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EHS faculty take over classes vacated by William Merrill

Associate Professors of Teacher Education Timothy Brannan and Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Kathryn Dirkin have taken over vacated classes following professor William Lord Merrill’s leave of absence last week.

Merrill, 58, officially resigned Wednesday afternoon following charges of four counts related to child pornography the week before. He was arraigned in Isabella County Trial Court Tuesday morning and held on a $500,000 cash/surety bond after being charged with three felonies: manufacturing child sexually abusive material, distributing or promoting child sexually abusive material and using a computer to commit a crime, in addition to one misdemeanor count of possession of a switch blade.

Brannan, who directs the Master’s Program for Education Technology, is now teaching two sections of EDU 290, a required course for education majors.

“As far as the reaction from the campus, it’s been to take care of the students,” Brannan said. “My paramount concern is for the students and to make sure they receive the rest of the instruction without skipping a beat. It’s not like I haven’t taught that class before; I’m a professor of education technology as well, and I direct our Master’s in Education Technology program.”

Brannan said he was contacted to take over the class for the semester long before the news of Merrill’s suspension broke.

“I was contacted by the department chair and asked if I would fill in for the rest of the semester because Bill Merrill was on leave for personal reasons. I didn’t inquire to what the nature was, and I said sure,” Brannan said.

Brannan said he was in the classroom immediately, and the transition was smooth.

Students reacted to the switch, but Brannan said they were gracious for his help to finish the semester.

“We were all shocked and saddened when we heard the news, but I think the kids were happy that CMU is dedicated and committed to their education,” he said. “The students are very appreciative that I am there, and a few have actually expressed that appreciation that I stepped in and helped them finish the semester. I’m doing it to the best of my ability, and I think the kids think I’m doing well.”

Brannan hasn’t heard of any plans for who will teach Merrill’s classes next semester. Merrill was scheduled for an online class next semester, but Brannan said those classes are easy to fill.

Merrill is due back in Isabella County Trial Court Tuesday morning for an examination before Judge William Rush.

Dirkin was not able to be contacted for comment.

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