Faculty votes to approve WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with WMU Students

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

November 18, 2016

Dear colleagues,

Many thanks to all who participated in the vote this week on whether to approve the proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students.

I am please to report that the faculty has voted overwhelmingly to join the WMU-AAUP Association Council, Executive Committee, and officers in approving the resolution.

Here are the results:

  • Yes: 173 (92 percent)
  • No: 11 (5.85 percent)
  • Abstain: 4 (2.1 percent)

Total number of votes cast: 188

This resolution is only the beginning of the actions we can and must take to make visible our shared commitment to stand with our students, as well as with our faculty and staff colleagues, during these challenging times. From here, we must turn our words into action. As many of you know, a variety of efforts by faculty, staff, students, and community members are already underway, and I encourage you to learn more about their plans and consider joining the organizers in collaboration.

For the WMU-AAUP chapter, approving and sending forth this resolution is a meaningful first step as we embark on the new project that is now before us. I look forward to working together with all of you to maintain and enhance our thriving intellectual community at here Western. This community is of course based on our core values of academic excellence, shared governance, academic freedom, and higher education as a public good, and we are going to need to work actively to protect these values and insist on their primacy in the coming months and years. At the same time, we are also going to need to work a lot harder to emphasize and prioritize the values of diversity, inclusion, respect, and empowerment so that our campus is a place that is safe for all of us — faculty, staff, students, and everyone else — to be who we are.

Many thanks to all of you for your wisdom, courage, and willingness to take a stand for justice.

Please click here to read the full text of the now-approved WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with WMU Students.

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP

WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students

WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students

Approved by the faculty on November 18, 2016

Whereas the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, represented by our collective-bargaining chapter of the American Association of University Professors, stands for academic excellence, shared governance, higher education as a public good, and academic freedom;

Whereas our core academic mission includes the work of instruction, research, scholarship, creative activity, and professional service;

Whereas this work is foundational to the development of our students as knowledgeable and engaged citizens, informed participants in the democratic process, and possessors of a spirit of tolerance and acceptance;

Whereas the intellectual character of a university is determined by its faculty;

Whereas the faculty therefore also appropriately models character for our students and for the community in other ways, including with respect to our ethical principles and moral convictions;

Whereas these values inform our understanding and acceptance of the immense and humbling responsibility that we carry in the form of our students’ trust in us: that we will treat them with respect, with fairness, with compassion, and with generosity of spirit;

Whereas the faculty takes seriously its role in modeling, teaching, and facilitating critical thinking and respectful discourse;

Whereas we recognize the challenges inherent in the exploration of controversial issues and ideas as well as the intellectual growth that can result from engaging these ideas respectfully and thinking critically about them;

Whereas many Western Michigan University students are now feeling vulnerable, unwelcome, or even fearful for their safety and wellbeing or for the safety and wellbeing of their classmates;

Whereas every student is welcome at Western Michigan University and deserves to feel accepted, included, empowered, and safe here;

Be it resolved that the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, individually and collectively, stands in solidarity with the students of this university and extends to them our attention, our understanding, our support, our advocacy, and – when and if they need it – our protection, at this singular moment in our nation’s history and always.

Association Council recommends faculty approval of solidarity resolution

WMU-AAUP Association Council Recommends Faculty Approval of
Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

November 15, 2016

Dear colleagues,

After a lengthy and intense discussion at the WMU-AAUP Association Council meeting last Friday, the AC voted to draft a resolution to express support for WMU students in response to disturbing incidents that have occurred on our own campus and others over the past week.

Once drafted and circulated, the proposed resolution was approved 44 to 1 in a secret-ballot vote (plus one abstention) of the WMU-AAUP Association Council, Executive Committee, and officers, who now recommend full faculty approval. All members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit will soon receive an electronic ballot to vote on whether to approve.

Click here for the text of the proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students.

As most of you are aware, many of our students have reported feeling unwelcome, vulnerable, and even fearful for their safety and wellbeing or for the safety of classmates. Students of color, LGBT students, international students, and other minority students report feeling particularly vulnerable since the presidential election last week.

At a student-organized meeting on campus on November 10, I listened to what many of these students had to say. Their reports were chilling and disheartening: Some of our LGBT students said they will not be going home for Thanksgiving next week because family members have told them that they are not welcome, or they are afraid to go home because of concerns about increased hostility from relatives who do not accept their sexual orientation or gender identity. International and immigrant students report that they are fearful of attacks and deportation. More recently, some students have reported harassment on the street or on campus and finding notes on their cars with racial or homophobic epithets.

In other contexts, I have had occasion to observe that the intellectual character of a university is determined by its faculty. While that is critically important to our role at Western Michigan University, intellectual character is not the only kind of character that matters, nor is it the only kind that faculty model regularly for our students and community, even though we may not always be fully aware that we are doing so. Our ethical principles and moral convictions are critical to our work as faculty members, and never more so than when they are being tested, as they are now.

Listening to these students at the meeting last Thursday, it occurred to me that they might appreciate a reminder of how seriously we take our charge to do right by them, not only intellectually but also as the mentors and role models we are for them.

I brought this topic to the Association Council last Friday, and the result of that conversation – which was intense, passionate, painful at times, but also inspiring – is the proposed Resolution in Solidarity we present now for your consideration.

We understand that some of our colleagues may not be comfortable with this resolution or its intentions. We hope that you will be willing to engage in a dialogue about how we can best honor our commitments to one another as a faculty as well as to our students at a time when some of them feel that they have reason to be afraid for their lives.

The next meeting of the WMU-AAUP Association Council is Friday, January 20, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. Association Council meetings are open to all bargaining-unit members, and we encourage you to join us on January 20 so that we can all listen to and talk about the diverse perspectives our colleagues bring to these issues. We’ll meet in 157 Bernhard.

As individuals, we don’t need to have felt unsafe ourselves to understand why it is important to make a public statement in solidarity with our students. Even those of us who have never been targeted or felt vulnerable because of the color of our skin, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, national origin, or religious beliefs can of course empathize with those who have. And sadly, many of our faculty colleagues have felt this way themselves, including right here on our own campus. It is important that we stand with these colleagues, and I look forward to our conversations in the near future – and I hope at the January 20 AC meeting – about how we can all do a better job of that.

But today I am asking you to consider the proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students.

The Association Council and I understand also that there may be concerns about the possibility of causing hurt or distress to students who may not be members of protected groups but who may also fear backlash because of their political beliefs. We share these concerns and have crafted the resolution to try to make clear that we are here for all Western Michigan University students, even while we are also trying to address the immediate safety concerns that disproportionately affect students of color, LGBT students, and international students.

Many thanks in advance for your thoughtful consideration of this important matter.

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP

Proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students

Recommended by the WMU-AAUP Association Council, Executive Committee, and officers, for the faculty’s consideration. WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit members are now voting on this proposal, with votes due electronically by 4 p.m. on Friday, November 18. More information about the proposed resolution is available by clicking here.

Proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity
with Western Michigan University Students

Whereas the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, represented by our collective-bargaining chapter of the American Association of University Professors, stands for academic excellence, shared governance, higher education as a public good, and academic freedom;

Whereas our core academic mission includes the work of instruction, research, scholarship, creative activity, and professional service;

Whereas this work is foundational to the development of our students as knowledgeable and engaged citizens, informed participants in the democratic process, and possessors of a spirit of tolerance and acceptance;

Whereas the intellectual character of a university is determined by its faculty;

Whereas the faculty therefore also appropriately models character for our students and for the community in other ways, including with respect to our ethical principles and moral convictions;

Whereas these values inform our understanding and acceptance of the immense and humbling responsibility that we carry in the form of our students’ trust in us: that we will treat them with respect, with fairness, with compassion, and with generosity of spirit;

Whereas the faculty takes seriously its role in modeling, teaching, and facilitating critical thinking and respectful discourse;

Whereas we recognize the challenges inherent in the exploration of controversial issues and ideas as well as the intellectual growth that can result from engaging these ideas respectfully and thinking critically about them;

Whereas many Western Michigan University students are now feeling vulnerable, unwelcome, or even fearful for their safety and wellbeing or for the safety and wellbeing of their classmates;

Whereas every student is welcome at Western Michigan University and deserves to feel accepted, included, empowered, and safe here;

Be it resolved that the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, individually and collectively, stands in solidarity with the students of this university and extends to them our attention, our understanding, our support, our advocacy, and – when and if they need it – our protection, at this singular moment in our nation’s history and always.

Introducing the 2017 WMU-AAUP bargaining team

The officers, Executive Committee, and Association Council of the WMU-AAUP are pleased to announce your 2017 WMU-AAUP bargaining team:

  • Cynthia Klekar-Cunningham, Department of English (Chief Negotiator)
  • Whitney DeCamp, Department of Sociology
  • Bruce G. Ferrin, Department of Marketing
  • Jeremy C. Hierholzer, College of Aviation
  • Michael G. Miller, Department of Human Performance and Health Education

Please join us in congratulating Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Michael and in thanking them for their willingness to serve in these difficult and demanding positions. This is a very strong team whose members bring a lot of experience as well as complementary strengths to the table.

You can look forward to meeting with your team beginning early in the spring semester, as we schedule department meetings to discuss faculty priorities for 2017 negotiations. Stay tuned for more information.

Presidential search discussion sessions next week

Dear colleagues:

On behalf of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, I invite all members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit to participate in sessions set for next week to discuss the presidential search now underway at WMU.

A number of opportunities have been scheduled for faculty and other members of the campus community to participate in these conversations. Members of the search committee and representatives of Parker Executive Search, the firm engaged by the PSAC, will be in attendance at all sessions to answer your questions and listen to your suggestions. The PSAC will use your input to craft the position description and recruit promising candidates.

A session exclusively for members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit is scheduled for next Wednesday, November 16, at 2pm, in room 210 of the Bernhard Center.

If you are not able to attend the WMU-AAUP session, I encourage you to try to make it to one (or more) of the other sessions.

These include three sessions for which attendance is open to all members of the university community (all three in the North Ballroom of the Bernhard Center): 

  • Tuesday, November 15, 5:30-6:30pm
  • Wednesday, November 16, 9:30-10:30am
  • Thursday, November 17, 2:30-3:30pm

In addition to these open meetings, sessions are also scheduled for various constituency groups on campus, including students, staff employee groups, and other constituencies. Several of these sessions may be of interest to WMU-AAUP faculty, including the following:

Tuesday, November 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m.: Diversity Affinity Groups (242 Bernhard)

Wednesday, November 16 (all meetings in 210 Bernhard)

  • 8:30-9:30am: International Education Council/HIGE
  • 1-2 pm: Extended University Programs
  • 2-3 pm: WMU-AAUP faculty
  • 4-5 pm:  Faculty Senate

Thursday, November 17 (all meetings in 204 Bernhard)

  • 12:30-1:30pm: OVPR/research focus and Centers/Institutes
  • 1:30-2:30pm: Emeriti and Western Association of Retired Faculty

The input of the Board-appointed faculty is going to be critical throughout the search process. Please plan to attend one or more of these discussions sessions next week, and please encourage colleagues to attend as well.

More information about the search is available here and will be updated regularly.

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP

No HMO to be offered to WMU-AAUP faculty this year

In July, President Dunn announced that BCBSM’s Healthy Blue Living HMO might be offered to WMU employees during open enrollment this fall, explaining that each employee group on campus would have the option to allow (or not allow) the administration to offer the new plan to its members.

In early September, the WMU-AAUP published an analysis in advance of the Association Council meeting scheduled for September 16, to help the faculty in our bargaining unit make an informed decision about whether to allow the HMO to be offered for 2017 alongside our existing plan. At the meeting, the Association Council decided that this question should be taken up by the full faculty at our fall chapter meeting, scheduled for October 14.

But a strong consensus also emerged among the Association Council reps on September 16 that by trying to oblige the faculty to participate in conversations and make decisions about our health benefits outside of scheduled bargaining, the administration was essentially attempting to engage the chapter in negotiations, in contravention of Article 45 of the Agreement, which the chapter had already invoked in April 2016. Article 45 is the agreement between the administration and the WMU-AAUP in which “each waives the right, and each agrees that the other shall not be obligated to bargain collectively with respect to any subject or matter referred to or covered by this Agreement.”

When we notified Dr. Warren Hills, WMU Chief Human Resources Officer, of these developments after the Association Council meeting, he responded that the administration would be “going forward with open enrollment for the bargaining units that have agreed and our benefits-eligible staff.”

We interpret this to mean that the administration has decided not to offer the HMO to WMU-AAUP faculty.

As WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick wrote on the chapter blog in July 2016:

The idea of adding a second plan, specifically one that lowers premium costs for employees, was proposed by another employee group on campus, the WMU chapter of AFSCME, whose bargaining unit includes maintenance, landscape, dining, custodial, and other service staff. The health insurance premiums assessed to individuals vary by employee group at WMU. As most faculty are aware, our group, the board-appointed faculty, pays the highest premiums, but what maybe a lot of faculty don’t know is that employees in groups whose median pay is lower than that of the faculty still face costs that are unacceptably high, especially for the two-person and family plans.

So I can understand why our AFSCME colleagues are fighting for more affordable health insurance for their membership. We join them in their ongoing attempts to reduce healthcare costs for all WMU employees, especially the lowest paid among us, as these costs have become increasingly burdensome in recent years.

But I am not as optimistic as President Dunn seems to be that this new plan is the answer.

As I have noted, board-appointed faculty already pay the highest insurance premiums of any employee group at WMU, a rate that is the same as what senior administrative officers pay, even though the median and mean salaries of that employee group are of course significantly greater than ours. One way to cut costs for lower-paid employees, then, might be to ask senior administrators to bear more of their share of the burden.

And it is probably worth noting that not all senior administrators are even paying the same premiums as faculty. For example, President Dunn’s premium is $0 for his two-person plan, compared to $3933 per year for faculty. Additionally, his retirement agreement guarantees continuing free coverage for himself and for Mrs. Dunn for the rest of their lives. (Faculty and staff retirees, by contrast, have seen their share of healthcare premiums spike in recent years.)

As we noted in our September analysis, we have serious reservations about the Healthy Blue Living HMO. While the premium equivalents for the HMO are lower than those for our current plan, the HMO has “wellness program” participation conditions attached to it that some faculty might find intrusive and/or burdensome. If these conditions are not met, deductibles are increased and coverage is decreased. Additionally, the full deductible must be met before HMO enrollees are eligible for coverage of office visits and nearly all other non-preventive medical and clinical care, meaning that you would pay 100% of the bill for non-preventive services and office visits until your deductible is met, potentially negating any savings from lower premiums. (See Table 1.)

Conversely, our current plan includes many services to which the deductible does not apply, and the deductible need not be met before we can access coverage for most office visits and services after copay. Our current plan also includes access to medical and clinical services at the Sindecuse Health Center on campus with zero out-of-pocket costs and a prescription drug discount at Sindecuse. These benefits would not be available to HMO enrollees, who would be responsible for all charges for medical and clinical services at Sindecuse and would pay retail prices for prescription drugs at the Sindecuse pharmacy. (See Table 2.)

Please refer to the full analysis for more information.

The chapter leadership and members of our 2014 bargaining team believe that there are better ways to reduce costs for faculty that do not involve the intrusive “wellness” requirements that are integral to the Healthy Blue Living HMO. We also question the ethics of an option that requires faculty to take chances with the health and wellbeing of their families by gambling on a plan that may include some savings in the short run but is not likely to be a good investment for anyone who might actually have to use their insurance.

These are among the reasons why the faculty expressed its nearly unanimous dissatisfaction at the chapter meeting in April 2016 with the prospect of major decisions about our healthcare being made outside of contract negotiations. The product of this dissatisfaction was passage of a resolution invoking the chapter’s rights under Article 45 of the Agreement, a position that the Association Council reaffirmed last month.

ARTICLE 45
WAIVER CLAUSE

45.§1 AGREE AND ACKNOWLEDGE. The parties acknowledge that during the negotiations which resulted in this Agreement each had the unlimited right and opportunity to make demands and proposals with respect to any subject or matter not removed by law from the area of collective bargaining and that the understandings and agreements arrived at by the parties after  the exercise of that right and opportunity are set forth in this Agreement. Therefore, Western and the Chapter, for the life of this Agreement, each waives the right, and each agrees that the other shall not be obligated to bargain collectively with respect to any subject or matter referred to or covered by this Agreement and with respect to any non-mandatory subject of bargaining not specifically referred to or covered in this Agreement, even though such subject may not have been within the knowledge and contemplation of either or both of the parties at the time that they negotiated or signed this Agreement.

We are looking forward to contract negotiations in 2017, at which time we will explore a variety of approaches to getting costs down for members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit.