WMU-AAUP Remarks at Board of Trustees Meeting

Remarks by Chapter Secretary Bill Warren
at the September 18, 2013, meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees

On behalf of the WMU-AAUP, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to address you. As you know, this is a crucial year for WMU’s faculty. We are one year away from the end of our current contract, a contract that will now be impacted in one way or the other by Michigan’s new “right-to-work” laws.

The faculty kicked off our yearlong contract campaign on September 3 at a Fall BBQ that attracted record attendance. Approximately 450 faculty members and their families attended. For the first time that I can remember in my twelve years as a faculty member here, we ran out of food—a sure sign of success!

This Friday we will welcome Angela Hewett, the AAUP’s national director of organizing and service, and work with her on ways to galvanize our chapter and build solidarity as we prepare for this year’s coming challenges.

Over the course of the coming academic year, we will remind the campus community about the fundamental values that the AAUP and our chapter stand for. Perhaps most crucial of these values is shared governance. Allow me to read from an AAUP statement on the importance of faculty in assuring shared governance as a core operating principle of university operations.

“Since its founding in 1915, the AAUP has been actively engaged in developing standards for sound academic practice and in working for their acceptance throughout the commu¬nity of higher education. Two aspects of an institution’s academic practice have been of particular concern to the Association ever since: the rights and freedoms of individual faculty members and the role of the faculty in institutional governance.”

We believe it is time to remind the entire community of WMU about the centrality of teaching and research in the array of tasks carried out by an academic institution: teaching and research are the very purpose of an academic institution and the reason why the public values and supports what we do. This means that the faculty, who are responsible for carrying out those central tasks, have a unique status and critical function within the institution.

The AAUP has taken this view from its earliest days. Its first statement, the 1915 Declaration of Principles, declares that members of a faculty “are the appointees, but not in any proper sense the employees,” of the trustees. The faculty are partners with the trustees, and, as the Declaration states, the office of faculty member should be “one both of dignity and of independence.” Indeed, it is in the public interest that this be so. Allocation of authority to the faculty in the areas of its responsibility is a nec¬essary condition for the faculty’s possessing that dignity and exercising that independence.”

Some examples of shared governance that illustrate the importance of this principle as it applies to our role in WMU’s larger community include the following:

1. We continue to fight for equity in pay and benefits for all faculty, press for resolution of the gender equity process that has now been underway for many years, and call for an explanation for the most recent delay. Hundreds of faculty women campus-wide who are eligible for equity increases have seen no adjustments, even though the adjustments were to have been made beginning with their September 10th paychecks. They received no warning that they should not expect the promised adjustments. They just opened their checks and were disappointed once again. And they have still received no explanation. We call upon the administration once again to talk to the faculty and explain this delay. In the meantime, our women colleagues continue to fall further behind financially. We remind the administration that inequity is cumulative, demoralizing, and illegal.

2. We will also fight for our contractual right to shared participation in the academic program review now underway There has been no direct communication with the faculty about this, and we remind the administration once again that our contract guarantees the faculty – and the Chapter – a central role in the process from the beginning. And we are especially concerned about the very real possibility of faculty job losses as an end result of the program review.

3. We will insist that the administration honor the faculty’s contractual right to peer review in any unresolved grievance or disciplinary procedures. All faculty, indeed, all citizens, have the right to due process to include a full and thorough investigation of any charges against them.

4. We will continue to insist on faculty participation in any searches for administrative personnel who will be involved in faculty affairs. For example, in the current search for a new Director of Academic Collective Bargaining, faculty were excluded from participation and not one of the candidates brought in as finalists has any faculty background.

The WMU-AAUP advocates shared governance with an emphasis on both words: shared in the spirit of true and meaningful cooperation and governance in recognition of our important obligations as faculty members and the dedication we invest in this university.