About lcm

I am an Associate Professor of English and Gender & Women's Studies at Western Michigan University. In addition to my fascination with all things linguistic, I also enjoy mountain biking, cross-country skiing, yoga, and hanging out with family, friends, and dogs. Since 2013, I have served as president of the WMU-AAUP, a collective-bargaining chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Letter to the faculty: Take your fall break October 17-19

photo of forest with tall trees, sun peeking through, and red autumn leaves

October 16, 2018

Dear colleagues:

We’ve been receiving inquiries about whether faculty are required to report for work during the fall break, which takes place Wednesday through Friday of this week.

The answer, for both fiscal-year and academic-year faculty, is NO.

The fall calendar change this year, with the earlier academic-year start date, was negotiated in 2017 at the bargaining table and constituted a significant trade-off for us. What we got in return was (1.) a little more money than what had been on the table thus far and (2.) fall break. A deal is a deal. Faculty should absolutely take these three days off.

We encourage all faculty to take advantage of the fall break, not only because you deserve it (which of course you do), but also because the best way to protect the rights and benefits that have been negotiated and won at the bargaining table, including this one, is by using them. If some faculty show up to work during breaks, it can make it harder for us to enforce the rights of everyone else to take the time off to which all faculty are entitled.

Obviously taking a few days off is one of the easier and more fun ways to defend the contract, so this is a perfect opportunity for all of us to participate in a collective action to protect faculty rights. (And what’s not to love about a five-day weekend?)

In sum, fall break was negotiated at the bargaining table. And as you all know, we don’t get anything for free, including this. So please take it.

If you are being informed that you are obliged to report at any time during the break, please contact us immediately at 345-0151. Our office will be open until 4:30 p.m. today (Tuesday, October 16), after which we will be closed until Monday in observance of fall break. After close of business today, please email chapter officers directly with your concerns. Our contact info is linked here.

#5DayWeekend
#WeAreWorthIt
#StrengthInSolidarity

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University

Concerns about use and privacy of FARS data

Last year, we brought concerns to the administration about the then-new online faculty activity reporting system (FARS). These concerns had to do with a private vendor mediating the internal transmission of faculty data, including our personal information and intellectual property; the privacy and security of our data in the hands of this vendor; the (required) participation of faculty in a private, for-profit venture without our informed consent; and the vendor’s published policy that our use of their platform to enter our data constitutes our consent for them to track our activities online and to share information about us with “third-party services.”

We noted also that Article 42.§12 codifies the purpose for professional-activities data collection as “to enable Western and the Chapter to assess the workload activities of faculty” and that the WMU Office for Institutional Research (OIR) FARS FAQs page cites applications and audiences for FARS data that appear to go beyond the agreed-upon contractual intent.

For example, one FAQ, “What will be done with the information that is reported?” is answered thusly: “Information collected through FARS will be used to apply for accreditation, for program review, for faculty tenure/promotion, and for other reporting purposes.”

Leaving aside for the moment that there is no reference here to the contractual uses of this data (i.e., “to assess the workload activities of faculty,” per 42.§12), along with our (as yet) unsatisfied curiosity about what these “other reporting purposes” might involve, the uses listed here clearly go beyond what is codified in the Agreement. Because the collection and use of FARS data are explicitly contractual, decisions about other uses for these data should not be made unilaterally. The WMU-AAUP Chapter would have been open to a conversation about the application of FARS data as a way to streamline the work of accreditation reviews and reports and for other legitimate purposes, had we been approached to participate in one. The Chapter’s participation was limited to an August 2017 invitation for an officer to beta test the new system, by which time it was already a done deal.

More concerning is the inclusion of “faculty tenure/promotion” on the OIR list of intended uses for FARS data. Tenure and promotion review processes are of course governed by negotiated language in Articles17 and 18 of the Agreement. That means if the administration wants to propose changes to how tenure and promotion reviews are conducted, they are obliged to bring those proposals to the bargaining table for negotiation. Further, in addition to being contractual, decisions about how we conduct tenure and promotion reviews are central to the faculty’s right to participation in shared governance.

Further, the answer to another FAQ, “Who has access to the FARS system?” raises additional concerns about intended uses for faculty data that go beyond what’s in the contract: “A FARS governance committee will oversee all access to the system. Generally speaking, faculty will have access to the system and can update and use their data at any time during the year. Chairs will have access to the PAR data for their departments and deans will have access to their college’s PAR data. Other access (some broad and some narrow) will be available to Institutional Research, OVPR, Institutional Effectiveness, HIGE, and University Relations (i.e., publication and creative activity).”

We requested last fall that the administration provide the faculty with the University’s policies regarding privacy and use of FARS data so that we could evaluate whether these policies comport with the WMU/WMU-AAUP Agreement. The administration declined to provide this information, directing us instead to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which we did, with our request including but not limited to “all privacy, use-of-data, and disclosure policies and agreements (and drafts thereof).” The approximately 50 pages of materials we received in response, for which the WMU-AAUP Chapter was charged $246 by the administration, did not answer our questions or assuage faculty concerns. (These materials can be viewed here.)

We are working to open a dialogue with the administration again this year, in the hope that new senior leadership on campus will help us get answers and resolve these issues. We will keep you informed about how that goes. Obviously there is not going to be a resolution before our FARs are due next week, but given the gravity of faculty concerns, this is going to be a longer-term conversation. For now, faculty can review the FARS project charterthe WMU-AAUP’s 2017 inquiry to OIR, our FOIA request, the documents we received in response, and the OIR’s online information about FARS

Fall 2018 academic-year faculty return date: August 29

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick |
August 13, 2018 |

Dear colleagues:

We are receiving reports that some chairs and other administrators have been informing academic-year (AY) faculty (erroneously) that they are required to report back to work for the new academic year on August 15, 2018.

That is not accurate.

For the 2018-19 academic year, AY faculty are not required to report before August 29.

If you are just interested in getting the correct date and don’t want to get into the minutiae of contract language, you can stop right here. Have a great day!

For those interested in the contractual justification for this statement, please read on. If you serve on the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee or Association Council, please read on and please share this information with your chair or director (and dean if necessary). 

The WMU/WMU-AAUP Agreement is explicit on this topic: Article 38 states the return date for faculty on AY appointments as the first day of classes. For Fall 2018, the first day of classes is August 29.

The relevant language appears across several sections of Article 38, including the definition of “academic year” in 38.§4.1 (emphasis added):

38.§4.1 Academic Year. Bargaining unit faculty members on academic or alternate academic year appointments shall not be required to work during the following University recognized holidays and breaks: two (2) days at Thanksgiving; single days for Christmas Eve; Christmas Day; New Year’s Eve; New Year’s Day; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Memorial Day; Independence Day; Labor Day; and a designated Western Spirit Day (none of these days shall be a Saturday or a Sunday); nor during periods between semesters and sessions when classes are not scheduled to meet, except in the limited circumstances envisioned in 38.§2 of this Agreement.

Additionally, 38.§2 uses the term “outside the calendar” for periods of time when AY faculty “shall not be required to work” per 38.§4.1. It explicitly defines the following periods of time as “outside the calendar”: “before the fall semester begins, between the fall and spring semesters, and after the spring semester ends.”

Appendix D of the Agreement articulates the specific dates for each year of the contract (2017-20) for all periods of time referenced in Article 38, including all university holidays, breaks, and other important dates. Excerpts from that calendar are listed below:

  • August 29 Wednesday – Classes begin at 8 a.m.
  • September 3 Monday – Labor Day recess
  • October 17-19 Wed.-Fri. – Fall Break
  • November 21 Wednesday – Thanksgiving recess (noon)
  • November 26 Monday – Classes resume
  • December 10-13 – Final examination week
  • December 15 Saturday – Semester ends – commencement

There are a few exceptions. Article 38.§2 provides for limited exceptions for matters that legitimately require attention at times that are contractually “outside the calendar.” However, these provisions may be used only in accordance with the constraints outlined in that section. A general early-return requirement does not meet the contractual criteria.

Please note also that pay period dates set by the payroll office have no bearing on the contractual work dates for AY faculty. Pay period dates are set by the payroll office to ensure that faculty are paid on the 5th and 20th of each month, per the twice-monthly pay schedule established in 2015, beginning with the first AY pay date of September 5. To honor the September 5 pay date, the first pay period of the 2018-19 AY begins on August 15.

However, some administrators may be using the pay-period start date to try to compel faculty to return on August 15. This is an error on their part.

The date that a pay period starts (or ends) has no relation to the academic calendar as defined in the contract nor to our contractual obligations, except to ensure our timely paychecks in relation to the academic calendar. The payroll office has simply set up its schedule so that we can be paid on time (which we all appreciate). But that is the extent of it.

The administration is required to follow the legally binding contract language regarding the academic calendar, period. For the 2018-19 academic year, faculty are not required to report prior to August 29, 2018.

We are assuming that once your chairs and directors (and deans) are informed about the contractual start date, any claims of an August 15 start date, or other early start date, will be retracted in order to avoid a violation of the contract.

Please contact the WMU-AAUP Chapter immediately if you are an AY faculty member who is being instructed to report earlier than August 29.

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
(269) 345-0151

 

 

Decision in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31

As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31.

In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Samuel Alito and announced this morning, the court has ruled that public-sector unions may not charge fees from employees who are covered by collective-bargaining agreements but do not join the union. Unions are of course required to represent and negotiate on behalf of all members of the bargaining unit without regard to dues-payment status. Justices Elena Kagan (with Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) and Sonia Sotomayor dissented.

This decision does not change things immediately or directly for us, as Michigan adopted so-called “right to work” laws in 2013, so these rules already apply to us. However, the effects will be felt immediately in states that still have fair-share laws on the books. It also overturns over 40 years of established law in this country and creates new challenges for people who believe in working collectively to make sure everyone has a voice in the workplace.

The decision is also likely to embolden state legislatures to pass increasingly restrictive labor laws, and over time, it will affect unions nationwide, including ours, as the financing that comes from members and chapters to fund the support and organizational work of the national organizations, which we have long been able to take for granted but would sorely miss if it was gone, is likely to drop significantly in the next few years.

We will be receiving more information later today from the national AAUP, which is also scheduling an online townhall meeting with the leaders of AAUP collective-bargaining chapters. Extensive analysis will also become available over the next few days. For now, you can read the decision (including the dissents) here, and follow the links to some of this morning’s news coverage from the Washington Post, NPR, CBS, and USA Today. Initial analysis of the decision is available on SCOTUSblog.

We will continue to keep you informed as we learn more.

Ohanna named interim contract administrator

photo of Dr. Natalio Ohanna

Dr. Natalio Ohanna

Dr. Natalio Ohanna, Department of Spanish, has been named interim contract administrator for the WMU-AAUP, effective August 1, 2018.

In addition to his interim appointment, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee has also voted to recommend Natalio to complete the two-year term that runs though August 31, 2019. The Association Council will meet to discuss this recommendation and hold a confirmation vote at its first meeting of the 2018-19 academic year on September 21.

Natalio joins the leadership team with a strong background in union activism and distinguished service on the WMU-AAUP Association Council.

Natalio writes:

“I feel honored to be selected for this job, because I recognize its significance, the obligations involved, as well as the tremendous value of advocating for our labor rights and for just and healthy work relations. I am aware that the colleagues selected for such service carry the weight of great responsibility, as they are defenders of many of the fundamental values of our WMU community, such as academic freedom, shared governance, ethical conduct, fairness, inclusiveness, and respect for others. Above all, I welcome this nomination as a passionate advocate for fairness and justice in our workplace.”

Please join us in welcoming Natalio to the WMU-AAUP leadership team. We look forward to working with him and extend our thanks to him for his willingness to serve in this challenging but essential role.

AC reps Wallace and Hennlich to be honored April 6

Dr. Luchara Wallace (Special Education and Literacy Studies) and Dr. Andrew Hennlich (Frostic School of Art), will be recognized at the WMU-AAUP spring chapter meeting on April 6 as 2017-18 Outstanding Association Council Representatives.

As Association Council reps, Luchara and Andrew serve not only their department faculty but the entire WMU-AAUP bargaining unit, routinely going far beyond what is asked or expected of them in their elected roles. Their efforts strengthen the chapter and improve the quality of life on campus for all faculty.

photo of Dr. Luchara Wallace

 

Dr Luchara Wallace
Special Education and Literacy Studies

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Andrew Hennlich
Frostic School of Art

 

 

The WMU-AAUP Chapter is fortunate to have an exceptional group of faculty serving on the Association Council, with representation from every academic unit and a deep bench of seasoned and emerging union leaders, including Luchara and Andrew. They are part of a core group of our most active AC reps who can always be counted on to join us on the front lines when it comes to defending the contract, fighting to preserve and strengthen academic freedom and shared governance rights, and working to maintain and enhance the quality of our professional lives. This work takes resourcefulness, stamina, courage, and above all a calling to serve others. And they do most of it when nobody’s looking, all of it without extra compensation or release time, and usually with only a fraction of the appreciation and recognition they deserve.

Congratulations, Luchara and Andrew! Congratulations and thank you!

#StrengthInSolidarity

WMU-AAUP spring chapter meeting is Friday, April 6, at 1:30 p.m. in 157 Bernhard. 

WMU unions to face off in kickball extravaganza

Friday, March 16 |
7-8:30 p.m. |
WMU Student Rec Center |

It is ON!

Get those knee braces on and get your ice packs ready: TAU has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged us to a kickball game, along with the Professional Instructors Organization (PIO) and AFSCME at WMU. The big event is coming up this Friday!

Those TAU whippersnappers may be younger than we are, they’re probably healthier on average, and they almost definitely have better knees, but we’ve got old age, treachery, and good insurance on our side, so let’s get out there and kick some. . . kickballs!

Admission is FREE FOR STUDENTS to what will surely be a spectacle of awesomeness that won’t soon be forgotten on this campus.

For everyone else, the price of admission is one non-perishable food item for the WMU Food Pantry or a donation to the WMU Invisible Need fund. You can donate online here. (Select ‘Invisible Need’ from the dropdown menu under the ‘Students’ tab.)

The game will be at the WMU Student Rec Center on Friday, March 16, 7-8:30 p.m. Colleagues, we will see you there in your WMU-AAUP colors: red and white!

#StrengthInSolidarity
#UnionStrong
#ThisIsAUnionCampus
#WhatCouldWePossiblyBeThinking
#OhWellAtLeastItWillBeFun