Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

EMU regents expected to extend President Susan Martin's contract

By Kellie Woodhouse


Susan Martin's existing employment contract expires in July.

Angela J. Cesere | file photo

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin's contract is expiring in July and the Board of Regents is poised to extend it— possibly even as early as the board's public meeting Tuesday.

While Martin and the eight-member board have at times had strained relations during her five-year tenure —the board in May reprimanded her for an argument she had with an alumnus and has told her to improve communications with regents— board chair Francine Parker says the governing body has confidence in Martin.

"The board is 100 percent behind Susan Martin. Each and every one of us," Parker said.

The board is looking to discuss Martin's contract Tuesday, but the vote may be delayed. Martin's contract is expected to be renewed, multiple sources confirmed.

Many on EMU's Ypsilanti campus credit Martin for bringing stability to the school, which has had two presidents resign in the last decade, one for his part in the cover-up of a student murder on campus and the other for overspending on the president's house.

Martin has been praised as a visible leader. She's won the respect of alumni, in part for reintegrating EMU's former Huron mascot, and helped the school reach record fundraising levels in 2012. Martin's accessibility isn't limited to stunts like rappelling off a building alongside ROTC students; student government President R. Matthew Norfleet says when he calls her office, he often gets an appointment by the next day.


Susan Martin rappelled down a building in October 2011.

Melanie Maxwell I

Under Martin's guidance, undergraduate enrollment has increased by 9.5 percent since fall 2008, with one of the largest freshman classes in college history matriculating last fall. Dorms are fuller than they've been in a decade. EMU's largest classroom building and its science complex have seen multimillion dollar renovations. In 2010 Martin froze tuition rates. The school dipped into reserves by $2 million in fiscal 2012, but is on track for a balanced budget this year.

"I have been here since 2005. I've gone through three or four presidents, three or four provosts, a couple of scandals and it's only been in the last several years, under the leadership of Susan Martin, that things have stabilized enough and the college has moved forward in a positive direction," said Perry Francis, a counseling professor and vice president of the faculty senate at EMU.

"That's not to say that the president hasn't had her moments that I'm sure she'd rather forget," he said, "but show me any leaders who haven't had moments they'd like to forget."

Francis praised Martin's ability to relate to alumni, manage the school's budget during difficult economic times and create a leadership team. Since Martin began leading the school, state funding for EMU has dropped from $78.6 million to $66.5 million.

Since 2008 Martin has hired a new provost, general counsel, head of of government relations, chief fundraiser and vice president of communications. She also hired Robert Heighes as EMU police chief after former chief Greg O'Dell's death.

Norfleet said Martin is respected by students and cognizant of their needs.

Faculty union president Howard Bunsis, a business professor at EMU, declined to comment for this article, saying "it's a board of regents decision."

EMU figures

  • 18,927 undergraduates enrolled in fall 2012
  • 4,620 graduates enrolled in fall 2012
  • 3,531 freshmen enrolled in fall 2012
  • Average undergraduate is about 24 years old
  • 88 percent of students are from Michigan
  • 3,761 students living on campus
  • Average faculty salary is $77,900
  • $290.6 million 2012 budget
  • $66.5 in 2012 state appropriations
  • $11.5 million raised in fiscal 2012, $2 million over goal
  • 37.2 percent six-year graduation rate
  • 12.9 percent four-year graduation rate

EMU settled three union contracts last summer, including a contract with faculty. While negotiations were at times tense —in July a plane circled over the Ypsilanti campus carrying a banner proclaiming "President Martin unfair to clericals”— the board praised Martin and her bargaining team, calling the agreements a notable achievement. Another 4-year contract with lecturers was settled this winter.

Martin declined to be interviewed prior to Tuesday's board meeting.

While Parker says the board is supportive of Martin, the governing body took one unusual step regarding Martin's performance.

In May 2012 the Board of Regent's executive committee placed a letter in Martin's personnel file reprimanding her for an argument at a bar with an alumnus and mentioning previous incidents relating to alcohol. They threatened to fire her if there was ever another incident.

Martin has been told to better consult the hands-on board more often when making decisions. In Martin's early reviews, board members were frustrated by a perceived lack of communication. By the 2010-11 year, such issues seemed to be lessening as Martin began to send the regents weekly updates. But by October 2012 the board, in a review, characterized Martin's communication with regents as "inconsistent."

In the October review the board chided Martin for failing to complete a strategic review of the school on time and not reviewing certain university functions seen as flawed. The review also instructed Martin to develop a collegial environment among her executive staff and told her to complete evaluations for her staff, which she did not do one year and was late completing another year. The board pushed for her to improve EMU's stagnant four-year graduation rate, which is 12.9 percent.

Martin earns nearly $310,000 under her existing contract, which expires on July 7. Martin's contract originally expired in July 2011 but was extended in December 2010 for two years.

She is eligible for a $10,000 performance bonus in July, to be awarded at the discretion of the board.

If Martin's contract is renewed, she'll have to guide EMU through an increasingly complex higher education environment.

The board is looking at her to grow the school's graduate programs and strengthen its graduation rates. To do that, the school must continue to streamline its academic advising and widen its outreach. Faculty leaders, including Bunsis, are calling on EMU to increase the number of tenure-track faculty that teach at the college. Colleges nationally are looking at how they can leverage online education.

With an uncertain future for public higher education funding, EMU will try to continue to grow its endowment, which now sits at about $51 million. Martin and the board must strike a delicate balance with tuition increases, as state lawmakers are setting caps on the amount schools can raise their tuition and receive full funding. Martin would also be tasked with implementing a strategic plan that has taken years to develop.

While Martin wouldn't speak for this story, she did tell in a recent interview that the job of leading EMU is rewarding.

"It's the most challenging job of my life," Martin said. "...No one can describe the job. It changes every day. It's been the most meaningful and rewarding job. Eastern had a lot of challenges when I came and we've accomplished so much."

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



Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

I'll drink to that! Cheers!

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:06 a.m.

I hear Patricia Green is available.

Wake Up A2

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 11:47 p.m.

I'll send her a bottle of Dom on a job well done.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 9:27 p.m.

I have very little connection to Eastern, but this president has much better communication skills and her focus is on the student body and their experience. And, she's a bargain compared to the AAPS superintendent debacle.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

The graduation rate issue is easily solved if you don't want to admit transfer students or part timers. Over half the students, out of a total of 5,000+, where transfers for EMU's fall semester. A high percentage of transfer and part time students drags down the four year graduation rate. Even if they do complete a post secondary education in four years the state does not allow them to be counted at the college they receive their degree from. All of this assumes that in the future there will be an abundant supply of freshman who are "first time in any college." This will not continue since there will be 20,000 fewer high school graduates in Michigan by about 2020. Since no one has devised a plan to track transfers and part time students, and the state doesn't care, graduation rates at some institutions will seem absurdly low through no fault of their own.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

EMU's Regents are pretty terrible at picking presidents. - Agree with that 100%. The Regents can't seem to realize that they are running themselves out of the business. Keep Martin around, and we won't have to worry about that. Does funding have to drop another 12 million for people to realize this? As for her "accomplishments", the sun shines on the dogs ass every once and a while, right?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 11:03 p.m.

Rimshot, you took the words right out of my big mouth! "Marty" clearly is holding a grudge against President Martin, so let's get right to it and present some reasoned arguments as to why she is so bad.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 10:21 p.m.

Marty, it's apparent you don't know how funding is allocated by the State. You obviously have a beef with Sue Martin - just come out and tell us why, rather than embarrassing yourself by pretending you know anything about how colleges work.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 6:55 p.m.

EMU's graduation rate has always been a challenge. I am one who believes its kind of cool to be a gateway college - one for non-traditional students and first generation college students. However, the graduation rate is too low. It is probably time to take fewer students with higher entry requirements and adjust accordingly. At the same time, I do have to ask what the grad rate is if measured without the time limit. I agree EMU needs to seriously think about how much their sports teams cost with an eye to dumping Div 1. I also think there is room to simplify everything especially departmental reporting structures. More isn't always better. Dr. Martin has been a fabulous improvement over a very low standard set by previous presidents. I think EMU will continue to improve with her at the helm. Moreover, the main thing I have learned with this latest cycle of presidents is that EMU's Regents are pretty terrible at picking presidents. So the less often they do that the better.


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 10:34 a.m.

I am an alumni who knows the student body. I get that the 'rate' is calculated given a time limit. However, I also know that non-traditional students taking a class or 3 at at time take, often, longer than 6 years to graduate.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:53 p.m.

It appears you know nothing about how graduation rates are calculated.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 6:12 p.m.

The graduation rate is low due to the awful professors that have been hired by this woman. Murder is a statistical category again on the crime report. Tuition is through the roof. her leadership is sorely lacking. EMU Athletics haven't improved in anything (other than the diving team, which remains top notch) Why are they retaining this woman? Plenty of other options out there


Mon, Apr 15, 2013 : 1:24 a.m.

Marty, here are some actual facts. Please see page 24 (29 if you count the intro pages). Please notice 2009-2011.....if you are really trying to make the connection between President Martin and crime statistics.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 11:01 p.m.

University Presidents do not hire professors, good ones or "awful" ones. Please get your facts straight.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

Marty, can you name one professor that Sue Martin has 'hired'? If so, do you care to share who the 'awful' ones are, and what metric you're using to judge them as awful? Also, what does Sue Martin have to do with a student death? How could she possibly prevented that? That is like blaming her because it didn't rain last summer.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

Awful professors? Murder/homicide is always on crime reports. Remember the 0 percent tuition increase. Only four MAC schools have swimming and diving so they compete against the likes of much smaller schools who are admitted to the conference for one sport only.

Silly Sally

Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

I wish that the regents would have her take the problem of plagiarism much more seriously, instead of turning a blind eye to it. Across town, UM has a much different attitude.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 9:17 p.m.

Sue Martin has nothing to do with enforcement of plagerism. If you want to report a student that you suspect of plagerism, you should contact the Student Conduct and Community Standards Office. They investigate allegations of violations of the Student Code of Conduct, and hold students accountable through appropriate sanctions/education. Yes, when it comes to conduct enforcement, UofM has a different approach, but do you know the difference?


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 3:50 p.m.

Good to hear, Kellie is there a chance you will be following up with anyone from EMU's administration to find out how they plan on achieving some of the goals listed in the article. Like many alumni I believe that President Martin has done a good job and provided some stability at EMU. The graudation rate is still an embarrassment, and I would say a top priority. The dirty little secret around EMU for years is that the admissions department knowingly admits students not yet capable of peforming University level work; thereby keeping enrollment up but keeping graduation rates down and saddling young people with student loan debt and no college degree. I think a follow-up piece is needed to see what EMU plans on doing to reach out to a more qualified group of high school graduates so that we aren't filling our classroooms with kids that have no intention of graduating.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

What a relief.


Sun, Apr 14, 2013 : 10:24 a.m.

It sounds like with Roy Wilbanks et al out of the picture, her reappointment is all but a sure thing. I hope EMU continues to evolve from a traditional 4-year college into an advanced, 4-year commuter school (but keep student housing). She would be wise to dump Divison-1 athletics and put that money to better use, like academics, personnel, and more infrastructure upgrades.