Our team reports that bargaining sessions between the WMU-AAUP and the administration continue to be lively and productive. Since our last update, on May 16, the teams have returned to the table to discuss several key issues, including the Preamble to the Agreement and elements of Article 2.
An element of Article 2 that has been under discussion over the past several bargaining sessions is the definition of “Western.” In the current and past Agreements, the definition is given as “the Board of Trustees and the administrative agents of said Board,” and “Western” is used thusly throughout the Agreement to refer to the administration. Our team has proposed that this use of “Western” be discontinued, effective with the 2014-17 Agreement.
Our team is addressing the use of the term “Western” in the spirit of widespread faculty interest in working to restore a culture of governance on our campus that is genuinely shared between the faculty and the administration, as one part of that greater project. The faculty has made clear to us the high value they place on a culture of collaboration and shared governance. In fact, preliminary analysis of the data collected in the recent WMU-AAUP faculty survey suggests that “working to restore real shared governance” is among the most frequently cited priorities for negotiations. Some respondents to the survey even ranked it higher than economic issues.
In recent meetings at the table, Cynthia, Bilinda, Onaiwu, and Tom have emphasized to the administration the symbolic significance of “Western” as an inclusive reference to our academic and intellectual community – including the administration but also the faculty, staff, students, and alumni – and have noted the faculty’s dismay and mounting frustration at the extent to which the use of the term to mean only the administration seems to exclude the faculty and other stakeholders from that community.
Our team is pursuing other philosophical conversations as well, with similar objectives. They have proposed a new Preamble to the Agreement that emphasizes the collaborative nature of the ideal relationship between faculty and administration and our mutual commitment to academic excellence. (Our team’s draft Preamble can be viewed here.)
While they may not share our enthusiasm for these issues, the administration has been open to discussing them, and our team is looking forward to reaching a resolution on them soon.
We understand that economic issues are a high priority for all faculty, and our team is very much looking forward to addressing those at the table in the near future. In the meantime, we await the administration’s response to our request that they provide the WMU-AAUP with full and complete information about our current health insurance program. This is the kind of relevant and necessary information that by law employers must provide. We look forward to receiving it soon, and you can be assured that our team will be fully prepared to represent the faculty effectively on this critical issue.
The teams were back at the table yesterday (Tuesday, May 27), and our WMU-AAUP team continues to meet frequently to work on their research and planning, draft proposals, and prepare responses to proposals brought to them by the administration. Cynthia, Bilinda, Onaiwu, and Tom are all in excellent spirits, despite the long hours they are committing to this work, and they report that discussions at the table are collegial and spirited.
We will continue to send you these updates as the bargaining process continues, and we also invite you to follow the WMU-AAUP on Facebook, Twitter, and here on the blog to catch up any time on negotiation news.
As always, we welcome your feedback, comments, and questions. Thanks to everyone who has sent us feedback and messages of support and solidarity for the team or posted them on Facebook and Twitter. Those messages and posts are a great way to let the team know you’re behind them, so please do keep them coming.