Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

Earlier this semester, 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.

Several members of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee took the lead on creating the original draft, which was made available to the faculty for feedback on March 5. At that time, we solicited faculty feedback, which we have incorporated into the revised version of the letter posted below.

Many thanks to the more than 60 faculty members who contributed to the drafting of the letter and provided feedback. This has been a truly collaborative effort. We hope you will be satisfied with the result.

WMU-AAUP faculty will soon receive an email invitation to weigh in electronically on the letter. The original motion of the Executive Committee called for the revised letter to be sent to the faculty for approval. After that, we will begin collecting signatures.

As we noted when we posted the original draft on March 5, we recognize that circulating material to the faculty means essentially making that material public. Once again, we choose to see that as an opportunity. As with the original draft last month, we hope that this revised draft will be widely read and will encourage dialogue among the faculty and elsewhere on campus.

As always, we welcome your feedback.


Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

April 9, 2015

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 expressed its dissatisfaction with the leadership of Provost Tim Greene in a no-confidence vote. We believe that the students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Western Michigan University need and deserve competent, respectful, visionary leadership, and we find these values lacking in Provost Greene’s leadership.

At this time of significantly decreased state support, and when the university is undertaking important initiatives such as the new medical and law schools, a strong partnership and cultivation of trust between the faculty and the senior administration are essential. Unfortunately, the senior administration’s response to the no-confidence vote has been to dismiss it and to misrepresent the nature of our dissatisfaction. The purpose of this letter, then, is to articulate the faculty concerns that led to the no-confidence vote and to propose a way forward that will better serve the interests of Western Michigan University and its diverse community of stakeholders.

We recognize that Western Michigan University exists foremost to be an educational resource for the people of our state and to be a center for research and the generation of knowledge, and as a faculty, we take seriously these responsibilities. The concerns articulated below reflect values that we share with our students and with the people of Michigan whom we serve.

  • Lack of Transparency

The no-confidence vote reflects major concerns about the lack of transparency in the provost’s decision-making. A crucial example is the Academic Program Review (APR) now underway. The precise purposes of the APR have yet to be articulated to the faculty, although we have been obliged to provide hundreds of hours of our labor to this initiative. Questions about these additions to faculty workloads and legitimate concerns about the ultimate goal of the review process 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. Only after a censure vote by the faculty in October 2013 compelled him to move forward did he begin to authorize equity adjustments, despite a contractual mandate to do so in 2011. While some adjustments were made beginning in November 2013, the process by which those decisions were made was entirely opaque, and significant salary inequities continue. 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 he represents cares more about protecting itself than about doing what is right (and what is required by law). It also sends a discouraging message to our students when they see that their professors are not treated equally. We believe that most administrators and the Board of Trustees are in agreement on the importance of gender equity and are as concerned as we are about the damage inequitable treatment can do to morale and productivity and the message an appearance of indifference toward inequity is sending to our students. Therefore, it is a matter of deep and genuine concern to us that the reputation of the university president, the Board of Trustees, and the university as a whole suffers because the provost’s actions.

  • Lack of Respect for Faculty and Shared Governance

The no-confidence vote also reflects our perception that Provost Greene lacks respect for faculty perspectives and for the overall contributions 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 central role in this mission. Disrespect of the faculty 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. 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. It took the filing of a chapter grievance in November 2013 before the WMU-AAUP was 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 identified “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.

Additionally, the provost ignored the results of the metrics already in place for faculty evaluation of administrators. The reviews of Dean Enyedi in 2012 and again in 2014, conducted by the WMU-AAUP according to contractual procedures, found that he had the overwhelming support of the faculty in his college, some 90 percent of whom answered “yes” to the question of whether he should continue as dean. For the provost to remove Dean Enyedi without consultation with the faculty, and in deliberate disregard for faculty perspectives, suggests not only a significant failure of leadership on his part but also another example of his apparent lack of respect for shared governance.

  • Pattern of Behavior

While the removal of Dean Enyedi was for many faculty the breaking point regarding our overall confidence in the provost’s leadership, it is a mistake to characterize the no-confidence vote as being the product of this single issue. When faculty called for the no-confidence vote at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on January 23, 2015, we made clear that our 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, and that it went against the will of the faculty in his college, has alarmed faculty in all colleges who value transparency, shared governance, and freedom of expression.

The senior administration has insisted that the dissatisfaction with Provost Greene’s leadership is limited to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, which misrepresents the facts and insults the faculty. Does the senior administration 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. However, it is not only CAS faculty who are disparaged in this administrative narrative. It also discounts the voices of faculty from other colleges, who are therefore effectively silenced.

  • Moving Forward

The issues outlined above suggest that Provost Greene’s vision for the university is incompatible with the core academic values that are central to our collective mission to educate and to generate knowledge. Many among us have proposed that we use this letter to call for his removal. Certainly without any evidence of accountability, we are left to worry that the provost is simply doing what he is expected to do by the senior leadership of the institution.

To move forward, then, we propose a dialogue, one that is truly open and inclusive and that begins immediately, to discuss the following:

  • whether it makes sense for Provost Greene to continue in his role as the university’s chief academic officer;
  • the current and future direction of the university as an institution that values excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity and the kind of leadership that will be required to carry out our mission;
  • the academic identity that we – faculty, staff, students, administration, and alumni – envision for Western Michigan University and how best to achieve that collective vision;
  • a renewed effort to acknowledge and to correct gender inequity and other inequities on our campus and to address the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place.

We look forward to participating in this dialogue as active partners with the Board of Trustees and the senior leadership of the university.

Sincerely,

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

 

One thought on “Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

  1. This is an excellent letter. It articulates the concerns that, in my experience, are shared widely among the faculty. Thanks to the AAUP leadership for the time and effort required to draft this carefully written communication. The “Moving Forward” section is constructive.

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