WMU-AAUP Remarks to the Board of Trustees

Remarks by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick
On the national AAUP centennial and shared governance at WMU
WMU Board of Trustees, February 11, 2016

As you may know, the American Association of University Professors, parent organization of the WMU-AAUP, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Our chapter has been celebrating the centennial in a number of ways during the 2015-16 academic year, including by bringing in Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the national organization, to speak at WMU in December. Thank you, President Dunn, for attending.

[Note: Video of Dr. Fichtembaum’s lecture is linked here.]

The topic of Dr. Fichtenbaum’s lecture was “How to Invest in Higher Education,” focusing on affordability and access for students at a time when many states are increasingly divesting from higher education, resulting in increasing costs to students and their families and graduates facing unprecedented college debt. The discussion that followed Dr. Fichtenbaum’s talk made clear that faculty, staff, students, and administrators including President Dunn can find a lot of common ground on the issue of trying to restore public support for higher education.

We also have an update for you on the Seita giftcard fundraising project, launched by the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee last fall in honor of the national AAUP centennial. Working with Seita staff, we set January 2016 as our target date for distributing the gift cards, a critical time of year when student finances are often stretched to their limits.

We are happy to report that we were able to provide $25 Visa gift cards at the beginning of the spring semester to all 128 returning Seita Scholars. We are working with the Seita staff and the WMU development office on ways to establish an ongoing January giftcard program. We’d love it if none of our students ever had to come back to school in January without at least a little bit of walking-around money.

Finally, in this year of the AAUP centennial, which is also the 40th anniversary of the WMU-AAUP as a collective-bargaining chapter, a few words about shared governance.

A cornerstone principle of the American Association of University Professors since the beginning, the organization issued its first statement on shared governance in 1920 and published the “Statement on Governance of Colleges and Universities” in 1966, the product of a collaboration between the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

I raise this topic as a reminder of the importance of shared governance on this campus and on all university campuses. In this milestone year, and in the context of events on our own campus, it is important to revisit our collective commitments and responsibilities, as well as our rights, to participate in shared governance.

The preamble to the 2014-17 Agreement between the WMU-AAUP and the WMU Board of Trustees and its administrative agents emphasizes the importance of shared governance in its most ideal version. But it is the specific language within the Agreement that articulates the kind of day-to-day reality of shared governance that is integral to the experience of every faculty member. As the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee wrote in a letter to the Board of the Trustees on December 7, 2015,

“Shared governance” represents a diverse and complex set of rights and responsibilities. There are many “faculty-involved institutional matters” articulated in the Agreement that vest rights to participation in shared governance with the Board-appointed faculty, individually as well as collectively.

Our claim is not that the union has special rights to shared governance that others do not have. On the contrary, the right to participate in shared governance belongs, according to the Agreement, to all faculty who are members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit. I can rattle off for you the numbers of contract articles that expressly encode specific rights to faculty participation in shared governance: Articles 4, 14, 17, 18, 23, 26, and 37, just to name a few examples.

But in the short time I have to address you today, I think it would be better simply to say that the WMU-AAUP remains concerned about the language that the Board approved on December 8, 2015, that would establish the WMU Faculty Senate as “the Board of Trustees authorized seat of shared governance for faculty-involved Institutional matters related to the Academy” and “the house of faculty participation in Institutional governance.”

In our December 7 letter, we respectfully requested that the Board of Trustees explain the purpose of the resolution. Today, we invite the Board to meet with the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee to discuss the now-approved language and to help us understand its purpose.

The Faculty Senate has a very important role in shared governance. But so does everyone else. Especially at a time when faculty on other university campuses are being increasingly shut out of participation in shared governance, the board-appointed faculty of WMU, meaning the members of the WMU-AAUP, understand that the only thing standing between us and the kinds of infringement on shared governance rights that we are seeing at other universities around the country is our union contract.

When the Board of Trustees takes a step that appears to us to be an attempt to shift the balance of shared governance from all faculty, individually and collectively, to a specific group, I am sure you can understand why this is a matter of concern to us on behalf of all of our faculty colleagues and why we are asking today for a dialogue with the Board on this topic.

Casting Call for Faculty Reading of Union-Themed Play

Casting Call:

Faculty Reading of Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears?
A play adapted by Steve Feffer from the Robert Coover novella

Reading date: Monday, March 21, 2016, at 7 p.m.
President’s Dining Room, Bernhard Center

As part of our 2015-16 celebration of the national AAUP centennial, the WMU-AAUP will present a faculty reading of Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears? on Monday, March 21, at 7 p.m. This union-themed play is adapted from the Robert Coover novella by Dr. Steve Feffer, accomplished playwright and WMU faculty member in English, who will also direct the reading.

Faculty colleagues of all ages are invited to participate in the reading. The time commitment will include one cast meeting prior to the actual public performance on March 21, to be scheduled to accommodate cast members.

Click here to sign up to participate in the reading (or to volunteer to help out behind the scenes).  

The faculty reading of Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus follows the March 2014 faculty reading of Strike Parade, an original play by Feffer, an event that was part of our 2014 contract campaign. Faculty from 13 departments across seven colleges and the University Libraries collaborated on the reading of Strike Parade, which commemorates the 1913-14 Michigan copper miners’ strike.

Click here for photos from the 2014 Strike Parade reading.

Click here to see pictures from the Strike Parade read-through meeting.

The WMU-AAUP is pleased to present this faculty reading of Whatever Happened to Gloomy Gus of the Chicago Bears? in our continuing effort to educate the campus community and the public about labor history, the importance of workers’ rights, the critical role of the arts and humanities in a civilized culture, and the value of collective action to ensure a thriving democratic society.

This event is free and open to the public.

Image at top of page: David Curwen (Dance) and Brian Horvitz (Educational Leadership, Research & Technology) perform in the faculty reading of Strike Parade in 2014.

Below: Steve Feffer (standing) introduces the Strike Parade cast at the 2014 reading. Left to right: Dominic Nicolai (College of Aviation Flight Program), Dan Fleming (Chemical and Paper Engineering), Vincent Desroches (World Languages and Literatures), Cynthia Running-Johnson (World Languages and Literatures), Ola Smith (Accountancy), Mary Peterson (Speech Pathology and Audiology), Karen Blaisure (Family and Consumer Sciences), Sharon Carlson (University Libraries), Nancy Schullery (Business Information Systems), and Jen Brown (Bronson School of Nursing).


Below: Strike Parade cast members. Left to right: Besty Aller (Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering), Cynthia Running-Johnson (World Languages and Literatures), Ola Smith (Accountancy), Mary Peterson (Speech Pathology and Audiology), Karen Blaisure (Family and Consumer Sciences), Sharon Carlson (University Libraries), Nancy Schullery (Business Information Systems), Jen Brown (Bronson School of Nursing), Gwen Tarbox (English), David Curwen (Dance), and Brian Horvitz (Educational Leadership, Research & Technology).


What Do Professors Do? Call for spring 2016 faculty participants

The WMU-AAUP Invisible Hours Project
Spring 2016 Pilot Project

Image of many clocksClick here to sign up.


At Western Michigan University, as at every North American college or university, faculty members are highly visible in classrooms, laboratories, performance spaces, meeting rooms, and departmental and college-wide administrative offices. They mentor students, engage in partnerships with a variety of industrial, charitable, and governmental organizations, and present their work at professional meetings. These activities form the basis for the public’s understanding of faculty productivity, but what is often overlooked are the invisible hours that faculty members spend preparing for the visible work that they conduct.

As a result, three key constituent groups — students, parents, and legislators — understandably tend to focus on the public component of faculty members’ work when thinking about issues related to higher education. For instance, it is not uncommon for politicians to advocate for increased teaching loads for research faculty without taking into consideration the amount of labor involved outside the classroom in order to prepare for even one hour of public instruction.

Call for Faculty Participants

The WMU-AAUP’s Invisible Hours project is designed to present an informative glimpse at the behind-the-scenes labor that goes into highly visible professional activities conducted by WMU faculty members. In October 2015, a group of interested faculty colleagues met to develop a pilot project designed to communicate effectively the concept of “invisible hours.”

They are now inviting faculty participants from across the ranks of tenured faculty – traditionally ranked as well as faculty specialists – to carry out the pilot project during the spring 2016 semester.

The time commitment involved will be under 5 hours per participant, but the impact will allow us to shed light upon the rewards and the challenges of our profession.

Join us! Click here to sign up.

The Pilot Project

The Invisible Hours pilot project will track the work that lies behind one visible hour of output by twelve faculty members from various disciplines across the institution. That hour could be a class lesson, a fieldwork session, a performance, a clinical supervision session, a lab session, or any other activity that is carried out in the public realm. The information collected for each participant will be displayed on a circular clock face graphic, with an inner circle describing the output for each hour, and concentric circles providing a very brief, one-sentence description of the layers of work that went into creating that hour. The result will be an easy-to-read and powerful visual representation of faculty achievement and dedication, as well as a reminder of the wide variety of work that is conducted at a public research institution such as WMU.

The Audience

At the October planning meeting, faculty colleagues from a number of colleges discussed what information they might put forward were they to participate in the pilot project. In just a short time, we learned how little we knew about each other’s visible hours, let alone the “invisible” labor that went into producing that output. As such, we realized that the first group to benefit from the pilot project would be the faculty itself: The more we learn about each other’s professional endeavors, the more likely we are to appreciate the value of our collective work at WMU.

However, the pilot project graphic could also be used at WMU Day at the Capitol, at recruitment fairs, and at any university function designed to showcase the work of the faculty. Our hope is that when students, parents, legislators, and other stakeholders see the graphic, they will be encouraged to learn more about the professional lives of university faculty members and how our work benefits WMU students and the community more widely.

How to Participate

Interested faculty can click here to sign up. Or contact the WMU-AAUP office by emailing staff@wmuaaup.net or calling 345-0151. You can look forward to hearing back from us to schedule a meeting in January to get started!



National AAUP President to Speak at WMU on December 7

“How to Invest in Higher Education”
Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum
President of the American Association of University Professors
and Professor of Economics at Wright State University

Monday, December 7, 2015, at 4 p.m.
157-159 Bernhard Center

As part of our year-long celebration of the AAUP Centennial, the WMU-AAUP will host national AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum on Monday, December 7. Dr. Fichtenbaum will speak on “How to Invest in Higher Education.”

Click on the flier to enlarge.Flier for Rudy Fichtenbaum lecture on December 7, 2015

As states have divested from higher education, costs have increasingly shifted to students and their families. With students now facing unprecedented college debt, Dr. Fichtenbaum challenges the conventional wisdom that there is no public money for higher education and proposes new sources of revenue.

This event is free and open to the public. Faculty, students, staff, administration, alumni, parents, and members of the community are invited to attend the lecture and participate in this important discussion.

The WMU-AAUP is a collective-bargaining chapter of the American Association of University Professors, comprising the 870 board-appointed faculty members of Western Michigan University. We are an active community of teachers, scholars, researchers, and artists committed to student success, academic excellence, public service, shared governance, and the preservation of higher education as a public good.

Academic Freedom brown bag discussion Nov. 11

Wednesday, November 11, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
157 Bernhard Center

AAUP 100 Years of Defending Academic FreedomAs we all know, academic freedom is critical to our abilities as faculty members to create vibrant scholarship and creative works and for authentic engagement with students. As part of our year-long AAUP Centennial celebration, we invite you to join with faculty colleagues for a lunchtime discussion of academic freedom, including:

  • what we can learn from recent national cases about academic freedom
  • how WMU can demonstrate its commitment to robust, critical, and honest dialogue
  • how campuses can reconcile calls for “civility” with academic freedom
  • the role of the AAUP (and the WMU-AAUP) in protecting academic freedom
  • how faculty, students, staff, and administrators can be partners in promoting academic freedom.

We invite you to bring your lunch, your ideas, and your questions about academic freedom to 157 Bernhard Center on Wednesday, November 11, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Stop by the Bernhard Center cafe to pick up some lunch or just brown-bag it. We’ll provide drinks (sodas and water).

Hope to see you there!

visual image of chapter logo "stronger together"The American Association of University Professors

What do professors do? The Invisible Hours project

Invisible Hours Planning Meeting
Friday, October 9, 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon
Montague House (814 Oakland Drive)

As part of our year-long centennial celebration, Dr. Gwen Tarbox (English) has agreed to head up a project designed to highlight the “invisible hours” spent on the job by WMU faculty members from across disciplines and colleges.

In an environment in which many politicians, educational consultants, and university administrators hold inaccurate assumptions about faculty workloads, the results of the Invisible Hours project can be communicated to a broad constituency, including campus administrators, students, parents, and the public, and provide a useful counterargument.

The project will involve both a quantitative component, as faculty volunteers chart their work hours over a period between January 12 and March 8, 2016, and a qualitative component, as colleagues will be invited to provide short written reflections on the invisible work that they conduct as faculty members.

Faculty members are invited to participate in a planning session for the Invisible Hours project to be held on Friday, October 9, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, at Montague House. At this planning session, participants will set up methodologies, develop a call for project participants, and discuss data collection procedures.

A light brunch (bagels, donuts, fruit, coffee, and juice) will be served at the meeting. There is onsite parking available for attendees in the WMU-AAUP lot behind Montague House.

Click here to RSVP for the Oct. 9 planning meeting.

Thanks in advance to all who plan to participate in this exciting initiative. To learn more about the issues the Invisible Hours project is intended to address, please refer to the links below.

“What Do Professors Do All Day?” by Philip Nel, Kansas State University

“What Do Faculty Do?” National AAUP

“So Much to Do, So Little Time,” by Colleen Flaherty (Inside Higher Education)

“And the Livin’ Is Easy?” by Kaustuv Basu (Inside Higher Education)

“The Math Doesn’t Work,” by Nate Kreuter, Western Carolina University (Inside Higher Education)

“The Hidden Work Life Of University Faculty,” by David Skorton and Glenn Altschuler (Forbes)

“The Long, Lonely Job of Homo academicus,” by John Ziker, Boise State University (The Blue Review)

“Academe as Slacker Heaven,” by Gene C. Vant, Jr. (Chronicle of Higher Education)


WMU-AAUP Seita Scholar Gift Card Initiative

In honor of the National AAUP Centennial, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee is launching a chapter project to raise money to purchase gift cards for students in the WMU Seita Scholarship program. These will be Visa gift cards that can be used anywhere that accepts Visa.

We invite faculty to support this initiative by making contributions in any amount.

In consultation with Seita program staff, we have set January 2016 as our target date for distributing the gift cards to the Seita Scholars. The program staff has outlined the challenges that these students face upon returning to school after the holidays, a critical time of year when finances are often stretched to their limits.

The WMU-AAUP office is now collecting faculty donations to this project, with the goal of raising enough money to fund gift cards for all Seita Scholars, who are projected to number approximately 150 this academic year. Our objective is to provide gift cards in the amount of at least $25 apiece.

We understand that many faculty are already active supporters of the Seita program and the students it serves, and we appreciate your support for this important campus initiative.

If you’d like to join your faculty colleagues as a WMU-AAUP Seita contributor, there are several ways to donate:

  • Send your check (payable to the WMU-AAUP) via campus mail to mail stop 5401.
  • Bring your donation to the WMU-AAUP Fall BBQ on Sept. 8.
  • Stop by Montague House with your cash or check donation. (Note: The office will be closed August 24-September 7 for the semester break.)

At this time, we do not have an online donation option, but we hope to offer one soon.

Thank you in advance for your support of the WMU-AAUP Seita project!

visual image of chapter logo "stronger together"The American Association of University Professors

WMU-AAUP Fall BBQ Sept 8

Kick off the new academic year, reconnect with old friends, and welcome our new faculty colleagues at the WMU-AAUP Annual Fall BBQ on Tuesday, September 8, at Montague House (814 Oakland Drive). We’ll also be celebrating the AAUP Centennial and the 40th anniversary of the WMU-AAUP!

Please RSVP by Friday, August 14 to staff@wmuaaup.net or call 345-0151.

Click on image to enlarge.

Flier for 2015 WMU-AAUP Fall BBQRead and sign the AAUP Centennial Declaration here.