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.


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