The Fate of Anthropology at WMU: What We Know and What We Don’t Know

With no tenure-track hires since 2008, the WMU Department of Anthropology has been struggling under a lack of institutional support. Recently, some ANTH faculty and students have reported that they are receiving mixed messages from the administration about whether the department is slated for elimination.

Here is what we know:

  • The Department of Anthropology comprises four programs (archaeology, biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology) at the undergraduate and master’s level, in addition to a variety of general education offerings.
  • In fall 2014, some ANTH faculty expressed concerns that ANTH was experiencing a secret but deliberate “teach out.” The dean denied this.
  • In late spring 2015, ANTH faculty were collectively informed that they had been slated for closure or merger but that plans were now equivocal. A merger or closure was still possible, the faculty were told, but the department might still remain open.
  • In January 2016, faculty were told that closure was still possible and encouraged to “plan.” They were also encouraged to consider eliminating their graduate program. Since then, several ANTH faculty members have reported that they continue to hear conflicting information about the future of the department from their interim chair and the interim CAS dean.
  • The conflicting information includes a scenario in which the department would be moved into another existing department (as yet unidentified). Another scenario floated to ANTH faculty is that their department would be broken up and the faculty obliged to find other departments to transfer their tenure lines.
  • ANTH graduate students have expressed concerns about the availability of graduate courses for Fall 2016 and about whether they will continue to be funded. They also report receiving conflicting information from the interim chair and interim dean.
  • When Fall 2016 classes were posted on GoWMU in February, no graduate courses appeared among the listings for Fall 2016, despite there being a cohort of returning graduate students who have not yet completed their coursework.
  • Some graduate students report having been directed to enroll in undergraduate ANTH courses in the fall.
  • When a faculty member from another department asked at the March 3, 2016, meeting of the Faculty Senate why there were no graduate course offerings in ANTH for fall, the CAS interim dean disagreed that there were no courses being offered.
  • In response to student and faculty concerns about the lack of graduate course offerings, two graduate courses have since been added to the fall schedule.
  • The March 23 meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees was attended by approximately 20 anthropology graduate and undergraduate students, seven of whom addressed the board during the public comment period. All expressed serious concerns about what might happen to ANTH and the value of their degrees.
  • The ANTH students’ public comments at the March 23 meeting of the Board of Trustees can be viewed in the video of the meeting, linked here. (Their comments begin at 1:29:35.)
  • One student, an Iraq war veteran, published his comments as a letter to the editor of the Western Herald on March 18. His letter is linked here.
  • In response to the students’ comments at the Board of Trustees meeting, CAS interim dean Keith Hearit said, “If it was our intention to close anthropology, we would have done it last year in the Academic Program Review.” He is quoted in this MLive article, and his response can also be viewed on the video.
  • Interim Dean Hearit’s comments at the board meeting on March 23 seem to contradict a statement he made earlier in the week. “At this point, neither the department faculty nor the college has made any definitive decisions about the future of the Anthropology Department, but we are exploring the best ways to maintain its programs,” he wrote in an email to ANTH faculty and students on March 21. “Short-term, there are no plans to close the department as an administrative unit or cut any programs; longer-term, it is clear that the current staffing won’t justify a distinct administrative unit, and that there will be some changes in academic programs.”
  • WMUK reports that in response to the students’ comments, “WMU President John Dunn said it was important that fears about a closure don’t become self-fulfilling. Dunn suggested that could happen if prospective students get the wrong idea about the program.” President Dunn’s comments can also be viewed in the video.
  • The university has accepted graduate applications to anthropology for Fall 2016 admission, including a nonrefundable $50 fee from each prospective student. However, new graduate students are not being admitted for Fall 2016.
  • Anthropology students are not responsible for what is happening in the WMU Department of Anthropology.
  • No program in ANTH was recommended by the provost for “Restructuring” or “Elimination,” according to the Academic Program Review and Planning Final Report 2014-15.
  • Programs designated for CQI “should prepare plans for advancement and enhancement that address ways to enhance current quality or demonstrate increasing program distinctiveness through annual strategic planning and assessment reports” (p. 9), according to the APR&P Final Report 2014-15.
  • If the administration plans to delete a program or make organizational changes to an academic unit, they must follow a formal process that involves the department faculty, the College Curriculum Committee, and the Faculty Senate, as set out in Senate curriculum change policies and procedures.
  • ANTH students have started a petition in support of the WMU Department of Anthropology.

Here’s what we don’t know:

  • Why this is happening. In addition to receiving conflicting information about what will happen to their department and the programs in it, faculty members have also received conflicting explanations for what the administration hopes to achieve by merging,  restructuring,  or eliminating it.
  • Whether there is an actual plan being implemented by the provost and the interim dean that they are choosing not to share with faculty or whether they are simply taking advantage of the depletion of a department that has been starved for a number of years.
  • Why the provost, interim dean, and interim chair would disseminate conflicting information to students and faculty.
  • Whether other departments or programs might be experiencing similar destabilization. (As of Wednesday afternoon, March 30, it appears that at least two other departments at WMU may be in similar situations.)
  • How WMU can maintain its standing as a national research university without a Department of Anthropology, and how the discipline can survive the disinvestment of the university’s senior leadership, in contravention of the provost’s own recommendations in the Academic Program Review and Planning Final Report 2014-15.
  • Why the senior administrative leadership is not held accountable for its repeated failures to lead in an honest, transparent way. Whether they are unwilling or simply unable to foster a culture of open communication that honors the foundational values of shared governance and academic freedom, the lack of a clearly articulated administrative vision for units like ANTH undermines the quality of our programs and our strength as a cohesive institution.
  • How faculty can be expected to maintain or improve programs without resources and demonstrable institutional commitment. The destabilization of ANTH detracts from robust educational opportunities for our students and, instead, has generated distrust and confusion.

As one ANTH faculty member writes:

“There is no neat narrative here other than the fact that this crisis is completely due to administrators telling us for an entire year that we had been slated for closure or merger and that it may happen, probably will happen, could happen, may not happen, will happen. I don’t know how to capture the reality of administrative double-speak that has broken the spirits of an entire unit. “

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

 

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.

Sincerely,

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

Guest post: WMU’s Communication Problems and a Culture of Fear

by Cathryn Bailey, Ph.D.
Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies
and former Associate Dean, WMU College of Arts and Sciences

Cross-posted at FliptheW.

In the years leading up to, and in the wake of, the faculty’s no-confidence vote in the provost, there’s been a lot of talk about a communication problem on campus. It’s a label I’ll accept if we can agree that this isn’t merely a cosmetic flaw to be remedied, say, by town hall meetings where those in charge pretend to listen. I’m more inclined to say we’ve got a fear problem, one that correlates pretty neatly with the institution’s reliance on a rusty, traditional power model, one that’s hierarchical, unidirectional, and has clearly defined rules of engagement. One expression of this is the expectation of managerial compliance the provost openly referred to in his message to CAS faculty and staff a few weeks ago.

According to this model’s dictates, when I’m with a higher up – and we should always be clear about who’s who on the food chain – my role is passive. I am to be talked at, explained to, given advice and schooled. I can ask questions of clarification, but not substantive or fundamental ones, and I must accept whatever is doled out to me in the guise of a response, whether or not it’s relevant, ethical or even makes sense. My primary function is to nod in agreement, thereby providing reassurance to the guy in charge that he is, in fact, in charge. The pervasiveness of this rickety power model helps explain why some of our leaders look so puzzled, irritated, or even visibly angry, when confronted with real questions about such issues as the academic program review, the university’s football program, budget and finance decisions, or gender equity. They seem to see such questioning as at best impertinence and at worst a violation of WMU’s social order.

I know I am not the only one who has noticed that when questions and concerns are presented to some of our leaders, or when they address groups of us, their tone frequently ranges, and can shift instantly, from jocular uncle to disappointed dad to pissed-off coach to irate general. It isn’t just one or two leaders, but, increasingly, this communication style seems to have become part of the WMU administrative ethos. It’s become pretty standard for some of them to bark out talking points and manage questions or concerns rather than actually listen to them and thoughtfully and spontaneously respond. If you haven’t experienced this first hand recently, get yourself invited to a Wednesday afternoon administrative Academic Forum, often a virtual parade of such didactic performances.

Too many of our campus leaders seem to have taken on the terrible burden of believing it’s their job is to know everything and to then fling that knowledge at those below. Their omniscient pretense is further reinforced by vague, dangled secrets and obfuscating references to complicated reports that staff and faculty couldn’t possibly be trusted with or expected to understand. That more of us haven’t been asking tough questions all along has, of course, been vital to maintaining this dynamic. It’s especially demoralizing to look around the room and see an audience nodding in drowsy approval. As if they were part of an actual dialogue.

It’s partly because I think there’s a gendered dynamic associated with this communication style that I find the handling of gender equity – with respect to both faculty and staff – to be so troubling. From where I sit, it looks like the women and men who care about gender equity are, in pretty standard fashion, being intimidated, ignored and shamed into silence. The very dynamic that created the problem they’re taking issue with in the first place – an objectively demonstrable social and material power imbalance – is being relied upon to keep them in line. Here, the woman’s expected role is one of passive acquiescence and polite helpmeet. That so many women have internalized these lessons – yes, we often are afraid and do doubt our own worth – makes this a predictably effective and especially offensive strategy.

What I think is most important about what’s happening now across campus, most visibly in the College of Arts and Sciences but across other colleges as well, is that some individuals and groups are challenging this dynamic. There is increasing recognition that we must insist on being treated like respected collaborators if we are to meet our responsibilities to each other and to the university. And the campus leaders who seek more from us than passive acquiescence – and I hope there still are such leaders at WMU – deserve our honest, robustly engaged partnership, in dialogue and in action.

That I have recently watched my immediate boss lose his job for speaking up suggests that I am not exaggerating WMU’s authoritarian dynamic. That I am contacted daily by individuals from across campus who whisper both their support and their terror speaks painful and embarrassing but also hopeful volumes. Those of us who speak up already know that there may be consequences. We may be vilified as disloyal, or dismissed as impertinent and naive. Women who speak up may also be dismissed as bitchy or hysterical. Certainly, it’s not much of a challenge to construct rationalizations for why we need not listen to those whose views we’ve already decided we care nothing about.

But despite the fear, we must continue to demand and expect more in terms of collaborative dialogue and shared governance. Our commitment and loyalty to higher education, to WMU, to our students, and to one another requires such vigorously engaged participation. Exceptional work is being done all around us by staff, faculty, students and administrative colleagues whose expertise and wisdom are necessary to make this place better. What if WMU colleagues across all levels acknowledged our shared vulnerability and felt empowered to communicate authentically about the real problems that urgently need our attention? What if we were not afraid?

Results of Faculty Survey of Confidence in Provost’s Leadership

The WMU-AAUP chapter membership has voted “no confidence” in the leadership of Provost Tim Greene by a substantial majority. Quantitative results are enclosed below. Detailed summaries of the qualitative responses will be available in the coming days.

Some prefatory information is necessary for understanding the data.

For all electronic surveys conducted by the WMU-AAUP, a third-party service is contracted to ensure that all faculty information (even about whether any individual faculty member participated) is kept confidential. This means that neither chapter officers nor the chapter staff have access to any individual answers or to information about who participated. Only the aggregated totals are shared with us. We then share these with the faculty.

This is important to go over in light of an error in the survey as it initially appeared last Friday, January 30. For question #4, participants should have been able to select as many answers as they thought applied. The error was that participants were able to select only a single answer for that question. Before that error could be corrected, 80 faculty colleagues had already participated in the survey.

Early on Friday evening, the error was corrected, and participants were then able to select multiple options in response to question #5 if they chose. When the correction was made, the responses of the first 80 participants were saved and, as we learned on Tuesday, a new count was begun.

Unfortunately, however, that correction made it possible for participants who had already responded to the original survey on Friday afternoon to respond a second time, after the error had been corrected.

We do not believe that any faculty members would have voted twice with the intention of having two votes counted, but some may have returned to the survey believing that a second vote would supersede their first. It did not. Any new vote submitted after the correction was made would have been automatically included in the new count.

When we learned on Tuesday that it could have been possible for colleagues in the first group of 80 to complete the survey a second time, we asked our computing services contractor whether there is a way that they could determine the extent of any overlap between the two groups of participants. There is not.

Therefore, although we believe that the number of colleagues who might have responded twice is probably small, we are presenting each data set separately, with one set reflecting the responses of the first 80 participants and the second reflecting the responses of the 278 colleagues who completed the survey after the corrections to question #4 were made.

For each of the data sets, each participant could submit only a single vote. This means that we can stand by each set independently, but we cannot aggregate the two sets.

Thanks to all of you who participated in the survey. Now for the results.

Question 1. Please select the option below that best reflects your feelings about the leadership of WMU Provost Tim Greene:

Results of first set of responses (n = 80):

I have CONFIDENCE in Provost Greene’s leadership:             15 (18.75%)

I have NO CONFIDENCE in Provost Greene’s leadership:       65 (81.25%)

Results of second set of responses (n = 278)

I have CONFIDENCE in Provost Greene’s leadership              66 (23.74%)

I have NO CONFIDENCE in Provost Greene’s leadership        212 (76.26%)

Question 2. (OPTIONAL QUESTION) Please indicate your agreement or disagreement with the following statement:

I believe that Provost Greene upholds and defends the core values and academic mission of Western Michigan University.

Results of first set of responses (n = 80; 13 skipped question):

Agree              12        (17.91%)

Disagree          55        (82.09%)

Results of second set of responses (n = 278; 33 skipped question):

 Agree              66        (26.94%)

Disagree          179      (73.06%)

Question 3. (OPTIONAL QUESTION) Please indicate your agreement or disagreement with the following statement:

I believe that Provost Greene should continue in his current position.

Results of first set of responses (n = 80; 7 skipped question):

Agree              12        (16.44%)

Disagree          61        (83.56%)

Results of second set of responses (n = 278; 32 skipped question):

Agree              59        (23.98%)

Disagree          187      (76.02%)

Question 4. (OPTIONAL QUESTION) Please check the box next to your college or academic unit. If you are affiliated with more than one, please select the home of your primary appointment.

Results of first set of responses (n = 80; 13 skipped question):

College of Arts and Sciences                                                 40 (59.7%)

College of Aviation                                                                  0

Haworth College of Business                                                  2 (2.99%)

College of Education and Human Development                       13 (19.4%)

College of Engineering and Applied Sciences                           3 (4.48%)

College of Fine Arts                                                                  4 (5.97%)

College of Health and Human Services                                     4 (5.97%)

Center for English Language & Culture for Intl Students            0

University Libraries                                                                    1 (1.49%)

Counseling Services                                                                  0

Results of second set of responses (n = 278; 43 skipped question):

College of Arts and Sciences                                      127      (54.04%)

College of Aviation                                                       6          (2.55%)

Haworth College of Business                                      16        (6.81%)

College of Education and Human Development           22        (9.36%)

College of Engineering and Applied Sciences              20        (8.51%)

College of Fine Arts                                                     14        (5.96%)

College of Health and Human Services                       19        (8.09%)

CELCIS                                                                        4          (1.70%)

University Libraries                                                       5          (2.13%)

Counseling Services                                                    2          (0.85%)

Total numbers of faculty in each college or unit at WMU and percentage of WMU-AAUP bargaining unit as a whole (n = 886):

College of Arts and Sciences                                     345      (38.9%)

College of Aviation                                                      20        (2.25%)

Haworth College of Business                                      80        (9.0%)

College of Education and Human Development          111      (12.5%)

College of Engineering and Applied Sciences              90        (10.1%)

College of Fine Arts                                                     81        (9.14%)

College of Health and Human Services                        111      (12.5%)

CELCIS                                                                        15        (1.69%)

University Libraries                                                        22        (2.48%)

Counseling Services                                                     11        (1.24%)

Question 5. (OPTIONAL QUESTION) Please check the issue(s) or concern(s) you considered most important in determining your answer to question #1. Select as many as apply.

Results of first set of responses (n = 80; 14 skipped question):

Note: In an error on the original survey, only one of the options below could be checked. This affected the options and responses of the first 80 survey respondents, 19 of whom wrote in additional choices from the options given in the box next to the “other” option. These write-ins have been added to the totals. Several others wrote in issues or concerns that were not included among the options given. A detailed summary of the qualitative data provided in response to this question (and to question #7) is forthcoming.

Gender equity                                    23        (34.84%)

Academic program review                 20        (30.3%)

Shared governance                            20        (30.3%)

Administrative accountability              18        (27.27%)

Transparency in decision making        25        (37.87%)

Respect for faculty                             26        (39.39%)

Support for academic mission            16        (24.24%)

Institutional priorities                           17        (25.75%)

Results of second set of responses (n = 278; 46 skipped question):

In addition to the totals given below, 40 respondents wrote in issues or concerns that were not included among the options given. A detailed summary of the qualitative data provided in response to this question (and to question #7) is forthcoming.

Gender equity                                    135      (58.19%)

Academic program review                 121      (52.16%)

Shared governance                            152      (65.52%)

Administrative accountability              128      (55.17%)

Transparency in decision making       169      (72.84%)

Respect for faculty                             171      (73.71%)

Support for academic mission            111      (47.84%)

Institutional priorities                            120      (51.72%)

Other                                                   40        (17.24%)

 Question 6. (OPTIONAL QUESTION) Years of service at WMU?

Results of first set of responses (n = 80; 22 skipped question):

1-5 years:                   3

6-10 years:                 11

11-15 years:               17

16-20 years:               11

21-25 years:               7

26-30 years:               6

31-35 years:               2

36-40 years:               0

41-45 years:               0

46-50 years:               1

51 or more years:       0

other:                         0

 Results of second set of responses (n = 278; 97 skipped question):

1-5 years:                   15

6-10 years:                 27

11-15 years:               44

16-20 years:               43

21-25 years:               22

26-30 years:               8

31-35 years:               12

36-40 years:               6

41-45 years:               1

46-50 years:               2

51 or more years:       0

other:                          1 (comment: “many decades”)

Question 7. (OPTIONAL QUESTION) Please add any comments you would like to share.

First set of responses (n = 80): 24 participants included comments.

Second set of responses (n = 278): 64 participants included comments.

Detailed summary of qualitative responses is forthcoming.

 

Number of survey invitations sent:                             886

Number of faculty opted out of Survey Monkey         67

Number of possible participants:                                819

Update from Jan. 23 meeting; special chapter meeting scheduled for Jan. 30

At the chapter meeting on Friday, January 23, the faculty voted to authorize the WMU-AAUP to put the question of confidence in Provost Tim Greene to a faculty vote.

In authorizing the vote, faculty members present cited a pattern of behavior, including Provost Greene’s recent decision not to renew the contract of CAS Dean Alex Enyedi, along with concerns about a perceived lack of respect for the faculty and for shared governance, lack of transparency in decision-making, mishandling of gender equity cases, problems with the academic program review, failure to communicate appropriately with the faculty, and other concerns.

The faculty also directed the WMU-AAUP leadership to call an emergency chapter meeting next week for further discussion. That meeting has been scheduled for Friday, January 30, at 1:30 p.m. (location TBA).

In other news, the proposal to decrease dues from 0.83 percent of salary to 0.8 percent was approved and will go into effect as soon as the change can be made in the payroll office.

All bargaining-unit members will receive notification about these developments on Monday via email. In the meantime, please share this information with faculty colleagues.

Thanks to all who came out for the January 23 meeting for your attendance and for your thoughtful and wise words. The administration would do well to listen to the voices of the faculty.

We look forward to another lively discussion at the meeting on January 30. Please plan to attend if you can.

‪#‎StrongerTogether‬

Guest post: Negotiations and the Administration’s Long-term Strategic Plan

Negotiations and the Administration’s Long-term Strategic Plan
by a concerned WMU faculty member who wishes to remain anonymous

The author writes: “I am gravely concerned as I see so much we have worked for and the institution we have tried to build over the 20 years I have been here falling apart.

Over the past couple of days I have spent time trying to understand the administration’s intransigence in the contract negotiations. After studying WMU’s audited financial statements, particularly the notes that are most important (5, 7, and 8), examining how the administration has changed the healthcare and retirement of administrative and professional staff (the only employee groups not unionized on campus), and putting all this together with the academic program review, I can reach only one conclusion:

All of this is NOT about annual year-to-year budgets, nor is it about WMU’s ability to pay. The last audited statement for 2012-2013 shows that WMU made over a $22 million profit despite a drop in enrollment.

It is about WMU’s bond rating and a long-term strategic plan that will rip the guts out of academic programs.

WMU’s Moody’s bond rating of the June 2014 $28.8 million revenue bond issue was A1, stable but not great, as it is seven steps down from the top rating. Among other things, Moody’s noted the following challenge:

“Increased pension costs add another expense pressure as the state manages an underfunded pension liability. Michigan’s Moody’s adjusted net pension liability ranks 27th in terms of percent of revenues. At this time the liability is expected to be manageable for the state.”

(More information on the rating linked here.)

One financial factor that heavily influences Moody’s ratings is long-term obligations. Note 5 of the 2012-13 audited report shows that almost 38% of WMU’s long-term obligations consist of annuities payable, other post-employment benefits (Note 8), and accrued compensated absences — all long-term obligations WMU has to its current and past employees in which retiree healthcare benefits are prominent.

The administration has already imposed a change in annual leave policy for administrative and professional staff, as well as board-appointed faculty on fiscal year appointments, where carry-overs are mostly not allowed and faculty and staff on 12-month appointments must take their annual leave or lose it, thus reducing the level of accrued compensated absences on the books. They actually said this was the case when announcing the change and linked it to putting WMU in a better borrowing position. Moreover, administrative and professional staff changes in retiree healthcare and other retirement benefits mirror what they are now trying to impose on us.

The changes they’d like to make to retirement benefits, including the condition they want to impose that faculty must themselves put in three percent of their salaries in order to get the full employer contribution, go hand-in-hand with the proposed cutting of healthcare benefits: They administration wants to give faculty an incentive to contribute part of their salaries to WMU’s retirement program so that these employees will have the funds to pay for their own healthcare in retirement, support for which the administration is pressing hard to eliminate for new hires. If they succeed, they would free themselves of long-term, what they see as potentially high-risk, obligations to their current and former faculty employees, with the goal of increasing their bond rating and ability to float revenue bonds for more building projects.

But fancy residence apartments, state-of-the-art classroom buildings, and recreational facilities do not educate students. Faculty do.

Another factor that influences bond ratings is a “flexible” work force. WMU’s instructional workforce has become increasingly “flexible,” as more and more part-time and term-appointment faculty (i.e., temporary faculty) make up the bulk of new hires. New tenure-track faculty hiring is practically nonexistent on our campus now.

Historically, the WMU-AAUP has bargained strongly for, and won, a strong benefits package in lieu of the higher salaries available for highly educated workers in the private sector. A safety net for faculty and their families was considered an important goal and a reasonable trade-off for the lack of salaries that were competitive with those in the private sector. As a result, for many years the national AAUP reports issued annually consistently showed WMU salaries to be in the middle range but overall compensation to be in the top quintile. In recent years, WMU has fallen to the bottom quintile for faculty salaries and to the third and fourth quintiles for overall compensation.

With all of these developments coupled with the impending academic program review, my concern is that we can expect more unnecessary building projects coupled with a scuttling of all but vocationally-oriented programs and more term-appointed and part-time faculty. This would constitute a fundamental change in the mission of this institution, and it is not likely to be an improvement.