eastern michigan university president dr. susan martin on town/gown relations

A few weeks ago, the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents announced the appointment of Dr. Susan Martin as President. My friends on the faculty at EMU seem optimistic. Generally speaking, they feel that she’s the right person to have at the helm as the University tries to navigate away from the back-to-back scandals that brought down the last two administrations… So, I was optimistic when I set out to read this interview with Martin in the “Courier”. Here’s a clip. This is her response to the question, “How will you foster the University’s relationship with the broader Ypsilanti community?”

EMU and Ypsilanti need to be strong partners in creating a broader community beyond the campus that works together to ensure each other’s success and growth. Our partnership should be mutually beneficial. The College of Business business incubator project in downtown Ypsilanti is a great example. I look forward to hosting some community events at University house like perhaps an Easter egg event on the beautiful grounds of the house.

I’m not criticizing. Really, I’m not. I know it’s going to take a while for her to get to know the job, and really understand the University, the community, and the tumultuous history between the two. But it’s amazing to me that, when asked how the University and the community can better work together, the first thing to come to mind, after the incubator project, which was already begun, was “Easter egg hunt.”

While an Easter egg hunt on the grounds of the President’s house would be great, I suppose, I was hoping for something more. I was hoping for talk of programs incentivizing new faculty to purchase homes in Ypsi. Or, how about a promise to revisit the development policy that has all new EMU construction taking place on the far end of the campus, away from the City? Or, how about instituting a monthly breakfast meeting with key stakeholders in the community? There are any number of things that she could do that would improve the relationship, and thus both the City and the University. Hopefully she’ll realize that once she’s been here a while. (Maybe I’ll mention it to her while Clementine looks for Easter eggs.)

Ypsilanti doesn’t have to be a negative, holding the University back. It doesn’t have to be something that they hide from prospective students. I know it’s an outrageous thought, but Ypsi could be a selling point. There are tons of things that college-aged students would appreciate, from the Ugly Mug and bands at the Elbow Room to the Shadow Art Fair and the Dreamland Theater. My hope is that Dr. Martin recognizes this and really gets engaged. What the people of Ypsialnti really need isn’t an Easter egg hunt, but a dedicated partner who sees that our futures are intertwined. We need a partner that wants to be involved in the development of Water Street, the improvement of our public schools, and the betterment of our local economy. We need a President that fights to bring good, sustainable businesses to Ypsilanti, creating jobs for their students, and contributing to the economic vitality of our City. We need someone, in short, who gives a damn.

And I hope that Dr. Martin is that person.

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  1. Paw
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    An easter egg hunt is not what our city needs! It will not solve our problems. Our problems are too serious and too entrenched. What we desperately need is a leader with vision to propose a Halloween costume contest!

  2. Ol' E Cross
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I’d rather see and Easter Egg hunt that brought students off-campus than another event that brought community folk to EMU, which happens all the time. Hide the eggs in area businesses and backyards.

  3. frenchfries
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    One of the sororities already does a community service easter egg hunt. It was March 21 at Perry Elementary during something called “Skee-Phi Week”.


    Who knew?

  4. mark
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Steve posted something about this at EMU Talk too. You can find their conversation here.

  5. mark
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    I’m thinking that maybe it’s time for me to write another editorial for the “Ann Arbor News.”

  6. Andy C
    Posted June 3, 2008 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    I, and many others, ride our bikes through the Presidents grounds when riding between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor. It would be great if they’d move just one rock for bike accessibility. It seems like a small thing but when the other option is riding Washtenaw Ave, it’s not too much to ask for.

  7. Mark H.
    Posted June 5, 2008 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    I am behind on my MM.com reading, and just saw this, but hey, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with EMU sponsoring an Easter egg hunt, or talking about it. Indeed, as an EMU faculty member, I know that when the $6 million “University House” was first opened in 2004, this was one specific idea that was floated for how the house could be used for mutual town-gown benefit….and the powers that then ruled EMU said no way – what was in it for them? Indeed, that president who built the house and broke laws to do so, refused virtually every suggestion from community and campus groups for how the house should be used.

    So I commend Dr. Susan Martin for being willing to consider ideas for how the house can be used. I doubt she thinks an egg hunt would be a world- or town- or campus-changing event, but it could be a nice, right? And one that would cost little and not take effort away from other, bigger hopes or projects. For those who like that kind of thing, an Easter egg hunt may be lots of fun — we’re talking about children under age 12, mostly, i imagine, and not even all of them;; and as far as i know very few of Ypsi’s children visit the EMU campus for any reason.

    And Dr. Martin doesn’t become president until July 7. From the perspective of those who built University House, and who have largely run EMU for the last many decades, Dr. Martin, by proactively thinking of ways the town and the campus can cooperate, is thinking “outside the box.” The usual way of EMU administrators to do business with the town was to threaten and demand, and to hint of buying up property and taking it off the tax rolls if the town did not give EMU administrators whatever they wanted.

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