After a grievance was filed concerning Eastern Michigan University’s contract with the for-profit company Academic Partnerships (AP), an independent arbitrator ruled on January 12 the school is not in violation of a collective bargaining agreement with its chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
The university’s contract with Academic Partnerships, which helps schools expand online learning programs, is intended to market online degrees and increase enrollment. 50 percent of the tuition for the students it enrolls goes to AP, according to the contract.
The grievance was filed last February, claiming the university entered into the agreement in November of 2016 without due input from faculty with regard to curriculum development, personnel and instruction.
EMU maintains the AP contract gives the company freedom to recruit new online students, leaving teaching responsibilities to faculty.
EMU faculty union president and political science professor Judith Kullberg told Michigan Radio if online class sizes exceed a limit, AP is able to use a subcontractor’s “coaches,” instead of professors to teach the classes. These coaches are paid poorly, according to Kullberg.
“We don’t think that EMU students should become guinea pigs for an experiment in teacherless classrooms,” Kullberg said. Faculty have also voiced concern for the reputation of the school, claiming
EMU spokesman Geoff Larcom told Michigan Radio the school will not use “coaches.”
In a statement released by EMU January 12, Rhonda Longworth, provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs, expressed the university’s relief.
“We couldn’t be happier that the arbitrator affirms the important role that faculty have in designing and implementing curriculum, but that the AP agreement was in no way a violation of the collective bargaining agreement,” Longworth said in November.
Arbitrator Mark Glazer wrote in the complete ruling: “I understand the concern of some Association members, with the increase in online offerings and the concomitant involvement of AP. I also understand the University’s concern for attracting students to EMU. Ultimately if AP remains in the marketing, recruiting and promotion areas, there would not be a contract violation.”