Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp Responds to Faculty Questions

WMU Trustee Mary Asmonga-KnappWMU Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp

Faculty who were not able to attend the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on April 17 with special guests President John Dunn and Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp were invited to submit their questions electronically, as were colleagues who did attend but preferred to submit their questions in advance. When time did not permit coverage of these questions at the meeting, Trustee Asmonga-Knapp asked to take the list of questions with her so that she could respond to them in writing. Additionally, several faculty members followed up with questions after the chapter meeting. Her responses to the questions posed online and after the meeting appear below.

On behalf of the WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit faculty, we express our thanks to President Dunn and Trustee Asmonga-Knapp for their attendance at the meeting and to Trustee Asmonga-Knapp for taking the additional time to respond to the questions that were not addressed during the meeting.

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Trustee Asmonga-Knapp asks that readers please note that the viewpoints expressed here are her own and that she is not speaking for the Board.

Question: Is Trustee Asmonga-Knapp aware of how much her visible support of gender equity has meant to women faculty and staff at WMU?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

When I moved to table the motion for the President’s compensation package at the March 2015 meeting of the Board of Trustees, I knew I would not have any support from my colleagues on the Board.

I could not in good conscience vote yes to the compensation package, when as far back as 2011, the administration knew there were significant issues regarding pay equity for women faculty and our administrative professional staff and clerical workers who were predominantly women. The trustees were notified in 2014 that there were pay equity issues, but prior to that we had heard nothing. When protests began campus wide, I pressed for resolution and wondered how long it would take to determine pay scales. Years? After the January meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Bernhard Center, and dissent became widespread, suddenly a preliminary report from Aon Hewitt surfaced. It was at this time I realized the gravity in pay differentials.

As a working woman, wife and mother, I have lived their story. I know exactly what gender inequity feels like. It not only reflects tangibles in dollars and cents, but it also involves being treated as if you do not have a voice or a worthy thought even though you spend most of your time doing the hard work and making sacrifices for the organization.

People are more than a budget line item. Professors, clerical workers, stage hands, teaching assistants, grounds persons, cafeteria workers, academic professionals, and a whole host of working Michiganders are the reason WMU works.

I have lived your story. Seeing you all in the audience at the recent meetings gave me guts and purpose! I now know why I sit on the WMU Board of Trustees. It is YOU who gave me the courage to stand. I thank you.

We need to take care of “First things first.“ Those lower paid administrative and clerical staff should have come before such a generous presidential contract and retirement package, which could have been addressed after their needs were met. It did not send a message of caring or concern. We need to take care of the troops first. I thank those staff for their years of hard work and light pay.

Question: Has there been any follow up from other trustees that Trustee Asmonga-Knapp is in a position to discuss indicating their new willingness to work on gender equity concerns with her?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

To my knowledge, other than myself, no member of the WMU Board of Trustees acknowledges any gender equity issues, whether tangible or intangible. They also do not seem willing to acknowledge the existence of a morale problem among faculty or other staff. We need to improve these relationships and work toward a healthier work environment. These conditions need to be acknowledged, and they are clear if we review the faculty surveys of the last few years. However, the tendency is for the issues to be ignored and blamed on a few rabble rousers.

Question: Can Trustee Asmonga-Knapp provide insight as to why there were police officers at the March 25th meeting of the Board of Trustees and why the April BoT meeting will be held out of town? Isn’t the campus enthusiasm to be at these meetings a good thing?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

I think there were police officers at the meeting because the status quo felt threatened. Dissent can be frightening for some. I do not know who called the police, but I did not find the event threatening. If we cannot have dialogue on a university campus, where can we? I hope we have lots more.

Question: Is there anything that faculty can do to support your continued efforts on our behalf?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

Being a woman of faith, I ask you to pray for me. I ask you to send me emails, call me, and continue to educate me. The short time I have left on the Board of Trustees, let it be used for good. I ask you to speak up at meetings, send letters to the Board of Trustees and let your voices be heard! Write articles. Keep talking. I want you to enter into discourse with President Dunn and work through these very painful issues collectively. Can we do better? YES WE CAN!

Question: In 2006 WMU subsidized NCAA Division 1 programming to the tune of $8 million. That is $8 million spent to balance the books after all income is taken into account. In 2013 that number was up to $18.5 million. What does it say about our priorities when we are willing slow or freeze faculty hiring, decrease the number of GA/DA lines, and increase student tuition under the guise of budget cuts when the NCAA subsidy (loss) has more than doubled in the last 7 years?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

It is disheartening when so much is spent on NCAA Division 1 programming and an assistant professor gets offered $38,000, as one faculty member mentioned at the chapter meeting. I could not have survived on that salary. However, it is looked upon as an investment to draw students to a school with a winning football team. It is cultural. Those making those contributions believe it will make WMU more appealing. I understand where they are coming from. It is their way of making WMU great. They have the money to do it and it is their vision. In their way, they love WMU.

Question (asked in the hallway after the meeting): What are your thoughts on the affiliation between WMU and Cooley Law School?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

The Board of Trustees thought it was a good idea. It was to expand the footprint of WMU and to be a good mutual relationship for both.

Question (asked in the hallway after the meeting): Can you comment on the various business interests of members of the Board of Trustees and how these interests might intersect with their roles as trustees?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

I do not know enough to comment on it at this time. However, I will do research and get back to you with answers at a later date.

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Trustee Asmonga-Knapp’s closing comments:

Listening to the frustrations of faculty in the meeting, I had no idea what a conundrum existed between the faculty, deans, provost and the president. I knew a little, but the discussion at the chapter meeting opened my eyes! We have to find a way forward. If we do not regard our faculty and the educational experience, we will have failed. I want students to be mentored and faculty to fulfill their calling. We must find a better way. I believe that the way forward is talking and addressing these very hard issues. I do not have all the answers, but I believe we do. When I say we, I mean faculty, employees, administration, and the WMU Board of Trustees. We have to begin to build bridges and work toward a community of good. We have to work collectively and not pretend others do not exist.

In regard to the placement of the WMU-AAUP and other unions on the WMU Board of Trustees agenda, I do not agree at all with the denial of the WMU-AAUP as an active partner in shared governance. There appears to be a desire to ignore the WMU-AAUP contract in regard to shared governance. I encourage the leadership to continue discussion with the President. I believe that this change to the agenda has more to do with being outspoken and advocacy for faculty then it has to do with anything. I believe it is a punitive and unfair action by the Board of Trustees.

It is an honor to have been your guest,

Mary Asmonga-Knapp, LMSW, ACSW
WMU Board of Trustees

 

Uncompensated Summer Work and Faculty Rights Under Article 38

Note: The following is reprinted from last summer’s WMU-AAUP Bulletin on the topic of uncompensated summer work.

Many people outside the university community (and even quite a few within it) are surprised to learn that WMU faculty on academic-year (AY) appointments who are not assigned to summer teaching are not compensated by Western Michigan University for work performed in the months of May, June, July, and August.

Yet many AY faculty are called upon to perform a variety of work assignments in the summer for which they will not be paid. Some examples include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • work on the Academic Program Review
  • work on strategic planning at the department, college, or university level
  • administration of academic programs within departments
  • independent studies, including those for which students pay tuition and receive credit
  • lab and research supervision of graduate and undergraduate students
  • graduate and undergraduate advising
  • supervision of student internships
  • training and supervision of graduate teaching and research assistants
  • student recruitment activities
  • other administrative or quasi-administrative activities

Most board-appointed faculty members at WMU have academic-year appointments, although there are also a number of fiscal-year faculty with 12-month appointments and some with 10-month appointments. While some AY faculty are eligible to participate in a deferred-compensation pay structure, in which a portion of each paycheck throughout the academic year is withheld for disbursement over the summer, resulting in equal installments year round, their “summer pay” was actually earned during the academic year. Other AY faculty opt to be paid their full earnings during the academic year, with their last paycheck until September disbursed on May 7.

Article 38 of the Agreement articulates the terms under which AY faculty are employed in relation to the academic calendar: “Bargaining unit faculty on academic year appointments shall not be required to work . . . during periods between semesters and sessions when classes are not scheduled to meet.” It expressly defines “outside the calendar” as “before the Fall semester begins, between the Fall and Spring semesters, and after the Spring semester ends.” Exceptions are permissible only in “limited circumstances,” which must be “legitimate responsibilities of academic-year faculty (e.g., registration, department orientation/organization meetings, retreats, committee assignments, and grading situations).”

In recent years, however, many AY faculty have been experiencing significant increases in uncompensated summer work assignments, as well as increases to their regular workloads that make it difficult to complete within the academic year all the work for which they are responsible. They report increasing pressure – to which pre-tenure faculty are especially vulnerable –  to work in the summer without compensation in ways that appear to extend the definition of “limited circumstances” well beyond the spirit of the Agreement. The institution is becoming increasingly dependent on free faculty labor, and it is time to break this exploitative cycle.

The “legitimate” work of faculty on academic-year appointments can and should be performed during the academic year, within the bounds of reasonable faculty workloads. If there is work that is sufficiently critical to the functioning of the institution that cannot be done during the academic year but must be performed in the summer, that work must be compensated.

Faculty members themselves are best situated to determine whether assignments they are asked (or expected) to perform outside the calendar constitutes legitimate use of their time during parts of the year when they are not being paid for their work. Therefore, it is the Chapter’s position that all assignments of work “outside the calendar” must be compensated, offered without coercion, and accepted or declined without penalty at the discretion of each individual faculty member.

Additionally, fiscal-year faculty rights to a reasonable workload must not be infringed. FY faculty must not be burdened with additional assignments, including work that would be “outside the calendar” for AY faculty, without overload pay. Such assignments must be compensated, offered without coercion, and accepted or declined without penalty at the discretion of each individual faculty member.

If the administration believes that any particular task or initiative is sufficiently urgent to require “outside the calendar” faculty attention, their proposals should be brought to the Chapter, pursuant to Article 38.§2, for consideration on a case-by-case basis. In principle, however, the WMU-AAUP cannot support practices that do not compensate faculty members appropriately for their work.

Chairs, directors, deans, the provost, and all other administrators, especially those who are compensated for their work all year round, should follow the Golden Rule as their guiding principle. They must respect the academic calendar and honor the academic-year appointments of faculty members who hold them. They must refrain from expecting, requiring, or attempting to compel uncompensated “outside the calendar” work to be performed by AY faculty and from expecting, requiring, or attempting to compel any uncompensated overload work to be performed by any faculty member, regardless of appointment type.

Faculty members who feel that they are being expected or required to perform uncompensated summer work or overload assignments (and especially those who feel they are being pressured into doing so) are urged to contact the WMU-AAUP office ASAP.

It is long past time to send the message that a culture in which people are routinely expected to work without pay is unacceptable.

Chapter Meeting April 17 with WMU President John Dunn and Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp

All WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit members are invited to the final WMU-AAUP chapter meeting of the 2014-15 academic year on Friday, April 17, at 1:30 p.m., in rooms 157-159 of the Bernhard Center.

Special guests WMU President John Dunn and Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp will be joining us for a conversation with the faculty about the future and direction of our university.

Want to Submit Questions Ahead of Time?

If you’d like to submit questions for President Dunn and/or Trustee Asmonga-Knapp ahead of Friday’s meeting, or if you will not be able to attend but would still like to submit questions, please click here to submit your question(s).

 

Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

Earlier this semester, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee approved a motion to draft a letter to President Dunn and the WMU Board of Trustees as a follow-up to the recent faculty vote on the question of confidence in the leadership of Provost Tim Greene.

Several members of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee took the lead on creating the original draft, which was made available to the faculty for feedback on March 5. At that time, we solicited faculty feedback, which we have incorporated into the revised version of the letter posted below.

Many thanks to the more than 60 faculty members who contributed to the drafting of the letter and provided feedback. This has been a truly collaborative effort. We hope you will be satisfied with the result.

WMU-AAUP faculty will soon receive an email invitation to weigh in electronically on the letter. The original motion of the Executive Committee called for the revised letter to be sent to the faculty for approval. After that, we will begin collecting signatures.

As we noted when we posted the original draft on March 5, we recognize that circulating material to the faculty means essentially making that material public. Once again, we choose to see that as an opportunity. As with the original draft last month, we hope that this revised draft will be widely read and will encourage dialogue among the faculty and elsewhere on campus.

As always, we welcome your feedback.


Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

April 9, 2015

Dear President Dunn and Western Michigan University Board of Trustees:

As you are aware, the Board-appointed faculty, as represented by the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, recently expressed its dissatisfaction with the leadership of Provost Tim Greene in a no-confidence vote. We believe that the students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Western Michigan University need and deserve competent, respectful, visionary leadership, and we find these values lacking in Provost Greene’s leadership.

At this time of significantly decreased state support, and when the university is undertaking important initiatives such as the new medical and law schools, a strong partnership and cultivation of trust between the faculty and the senior administration are essential. Unfortunately, the senior administration’s response to the no-confidence vote has been to dismiss it and to misrepresent the nature of our dissatisfaction. The purpose of this letter, then, is to articulate the faculty concerns that led to the no-confidence vote and to propose a way forward that will better serve the interests of Western Michigan University and its diverse community of stakeholders.

We recognize that Western Michigan University exists foremost to be an educational resource for the people of our state and to be a center for research and the generation of knowledge, and as a faculty, we take seriously these responsibilities. The concerns articulated below reflect values that we share with our students and with the people of Michigan whom we serve.

  • Lack of Transparency

The no-confidence vote reflects major concerns about the lack of transparency in the provost’s decision-making. A crucial example is the Academic Program Review (APR) now underway. The precise purposes of the APR have yet to be articulated to the faculty, although we have been obliged to provide hundreds of hours of our labor to this initiative. Questions about these additions to faculty workloads and legitimate concerns about the ultimate goal of the review process are met with vague talking points and apparent indifference to faculty workloads and morale. In a resolution passed at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting in October 2013, the faculty noted the lack of transparency regarding the APR process and its goals and called on Provost Greene to “collaborate with the faculty in a transparent and meaningful process to develop a review procedure . . . based on a clear rationale and on mutually agreeable objectives, mechanisms for implementation and assessment, and potential outcomes in which the administration is held accountable as well as faculty.” To date, Provost Greene has not responded to the letter sent by the WMU-AAUP leadership, dated October 24, 2013, to inform him of this resolution.

  • Gender Equity

Provost Greene has also demonstrated indifference to the ongoing problem of salary inequity. Only after a censure vote by the faculty in October 2013 compelled him to move forward did he begin to authorize equity adjustments, despite a contractual mandate to do so in 2011. While some adjustments were made beginning in November 2013, the process by which those decisions were made was entirely opaque, and significant salary inequities continue. There is no indication that Provost Greene is invested in addressing the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place or in trying to correct them. Instead, the administration has chosen to commit significant resources to defending the institution against equity claims brought by faculty and staff.

Provost Greene’s handling of this critical issue sends an unmistakable message that the administration he represents cares more about protecting itself than about doing what is right (and what is required by law). It also sends a discouraging message to our students when they see that their professors are not treated equally. We believe that most administrators and the Board of Trustees are in agreement on the importance of gender equity and are as concerned as we are about the damage inequitable treatment can do to morale and productivity and the message an appearance of indifference toward inequity is sending to our students. Therefore, it is a matter of deep and genuine concern to us that the reputation of the university president, the Board of Trustees, and the university as a whole suffers because the provost’s actions.

  • Lack of Respect for Faculty and Shared Governance

The no-confidence vote also reflects our perception that Provost Greene lacks respect for faculty perspectives and for the overall contributions that faculty make to the university’s core academic mission. Western Michigan University exists in order to engage the public in education and research, and the faculty play a central role in this mission. Disrespect of the faculty has a chilling effect on learning and discovery.

Again we cite Provost Greene’s handling of the APR, beginning with a violation of Article 4 of the Agreement, which requires that the administration notify the WMU-AAUP of any new university-wide committees and obliges the administration to seek chapter nominations for seats that are thereby created. The composition of the APR “project management team” made clear that the review is a university-wide endeavor, yet the “team” was convened without notification of the chapter. It took the filing of a chapter grievance in November 2013 before the WMU-AAUP was able to exercise its contractual right on behalf of the faculty to appoint a representative to the APR “project management team.”

  • Removal of Dean Alex Enyedi

Provost Greene’s decision to remove a competent, highly respected dean from a well-functioning college was made entirely without consultation with faculty and in contravention of recommendations in the 2010 WMU Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Self Study Report, which identified “a lack of an evaluation system for associate provosts, deans, and associate deans” (HLC Self Study, 1d.2, p. 27). The accreditation reports, central to long-term planning goals of the institution, recommended that Provost Greene develop such evaluation measures. That these evaluation measures have not, to the faculty’s knowledge, been established raises serious questions about Dean Enyedi’s removal and suggests that Provost Greene is not in compliance with important accreditation recommendations that relate directly to the institution’s mission.

Additionally, the provost ignored the results of the metrics already in place for faculty evaluation of administrators. The reviews of Dean Enyedi in 2012 and again in 2014, conducted by the WMU-AAUP according to contractual procedures, found that he had the overwhelming support of the faculty in his college, some 90 percent of whom answered “yes” to the question of whether he should continue as dean. For the provost to remove Dean Enyedi without consultation with the faculty, and in deliberate disregard for faculty perspectives, suggests not only a significant failure of leadership on his part but also another example of his apparent lack of respect for shared governance.

  • Pattern of Behavior

While the removal of Dean Enyedi was for many faculty the breaking point regarding our overall confidence in the provost’s leadership, it is a mistake to characterize the no-confidence vote as being the product of this single issue. When faculty called for the no-confidence vote at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on January 23, 2015, we made clear that our dissatisfaction is the result of a persistent pattern of behavior on the part of Provost Greene: his lack of respect for the faculty, his failure to foster or model transparent decision-making, and his ongoing lack of accountability for serious problems on our campus, many of which – such as ongoing gender inequity – have been exacerbated on his watch. That his removal of Dean Enyedi appears retaliatory, and that it went against the will of the faculty in his college, has alarmed faculty in all colleges who value transparency, shared governance, and freedom of expression.

The senior administration has insisted that the dissatisfaction with Provost Greene’s leadership is limited to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, which misrepresents the facts and insults the faculty. Does the senior administration mean to suggest that the views of CAS faculty are uniquely unworthy of consideration? Such public disparagement of CAS faculty is not only disrespectful and potentially harmful to the reputation of the university, but it is also felt keenly by CAS students and alumni. However, it is not only CAS faculty who are disparaged in this administrative narrative. It also discounts the voices of faculty from other colleges, who are therefore effectively silenced.

  • Moving Forward

The issues outlined above suggest that Provost Greene’s vision for the university is incompatible with the core academic values that are central to our collective mission to educate and to generate knowledge. Many among us have proposed that we use this letter to call for his removal. Certainly without any evidence of accountability, we are left to worry that the provost is simply doing what he is expected to do by the senior leadership of the institution.

To move forward, then, we propose a dialogue, one that is truly open and inclusive and that begins immediately, to discuss the following:

  • whether it makes sense for Provost Greene to continue in his role as the university’s chief academic officer;
  • the current and future direction of the university as an institution that values excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity and the kind of leadership that will be required to carry out our mission;
  • the academic identity that we – faculty, staff, students, administration, and alumni – envision for Western Michigan University and how best to achieve that collective vision;
  • a renewed effort to acknowledge and to correct gender inequity and other inequities on our campus and to address the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place.

We look forward to participating in this dialogue as active partners with the Board of Trustees and the senior leadership of the university.

Sincerely,

The undersigned members of the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University

 

WMU-AAUP Remarks to the Board of Trustees on March 25, 2015

Remarks by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

Last Thursday, at the Presidential Scholars convocation, President Dunn delivered an inspiring speech about the importance of a liberal arts education as foundational to preparing engaged, knowledgeable individuals for productive citizenship. He advocated passionately for the arts, humanities, and social sciences, along with the science and technology fields that have been getting most of the attention lately, as critical to the professional success of our graduates and central to preparing them for meaningful, productive lives. He made a strong case for what universities are for and why our work here is so important.

Over the weekend, I had more time to think about the president’s remarks, because although I agreed wholeheartedly with the compelling case he made, something about it was not sitting right with me. I realized that the disconnect I was feeling was cognitive dissonance: The vision President Dunn set out in his speech simply is not reflected in my real-life experiences with actual institutional policies and priorities.

Two months ago, the faculty voted no-confidence in the leadership of Provost Tim Greene, revealing widespread and unequivocal dissatisfaction. He and President Dunn were both formally notified of the results of the faculty’s January 30 voice vote and subsequent electronic vote. The response to these letters, dated February 9 and sent on behalf of the faculty, has been a resounding silence from the university’s senior leadership. Their statements to the media are dismissive of the vote and misrepresent the sources of the faculty’s dissatisfaction.

In a recent article in the Western Herald, Provost Greene is quoted as saying that he “fully respect[s] the input the faculty have provided” him and “take[s] it seriously.” As a faculty colleague wrote last week on the Flip the W blog, “What does it look like when the provost doesn’t respect someone’s feedback or take it seriously. Is he silenter? Does he ignore that person harder?”

Much of the material on Flip the W is satirical. But like all good satire, it exposes some hard truths, like our legitimate skepticism in response to administrative insistence that the faculty is being listened to, even as their elected representative gets taken off the board’s agenda and moved into the public comments. Faculty viewpoints are being taken seriously, we read in the Herald and in the Gazette, yet the provost refused to comment on the no-confidence vote when I asked him about it at our most recent monthly meeting.

I appreciate the vision that President Dunn set out in his speech last Thursday night, but in the end, as much as I wanted to — and I really wanted to — I just couldn’t buy it.

Because where is the evidence that the president’s chief academic officer serves that vision? The provost’s actions suggest a very different vision; the pattern of behavior cited by the faculty in the no-confidence vote is powerful evidence of that. And despite the ongoing gender equity fiasco, the tortuous academic program review, the misguided removal of a dean who actually walked the walk when it came to the vision that President Dunn himself communicated so eloquently – despite all of that, there has been zero accountability for any of it, zero corrective action taken by the president, zero consequences.

Because three minutes is not nearly enough time for a substantive conversation about the future and direction of our university, I invite all of you, members of the board, along with President Dunn, to join the faculty at the next WMU-AAUP chapter meeting, on Friday, April 17, at 1:30 p.m., in this room [157 Bernhard Center]. We will follow up with the details. I hope you all will be able to attend. This conversation is too important to try to limit to three minutes.

WMU Board of Trustees to Meet Wednesday, March 25

Wednesday, March 25, at 11 a.m.
Rooms 157-159 of the Bernhard Center

The Western Michigan University Board of Trustees will meet on Wednesday, March 25, at 11 a.m., in rooms 157-159 of the Bernhard Center. The meeting is open to the public.

WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick will address the board on topics of interest and concern to the faculty, including the academic program review and the recent no-confidence vote on the provost. Faculty are invited to attend to show their support for the academic mission of the university and to express their solidarity with support staff, whose members will also address the board.

Board of Trustees meeting photo (Jan. 22, 2015)

WMU Board of Trustees meeting, January 22, 2015 (source: MLive)

Draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

As we reported several weeks ago, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee approved a motion to draft a letter to President Dunn and the WMU Board of Trustees as a follow-up to the recent faculty vote on the question of confidence in the leadership of Provost Tim Greene.

As you may recall, several members of the Executive Committee volunteered to take the lead on drafting this letter, with the goal of circulating it to the faculty for feedback and re-circulating it again for final approval after revisions are made.

The initial draft is now available and is posted below. It was created through a collaboration of faculty in multiple colleges over several weeks.

WMU-AAUP faculty will soon receive an email invitation to submit feedback, comments, and proposed revisions electronically. Your responses will be considered as the draft is revised, a process that will begin after spring break. The revised version will then be circulated again for your approval.

We recognize that circulating material to the faculty means essentially making that material public. Rather than trying to prevent that, we hope that the draft will be widely read and will encourage dialogue among the faculty and elsewhere on campus. Therefore, we are posting it here on the chapter blog so that it is accessible to you wherever you might be during the upcoming spring break and to anyone else who may be interested.


Draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

Dear President Dunn and Western Michigan University Board of Trustees:

As you are aware, the Board-appointed faculty, as represented by the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, recently conducted a no-confidence vote regarding Provost Tim Greene. The results of that vote reflect widespread dissatisfaction with Provost Greene’s leadership. The senior administration’s response to this vote has been to dismiss it and to misrepresent the nature of our dissatisfaction. Therefore, we believe that an elaboration of faculty concerns that led to the no-confidence vote is necessary.

  • Lack of Transparency

The no-confidence vote reflects our concerns about the lack of transparency in the provost’s decision-making. A crucial example is the Academic Program Review (APR) now underway. The true purposes of the APR have yet to be articulated to the faculty, although we have already been obliged to provide hundreds of hours of our labor to this initiative. Questions about these extensive additions to faculty workloads and legitimate concerns about where the review process is intended to lead are met with vague talking points and apparent indifference to faculty workloads and morale. In a resolution passed at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting in October 2013, the faculty noted the lack of transparency regarding the APR process and its goals and called on Provost Greene to “collaborate with the faculty in a transparent and meaningful process to develop a review procedure . . . based on a clear rationale and on mutually agreeable objectives, mechanisms for implementation and assessment, and potential outcomes in which the administration is held accountable as well as faculty.” To date, Provost Greene has not responded to the letter sent by the WMU-AAUP leadership, dated October 24, 2013, to inform him of this resolution.

  • Gender Equity

Provost Greene has also demonstrated indifference to the ongoing problem of salary inequity. It took a censure vote by the faculty in October 2013 before he would move forward, after two years of inaction despite a contractual mandate in 2011, and begin to authorize equity adjustments. While some adjustments were made beginning in November 2013, the process by which those decisions were made was entirely opaque, and significant salary inequity remains. There is no indication that Provost Greene is invested in addressing the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place or in trying to correct them. Instead, the administration has chosen to commit significant resources to defending the institution against equity claims brought by faculty and staff. Provost Greene’s handling of this critical issue sends an unmistakable message that the administration cares more about protecting itself than doing what is right.

  • Lack of Respect for Faculty and Shared Governance

The no-confidence vote also reflects our belief that Provost Greene lacks respect for faculty perspectives, interests, and concerns, and for the overall contribution that faculty make to the university’s core academic mission. Western Michigan University exists in order to engage the public in education and research, and the faculty play a primary role in this mission. Disrespect of the faculty therefore has a chilling effect on learning and discovery.

Again we cite Provost Greene’s handling of the APR, beginning with a violation of Article 4 of the Agreement, which requires that the administration notify the WMU-AAUP of any new university-wide committees and obliges the administration to seek chapter nominations for seats that are thereby created. Materials describing the composition of the APR “project management team” made clear that the review is a university-wide endeavor, yet the “team” was convened without notification of the chapter. Only after filing a chapter grievance in November 2013 was the WMU-AAUP able to exercise its contractual right on behalf of the faculty to appoint a representative to the APR “project management team.”

  • Removal of Dean Alex Enyedi

Provost Greene’s decision to remove a competent, highly respected dean from a well-functioning college was made entirely without consultation with faculty and in contravention of recommendations in the 2010 WMU Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Self Study Report, which identifies “a lack of an evaluation system for associate provosts, deans, and associate deans” (HLC Self Study, 1d.2, p. 27). The accreditation reports, central to long-term planning goals of the institution, recommended that Provost Greene develop such evaluation measures. That these evaluation measures have not, to the faculty’s knowledge, been established raises serious questions about Dean Enyedi’s removal and suggests that Provost Greene is not in compliance with important accreditation recommendations that relate directly to the institution’s mission.

  • Pattern of Behavior

While the removal of Dean Enyedi was for many faculty the straw that finally broke the camel’s back when it comes to our lack of confidence in the provost’s leadership, we must be clear: The camel was already on its knees by the time Dean Enyedi was removed, and it is a mistake to characterize the no-confidence vote as being the product of this single issue. When they called for the no-confidence vote at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on January 23, 2015, the faculty made clear that their dissatisfaction is the result of a persistent pattern of behavior on the part of Provost Greene: his lack of respect for the faculty, his failure to foster or model transparent decision-making, and his ongoing lack of accountability for serious problems on our campus, many of which – such as ongoing gender inequity – have been exacerbated on his watch. That his removal of Dean Enyedi appears retaliatory has alarmed faculty in all colleges who value transparency, shared governance, and freedom of expression.

The senior administration insists that the dissatisfaction with Provost Greene’s leadership is limited to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, which misrepresents the facts on the ground and insults the faculty. Do they mean to suggest that the views of CAS faculty are uniquely unworthy of consideration? Such public disparagement of CAS faculty is not only disrespectful and potentially harmful to the reputation of the university, but it is also felt keenly by CAS students and alumni. And it is not only CAS faculty who are disparaged in this administrative narrative. It also ignores the voices of faculty from other colleges, who are therefore effectively silenced.

The students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Western Michigan University need and deserve competent, respectful, visionary leadership. At this time of significantly decreased state support, and when the university is undertaking expensive and risky initiatives, including the new medical and law schools, a strong partnership and cultivation of trust between the faculty and the senior administration are essential. We find these values lacking in Provost Greene’s leadership, and we request that you, President Dunn and members of the WMU Board of Trustees, take seriously this expression of our concern.

Sincerely,

The undersigned members of the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University