EMU faculty unions push back against promotion of online enrollment

Posted at 6:21 PM, Dec 15, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-15 18:21:06-05

With the number of people seeking a higher education through online classes, and Eastern Michigan University's interest in generating more revenue, the university contracted with a Dallas-based company to market the school's online classes.

But some faculty unions believe the university's agreement with Academic Partnerships (AP) goes beyond marketing.

According to their website, AP markets and manages online courses. And some unions see the contract between AP and the university as the "outsourcing of instruction."

Judith Kullberg, president of EMU's chapter of the American Association of University Professors, says that faculty members at universities where AP also operate argue that their schools have been turned into "diploma mills."

AP will keep about 50 percent of the tuition for the students they enroll into EMU's online course program, but a spokesman for the university says AP will not use "coaches" to teach as they do at other universities.

Geoff Larcom, EMU's executive director of media relations, tells 7 Action News that this is a marketing arrangement designed to recruit students to their online programs and that these are students that the university wouldn't otherwise enroll.

Larcom says EMU professors, full-time and part-time lecturers will retain "total pedagogical control."

But Kullberg doesn't appear ready to trust that the contract won't affect curriculum.

"Other university have ended their partnerships with AP because of objections from faculty and concerns about the quality of coursework and services to students," said Kullberg in a statement.

Larcom says EMU President James Smith has gone on the record to say he is willing to sign a letter that they are not going to outsource teaching.

Click on the video to see Kimberly Craig's report.