You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, May 16, 2012 : 6:22 a.m.

EMU suspends relationship with company that sent inaccurate email to thousands of students

By Kellie Woodhouse

Eastern Michigan University's academic affairs office has suspended its relationship with third-party communications provider GradesFirst and plans to revise its dismissal practices after thousands of students received unwarranted dismissal emails.


Kim Schatzel is reassessing Eastern Michigan University's relationship with GradesFirst.

Chris Asadian |

GradesFirst mistakenly sent more than 7,780 students dismissal notices May 4. The emails stated that due to poor academic standing the students were no longer welcome to register for EMU courses.

Only 133 students were supposed to have received the emails.

EMU pays GradesFirst, an Alabama-based software and communications company, $15,000 annually to handle communications about students' academic standing.

Although students were later emailed notifications that the dismissal notices were a mistake, the initial emails confused and aggravated many students who were unsure of their standing with the school.

"The snafu by GradesFirst should not have happened," EMU Provost Kim Schatzel wrote in a May 15 email to faculty, acknowledging that "the academic business services side of Eastern, including advising, degree audit, application management, is not where it should be from a process/technology perspective."

In an interview earlier this year, Schatzel told that she wanted to streamline the school's advising system and admitted that it has been a "concern for some of our students."

In her May 15 email Schatzel wrote that "effective immediately academic affairs will not use GradesFirst to communicate academic status to students" and that the school "is suspending the use of GradesFirst" alert systems "pending further review."

She explained that students will now be notified of their status by the registrar's office, "where it more typically resides in universities."

GradesFirst also works with the EMU athletic department to convey the academic standing of athletes to coaches and students. That existing relationship "will remain in place," according to EMU spokesperson Geoff Larcom. "That has worked well for the athletic department," Larcom said.

Additionally, Schatzel promised to "review all third-party software agreements/licenses to ensure full compliance with all university policies/procedures" and "assess if these third-party arrangements provide the best solutions in support of our students and our university."

EMU Director of Communications Walter Kraft told last week that the school was reassessing its dismissal methods but declined to say whether or not the school would continue using GradesFirst as a provider. He said the school fielded several complaints from students and parents regarding the false dismissal notices.

According to Schatzel other universities, including Ohio State University and Louisiana State University, use GradesFirst for communication services.

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


Turd Ferguson

Thu, May 17, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

So Im still good? I can go to school this Fall? Go Hurons!

Jimmy McNulty

Thu, May 17, 2012 : 11:37 a.m.

""The snafu by GradesFirst should not have happened," EMU Provost Kim Schatzel wrote" Well, it did happen. So what? If you're a poorly performing student, you knew this was coming. As a recipient of that email, I can say that I laughed when I read it. Move on, everybody.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

Isn't it fascinating how it's NEVER EMU's fault ... for anything? So, this is only being changed because of this latest debacle?

Ron Granger

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 10:38 p.m.

From the previous article: "EMU President Susan Martin said it's Schatzel's background as a manager in the business world, rather than academia, that led Martin to select her former U-M Dearborn colleague as Eastern's second-in-command." Apparently Martin and Schatzel didn't get the memo - you can't treat public University students like workers at an auto plant. Who would send an email like this out at 7pm on a friday? It is fortunate there were no personal tragedies as a result of it. I'm sure it was rough for some. When was the retraction mailed out? Who within the University made the decision to depart from normal University practice and switch to email? Someone should be fired.

Turd Ferguson

Thu, May 17, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

@Geoff, There were MULTIPLE apologies sent out. There were at least 3.

Geoff Larcom

Thu, May 17, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

Ron: The registrar of the University sent out an email to all students early that evening, shortly after the problem was discovered, apologizing and telling all to disregard the mistaken email. The President followed with an all campus message at 9:52 p.m. that night.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

Another snafu by a school contractor? The Ann Arbor schools tried to hire an outside janitor contracting co. and a 14 year old girl was raped because of it. The schools need to just count on themselves if they need the job done right. This saving and cutting corners is obviously not working, and why did they try to fix it if it was not broken to begin with. These republican idiots who are really trying to end edu anyway, aren't going to show support.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 4 p.m.

With the tight budget constraints, why would EMU pay $15,000 to send emails? Why not do it in house and save $15,000? This is just another way EMU errors in its financial situation.

tom swift jr.

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

actually the error here is that the word is "errs".. a bit of irony, eh?

dading dont delete me bro

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

"EMU pays GradesFirst, an Alabama-based software and communications company, $15,000 annually to handle communications about students' academic standing." how hard is it to generate a report and send out appropriate emails? i'd be happy to apply.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

My EMU student also received this email on Friday night ~ 5:50 PM. She knew immediately it was a mistake, too, based on her GPA. She wasn't worried, and she was surprised at how many students made such a big deal about it on social media websites. I'm glad EMU sent several emails to students to explain the mistake. BTW, Blazingly Busy, the email contained the following sentences: "Your formal written notice will be mailed to your home address that we have on file in the student system. If you want to begin an appeal process prior to receipt of your letter, you can read the instructions at the following link and begin preparing your appeal."

Blazingly Busy

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 8:57 p.m.

DNB, I did read the entire email. I apologize for not having the email right in front of me when I posted. I will do better in the future. When I said that they should be mailed, I meant they should not be emailed out at all. I am not comfortable with that type of communication being emailed. I am glad you EMU student was smart enough to know it was not her and condescending enough to bash others who were concerned.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 12:03 p.m.

I wonder if the $15,000 could be used towards a local person's salary to be responsible for this area of responsibility.


Wed, May 16, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

That would make too much sense.

Blazingly Busy

Wed, May 16, 2012 : 10:29 a.m.

I was one of the students that got this email. I KNEW I hadn't actually been dismissed. It was impossible with my grades. I also noticed in the email they were referring students back to the undergraduate catalog, and since I am a graduate student I felt that implied it couldn't mean me. Even with my rational mind telling me that it could NOT be me, it was still very uncomfortable to get the email. The email came around 7 pm on a Friday evening. A time where people would have had to wait until Monday morning to get it straightened out. Luckily EMU figured it out and issued press statements, explanation emails and apologies. The practice of notifying a student of such horrible news by email seems very impersonal to me. I think a letter sent through the US Postal Service is more appropriate. EMU handled the situation well.