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Posted on Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 6:45 a.m.

Susan Martin and EMU's regents: Questions remain about future relationship

By Staff

Eastern Michigan University President Susan Martin will seek counseling and also make an $8,764 contribution toward alcohol awareness efforts on campus.

Both are specific outcomes following disclosure last week that Martin was reprimanded by EMU’s Board of Regents in May. The reprimand came in the form of a letter that told Martin she faced firing if she is involved in “inappropriate” incidents involving consumption of alcohol. The letter cited a specific argument from April and cited “prior incidents,” and asked Martin to receive counseling.

Martin responded by denying that she had a drinking problem in a letter dated July 6 and in interviews afterward, then disclosed her plans for counseling and the donation.

This is a situation that remains unresolved. However, as the community, EMU officials and Martin continue to weigh the circumstances, here are some of our considerations:

  • Martin did the right thing by saying she’d seek counseling. Taking that step removes that as a point of contention between her and regents.
  • The letter of reprimand seems like a surprising and aggressive step from regents, who have supported Martin in her official evaluations.
  • We’re troubled by the six-week lapse between the letter and Martin’s response, and we’re concerned about the tenor of their relationship during that time.
  • EMU has suffered - in image and leadership - from the public firings of two previous presidents. The community may need to consider whether leadership from regents is both sufficient and effective, given their previous oversight of presidents and their approach to Martin in this circumstance.
  • Martin’s accomplishments at EMU and future growth at the university can only be sustained if she and regents are able to resolve this situation - and move forward in a collaborative and respectful way.
EMU deserves strong leadership from both its regents and its president, as it fills a vital role in this community and as a state institution of higher education. If this situation signals deeper concerns on either side, now is the time to openly and honestly bring them forward.


Brett Petersmark

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

It is interesting how a heated discussion with an alumni who had accepted her apology afterwords was brought out in public. Dr. Sue Martin has been one of the best Presidents for Eastern Michigan University!! She truely cares about the students and her faculty. She has been able to guide this university through an unbelievable difficult economy. Continue to improve the campus and be actively involved with the athletic dept and alumni. The politics of one Regent that will remain unamed has made internal issues public for their own posturing. Dr. Sue Martin is a good person who does the right thing and apologizes if she makes a mistake. Her issue at Grand Valley was brought up even before she was hired so the only reason now that it is made pubilc is for some other agenda. I like that this President who continuely goes out to meet the alumni and wants to hear ideas of how to improve Eastern Michigan has passion. Some are great ideas and others just ideas. She has made hard decisions during her tenure that effect many people. Isn't that what we want from our leaders? I find it extemely dissappointing to watch the politicing going on from one angry Regent at the expense of a GOOD Person. She continues to work hard to make improvements to the University, reach out to alumni to become more involved and is active with the students and faculty. All this over a disagreement with an alumni , who accepted her apology, and a bad decision in her past that she was forthcoming well before she was hired. This was a matter that should have been discussed and handle internally especially since the alumni accepted her apology. It makes me wonder how an incedent in California would get the attention of the Free Press and Ann Arbor news. Maybe someone with a relationship to the paper could have leaked the issue? Maybe not? Politics at its worst!!!!!


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 3:28 p.m.

I'm familiar with the board members and the long history of urban legends regarding the EMU board. This kind of baloney has been whispered and insinuated for decades with different board members being the blamed one. I think the "politics" of this issue is in your mind. If you love this lady, then you should jump on the bandwagon to help her. Her drinking issues were mentioned to her previously and they continue. Whether anyone "forgives" her is NOT the issue. Her employer had talked to her about drinking before and now has to do so again. Alcoholics are the most charming people alive. Thus the enabling by so many....."She's a great lady, leave her alone", "He's a fun guy back off of him" etc. Well meaning people can enable someone right to the grave. This is all involving employment law...and how the employer communicates problems to the employee and how that employee accepts the communication. Support her by giving her the tough love she needs right now...stop drinking, maam and all will be fine. If you can't stop, you need help.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:46 p.m.

Why not simply name the Regent in question? If all this trouble has been caused by one individual, why not expose them, move the focus of attention away from Dr. Martin, and shine a little light on the real cancer in the organization? Name the name, for pete's sake.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 10:57 a.m.

Time for one of our favorite leaders of the original Ann Arbor News to fire up the damage control machine. Where are you Geoff when we need you?

Elmer White

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:24 a.m.

A four-figured severance would be more within the parameters of principled results.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 1:27 a.m.

By the time everything is said and done, Martin will resign with a seven figure settlement.

Wake Up A2

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 8:24 p.m.

Can the drunk...... She was caught driving under the influence once, she says she has no problem (most alcoholics say this), she really is not sorry for running EMU's name in the mud for her actions..... Say Goodbye and get someone who remembers enough about what the title means.... i.e. Stop drinking when you represent an institution of this nature.

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

"she says she has no problem (most alcoholics say this)" People who don't have a drinking problem also say this. (Fallacy of affirming the consequence.)


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

TMC, she has said time and again (even in the radio interview w/Paul Smith) she doesn't have a drinking problem, so ASA doesn't apply. Regardless, she admitted her "sharp and angry response" was "unpresidential" and "inappropriate." With this in mind, please tell me again why it was so wrong for the Board of Regents to put a formal reprimand in her personnel file?


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 4:35 p.m.

Wrongo-Dongo-CaptainA2Citizen-Stupid. I love it when ignorant people comment. "In this Guidance, the EEOC takes the position that the restrictions on medical inquiries and the confidentiality obligations apply to "all employees, not just those with disabilities". This position is supported by the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits, but is contrary to the position of the Fifth Circuit. Compare Griffin v. Steeltek, 160 F.3d 591 (10th Cir. 1998); Fredenburg v. County of Contra Costa, 172 F. 3d 1176 (9th Cir. 1999); and Cossette v. Minnesota Power and Light, 1888 F. 3d 964 (8th Cir. 1999) with Armstrong v. Turner Industries, Inc., 141 F. 3d 554 (5th Cir. 1998). The Third Circuit recently declined to rule on the issue. Tice v. Centre Area Transportation Authority, 245 F. 3d 506 (3d Cir. April 23, 2001)." Keep embarrassing yourself.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 1:12 a.m.

They cited her alleged behavior/problem, not alcoholism. They were very careful in doing this. Had they directly called her an alcoholic, the information would have been redacted before it could be released.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 9:02 p.m.

Why do you insist martin has a disability? She has not claimed a disability and has denied publicly that she has a substance abuse problem. Was martin's drunk driving arrest a private matter? Was her outburst with Ferens in front of two other people at an alumni gathering a private matter? The argument MAY have been private but the minute she responded on her EMU-supplied Blackberry from her EMU-provided email address the affair entered the public domain. If you disagree maybe you should contact Kwame Kilpatrick and offer him your legal advice. The EMU regents haven't made martin's alcohol "abuse" (your word, not mine and not the EMU regents either) public. Her use of alcohol WAS public. Also, why do you insist on characterizing martin's "use" of alcohol as "abuse"? The EMU regents did not use that word. Do you know something I don't? Do you know something the EMU regents don't? Enquiring minds want to know.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

I clearly remember being at the dedication of the "new" football stadium back in the late 1960's and President Sponberg (sp?) was so drunk giving the dedication speech that it was ridiculous. And THAT was in front of the entire stadium--just sayin'


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

PS: I would also suggest that the EMU Regents violated The American With Disabilities (ADA) by making Martin ALLEGED Alcohol Abuse, public. Not much doubt and good luck on that one!


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

Martin is probably not covered by the ADA, "yet". In order for her to be covered by the ADA she has to be diagnosed as an alcoholic. Has that happened? "The ADA also covers past history of alcoholism and drug abuse if the person is no longer currently using illegal substances. Alcoholism is covered as a disability if a person is still abusing alcohol, although it does not prohibit an employer from taking disciplinary action for unsatisfactory performance or failure to comply with company policy."


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Wrong Gregster. The Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) was submitted to EMU. EMU instead of refusing (which they have the right to do and then requires a judges' order) released the letter by the Regents. What was Martin with her rights violated under ADA and subject to public ridicule (like you) supoosed to do? Count on the likes of Paula Gradner? ROTFLMAO! I'd love to be her attorney right now. For the lousy $300K she's making in that EMU culture -- she's better off commencing legal action.

greg, too

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:09 p.m.

She made it public. She released everything. Technically, this s$%storm was created by her...and I must admit, I cannot understand why. She is the one who has been dragging her own name through the mud for no real reason outside of waging a little war against the BOR. I personally think the EMU BOR have proven to be buffoons in the past, but this move by Martin is illogical. In her attempt to protect herself, she has dragged the university's already sullied name back out in the negative press. Last time I checked, it was her job to make the university look better, not worse.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:53 p.m.

I have no idea if Susan Martin has a drinking problem or to what extent. But I know that history suggests Winston Churchill and Ulysses S. Grant did. I wonder where we'd be today as a country and world if they had been dismissed by a committee of two bit politicians.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:36 a.m.

@ JCP so what? this issue is not about drunk driving, despite your attempts to hijack the yopic to push your agenda

Unusual Suspect

Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 2:04 a.m.

"But I know that history suggests Winston Churchill ... did. I wonder where we'd be today as a country and world if [he] had been dismissed ... " We'd be speaking German right now.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 8:12 p.m.

Craig: 1. She had a DUI 2. her current employer talked to her about her drinking previously (other incidents). We do not know about her previous employers. 3. she then has another incident involving drinking while on employer paid business. As an employer that's all I would need to know to be aware she has a drinking problem because it is impacting her job. If someone has a drinking problem I would not guarantee that they wont' drive drunk.....why, would you? It's a ticking time bomb.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 7:23 p.m.

@ Craig Lounsbury- The history is certainly out there; I'm not certain of the 'analysis' you provided but I'm not entirely confident that the preponderance of historians would credit you with much for what you initially added. @ Arborcomment - Valid points indeed.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

Off topic Navy, but you ignore Grant's efforts for maintaining franchise in the south after the civil war when he was President. Was it for party strength? Sure, but the goal justifies the means. Unlike one of the pillars of the democratic party: Wilson, who soon after (in historical terms) SEGREGATED the entire federal workforce. And the roster of capable generals in the north was pretty slim as evidenced by a "little war" dragging out way beyond what was expected. Just a couple of points; and GO ARMY!

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

jcj, I'm a bit confused on your stance. Are you suggesting a one strike and your out policy with all DUI's? If you get a DUI you should not hold a job ever again? Seriously, she had a single DUI in 2005 that I am aware of, are you aware of a second? Is that enough to ban you from employment in your mind? Cash, I ask you the same since you brought up fatal car crashes. Are you aware that she continuous to drive drunk? GoNavy, suffice to say you and I will disagree on whether Churchill and Grant had any relevance in history. I will suggest that my stance has more support by historians than yours does.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 5:06 p.m.

Honestly, if you know much about history, it would be hard to characterize U.S. Grant as a "great man." He was a middling soldier before first leaving the Army to build furniture; when he returned he followed a long line of generals who had essentially done little to nothing. U.S. Grant was not a tactician as a soldier - he was best known for not being thrown off by casualties (which, under his command, might even have been characterized as "excessive.") What U.S. Grant did NOT do was win the war for the North - that was accomplished through sheer force of arms and industrialization. It should be noted that the presidency of U.S. Grant was characterized as one of the "most corrupt" in all of U.S. history. He died penniless, but his legacy was saved by what appeared to have been a very well-received publishing of his memoirs. However, as you stated, history doesn't merely "suggest" U.S. Grant had an alcohol problem; the record is complete with descriptions of his drinking - brought about largely by boredom - especially during the drawn-out Vicksburg campaign. I'm not even going to speculate about Winston Churchill, but let us say that the U.K. prevailed (i.e wasn't defeated) during the 2nd World War due as much to the fact that it's on an island, as it was due to the efforts of Mr. Churchill. In the end, a large percentage of the world drinks - but I wouldn't characterize your examples as "great people" who happened to have been alcoholics as well.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Craig, no one disputes an alcoholic can be brilliant and personable and among the most likable people you'll ever know. All the more reason to save them from an early death by the usual alcohol related diseases, or save them from prison from a fatal accident. It's pretty clear there are a lot of enablers out there....Enabling people right to the grave.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

In 2010, 10,228 people were killed and approximately 350,000 were injured by drunk drivers according to MADD. If there had not been intervention and convictions in many of these cases, they could have gone on to commit more of these laudable accomplishments. If only these individuals had been "dismissed by a committee "of panty waists do gooders!


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

They should all sit down and work this through over a few drinks.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

Beer comes to mind...


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

The fact that we are talking about this means that she is now worthless as a leader! She should leave like Nixon did, or Newt did or Dick Armey did. Oh wait those were Republicans! She should stay and become president of a bigger University since she is a Progressive! how about a pay raise from EMU also!

Basic Bob

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

Please, she just had an argument over a former mascot. Losing your temper and raising your voice should not be scandalous. Some people get irate and make ridiculous and sarcastic comments without the benefit of alcohol. At this point, her effectiveness is dependent on her personal behavior. Whether or not she believes she has a drinking problem, she must demonstrate that her behavior does not impact her work and her relationships with the community.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

Out of curiosity, how many editorials* have been published in 2012? I'm asking because I can't remember very many, so am wondering what has made this subject rise to the level of something your editorial board felt was important to write about. I can't help but feel that this is less of an editorial and more of a defense of your heavy coverage of the subject, which has drawn great fire from readers. * By editorial I mean the byline is " staff," not ones written by specific people such as Tony Dearing.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 1:40 a.m.

I thought it was standard for an editorial from a paper, even if it has a lead writer, to be presented as coming from the paper as a whole or from the editorial board. In looking back at some opinions that were presented under Tony's byline, I noticed that a sentence saying they represented the views of the editorial board was presented, but only at the bottom of the piece where it was less noticeable. That those pieces had Tony's byline - including his photo - gave the impression they were from him, not the board.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

'Sorry, by "we" I meant that published weekly editorials. Tony wrote them, but that was with input from the editorial board, etc. This fills the same role in that it represents's voice, as opposed to something like a guest opinion column, which would be written by a staff member or member of the community, but is presented as a single person's opinion. I believe that posting an editorial under an individual's byline can compound confusion over this. But let me know what you think.' Ok, let me get this straight. There is no longer an editorial board (nor Tony)? So now editorial opinions aren't's just one person's? Anyone? A particular person? And no review of any type? NONE? Not even Laurel's? Just wondering.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 7:05 p.m.

Tony's gone? When did that happen and was there something, Paula?

Paula Gardner

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

Sorry, by "we" I meant that published weekly editorials. Tony wrote them, but that was with input from the editorial board, etc. This fills the same role in that it represents's voice, as opposed to something like a guest opinion column, which would be written by a staff member or member of the community, but is presented as a single person's opinion. I believe that posting an editorial under an individual's byline can compound confusion over this. But let me know what you think.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

I'm confused. If prior editorials were written by a group, why were they published under one person's byline?

Paula Gardner

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

We write weekly editorials - and did for the early part of the year under Tony's byline. Now that he's gone, I expect to publish them under "staff" as they become more of a staff collaboration among some newsroom managers and myself.

Chase Ingersoll

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:51 p.m.

What are the likely personal connections between Martin and the EMU Regents that resulted in her receiving the position in the first place, despite the report of her guilty plea to a campus DWI? I just can't imagine that there were not other, perfectly capable candidates for the position whose application did not have this big red flag.


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:34 a.m.

so if a person gets a DUI, they should not have a career? and Martin had to get the job cause she had "connections?" just cause you throw out empty allegations does not make them valid or worthy of responses

Paula Gardner

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

@Cash - Thank you for your thoughtful response. @jcj - You didn't have to wait long. @TMC216 - If you ever want to offer direct feedback to (with or without name-calling; we've heard it all), you can reach me at


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 1:04 a.m.

Paula, I must say again - They made a great decision in promoting you. Your responses to these articles bring an important logical and human perspective. I believe you recognize how the very nature of journalism can bring strong, emotional responses from people and the fact that you are offering to talk to people is amazing. Keep up the good work :-)

Peg Porter

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

I think further investigation is warranted. Who oversees the overseers? The Regents are appointed by the Governor but the Legislature appropriates the money. Should the Attorney General's Office get involved?


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 7:08 p.m.

The EMU regents have quite an incredible record of incompetence but I don't remember much critical from - am I mistaken? Could you link me to prior editorials critical of their decisions (prior Presidents, the unreported rape, etc.?)? I guess I might have missed them. Tony's gone? How about Laurel?

Paula Gardner

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

@TMC216 - If you prefer to be anonymously sarcastic, that's something we let readers do (within guidelines). If you want to engage on a more thoughtful level, you have that opportunity, too. When you're banned, we'll let you know.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

Paula, There is one thing that you haven't heard.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

TMC, All of the information about this was FOIA'ed by Detroit media, not announced by EMU's governing board.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

Cash, the EMU Regents have done another disservice to an employee and to the faculty, and students & staff of EMU. Even "Darth Vader" of U of M (David Brandon) would have "handled this matter internally" & that would have passed muster to any third party review. All that's been accomplished is exbarrassing EMU, yet again. Paula, why would I contact you via e-mail when I can point out your all too numerous shortcomings here? Are we all to understand your opinion is the written one without review with anyone with more than a 30 IQ and 6 months job experience?! I have no doubt you've "heard it all" perhaps because you're so poor at your position and written "editorials"? Thank God I don't pay for your newspaper. Shame on you. PS: Will this get me banned?


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

Paula, thanks for the thoughtful editorial!


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

Excuse me? More chirping from the Peanut Gallery know as the Editorial Board of Martin has provided everything and more in terms of leadership & stability to EMU. While the Peanut Gallary focuses on the obvious, I'd be thrilled if the 15th, 22nd Circuit Courts or the Federal Courts responded to legal motions within 6 weeks. A Letter of Reprimand protects the Regents' rear ends and hardly to be taken seriously. And we all know how good the EMU Regents have been in the past? Finally the Peanut Gallery should be subject to a weekly "whiz quiz" judging by this poor editorial.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 1:05 p.m.

Don't we all think we are anything and everything to our employer? People who hold us accountable? You pay. She made the choice to do what she did in 2005 and then tried to use her position as power to get out of it. I have zero respect for her. I highly doubt she would tolerate that behavior from anyone else.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:34 p.m.

TMC216, It's great that you think the prez has provided leadership and stability. The letter protects the EMPLOYER, that is the state institution, Eastern Michigan University. As a taxpayer, do you NOT think that is wise? Holy smokes. Really brilliant, social people can have a drinking problem. Ever hear the old adage "Alcoholics are the most charming people in the world"? People with drinking problems can be wonderful folks. So to say she is a good leader to you, isn't saying you know she doesn't have a drinking problem, is it? So let the employer do his/her job. And let the chips fall where they may.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

Let those that would sweep this under the rug begin!


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 11:42 a.m.

One thing not considered in this article is the liability issue that the board may have been considering by issuing the reprimand. Be sure that attorneys wrote the letter. By issuing the reprimand and offering solutions, the board is trying to protect the university against any future liability. Suppose the president drove drunk and killed someone and the board, after receiving reports of her drinking, had done nothing. I think this is a legal issue and they were wise to issue the letter. The board put the burden on her to get help. In one way it makes me think of the Sandusky this case the board stepped up and spoke. In this way they took the burden off of the employer and put it directly on the employee.....fix it or else. As to the release of the information, EMU is kind of like a sieve when it comes to information. If something is rotten at the top, it will come out as opposed to many universities where it stays buried. That is one of things I've always liked about EMU....injustice or attempted cover-ups never sits well there....and someone will talk. All institutions have problems at the top at times. People say that EMU has had so many problems at the top.....however, remember that there troubles have become PUBLIC as opposed to covered up and buried. Lastly people who feel Ms Martin was wronged need to think about the result of NO action. If the pattern observed by her employer was one of alcohol abuse, and an accident happened resulting in death, would we not all be furious to read that the board had been aware of the issue and had not acted at all? As for the future, I do think Ms Martin would have been wise to say something like "I do not think I have a drinking problem. As I realize that our governing board is protecting the institution we all love, I have quit drinking alcohol to put this behind us and to move our great institution forward."


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 4:32 a.m.

This was an over reaction for all the reasons you stated sure, the board should have taken some action - not an over reaction but that does not change the board made this bigger than it had to be Finally, because it is 2012 and our society is now hyper senstive to small things that in years past would not have bothered us as much, this is a bigger news story than it needed to be... social media (and comment pages) five regular joes a voice on anything and everything ... and that is not always the best thing for editors when they need to make news judgements


Mon, Jul 16, 2012 : 12:58 a.m.

She shouldn't have denied having a drinking problem period. Humility would have served her better; but considering what I read about her interactions with police in 2005 (which was presumably recorded in dash-cam), she lacks that ability; another trait of having a substance problem.


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Very thoughtful comments. President Martin's future is not certain due to all of this publicity. She has recvied a lot of unscientific support through the various comments through My opinion has been out there but for now, I will just see what happens in time and hope it works out for the best. (I would have had a similar view if this were U of M and Mary Sue Coleman-just to be consistent)


Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

Craig, I'll get attacked for this but.....a strong union environment helps make employees feel more free to blow the whistle without repercussions. That's my experience anyhow.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Jul 15, 2012 : 12:15 p.m.

well said Cash. Your thoughts on EMU "unable" (unwilling?) to keep dirty secrets is one I had not considered. While seeming to make them look "bad" on the surface one can make the case that it makes them more open.