Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

Letter to the faculty re. national student walkouts March 14 and April 20, 2018 |

February 26, 2018 |

Dear colleagues,|

As you are probably aware, plans are underway for several events that could impact your classes, including two planned national student walkouts responding to gun violence in schools, including the recent incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Florida, that took the lives of 14 students and three teachers.

The first of these walkouts is scheduled for Wednesday, March 14. Its organizers, Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, are “calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across every time zone” as a call to Congress and state legislatures to take meaningful action to prevent gun violence. (Learn more about the March 14 action here.)

A second walkout, this one organized by high school students led by Lane Murdoch, a 15-year-old sophomore in Ridgefield, Connecticut, is scheduled for Friday, April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings that killed 12 students and one teacher in 1999. The organizers write: “National Student Walkout is a nationwide protest of our leaders’ failure to pass laws that protect us from gun violence. After the horrific massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, young Americans are taking matters into their own hands. Together, we will send a message that we won’t tolerate any more inaction on this issue.” (Learn more about the April 20 action here and here.)

As many of you who are parents already know, students at several local schools have announced their plans to participate in the March 14 walkout, including students at Loy Norrix, Mattawan, and Portage Central High Schools and Milwood Middle School. Others are likely to join as well.

I am writing today because WMU students may also choose to participate in the walkouts, which could impact your classes if you teach on those days.

Faculty are fully within their rights to hold students to attendance policies set out in their course syllabi, including if the reason for the absence is to participate in constitutionally protected activity like the walkouts. Faculty members are also within their rights if they choose to waive attendance penalties to allow students to participate in these actions without consequence. Should a walkout occur at WMU, it is up to each faculty member to decide whether to penalize students for missing class if they choose to participate in a walkout. Obviously, any penalties should be consistent with the existing attendance policy.

However, students may not be disciplined or penalized, by faculty or by the institution, for expressing political views or participating in a peaceful protest. This is to say that there may be a penalty for a missed class meeting but not for any lawful political activities the student engages in while absent from class.

As always, and regardless of how you decide to proceed in the event of a student walkout, the WMU-AAUP is here to provide support and information to the faculty and to protect your rights. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions.

Those are the facts. I hope you find them helpful.

But there is of course a lot more to all of this than the facts about policies governing attendance and about laws protecting students’ rights to free expression.

As an intellectually diverse faculty, we bring a variety of viewpoints and perspectives to how we conduct ourselves as professors and are not likely to be of one mind when it comes to how we choose to respond when students participate in political actions.

With that understanding, I offer my perspective on the upcoming walkouts. I am writing as a faculty member concerned about the safety of the students in our classrooms, not to mention our own safety and that of all members of our campus community. But I will note that this perspective is necessarily informed by my experience as the president of the WMU-AAUP Chapter, which is part of a national organization whose executive board and national council I sit on and which is active in the effort to keep firearms off college campuses.

I will support any and all WMU students who choose to participate in any kind of constitutionally protected action to protest the epidemic of gun violence on school campuses.

Yes, it is definitely inconvenient and frustrating when a class meeting is interrupted. It may make it difficult or impossible to cover important course material, and that affects all students, including those who choose not to walk out. I do understand that and feel it myself on occasions when I lose class time.

But we are poised at a unique cultural and historical moment, which young people around the country and in our own community have courageously seized. Some of these young leaders experienced the unimaginable horror of watching their friends, classmates, and teachers die two weeks ago. Others around the country have joined their movement. Something important is happening, something more important than what I have planned for my classes on any given day.

The students are taking the lead, but we are all in this together. In my role as chapter president, I have spoken with many of you over the years about concerns for your safety and that of your students and about the proliferation of dangerous weapons in our community and the possibility that they could one day be allowed on campus. I have listened to your stories about odd and in some cases alarming interactions you have experienced on campus and heard you talk about your fears about whether you will be able to get your students out of your classroom safely should it ever come to that.

Every one of these stories is unique, but they are all variations on a theme. And they are all heartbreaking. Heartbreaking because as we watch yet another school shooting and its aftermath unfold, we know that there is no rhyme or reason to any of it, no sense to be made, and no way to know whether and when our students might be in danger, or whether and when we might be in danger ourselves. Heartbreaking because every single colleague I have ever had a conversation like this with has made it clear that they would take a bullet for their students if they had to. Every single one of you.

In our determination to protect our students, we are no different from our colleagues across the nation, K-12 teachers and university professors, tenured faculty and part-timers alike. We share what many of us have come to understand as an almost sacred responsibility that comes with the job: to protect students, potentially even with our lives.

But we shouldn’t have to do that.

It is outrageous and unconscionable that we should be expected to die on the job and to be responsible for the literal lives of our students. It is equally unconscionable and outrageous that there are some in our communities who believe that we should also be responsible for taking the lives of students or others on campus who might pose a threat, people who believe that killing should be part of our job 

And yet here we are.

Many of us got into this line of work because we are inspired to work with young people to help them fulfill their potential and become as fully actualized as human beings as they possibly can. This is where I find the deepest satisfaction in my work as a professor, and I know a lot of you feel the same way. I love linguistics a lot, but even more I love watching students thrive and mature into their best selves. When I am able to help them with that, I feel that I am honoring one of the most important purposes of my work as a professor.

There is a lot more I could say about all this, but I think I have said enough to try to explain why I will excuse my students from their academic responsibilities on March 14 and April 20, 2018, and on any other day if they choose to participate in actions and take a stand for something they believe passionately about.

This is a pivotal moment in their lives and in our culture. We are engaged in a new civil rights movement that includes stands against racially motivated police violence, against discrimination and violence against people of color, the LGBT community, immigrants, and women, and now the #NeverAgain movement launched by a group of courageous teenagers who are inspiring other young people across the nation. If our students here at WMU feel inspired to be part of this movement, I not only want them to have that experience, but I also want them in this battle because they’re our best chance to succeed where those of us who came before them have fallen short. There is nothing I can teach them about language variation or historical linguistics or anything else I do in my classes that will matter more to their education and development as human beings than the experience of standing up for what they believe in, being part of history, and possibly even chalking up a few wins.

That means on March 14 and April 20, if some or all of my students decide that instead of coming to class or working on their data analysis projects or meeting me for office hours, they will walk out of their classes and add their voices to those of young people across the U.S. to say Never Again, they’ve got my blessing and I’ve got their backs.

While it is for each individual faculty member to decide how to handle a possible student walkout, I hope many of you will join me in standing with these brave young people.

In solidarity,

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


Financial Analysis of Western Michigan University, by Dr. Howard Bunsis

Dr. Howard Bunsis, Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University and Chair of the National AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress, addressed the faculty at Western Michigan University on February 16, 2017.

Click here to view the slides from Howard’s presentation.


New Faculty and Association Council Luncheon Sept. 16

New members of the board-appointed faculty at WMU are invited to the WMU-AAUP New Faculty and Association Council Luncheon on Friday, September 16, at 11:30 a.m. in 157 Bernhard.

This is an opportunity for new colleagues to meet faculty from across the university and to get acquainted with their faculty union officers and their college and department representatives. New faculty members and WMU-AAUP Association Council representatives should have already received their invitations to this special event. (Please contact staff@wmuaaup.net if you’re a new hire or an AC rep and have not received your invitation yet.)

The luncheon will feature special guest speaker Dr. Risa Lieberwitz, Professor of Labor and Employment Law at Cornell University and General Counsel of the American Association of University Professors. In addition to her appearance at the luncheon, Dr. Lieberwitz will also give a public presentation, “The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX,” at 4 p.m. on September 16. (More information about that here.)

The luncheon will be followed by the regular Association Council meeting, which begins at 1:30 p.m. and will also be in 157 Bernhard.

We understand the challenges that new colleagues can face in their first years on campus and how isolating it can sometimes feel when you’re new in the department. We are fortunate to have a wonderful community of faculty here at WMU, and we encourage our new colleagues to join us at the luncheon to meet and socialize with other new faculty and their union reps while also learning more about how the WMU-AAUP serves the faculty and the kinds of support and resources that are available to union members.

Especially in a national and regional climate that continues to challenge our claims to decent pay, benefits, and working conditions, we as university faculty must work together to make the case for higher education as a public good. As educators, researchers, artists, and scholars, professors are uniquely qualified to lead these discussions. Getting to know each other is a great way to start to come together as a united faculty who can make our case effectively, especially as we prepare for contract negotiations next year.


2017 Starts Now: Contract Review Workshop on May 16 with Dr. Jamie Daniel

Monday, May 16, 2016
10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (lunch provided)

at Montague House
814 Oakland Drive

Photo of Dr. Jamie DanielDr. Jamie Daniel

On Monday, May 16, 2016, Dr. Jamie Daniel, national AAUP Field Service Representative, will lead a review of our 2014-17 Agreement as we kick off preparations for contract negotiations next year.

All dues-paying members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit are invited to participate or just to listen and learn. Colleagues who are considering applying for the 2017 bargaining team or serving in other WMU-AAUP leadership positions are especially encouraged to attend, as are all faculty who want to know more about the contract.

The national AAUP’s workshop description:

What’s meaningful in a particular collective bargaining agreement is greatly shaped by local conditions: the nature of the institution and its resources, and the needs of the faculty in the bargaining unit as it is constituted. But what has transpired at other bargaining tables can spark new directions on your campus. And sometimes a fresh, “outsiders’ view” of a contract can be a useful source of ideas on how to shape your bargaining agenda.

As you begin the process of preparing to go to the table, the national office staff can review your current contract, and present thoughts on changes that you might wish to bargain for. Alternatively, we can prepare an analysis of specific provisions of your contract that you may be interested in modifying in bargaining. In either case, we can offer examples of language in other current agreements, to help flesh out what the possibilities are, and to serve as ammunition at your table.

Join us!

Deadline for faculty to inform provost of intent to appeal T&P decisions is TODAY

Per Article 17.§10 of the Agreement, the deadline for faculty members to inform the provost of their intent to appeal his tenure and promotion recommendation is today, Tuesday, April 26.


The notification of your intent to appeal must be in writing. Email Provost Tim Greene TODAY at tim.greene@wmich.edu to inform him of your intent to appeal. All it takes to do this is a brief email message. Here is sample language for appeal notification emails:

Dear Provost Greene,

This is to inform you of my intent to appeal your recommendation regarding my [second-year, fourth-year, tenure, promotion, step-increase, etc.] review.



Pease call the chapter office at 345-0151 during business hours. Staff is on duty M-F until 4:30 p.m. this week, but the office will be closed next week during the break. However, officers will be available, so please contact us directly for assistance:

WMU-AAUP Contract Administrator Kate Langan: klangan@wmuaaup.net

WMU-AAUP Grievance Officer John Saillant: jsaillant@wmuaaup.net

WMU-AAUP Chapter President Lisa Minnick: lminnick@wmuaaup.net

We are here to help.


Supreme Court decision on marriage equality and its impact on your WMU benefits

WMU-AAUP letter to the faculty on the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality:

July 1, 2015

Dear colleagues:

As you know, the Supreme Court of the United States has struck down all remaining state bans on same-sex marriage (including Michigan’s).

The Supreme Court decision, announced last Friday, has implications for the benefits available to faculty colleagues in same-sex marriages.

Previously, same-sex spouses were eligible to be on faculty health insurance policies under the DEI (designated eligible individual) provisions in the Agreement. However, all faculty spouses are now eligible for spousal coverage, which has considerable tax advantages over DEI coverage.

If you wish to to change your spouse’s existing DEI coverage to spousal coverage; if you wish to add your spouse to your health insurance for the first time; or if you have married since last week’s court decision, please contact your department’s Human Resources representative as soon as possible to get your spouse the coverage to which your family is entitled.

As always, we are here to help you navigate this process as needed. Please call 345-0151 or email staff@wmuaaup.net for assistance.

Congratulations to all whose marriages and families are at long last gaining the legal recognition they deserve, in Michigan and nationwide!

In solidarity,

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

Revisiting the WMU Employee Wellness Program

Last fall, the WMU-AAUP circulated information to faculty about the WMU employee wellness program. Recently, a number of faculty members have contacted us with questions after receiving email messages encouraging them to participate in the program. Because it is important that faculty have the information they need to make informed decisions, we are publishing the information again.

If you have questions after reviewing this information, please contact us at 345-0151 or via email at staff@wmuaaup.net.

Here is how the new wellness program works:

  • The WMU wellness program is VOLUNTARY. Participation is NOT MANDATORY. (But please see this recent news article: When Does Workplace Wellness Become Coercive? NPR, June 24, 2015.)
  • University employees (including faculty) will receive a small financial incentive in return for participating in the wellness program.
  • While your participation in the wellness program is voluntary, it is required in order to qualify for the incentive.
  • The incentive totals $240 annually in the form of a per-pay period reduction to the employee’s share of the health insurance premium.
  • If you choose to participate, the incentive will reduce your share of the premium by $9.23 per pay period (after taxes) for those on 26 pays or by $13.33 per pay period (after taxes) for those on 18 pays.
  • In order to qualify for the incentive, you must complete a “health risk assessment” and biometric testing.

What the incentive would look like for you:

  • If you are on the employee-only plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $954. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new annual premium of $714, a discount of 25.1 percent.
  • If you are on the two-person plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $3970. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new total annual premium of $3730, a discount of six percent.
  • If you are on the family plan: Your annual premium for 2014 is $5664. The wellness-program incentive would reduce that annual premium by $240, resulting in a new total annual premium of $5424, a discount of 4.2 percent.

What about privacy and confidentiality?

  • To qualify for the financial incentive, participants in the wellness program are required to submit to biometric testing and to complete a “health risk assessment” survey.
  • The “health risk assessment” survey contains a number of questions about your private health information. These questions are personal, and some are presumptive and intrusive (e.g., “Have you been annoyed when others say you have had too much to drink?” and “During the past 4 weeks, how much did your health problems affect your productivity while you were working?”).
  • The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) includes a privacy rule that prevents healthcare providers from sharing an individual’s health information with their employer. However, HIPAA rules may not apply to “wellness” program vendors who are not technically healthcare providers.
  • When we raised this question at the bargaining table last summer, Holtyn confirmed that while the company complies voluntarily with HIPAA, it is not compelled by law to do so.
  • Should any conflicts of interest arise (in relation to an insurance claim, for example), it is not clear whether the vendor would be required by law to protect faculty interests over those of our employer (who is also their employer), or if not required, whether they would choose to do so.

Is the incentive worth it?

  • Under the Affordable Care Act, federal law allows employers to offer incentives for wellness program participation of up to 30 percent of the employee’s share of the premium.
  • The incentive on offer to us amounts to 4.2 percent of the family premium for 2014, 6 percent of the two-person premium, and 25.1 percent for the employee-only premium.
  • University employees (including faculty) are being asked to provide a lot of private information in exchange for what would be a relatively small incentive, especially for those on the two-person or family plans.

In addition to the information provided here, we are available to help you with any questions you might have as you consider whether participation in the wellness program is the right choice for you. Call us (345-0151), email us (staff@wmuaaup.net), or stop by Montague House (814 Oakland Drive).