Remarks by WMU-AAUP Vice President Lisa Minnick
Meeting of the Board of Trustees, June 12, 2013
I am here today as a step toward re-establishing direct communication between the Board and the WMU-AAUP. As the bargaining unit for the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University in its entirety, we are your partners in shared governance, and we take that responsibility seriously.
A recent report by the national AAUP Committee on College and University Governance finds a national trend in which open, frequent, and direct communication between the faculty and governing boards has substantially decreased in recent years. The report notes that what communication there is tends to be formal and in controlled settings (like this one), or as the authors describe it, the communication tends to be “ritualized, infrequent, and limited to specific agenda items.”
The AAUP report suggests that this trend toward less frequent and more strictly mediated communication between faculties and governing boards coincides with increasing corporatization of higher education. The result is often that faculties are less likely to be included as active participants in critical decision-making on their campuses, even when those decisions concern what is described in Article 42 of the WMU-AAUP Agreement as “the work that belongs primarily to the faculty” (that is, teaching, research, creative and scholarly activities, and so on).
- Colleagues in the College of Education and Human Development are telling us about candidate visits now underway in the process of selecting their next dean, but many faculty members feel included in the process in only the most cursory of ways.
- Colleagues in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences are coming to us with concerns about departmental reorganizations in their college and reporting that they do not feel that their concerns about these plans have been taken seriously.
- Female faculty colleagues from every college on campus are coming to us with serious reservations about the process by which the long-standing gender-based salary inequity at WMU is being addressed, a process that they feel set colleagues against one another and is unlikely to make a significant dent in existing inequity or to set a course toward the kind of cultural change that is going to need to happen if there is ever to be real equity on this campus.
- From colleagues campus-wide we are hearing of serious questions and concerns about the Academic Program Review, the details of which have yet to be communicated to the WMU-AAUP. We appreciate the leadership of the Faculty Senate on this initiative, but we remind the senior administration that Articles 4, 24, and 37 of the Agreement make clear not only that there is an obligation to inform the Chapter fully of such significant activities but also that Chapter involvement must be sought.
The 870 members of the WMU-AAUP are deeply invested in the well-being of the institution and the community. Our lives, our careers, all the things that matter to us are here. Our doors, for the most part, do not revolve. The expertise of our members is wide as well as deep; it is diverse and dynamic. The faculty thus constitutes a rich and valuable resource. It is disappointing and frustrating to the faculty when their value seems to be overlooked, taken for granted, or worse, seen as potentially expendable.
In recent years, the relationship between the WMU-AAUP and the Board has not been cultivated to the extent that the current Chapter leadership believes that it ought to be. Starting now, starting today, we intend to do better. I think we can agree that it is in the best interests of WMU and of all its constituencies and stakeholders for us to communicate directly, to build trust, and to work collaboratively on behalf of the institution and especially on behalf of the students and community we serve.