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.

Remarks to the Board of Trustees, September 20, 2017

by Lisa C. Minnick, WMU-AAUP President |


It’s been a year since the Presidential Search Advisory Committee began the work that resulted in the hiring of President Montgomery, whose inauguration we celebrated last week. President Montgomery, I am pleased to have this opportunity to welcome you officially on behalf of the WMU-AAUP, whose membership comprises the 900 members of the Board-appointed faculty in its entirety.

Last fall, the Presidential Search Advisory Committee met with faculty, staff, students, alumni, administrators, and community members to listen to their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges faced by Western Michigan University and, by extension, its next president. We asked them to describe the characteristics they thought the next president would need in order to succeed at making the most of the opportunities and addressing the challenges. We used what they told us to draft the position announcement and description of the characteristics and qualifications the university community wanted in its next president.

Despite the diverse needs and interests of these constituencies, I was surprised to hear the same themes repeatedly: WMU has the raw materials and is poised for greatness, but we need a leader who can help us get there. We need a leader who can help us make the most of our resources, the strongest and most valuable of which is of course our people. We need a leader who can help us build on our strengths, develop where we have been languishing, and realize our potential. We will all be on board for this journey, they said, but we need a leader who has the vision to help us figure out who we are, who we aspire to be, how to get there, and – critically – how to tell our story so the rest of the world will see what we see.

The repetition of these themes in conversation after conversation was striking. It made our charge simultaneously easier – because everyone wants the same thing! hooray! – and more difficult: How do we find someone with the skills, talent, experience, and energy to lead us in the colossal project we are setting out for ourselves? Is there actually a real person out there who can meet these standards? Can we find someone who can lead us effectively in the difficult work of crafting and articulating a collective vision for the university? Someone who can lead us to achieve our shared aspirations? Someone who can help us tell our story?

Obviously the ending of that particular story is already well known. We are very fortunate to have found a new president who is clearly more than prepared to do all those things. This is an exciting time for the university and for all of us who are part the enterprise.

Now that we are a few weeks into the academic year, and the inaugural festivities and the flurry and chaos of the beginning of the academic year are behind us, it seems like a good time to pause for a moment and think about the challenge of telling our story.

The phrase “tell our story” appears repeatedly in the notes I kept from the conversation sessions last fall and in my notes from meetings of the search committee itself. At the time, and again in reviewing these notes over the past few weeks, the idea of “telling our story” is one of the themes that stands out most for me.

I’m an English professor, so I could probably get away with saying that stories are my business. But I’m not a creative writer or a literature professor, so by that definition, stories are not actually my business. Still, as I was preparing Monday morning to teach my class in the history of the English language, I was reminded again not only that this course is built from a series of stories that I use to help students figure out why the language is the way it is, how it got to be that way, and what causes language to change over time, but really that all my classes are built around stories. I use stories to help make sense of things like how language variation is distributed, how and why people attach value to different ways of speaking, and what a phoneme is and why that definition can be so hard to make sense of. So, I’m going to claim it: Teaching and doing research in linguistics is storytelling. Stories are therefore my business.

But they’re everyone else’s business too. My faculty colleagues are all storytellers as well. This is true across disciplines. We all learn from the stories of the researchers, scholars, artists, and teachers who came before us. We build on these stories – and sometimes we change them: that’s discovery – and we share them with our students and colleagues. This is how knowledge is transmitted and continually generated and regenerated. It is a remarkable thing, this work we professors are engaged in.

Of course you can see where this is going. Storytelling is central not only to our academic mission but to our culture, and to every culture. Stories are how we go about figuring out the world – to the extent that any of us ever really figures it out – and telling stories is how we try to explain the world to others even as they use stories to figure it out for themselves and try to explain it to us. And when I say “we,” I don’t just mean professors. I mean human beings.

But even while my creative writing colleagues and students in the English department inspire me with their talent for creating compelling, original stories, we have to recognize that no story is made up out of whole cloth. All stories are ultimately built on and made of other stories.

This is all a long way of saying that the story of Western Michigan University belongs to all of us: students, faculty, staff, administration, alumni, members of the Board, retired faculty and staff colleagues, members of the community, and everyone else who cares about this institution. That means to tell the story of Western Michigan University is to tell our collective story. And that is something that cannot be done – at least, it can’t be done right – without a deliberate, intentional effort to listen to the stories of all us. Because that is the story.

What everyone told us last fall during the search suggests that we have been at a loss for a way to define ourselves and a way to tell the story of what makes Western Michigan University the special place we all know it is. I submit that much of this loss is a consequence of an unwillingness to listen. When the stories of people, of constituencies, and of academic disciplines are told by people who themselves have not listened to the people whose stories these rightly are, assumptions are made, people may be written off, and harmful decisions are sometimes made.

There is no possibility of a collective, collaborative enterprise achieving its full potential under those circumstances.

So I hope that with the new administration, we can start over. I hope we can do a better job of listening to one another, of respecting people enough to listen to them and to believe them when they tell their own stories.

On what may seem like but is not an unrelated note, I will add that I appreciate that the Board has ratified the new contract. I have mixed feelings about the contract although nothing but respect for my bargaining team, whose meticulous preparation and scrupulously professional conduct at the bargaining table throughout a long and grueling negotiation cycle sets an excellent example for how academic collective bargaining at Western Michigan University ought to be conducted.

I am concerned about the changes to our healthcare plan, including what are likely to be for many of my colleagues unsustainable increases to their out of pocket costs beginning in January. While I appreciate that the cost-of-living increases in the new contract are likely to keep pace with inflation, which would be better of course if we were not losing so much ground on healthcare, I am also concerned about the loss of benefits at the Sindecuse Health Center and Unified Clinics. Added to the already worrisome changes to our insurance costs, this is a substantial additional hit. As always, these changes will disproportionately affect colleagues on the lower end of the salary scale, but new this time is that those who are the sickest will pay the most. In sum, these changes are going to make people’s lives harder.

I wish that before we got to this point their stories had been sought out and listened to by the people who control the resources on this campus, and that is you all, ladies and gentlemen of the board, along with your administrative agents.

Prior to President Montgomery’s arrival, there was a tendency to dismiss or try to ignore stories that did not square with the administration’s official line. That kind of thing can damage any institution, and it has. In the spirit of a fresh start with our new president, I am asking all of you to join me in trying a different approach this time, one in which the stories of all the people who do the work of this institution are sought out, listened to, valued, and taken to heart.

Thank you for listening.

WMU-AAUP faculty approves new contract, trustees to vote Sept. 20

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa C. Minnick |

September 19, 2017 |

Dear colleagues:

The faculty has voted in favor of ratifying the tentative agreement.

The WMU Board of Trustees will meet tomorrow (Wednesday, September 20) to hold their ratification vote. If they approve the new contract, it will go into effect immediately.

Upon ratification by the Board of Trustees, a two-percent salary increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year for all WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit faculty on academic-year appointments and retroactive to July 1, 2017, for fiscal-year faculty. Additionally, all WMU-AAUP faculty will receive an additional salary adjustment (the research supplement) effective January 1, 2018, of an amount equivalent to one percent of the median salary at your rank.

The Board of Trustees will meet tomorrow at 11 a.m. in 157 Bernhard. As with all the board’s formal sessions, this meeting is open to the public. All faculty should consider attending. Important decisions that affect all of us will be made.

Better yet, please consider addressing the board at tomorrow’s meeting. The only way the trustees can know what faculty are thinking, feeling, and experiencing is if they hear it from us. Their interactions with faculty and staff are limited. They spend most of their time on campus with senior administrators. This obviously limits their perspective.

We can help them with that. And we should.

Your stories are powerful and deserve to be heard. The trustees will listen to what you have to say. Some of them will be moved by what they hear. All of them will learn from it.

Many of us enjoy the protection of tenure, and we all enjoy the protections that come with being union members. But these privileges come with the responsibility to use them in service to the greater good. As professors, of course, one of our foundational responsibilities is to serve others.

If faculty don’t do the work of engaging and educating the board — on our own behalf, on behalf of staff who are not protected the way we are, and ultimately on behalf of our students — things are unlikely to change in ways we would like them to.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the ratification vote and to all who supported our team throughout the negotiation process. We appreciate you.

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

Tentative agreement info, absentee ballots, and important dates

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick |

September 12, 2017 |

Dear colleagues:

There is a lot to share with you today, so I thank you in advance for bearing with me.

1. Chapter meeting and ratification vote. As you review the tentative agreement in advance of the ratification vote next week, please be sure to put the following events in your calendar:

  • Friday, September 15: WMU-AAUP chapter meeting to discuss the tentative agreement. (3:30-5 p.m. in 157 Bernhard)
  • Tuesday, September 19: Faculty vote on ratification. (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in 204 Bernhard)
  • Tuesday, September 19: Members of our bargaining team will be on hand all day to answer your questions about the TA, should you have additional questions after the chapter meeting this Friday or are not able to attend the meeting. (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in 205 Bernhard, adjacent to the room where the ratification vote is being held.)

It’s important to have as much faculty participation as possible for the chapter meeting and especially for the ratification vote. The union is the faculty, and a high turnout for both events, regardless of where you stand on the issues, will remind the administration that the faculty is engaged and well informed. It also helps to build on our collective strength, a project we can never stop working on. #StrengthInSolidarity is more than just a hashtag.

All bargaining-unit members with questions are also invited to contact our team, chapter officers, and/or your Exec Committee representative (that’s your college-level rep) at any time. We want every colleague to have as much information as possible about what this contract will look like for you if it is approved. You can contact us directly (my email address is linked here) or send your questions to the chapter staff to be directed to the appropriate respondent(s).

2. Timeline for ratification vote. We realize that this is a tight timeline to go from TA reached on September 5, publication of the details on September 8, chapter meeting on September 15, and ratification vote on September 19. The faculty has big decisions to make, and you need and deserve time to give it serious thought, get your questions answered, and do your due diligence. I think we would all prefer to have more time for this important part of the process. However, the Board of Trustees has scheduled their vote on the TA for Wednesday, September 20. This is 10 days earlier than in 2014, and it means that we need to move more quickly than we might have liked.

This leaves us with a lot for faculty to digest in the next seven days before our ratification vote. That is why it’s critical for you to attend the chapter meeting on Friday if it is humanly possible for you to make it. We also invite you to stop by Montague House this week to meet with officers, give us a call (345-0151), or send us an email if you want to talk about the TA. And again, the bargaining team will be available all day on Tuesday the 19th to meet with you and answer questions.

3. Absentee ballots. If you need an absentee ballot, please contact the WMU-AAUP office ASAP at 345-0151 or via email. The staff will provide you with your ballot and instructions for submission. All absentee ballots must be returned electronically or received in hard copy to the WMU-AAUP no later than close of business on Tuesday, September 19.

4. Eligibility to vote. Please note that only dues-paying members are eligible to vote. If you need to activate your membership, please contact the WMU-AAUP office at 345-0151or via email as soon as possible to ensure your eligibility.

5. Switching gears: Tenure and promotion workshop rescheduled for Thursday, September 21. Because the faculty’s regular business continues no matter how many other things are going on, so does the business of the WMU-AAUP. However, sometimes we do have to move some things around. The tenure and promotion workshop scheduled for this Thursday, September 14, has been rescheduled for next Thursday, September 21, 1-3 p.m. in 204 Bernhard. We apologize for the conflict this causes for those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah. (I am one such celebrant, and I would like for us to do better. However, with the ratification vote taking up so much of our calendar, having to work around the officers’ teaching schedules, and the tenure and promotion deadline coming up so quickly, this is looking like the best we can do this time, much to our consternation. Please accept my apologies on behalf of the chapter.)

Additional sessions are scheduled for Wednesday, September 20, in 204 Bernhard, and Tuesday, September 26, in 205 Bernhard, both 1-3 p.m.

Many thanks for your patience with this long message. Hoping to see you all on Friday for the chapter meeting and again on Tuesday for the ratification vote. As I wrote last Friday, we still have a lot to talk about and a lot of work left to do, and we need everyone in on this conversation.

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017
#WeAreWorthIt

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

Details of the tentative agreement and notice of chapter meeting Sept 15

 Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick |

September 8, 2017 |

Dear colleagues,

The document containing the details of the tentative agreement reached late Tuesday night is now available and can be accessed here. It includes information for each of the contract articles where changes would be made to our Agreement if the TA is ratified by the faculty and by the Board of Trustees.

Please read everything carefully in preparation for the following events, for which your participation is needed:

1. Friday, September 15: WMU-AAUP chapter meeting to discuss the tentative agreement. (3:30-5 p.m. in 157 Bernhard)

2. Tuesday, September 19: Faculty vote on ratification. (Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in 204 Bernhard)

If you need an absentee ballot, please contact the WMU-AAUP office ASAP during regular business hours at 345-0151 or via email.

Please note that only dues-paying members are eligible to vote. If you need to activate your membership, please contact the WMU-AAUP office at 345-0151 or via email as soon as possible to ensure your eligibility.

Again, many thanks to our team. Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Mike gave up the better part of the past year to prepare for and engage in negotiations on our behalf, and they are owed a huge debt of gratitude. They faced challenging and difficult circumstances at the table right up to the end on Tuesday night but never allowed that to affect the professionalism with which they conducted themselves in these negotiations.

Thank you also to everyone who helped with the project of supporting the team in their work. This includes the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee, who despite the fact that most are on academic-year contracts worked all summer in their role as advisors to the team, and members of the WMU-AAUP Association Council, who along with more faculty colleagues than I can name stepped up to help organize rallies, boost our signal on social media, provide wise counsel, lend specialized expertise, make signs, send messages of support, take us out for drinks when that was what was needed, and otherwise do their part for the collective good. Thank you. We appreciate all of you more than you can imagine.

Special thanks are owed especially to the WMU-AAUP administrative staff, Susan E. and Lori M., whose tireless efforts and unshakeable loyalty to the faculty go mostly unsung most of the time but are essential to the effective operations of the chapter, not only during negotiation cycles but always. Please consider sending them a quick note of appreciation if you are so inclined.

But this is not over yet. The faculty still has to review and discuss the TA, and we still have to vote on whether to ratify it. Many of you will have questions. We have a lot to talk about and a lot of work left to do. We are going to need all of you as we go forward.

I hope to see you at the chapter meeting on September 15, and I hope I can count on you to participate in our ratification vote on September 19. (The Board of Trustees will hold their ratification vote on September 20.)

Thank you again for your ongoing commitment to the collective wellbeing of the faculty and to the continuing success and intellectual growth of this university and the community we all serve. As I wrote in my Labor Day note on the WMU-AAUP blog, we are — along with our staff colleagues — the heart, the soul, and the conscience of Western Michigan University. I am proud to serve and to work alongside so many dedicated and talented teachers, researchers, scholars, and artists.

Imagine what we could all achieve if taking care of the people who do the work of the university was among its highest priorities.

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017
#WeAreWorthIt

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

 

Tentative agreement reached just before midnight

A tentative agreement was reached between our WMU-AAUP bargaining team and the administration’s team just before midnight on Tuesday, September 5. Details are forthcoming, but for now, we all desperately need some sleep, and most of us have to go to class tomorrow, so your patience is appreciated.

Please join us in thanking Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Mike for their extraordinary efforts at the table over the past nearly six months.

And to everyone who came out to the chapter meeting, BBQ, and rally today, who attended previous events and rallies, who helped boost our signal on social media, and who volunteered and participated in this collaborative effort in the many ways required for a project of this magnitude: Many, many thanks to you for your time, talent, creativity, intelligence, and collegiality.

The news tonight means that we do not have to invoke the “work to rule” labor action we had planned in the event that a TA was not reached. But we believe that all faculty should give serious thought to the extent to which they donate their time, energy, and labor to an institution that does not always recognize our value the way they should. We are worth it.

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

Contract Negotiations and “Work to Rule,” by Allison Hart-Young

From: Allison Hart-Young |
Sent: Tuesday, September 5, 2017 2:18 p.m. |
To: Regena Nelson, Chair, Department of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies
Cc: Ming Li, Dean, College of Education and Human Development I
Cc: Susan Stapleton, Interim Provost and VP for Academic Affairs |
Subject: Work to Rule Labor Action |

Dear Regena,

I am writing to inform you that I will be among the tenured faculty members who will participate fully in the WMU AAUP’s “work to rule” action scheduled for Wednesday, 6 September 2017 beginning at 12:01am, should a tentative agreement is not met in the final round of negotiations prior to the expiration of the current contract.

I will absolutely continue to fulfill all of my contractually mandated responsibilities. As you are well aware, my commitment to students is my primary concern. Thus, I will be mindful of my teaching duties so that students will not be impacted by my participation in the action. As I understand it, “work to rule” is not a strike, stoppage, or slow down. It is a legal action that helps to convey the idea that WMU expects its faculty (and other employees) to do significant uncompensated work on a regular basis. It is particularly concerning because this institution has expressly denied its responsibility to fairness and equity for its employees. As a tenured, full professor, I feel it critically important to shoulder this burden so that my untenured and part-time colleagues, as well as staff members, do not have to compensate for this action.

I have taught at WMU for 21 years. It is my home and I have committed my entire professional life to this institution and its students. As you know, I have served over 4,200 students in my career – I care very much for these students and the programs that serve them. In this regard, I feel that the best way I can advocate for the continued success of this institution is to stand with my colleagues across campus in solidarity with this action.

Please let me know if you have any concerns. I will be more than happy to discuss them with you.

Sincerely,
Allison Hart-Young, Ph.D.

Secondary Education Program Unit Coordinator
Teaching, Learning, and Educational Studies
College of Education and Human Development
Western Michigan University
4121 Sangren Hall
1903 W Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008

 

 

Work to Rule Labor Action, by Gwen Athene Tarbox

From: Gwen Athene Tarbox |
Sent: Tuesday, September 5, 2017 10:41 a.m. |
To: Nicolas Witschi, Chair, Department of English |
Cc: Carla Korestsky, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences I
Cc: Susan Stapleton, Interim Provost and VP for Academic Affairs |
Subject: Work to Rule Labor Action |

Dear Nic:

The Agreement between the WMU-AAUP and the WMU administration is set to expire at tonight at midnight. If the teams are unable to arrive at a tentative agreement, I will follow the directive of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee by participating in a legal labor action called “work to rule,” withdrawing “from all work outside our contract and letters of appointment, effective at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, September 6, 2017” (“Sept 6 Work to Rule Notice to WMU-AAUP Faculty,” WMU-AAUP Blog, 8/31/17). Work to rule actions include all voluntary labor that a faculty member provides to the institution. As Dr. Lisa Minnick, President of the WMU-AAUP points out, without the uncompensated labor of the faculty, “it would be impossible for the institution to honor its commitments and its mission.” Work to rule is designed to demonstrate the value of the faculty to the institution.

As you know, over the years, I have provided significant uncompensated labor to the Department of English. For instance, I have worked with many students over the summers, even though I serve on a 9-month appointment. This voluntary labor has helped ensure that our PhD students complete their degrees in a timely manner and enjoy success on the academic job market, earning tenure track positions at California State University-Northridge, Shippensburg University, West Chester University, and the University of Texas-Dallas, among others. I have also met in the summer to help undergraduates with their successful applications to graduate programs at institutions such as Harvard University, the University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, and Syracuse University.

Just as I have willingly undertaken uncompensated labor to help my students, I also appreciate the importance of honoring my commitments to my faculty colleagues in our efforts to receive a fair contract. Currently, WMU faculty members earn lower salaries than faculty members at many of the schools included on WMU’s Peer Institution list. WMU faculty members deserve respect for our contractual labor, not to mention our uncompensated labor. Hopefully, this legal, peaceful work to rule action will underscore our positive contributions to the institution.

Of course, I will be actively teaching this week and starting on the administrative tasks that we agreed I would handle as part of my contractual workload, and I will make sure that my undergraduate students and my doctoral advisees continue to receive timely instruction and advice. I am proud to be a part of our department and our college, and I know that we are at the beginning of what will be a productive and engaging academic year. I am also proud to be a member of our union, and I am optimistic that we will have a mutually beneficial contract in place soon.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions regarding the work to rule process. I have attached a paper copy of this letter, with my electronic signature, as well.

Best wishes,
Gwen

Dr. Gwen Athene Tarbox
Professor
Department of English
Western Michigan University
1903 W. Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5331

Website: http://gatarbox.wixsite.com/home