Fall 2018 academic-year faculty return date: August 29

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

Dear colleagues:

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

That is not accurate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In solidarity,
Lisa

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

 

 

Faculty (and staff) claps back at admin’s midnight email blast

Photo by Kent Baldner, Department of Philosophy

Since the administration’s mass email arrived in our inboxes just after midnight on Saturday, August 19, we have been hearing from our colleagues about what they think of the administration’s proposals and what they are looking for in our next contract. We share here some of what they had to say.

(Got something to add? Comment on this post or email us!)

A faculty colleague in the Haworth College of Business writes:

“That email from the admin actually makes me feel so much better about your efforts. I have even more energy and support for our union.

“How much did the admin spend on the renovation to Heritage Hall? How much in the negative does our athletic department run? How much were we willing to pay PJ Fleck to stay another 10 years? I bet all these answers are 20 million plus or close to it. It is all about priorities.

“The email from the admin makes them look misguided. They have lost their way. The WMU experience begins and ends and revolves around the faculty. We are the bridge to our students, alumni, employers, etc., and all other constituents. The admin is supposed to support and reward us and often they do neither.

“I will be fine either way. I just feel terrible for the majority of my colleagues who really struggle to maintain a quality of life that should be had with our profession. We need a gesture of good faith from the admin to end this nonsense and set a new tone for a better relationship where we can move forward together.

“I will see you on Wednesday!”

He adds: 

“I am assuming whoever sent this email in the middle of the night was intoxicated. The administration owes us an apology for sending an emotionally charged email on the weekend in the middle of the night and on a Sunday morning. It is very rude, inappropriate, and unprofessional. It speaks to how they value the faculty, but still, no excuse. They may as well have knocked on my door Saturday night.”

From the College of Fine Arts:

What Do We Want?

“An employment agreement that enhances the quality and character of the faculty and the institution!”

A CFA union rep agrees: “There’s something to get behind!”

A faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences writes:

“I can only imagine what other faculty are going to have to do in order not to go under water financially if this current offer is accepted in any form. The Michigan economy is on an uptick. In spite of insane things happening in Washington, D.C., the overall economy is strong. There is no reason for this to be happening.

“I know that the team must have worked their butts off and be feeling really demoralized by the admin. I support the team’s efforts, and am grateful for all that the team has done!”

An administrative staff colleague writes:

I’m a staff member. I took a pay cut 18 years ago to come to WMU for the great benefits. I hope I don’t regret that decision.

Course evaluations and the contract in Spring and Summer 1

As we wrote in March 2016, the administration collected student rating data for all sections of every course taught in Spring 2016, an action that was not in compliance with Article 16 of the Agreement:

Article 16§4: Student ratings shall be conducted in each class taught by a bargaining unit faculty member in at least one semester of each academic year (to be determined by the faculty member).

In other words, Article 16§4 ensures the faculty’s contractual right to decide which class sections are evaluated in a given semester as well as the semester in which a course is evaluated. Faculty who teach multiple sections of the same course need only collect rating data for one section per academic year, although individual faculty members are of course free to choose to collect rating data for as many sections as they wish.

Why are we still talking about this?

In response to the administration’s actions, the WMU-AAUP Association Council voted at their March 25 meeting to file a chapter grievance alleging administrative violation of Article 16. The chapter grievance, filed in April, was denied by the administration and at the request of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee has recently moved into mediation.

But wait, there’s more.

There is a new development to report: Faculty who taught in Summer 1 2016 and logged onto GoWMU with the intention of opting out of participation in rating data collection, as is their right under Article 16§4, were unpleasantly surprised to learn that they could not do so and that rating data would again be collected for every section of every course.

On June 6, 2016, WMU-AAUP Chapter President Lisa Minnick contacted Dr. Nancy Mansberger, the administration’s Director of Academic Labor Relations, to inform her that faculty members teaching Summer 1 2016 were finding that they were not able to opt out of evaluating their courses if they so chose but — as in Spring 2016 — were only offered the option to ‘opt out’ of having ratings data sent to chairs and deans after it is collected, in contravention of Article 16.§4. Dr. Mansberger responded in an email, dated June 9, that rating data would be collected for all courses taught at WMU in Summer 1 2016. In her email message, Dr. Mansberger claimed that

The [letter of agreement] authorizing the pilot study detailed that a pilot study be run during the 2015-2016 Academic Year, which concludes at the end of the Summer I session. I have been informed by the Office of Assessment that the pilot study conditions will be lifted and the original ICES programming conditions will be reinstituted in time for the Summer II session evaluation process.

However, on May 9, 2016, faculty teaching in Summer 1 had received an email from Dr. David Reinhold that included the following statement, indicating that Article 16.§4 would be honored during Summer 1 2016:

If you are a full-time bargaining-unit faculty member you have the option whether or not to evaluate your course(s) this semester. If you choose to not evaluate this semester/session you must access ICES Online and indicate, section by section, whether you are evaluating that course.

This information turned out to be inaccurate, as was the case in Spring 2016, after faculty had received an email containing the same language on January 11. Faculty members who intended to exercise their rights under 16.§4 found when they accessed ICES in Summer 1 that they were preventing from doing so, just as they had been in Spring 2016.

In June, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee authorized the filing of a second chapter grievance alleging violation of Article 16 in Summer 1.

The Summer 1 chapter grievance also alleges a violation of Article 2. In her June 9 email, asserting the administration’s right to conduct its ‘pilot study’ during Summer 1, Dr. Mansberger claimed that “the 2015-2016 Academic Year. . . concludes at the end of the Summer I session.” However, according to Article 2 (Definitions) of the Agreement:

(a.) ‘Academic year’ means the fall and spring semesters.

Is there is a solution?

The June 2016 chapter grievance proposed the following remedies:

  1. Any bargaining-unit faculty member who so chooses shall be able to access the “Course/Instructor Evaluation System (ICES Online)” though the “My Work” channel in GoWMU and, by June 28, 2016, exercise the option not to collect student ratings for their courses in Summer I 2016. [Unfortunately, the clock has since run out on this proposed remedy.]
  2. By April 2017, the administration shall receive an evidenced-based report prepared and presented by representatives of the board-appointed faculty on best practices for collecting ratings data that is “valid and reliable” (as required by Article 16) and for the use of ratings data. Further, the administration shall engage in a good-faith dialogue with the faculty on this topic in response to the report, with the mutual goal of improving the quality and value of student ratings data.
  3. The faculty’s report and consequent dialogue shall address documented problems with the reliability of student ratings, as indicated by the growing body of research indicating significant biases against women faculty and faculty members of color. The WMU-AAUP Chapter has previously cited a key study released earlier this year (see Boring, Ottoboni, and Stark 2016), one of many that have found that student ratings may be “better at gauging students’ gender bias and grade expectations than they are at measuring teaching effectiveness” and “are biased against female instructors in particular in so many ways that adjusting them for that bias is impossible.” The authors conclude that for these reasons, student ratings “should not be used for personnel decisions.” The administration shall collaborate with the faculty in a good-faith effort to address the racial and gender biases endemic to student evaluations of teaching and work with faculty to develop an unbiased, equitable system for collecting and using student ratings.

UPDATED 4 P.M. ON JULY 12: The grievance hearing was held today and the grievance has subsequently been denied by the administration. On July 8, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee authorized a request for mediation in the event of denial of this grievance. 

Why does this matter?

Language regarding the frequency of evaluation data collection has been in the contract for 35 years, and for the past 14 years, the faculty’s contractual right to make these decisions has been stated explicitly. (We published a timeline in March 2016 for how this language came to be in the contract and how it has evolved over the years, available here.)

It is the union’s job to defend the contract and protect faculty rights. Every single right and benefit in our contract is in there because faculty who came before us fought for it, won it, and had to give up something to get it. That is the nature of negotiation. Therefore, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee, in consultation with the WMU-AAUP Association Council, voted to reject the proposal to conduct evaluations in all sections of all courses in Spring 2016 when it was presented to us. We could not in good conscience agree to make a concession regarding language that has been in our contract since 1981. When the administration chose to go ahead with the plan regardless of the contract language precluding it, and despite our repeated warnings that their plan would violate the contract, we filed the first chapter grievance, which is still active and pending mediation.

Similarly, when it came to our attention in Summer 1 that faculty rights articulated in Article 16 were once again being denied, we filed the second chapter grievance and expect the hearing to be scheduled soon.

Do faculty want student feedback? YES.

WMU faculty are rightly proud of the top-quality instruction we provide to our students and deeply invested in receiving substantive feedback from them. The WMU-AAUP is equally invested in helping our faculty colleagues access reliable, useful feedback that is free of the kinds of racial, gender, and other bias that unfortunately many colleagues have experienced firsthand in their ratings and that has been well documented in the scholarly literature on student ratings.

These are problems that our 2011 and 2014 negotiation teams raised at the bargaining table. Both times, the administration refused to engage in conversation to try to solve them. Both times, the faculty had to settle for letters of agreement establishing joint committees of faculty and administration to address the problem of low response rates that resulted from the switch in 2010 from paper to online evaluations. The problem of low response rates was the only issue the administration would consider with regard to course evaluations. While it is a significant issue, it is far from the only or most pressing problem associated with the collection and use of course evaluation data.

We value the time and energy that the members of the joint committee brought to this project, and we share their disappointment in the outcome. In collaboration with the Executive Committee, our 2014 bargaining team envisioned a process of brainstorming to generate creative solutions to improve course evaluation response rates and develop evaluation instruments that minimize potential bias, and we are still optimistic that this can be achieved without faculty conceding any contractual rights.

Given the growing body of research into bias in student ratings, it would have been irresponsible for the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee to agree to the expanded use of a flawed rating instrument or to allow a negotiated contractual right to be circumvented in the process.

What happens next?

The WMU-AAUP officers and Executive Committee will keep the faculty informed as the two chapter grievances discussed here move forward. As always, faculty input and feedback are invited.

 

Developing an online course with EUP? Don’t sign your rights away!

It recently came to the attention of the WMU-AAUP officers and Executive Committee that the EUP course development agreement that faculty are required to sign when they develop an online course does not comply with Article 30 of the Agreement. Faculty members who signed these course development agreements with EUP were (inappropriately) required to choose between compensation for their course development work and retention of their intellectual property rights. However, Article 30.§5 of the Agreement guarantees faculty intellectual property rights for online course materials without regard to payment of the course development stipend.

The EUP course development agreement form, in use from May 2013 to May 2016, provided three options, two of which directed the faculty to “specify limited rights usage agreement,” with a third option to waive the $3,000 course development stipend in return for “retain[ing] exclusive intellectual and usage rights to the course content which they have solely developed for the purposes of facilitating this course.”

However, Article 30.§5 already explicitly assigns ownership to the faculty member who develops the online course (emphasis is added):

30.§5 Intellectual Property. Copyright of  recordings of courses, course presentations, computer-assisted instructional content, course content developed, or other digital materials created by the faculty member(s), shall be owned by the faculty member(s), as in the case of traditional course material.

Further:

30.§5.1 The faculty member (or an appropriate faculty body) who develops course content for use in eLearning shall exercise control over the future use, modification, and distribution of instructional material, and shall determine whether the material should be revised or withdrawn from use.

These contractual ownership rights are unqualified and should not be represented as contingent on faculty members waiving their rights to compensation for course development. This contract language was hard-won by the faculty over the years, and the WMU-AAUP intends for it to be honored.

Accordingly, in April 2016, the WMU-AAUP filed a chapter grievance on behalf of the faculty, requesting that EUP and the administration work with the WMU-AAUP to revise the EUP’s online course development agreement to comply fully with Article 30.§5 and that all ambiguous, misleading, or noncontractual language be removed.

The chapter grievance also called for EUP and the administration to compensate any faculty members who were found to have waived the stipend or relinquished ownership rights because they were misled by the language of the EUP course development agreement form to believe that waiving one was a legitimate condition of accepting the other. We also called for the administration to take all other appropriate remedial actions to prevent future violations of Article 30.

Dr. Nancy Mansberger, the administration’s Director of Academic Labor Relations (the title of her position was formerly Director of Academic Collective Bargaining), declined to hear the grievance, claiming that there was no evidence of harm to faculty members, but she agreed to work with WMU-AAUP grievance officer John Saillant to revise the letter.

In May, the WMU-AAUP requested mediation of the grievance, under the terms outlined in Article 12, and the administration agreed.

In early June 2016, a mediation team was appointed, composed of one faculty member appointed by the WMU-AAUP and one representative appointed by the administration, again according to procedures set out in Article 12. After reviewing the case, the mediation team proposed that the chapter and the administration collaborate on revising the EUP course development agreement form, with a deadline of August 1, 2016.

Also in early June, the WMU-AAUP submitted a request to the administration under the Freedom of Information Act for copies of all EUP online course development agreements entered into by bargaining-unit faculty since September 6, 2014 (the start date of our current contract). We have recently received these documents and are reviewing them to determine whether any faculty members were denied contractual rights as a consequence of entering into course development agreements with EUP.

On June 24, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee voted to accept the mediation team’s proposed resolution, leaving open the option to file additional grievances if necessary once the FOIA request was fulfilled (it had not yet been on June 24) and once the signed EUP course development agreement letters had been reviewed. As of today (July 11), the administration has not yet informed the chapter as to whether they will accept the proposal submitted by the mediation team.

A new concern has also arisen: One of the signed EUP course development agreements we received in the FOIA package was a revised version of the form, with the revision date given as May 2016. It had been signed and dated by EUP on May 31 and by the faculty member on June 1. The revised version also fails to comply with Article 30 and does so no less egregiously than the previous version. It is troubling that a new but still noncontractual version of the letter was introduced in May 2016 and used as recently as June 1, 2016, well after the chapter grievance calling this issue to the attention of EUP and the administration was filed in April.

This is an ongoing matter of concern for the chapter. The officers and Executive Committee of the WMU-AAUP will continue to investigate the extent to which faculty members may have been misled into relinquishing their rights or their rightful compensation and will work to make sure that these errors be corrected and that these colleagues be made whole.

Have you signed an EUP course development agreement and had to choose between being compensated for your work and retaining your intellectual property rights? Are you thinking about developing an online course sometime in the future and want to make sure your contractual rights are honored? If you answered yes to either of these questions, please contact us. We can help. Call us at 345-0151 or email staff@wmuaaup.net.

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. “

Statement on administration’s Spring 2016 course evaluation plan

On March 18, teaching and clinical supervisory faculty received an email from the registrar about Spring 2016 course evaluations, announcing that “course evaluation forms will be available for students to complete for all courses with more than 3 enrolled students.”

This means that student rating data will be collected for every section of every course taught this semester. This constitutes an administrative violation of Article 16 of the Agreement:

Article 16§4: “Student ratings shall be conducted in each class taught by a bargaining unit faculty member in at least one semester of each academic year (to be determined by the faculty member).”

In other words, Article 16§4 ensures that you decide which class section is evaluated in a given semester and that you decide the semester in which each class is evaluated, period. If you teach multiple sections of the same course, you need only have one section evaluated per academic year. According to the contract, if you already taught a course and had it evaluated in the fall, you are not required to have the same course evaluated again in the spring. Unfortunately, the administration is choosing not to honor the contract language this semester.

Language regarding the frequency of evaluation data collection has been in the contract for 35 years, and for the past 14 years, the faculty’s contractual right to make these decisions has been stated explicitly. (A timeline for how this language came to be in the contract and how it has evolved over the years is available here.)

It is the union’s job to defend the contract and protect faculty rights. Every single right and benefit in our contract is in there because faculty who came before us fought for it, won it, and had to give up something to get it. That is the nature of negotiation. Therefore, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee, in consultation with the WMU-AAUP Association Council, voted to reject the proposal to conduct evaluations in all sections of all courses this semester when it was presented to us. We could not in good conscience agree to make a concession regarding language that has been in our contract since 1981.

WMU faculty are rightly proud of the top-quality instruction we provide to our students and deeply invested in receiving substantive feedback from them. The WMU-AAUP is equally invested in helping our faculty colleagues access reliable, useful feedback that is free of the kinds of racial, gender, and other bias that unfortunately many colleagues have experienced firsthand in their ratings and that has been well documented in the scholarly literature on student ratings.

These are problems that our 2011 and 2014 negotiation teams raised at the bargaining table. Both times, the administration refused to engage in conversation to try to solve them.

We value the time and energy that the members of the joint committee brought to this project, and we share their disappointment in the outcome. In collaboration with the Executive Committee, our 2014 bargaining team envisioned a process of brainstorming to generate creative solutions to improve course evaluation response rates and develop evaluation instruments that minimize potential bias, and we are still optimistic that this can be achieved without faculty conceding any contractual rights.

But given the growing body of research into bias in student ratings, it would have been irresponsible for the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee to agree to the expanded use of a flawed rating instrument or to allow a negotiated contractual right to be circumvented in the process.

In order to preserve as many of your rights under Article 16 as possible, you may choose not to release your Spring 2016 ratings data to your chair and dean. In this way, you will at least have the right to decide which data from Spring 2016, if any, are used in tenure and promotion decisions.

However, this does not mean that the administration’s plan to require evaluation of all sections of all classes taught in Spring 2016 does not violate the contract. It does.

The WMU-AAUP Association Council will discuss the faculty’s options for responding to this contract violation at the Council meeting scheduled for Friday, March 25, at 1:30 p.m., in room 210 of the Bernhard Center. All bargaining-unit faculty are invited to attend this meeting. (All Association Council meetings are open to all members of the bargaining unit.)

Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp Responds to Faculty Questions

WMU Trustee Mary Asmonga-KnappWMU Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp

Faculty who were not able to attend the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on April 17 with special guests President John Dunn and Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp were invited to submit their questions electronically, as were colleagues who did attend but preferred to submit their questions in advance. When time did not permit coverage of these questions at the meeting, Trustee Asmonga-Knapp asked to take the list of questions with her so that she could respond to them in writing. Additionally, several faculty members followed up with questions after the chapter meeting. Her responses to the questions posed online and after the meeting appear below.

On behalf of the WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit faculty, we express our thanks to President Dunn and Trustee Asmonga-Knapp for their attendance at the meeting and to Trustee Asmonga-Knapp for taking the additional time to respond to the questions that were not addressed during the meeting.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp asks that readers please note that the viewpoints expressed here are her own and that she is not speaking for the Board.

Question: Is Trustee Asmonga-Knapp aware of how much her visible support of gender equity has meant to women faculty and staff at WMU?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

When I moved to table the motion for the President’s compensation package at the March 2015 meeting of the Board of Trustees, I knew I would not have any support from my colleagues on the Board.

I could not in good conscience vote yes to the compensation package, when as far back as 2011, the administration knew there were significant issues regarding pay equity for women faculty and our administrative professional staff and clerical workers who were predominantly women. The trustees were notified in 2014 that there were pay equity issues, but prior to that we had heard nothing. When protests began campus wide, I pressed for resolution and wondered how long it would take to determine pay scales. Years? After the January meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Bernhard Center, and dissent became widespread, suddenly a preliminary report from Aon Hewitt surfaced. It was at this time I realized the gravity in pay differentials.

As a working woman, wife and mother, I have lived their story. I know exactly what gender inequity feels like. It not only reflects tangibles in dollars and cents, but it also involves being treated as if you do not have a voice or a worthy thought even though you spend most of your time doing the hard work and making sacrifices for the organization.

People are more than a budget line item. Professors, clerical workers, stage hands, teaching assistants, grounds persons, cafeteria workers, academic professionals, and a whole host of working Michiganders are the reason WMU works.

I have lived your story. Seeing you all in the audience at the recent meetings gave me guts and purpose! I now know why I sit on the WMU Board of Trustees. It is YOU who gave me the courage to stand. I thank you.

We need to take care of “First things first.“ Those lower paid administrative and clerical staff should have come before such a generous presidential contract and retirement package, which could have been addressed after their needs were met. It did not send a message of caring or concern. We need to take care of the troops first. I thank those staff for their years of hard work and light pay.

Question: Has there been any follow up from other trustees that Trustee Asmonga-Knapp is in a position to discuss indicating their new willingness to work on gender equity concerns with her?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

To my knowledge, other than myself, no member of the WMU Board of Trustees acknowledges any gender equity issues, whether tangible or intangible. They also do not seem willing to acknowledge the existence of a morale problem among faculty or other staff. We need to improve these relationships and work toward a healthier work environment. These conditions need to be acknowledged, and they are clear if we review the faculty surveys of the last few years. However, the tendency is for the issues to be ignored and blamed on a few rabble rousers.

Question: Can Trustee Asmonga-Knapp provide insight as to why there were police officers at the March 25th meeting of the Board of Trustees and why the April BoT meeting will be held out of town? Isn’t the campus enthusiasm to be at these meetings a good thing?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

I think there were police officers at the meeting because the status quo felt threatened. Dissent can be frightening for some. I do not know who called the police, but I did not find the event threatening. If we cannot have dialogue on a university campus, where can we? I hope we have lots more.

Question: Is there anything that faculty can do to support your continued efforts on our behalf?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

Being a woman of faith, I ask you to pray for me. I ask you to send me emails, call me, and continue to educate me. The short time I have left on the Board of Trustees, let it be used for good. I ask you to speak up at meetings, send letters to the Board of Trustees and let your voices be heard! Write articles. Keep talking. I want you to enter into discourse with President Dunn and work through these very painful issues collectively. Can we do better? YES WE CAN!

Question: In 2006 WMU subsidized NCAA Division 1 programming to the tune of $8 million. That is $8 million spent to balance the books after all income is taken into account. In 2013 that number was up to $18.5 million. What does it say about our priorities when we are willing slow or freeze faculty hiring, decrease the number of GA/DA lines, and increase student tuition under the guise of budget cuts when the NCAA subsidy (loss) has more than doubled in the last 7 years?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

It is disheartening when so much is spent on NCAA Division 1 programming and an assistant professor gets offered $38,000, as one faculty member mentioned at the chapter meeting. I could not have survived on that salary. However, it is looked upon as an investment to draw students to a school with a winning football team. It is cultural. Those making those contributions believe it will make WMU more appealing. I understand where they are coming from. It is their way of making WMU great. They have the money to do it and it is their vision. In their way, they love WMU.

Question (asked in the hallway after the meeting): What are your thoughts on the affiliation between WMU and Cooley Law School?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

The Board of Trustees thought it was a good idea. It was to expand the footprint of WMU and to be a good mutual relationship for both.

Question (asked in the hallway after the meeting): Can you comment on the various business interests of members of the Board of Trustees and how these interests might intersect with their roles as trustees?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

I do not know enough to comment on it at this time. However, I will do research and get back to you with answers at a later date.

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Trustee Asmonga-Knapp’s closing comments:

Listening to the frustrations of faculty in the meeting, I had no idea what a conundrum existed between the faculty, deans, provost and the president. I knew a little, but the discussion at the chapter meeting opened my eyes! We have to find a way forward. If we do not regard our faculty and the educational experience, we will have failed. I want students to be mentored and faculty to fulfill their calling. We must find a better way. I believe that the way forward is talking and addressing these very hard issues. I do not have all the answers, but I believe we do. When I say we, I mean faculty, employees, administration, and the WMU Board of Trustees. We have to begin to build bridges and work toward a community of good. We have to work collectively and not pretend others do not exist.

In regard to the placement of the WMU-AAUP and other unions on the WMU Board of Trustees agenda, I do not agree at all with the denial of the WMU-AAUP as an active partner in shared governance. There appears to be a desire to ignore the WMU-AAUP contract in regard to shared governance. I encourage the leadership to continue discussion with the President. I believe that this change to the agenda has more to do with being outspoken and advocacy for faculty then it has to do with anything. I believe it is a punitive and unfair action by the Board of Trustees.

It is an honor to have been your guest,

Mary Asmonga-Knapp, LMSW, ACSW
WMU Board of Trustees