WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students

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WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students

Approved by the faculty on November 18, 2016

Whereas the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, represented by our collective-bargaining chapter of the American Association of University Professors, stands for academic excellence, shared governance, higher education as a public good, and academic freedom;

Whereas our core academic mission includes the work of instruction, research, scholarship, creative activity, and professional service;

Whereas this work is foundational to the development of our students as knowledgeable and engaged citizens, informed participants in the democratic process, and possessors of a spirit of tolerance and acceptance;

Whereas the intellectual character of a university is determined by its faculty;

Whereas the faculty therefore also appropriately models character for our students and for the community in other ways, including with respect to our ethical principles and moral convictions;

Whereas these values inform our understanding and acceptance of the immense and humbling responsibility that we carry in the form of our students’ trust in us: that we will treat them with respect, with fairness, with compassion, and with generosity of spirit;

Whereas the faculty takes seriously its role in modeling, teaching, and facilitating critical thinking and respectful discourse;

Whereas we recognize the challenges inherent in the exploration of controversial issues and ideas as well as the intellectual growth that can result from engaging these ideas respectfully and thinking critically about them;

Whereas many Western Michigan University students are now feeling vulnerable, unwelcome, or even fearful for their safety and wellbeing or for the safety and wellbeing of their classmates;

Whereas every student is welcome at Western Michigan University and deserves to feel accepted, included, empowered, and safe here;

Be it resolved that the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, individually and collectively, stands in solidarity with the students of this university and extends to them our attention, our understanding, our support, our advocacy, and – when and if they need it – our protection, at this singular moment in our nation’s history and always.

Association Council recommends faculty approval of solidarity resolution

WMU-AAUP Association Council Recommends Faculty Approval of
Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

November 15, 2016

Dear colleagues,

After a lengthy and intense discussion at the WMU-AAUP Association Council meeting last Friday, the AC voted to draft a resolution to express support for WMU students in response to disturbing incidents that have occurred on our own campus and others over the past week.

Once drafted and circulated, the proposed resolution was approved 44 to 1 in a secret-ballot vote (plus one abstention) of the WMU-AAUP Association Council, Executive Committee, and officers, who now recommend full faculty approval. All members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit will soon receive an electronic ballot to vote on whether to approve.

Click here for the text of the proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students.

As most of you are aware, many of our students have reported feeling unwelcome, vulnerable, and even fearful for their safety and wellbeing or for the safety of classmates. Students of color, LGBT students, international students, and other minority students report feeling particularly vulnerable since the presidential election last week.

At a student-organized meeting on campus on November 10, I listened to what many of these students had to say. Their reports were chilling and disheartening: Some of our LGBT students said they will not be going home for Thanksgiving next week because family members have told them that they are not welcome, or they are afraid to go home because of concerns about increased hostility from relatives who do not accept their sexual orientation or gender identity. International and immigrant students report that they are fearful of attacks and deportation. More recently, some students have reported harassment on the street or on campus and finding notes on their cars with racial or homophobic epithets.

In other contexts, I have had occasion to observe that the intellectual character of a university is determined by its faculty. While that is critically important to our role at Western Michigan University, intellectual character is not the only kind of character that matters, nor is it the only kind that faculty model regularly for our students and community, even though we may not always be fully aware that we are doing so. Our ethical principles and moral convictions are critical to our work as faculty members, and never more so than when they are being tested, as they are now.

Listening to these students at the meeting last Thursday, it occurred to me that they might appreciate a reminder of how seriously we take our charge to do right by them, not only intellectually but also as the mentors and role models we are for them.

I brought this topic to the Association Council last Friday, and the result of that conversation – which was intense, passionate, painful at times, but also inspiring – is the proposed Resolution in Solidarity we present now for your consideration.

We understand that some of our colleagues may not be comfortable with this resolution or its intentions. We hope that you will be willing to engage in a dialogue about how we can best honor our commitments to one another as a faculty as well as to our students at a time when some of them feel that they have reason to be afraid for their lives.

The next meeting of the WMU-AAUP Association Council is Friday, January 20, 2017, at 1:30 p.m. Association Council meetings are open to all bargaining-unit members, and we encourage you to join us on January 20 so that we can all listen to and talk about the diverse perspectives our colleagues bring to these issues. We’ll meet in 157 Bernhard.

As individuals, we don’t need to have felt unsafe ourselves to understand why it is important to make a public statement in solidarity with our students. Even those of us who have never been targeted or felt vulnerable because of the color of our skin, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, national origin, or religious beliefs can of course empathize with those who have. And sadly, many of our faculty colleagues have felt this way themselves, including right here on our own campus. It is important that we stand with these colleagues, and I look forward to our conversations in the near future – and I hope at the January 20 AC meeting – about how we can all do a better job of that.

But today I am asking you to consider the proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students.

The Association Council and I understand also that there may be concerns about the possibility of causing hurt or distress to students who may not be members of protected groups but who may also fear backlash because of their political beliefs. We share these concerns and have crafted the resolution to try to make clear that we are here for all Western Michigan University students, even while we are also trying to address the immediate safety concerns that disproportionately affect students of color, LGBT students, and international students.

Many thanks in advance for your thoughtful consideration of this important matter.

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP

Proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students

Recommended by the WMU-AAUP Association Council, Executive Committee, and officers, for the faculty’s consideration. WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit members are now voting on this proposal, with votes due electronically by 4 p.m. on Friday, November 18. More information about the proposed resolution is available by clicking here.

Proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity
with Western Michigan University Students

Whereas the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, represented by our collective-bargaining chapter of the American Association of University Professors, stands for academic excellence, shared governance, higher education as a public good, and academic freedom;

Whereas our core academic mission includes the work of instruction, research, scholarship, creative activity, and professional service;

Whereas this work is foundational to the development of our students as knowledgeable and engaged citizens, informed participants in the democratic process, and possessors of a spirit of tolerance and acceptance;

Whereas the intellectual character of a university is determined by its faculty;

Whereas the faculty therefore also appropriately models character for our students and for the community in other ways, including with respect to our ethical principles and moral convictions;

Whereas these values inform our understanding and acceptance of the immense and humbling responsibility that we carry in the form of our students’ trust in us: that we will treat them with respect, with fairness, with compassion, and with generosity of spirit;

Whereas the faculty takes seriously its role in modeling, teaching, and facilitating critical thinking and respectful discourse;

Whereas we recognize the challenges inherent in the exploration of controversial issues and ideas as well as the intellectual growth that can result from engaging these ideas respectfully and thinking critically about them;

Whereas many Western Michigan University students are now feeling vulnerable, unwelcome, or even fearful for their safety and wellbeing or for the safety and wellbeing of their classmates;

Whereas every student is welcome at Western Michigan University and deserves to feel accepted, included, empowered, and safe here;

Be it resolved that the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, individually and collectively, stands in solidarity with the students of this university and extends to them our attention, our understanding, our support, our advocacy, and – when and if they need it – our protection, at this singular moment in our nation’s history and always.

Sign up to be part of the 2016-17 WMU-AAUP contract campaign

Our 2016-17 contract campaign starts now! Sign up to get involved.


Follow the link for the committee or team you’d like to join.
For descriptions of each team’s charge, click here.

(What’s a contract campaign? Click here.)


 Team and committee descriptions:

The Contract Campaign Team:

The Contract Campaign Team develops and carries out the overall campaign plan. The campaign team’s role is to build solidarity, plan events and actions, and turn out faculty. Team members should be flexible, able to think a few moves ahead, and ready to respond to events as they develop.

The campaign team will collaborate with the WMU-AAUP bargaining team, chapter officers, Executive Committee, Association Council, staff, and other campaign-related committees as needed, but the Contract Campaign Team will have primary accountability for running the campaign and overseeing the work of the other negotiation support committees (i.e., the Communication and Media Team, FOIA Team, and “S” Committee). Each member of the Contract Campaign Team will also act as a liaison with one of the other support committees to help coordinate activities and facilitate communication.

Click here to join the Contract Campaign Team

The Communication and Media Team:

The Communication and Media Team will work with the contract campaign team, bargaining team, chapter officers, Executive Committee, and staff to craft effective messaging to articulate the faculty’s position during negotiations and in support of the contract campaign. The Communication and Media Team will prepare negotiation updates and press releases, get information out to the faculty and to the public, organize social media campaigns, as well as advise (and potentially serve as) chapter spokespersons.

Click here to join the Communication and Media Team

The FOIA Team:

The FOIA Team drafts requests for information on behalf of the bargaining team as well as follow-ups and appeals as needed. A well-prepared bargaining team needs (and is legally entitled to) a lot of information from the administration about university finances, healthcare costs and contracts, and other information. Working closely with the bargaining team, officers, Executive Committee, and chapter staff, the FOIA team will also review data received in response to information requests and help the bargaining team make the best and most efficient use of it.

Click here to join the FOIA Team

The “S” Committee:

The “S” Committee organizes actions in support of the bargaining team. Working closely with the Contract Campaign team and with the Communication and Media team, the “S” Committee prepares a plan for labor actions that may become necessary during the course of our contract negotiations. We might not ever have to take these actions, but we will need to be prepared, and the “S” Committee must be ready to move quickly to mobilize the faculty if it does become necessary to take action.

Click here to join the “S” committee

Graphic image of WMU-AAUP 2016-17 contract campaign logo with tagline "Strength In Solidarity"


 

The 2016-17 WMU-AAUP Contract Campaign is On!

Our next contract negotiations won’t start until the spring or summer of 2017,
but our 2016-17 contract campaign starts now!


Since our last negotiations, in 2014, we’ve seen an uptick in infringements on faculty rights to academic freedom, due process, and participation in shared governance on campuses nationwide. In this context, and in a political and economic climate of reduced legislative support for public education, WMU faculty once again face serious challenges as we approach our 2017 contract negotiations. That is why we have been working to organize a year-long campaign of events and actions to build solidarity on campus and support for 2017 negotiations.

What is a contract campaign?

A contract campaign supports the bargaining team by engaging the faculty to build solidarity. A visible, vocal, and united faculty sends a powerful message that we are determined to stand up for academic excellence, fair compensation, and appropriate working conditions. This approach worked well for us in 2014, and with lessons learned from that campaign, we are prepared to come out even stronger this time around.

Why do we need a contract campaign?

It would be great if once we won a benefit, we could consider it permanent. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. The administration comes into every negotiation demanding concessions, and we owe our success over the years in holding them off and winning enhanced benefits to the collective action of the faculty and their visible and vocal support for our bargaining teams.


What you can do:

  • Apply to serve on the bargaining team. The call for applications is coming soon, and interviews with the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee will be held in November 2016.

Serving on the bargaining team not your style? That’s OK! We have lots of opportunities to get involved, build solidarity, and cultivate leadership skills.

Click here to learn more about how you can sign up to support the bargaining team in one or more of the following ways:

  • Join the contract campaign team and develop and implement our 2017 campaign strategy. (Sign up online now.)
  • Join the communication and media team and get information out to the faculty and community. (Sign up online now.)
  • Join the “S” committee and organize actions in support of the bargaining team. (Sign up online now.)
  • Join the FOIA team and help draft information requests, follow-ups, and appeals. (Sign up online now.)

Want to help support the WMU-AAUP bargaining team but not sure you have time to join a support team or committee? Here are some other ways to help (and you can — you guessed it — sign up online):

  • Make signs and create other materials for rallies.
  • Help organize campaign events.
  • Talk to colleagues about the benefits of union membership and to friends and neighbors about our academic mission and the benefits our work provides to students and to the community.
  • Share your professional expertise with the bargaining team.
  • Write articles, blog posts, and letters to the editor in support of public higher education and the role of the faculty in the academic mission.
  • Come to WMU-AAUP events and encourage your colleagues to attend.
  • Watch for emails from the WMU-AAUP, subscribe to the blog (from the home page, look for the ‘subscribe’ and ‘follow’ buttons on the right-hand side of the page), join us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for information about upcoming events and to make sure you never miss a call to action.

Look for sign-up sheets at WMU-AAUP meetings and events or click here to learn more and sign up online.


campaign_logo_for_now_smaller


 

LOCKED OUT ON LABOR DAY: FACULTY AT LIU BROOKLYN FIGHTING FOR A FAIR CONTRACT AND THE FUTURE OF OUR CAMPUS

“They preempted a strike they did not know would happen, and they took actions all summer long to prepare for it. They “deactivated” classes—not cancelled, just bizarrely removed from the schedule—without notifying deans, chairs, or affected faculty. They posted erroneous materials on course management websites. And they placed ads for replacement workers on Monster.com while scrambling to assign Brooklyn administrators as well as those at LIU Post to teach our classes. One young staff member is assigned to teach a Master’s program class in which she is enrolled as a student.”

–Deborah Mutnick, LIU-Brooklyn

ACADEME BLOG

Guest blogger Deborah Mutnick is  a long-time professor at Long Island University’s Brooklyn, NY campus.

As of 12:00 a.m., Saturday, September 3, my colleagues and I were locked out of our University in the midst of contract negotiations between our faculty union and management. The letter I got from the administration told me I have “to cease performing services for the University.” Saturday morning the first thing I did—and I suspect many of my colleagues did as well—was to try my LIU email account. Locked out. The union-busting tactics we all feared have now come to pass.

The idea that faculty and students are the heart and soul of a university is in jeopardy everywhere of late, it seems, in higher education. But for the past three years, Long Island University has strayed so far from this ideal that we barely have a seat at the table anymore. The faculty…

View original post 527 more words

IUP faculty union president: Why I will strike

Thoughtful and important piece by Dr. Nadene A. L’Amoreaux, president of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches.

The HawkEye

Opinion

Nadene A. L'Amoreaux, Ph.D., president of the IUP chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches. Nadene A. L’Amoreaux, Ph.D., president of the IUP chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches.

By Nadene A. L’Amoreaux

INDIANA – Next week, faculty members and coaches at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and our sister universities across the commonwealth will vote on whether to authorize a strike. We will vote in the face of a threat to college education in the state of Pennsylvania.

We grow increasingly discontented with a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education that has failed to implore the General Assembly to adequately fund higher education. That has allowed tuition increases across the State System to place greater financial burden on students and their families, thereby making the possibility of higher education to become further out of reach for our students.

Pennsylvania ranks third highest in the nation for student loan debt. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, funding…

View original post 870 more words

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. “

WMU-AAUP Remarks to the Board of Trustees

Remarks by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick
On state divestment from higher education
March 23, 2016


One thing everyone in this room has in common is our shared investment in higher education as a public good. We can all agree, I hope, that students benefit when faculty and staff are equipped with the tools we need to provide the quality instruction, individual attention, and opportunities for learning and growth that our students need and deserve.

State divestment from public education impacts the lives of students as well as the health of our society. As we speak, one of the jewels in the crown of American public higher education – the University of Wisconsin System – is being deliberately and methodically dismantled before our eyes.

And in Illinois, universities have seen no state funding since July 2015 and are bracing for layoffs and, in the case of Chicago State University, even possible closure – at a cost of 900 jobs – while the governor and legislature posture and draw lines in the sand. Eastern Illinois University announced on March 11 that it will lay off 177 employees.

While the total harm that these actions will visit upon Illinois students is incalculable, some of its costs can be quantified. This year, 130,000 students in Illinois are losing need-based financial aid as the state’s Monetary Award Program, which provides grants for low-income students, remains frozen as the budget impasse continues.

These examples, extreme though they are, should not be considered unimaginable in Michigan. Sadly, they are all too imaginable in a state that has itself seen significant cuts in public funding for higher education and for other programs and resources that serve the public good. There was a time not long ago when we all would have found unimaginable the idea that the population of an American city could have been drinking poisoned water for over a year while officials in the governor’s office knew about it but did nothing.

But this is the kind of thing that happens when private profits are valued over the public good. The situation in Flint is a particularly horrific and tragic example of what can happen when state governments ill-serve the people whose well-being they exist – and are paid – to protect.

What’s happening in Wisconsin, the hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to their public university system and the attacks on tenure, is not an accident. The higher education crisis in Illinois is not an unintended consequence. Neither is this year’s billion-dollar budget shortfall in Louisiana, where universities and other state services have been decimated by years of funding cuts along with massive corporate tax cuts.

Some might suggest that these examples are simply the logical conclusion of a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment in recent years against the funding of resources that exist to serve the people. But that is disingenuous. What we are seeing is the result of an orchestrated nationwide campaign to shift public resources into private pockets. Well-fundedthink tanks” and interest groups push for legislation across multiple states, with defunding public education, dismantling social safety nets for our most vulnerable citizens, and weakening unions among their top priorities. Our states are unwitting participants in a political experiment to reduce or even eliminate public resources as we know them.

In Michigan, the governor and the legislature threaten to withhold state funding and punish the institutions whose students are among the least privileged to begin with. Do they not realize that these measures affect students of color and lower-income students disproportionately? Or do they not care?

Governor Snyder recently announced a plan to “increase” university funding in Michigan, to “increase” it back to where it was five years ago when he took office, before he cut higher education funding by 15 percent in the first place in his first budget as governor.

The cuts we’ve endured at Western and other universities in the state have had real costs, including to students who have not been able to continue their studies but also to the ones who stay with us here at WMU but find fewer resources available to them.

The governor cut our budget. And the university has suffered as a result. What a surprise. When you starve the beast for five years, you don’t get to blame the beast for starving. Yet that is exactly the kind of thing we keep hearing from Lansing.

But worse, it’s also what we are hearing from our own senior leadership at WMU. President Dunn has rightly spoken out against the zero-sum measures favored by the governor and the majority party in the legislature. I appreciate that. But then his provost imposes the same kinds of measures on us. Retiring faculty are not replaced. Programs and even entire departments are targeted for closure, although we don’t really know because that whole process seems to be conducted in secret. We are called incessantly to account for ourselves, for our time, for our credit hour production, in new and creatively time-consuming ways. Worst of all, we are being pitted against one another – faculty, staff, departments, programs, and colleges – in a battle for resources in which none of us have been filled in on the rules of engagement.

Enrollment is down, enrollment is down, enrollment is down. That is what we keep hearing, and most of us are in fact seeing the effects of that first hand. When we will talk openly and honestly about why that is and what we can do about it? When will we talk about why enrollment continues to be robust at Central Michigan and Grand Valley but not here? At what point will the senior leadership of this university be called to account for what is happening to our enrollment numbers on this campus, not to mention what has happened to faculty and staff morale?

Last month marked three years since I first stood before you, ladies and gentlemen of the Board. Since that time, I have been moved around the agenda and finally moved off it entirely and into public comments, as of course you know. Although I have been given a variety of vague explanations for why that has happened, I think we all know that the real reason is that some of you would prefer not to hear some of the things I have to say. I have been silent for over a year about the disrespectful and unprofessional treatment I have received in this venue. But I have seen first hand the debilitating effects that a culture of secrecy and silencing can have, not only on members of the university community but on members of the human family. I cannot be complicit in that any longer.

I am asking you today, as I have asked you many times before, to take seriously the things that I and other faculty, staff, and students have to tell you, regardless of how you feel about the messenger. Step out of the carefully controlled environment you spend most of your time in when you are on campus and really listen to the people who work and go to school here. Stand with us to protect this university from external forces who want to see us fail. We are on the same side of this battle.

At least I hope we are.


Click on image to enlarge and visit the Young Invincibles Student Impact Project for more information about state investment in higher education.Image of Young Invicibles 2016 Report Card: Michigan Budget Support for Higher Education

Guest post: In Support of Guns: Get Rid of Anthropology – and the Rest of the Liberal Arts

By Dr. Bilinda Straight
Professor of Anthropology
Western Michigan University


I recently revisited press coverage of the 2010 union win for faculty in anthropology and other disciplines at Florida State University, where an arbitrator reversed the termination of 21 tenured faculty members earlier that year, ruling that the firings had violated the FSU faculty union contract. The university’s administration, which had cited deep cuts in state appropriations to justify the firings, had also announced plans to merge some departments as part of its cost-saving efforts and to eliminate others, including anthropology.

These events of course prefaced a series of provocative comments made by Florida Governor Rick Scott the following year in which he declared that anthropology has no place in the state university system:

“We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state,” Scott told a radio talk show host in October 2011. “It’s a great degree if people want to get it, but we don’t need them here. I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on, those types of degrees, so when they get out of school, they can get a job.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, in a speech to a business association, Scott asked them, “Do you want to use your tax money to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.”

Much of the public discourse surrounding the Florida controversies, including articles defending the value of anthropology in response to the governor’s comments as well as the arbitrator’s report ordering the reinstatement of the fired faculty members, focused on the cost-efficiency of anthropology, including the grants brought in by the faculty alongside the high general education tuition dollars they generated and other budgetary advantages. As the arbitrator, Stanley H. Sargent, concluded: “It made no sense to eliminate anthropology from a budget standpoint.”

Responses to Scott’s comments also made strong cases for anthropology’s broad relevance while emphasizing its important role in STEM education and research. A statement by the American Anthropological Association pointed out to Scott that “anthropologists are leaders in our nation’s top science fields, making groundbreaking discoveries in areas as varied as public health, human genetics, legal history, bilingualism, the African American heritage, and infant learning.”

Brent Weisman, chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida, made a similar case on behalf of his department: “Anthropologists at USF work side by side with civil and industrial engineers, cancer researchers, specialists in public health and medicine, chemists, biologists, and others in the science, technology, and engineering fields that the Governor so eagerly applauds. Our colleagues in the natural, engineering, and medical sciences view the anthropological collaboration as absolutely essential to the success of their research and encourage their students to take courses in anthropology to help make them better scientists. Anthropology is a human science in its own right.”

All this is true. And yet, making the case for anthropology on the basis of its contributions to STEM fields risks repeating what many well-intentioned scholars did in overemphasizing monuments to defend Africa’s contributions to civilization: a strategy that uses the colonizers’ yardstick to measure its own worth.

Anthropology makes intellectual contributions to STEM but it shares its moral relevance with the humanities. That moral relevance is in teaching students how to critically evaluate their world from a system-wide perspective.

The national siphoning off of financial support from the liberal arts is an unprecedented assault on the spirit of democracy. It is an assault on moral freedom, an assault on personal liberty, an assault on what the architects of the Constitution (and the women in their lives) saw as the most important reasons for educating the masses:

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large.” (Thomas Jefferson)

We do not have liberal arts for the sake of getting jobs. Universities were not founded solely or even primarily to offer vocational training. Were that true, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would not have supported free public education. As Adams wrote in 1785:

“The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves.”

Universities are laboratories of the civic mind, of the public good. To assert this as no longer true is to cherry pick the principles our founders espoused in creating our democracy.

We have a right to bear arms for the same reason that we have a right to have our minds illuminated as far as practicable. Otherwise we truly are dumb brutes wielding weapons without purpose.

There is no time for the right to bear arms to be invoked without a reminder of its absolutely necessary twin – the type of education that leads to illumination. The person who bears arms without illumination is only half of a democratic human being. We do not bear arms just for the sake of personal safety. We bear arms collectively, for the sake of collective freedoms.

The contemporary problems of joblessness and job insecurity are not due to the ways in which universities educate. That claim is an elaborate, beautifully crafted trick on the part of political ideologues whose best chance for election and re-election (and for further widening inequality for their own self gain) is by spreading confusion to an increasingly uneducated but well-armed electorate.

Universities – in this long view – will eventually become high tech vocational training scrubbed clean of any democratic debate. The most dangerous adversary to political despotism will be as quietly eradicated as the Department of Anthropology at Western Michigan University is being eradicated today, as Africana Studies was yesterday, and as Sociology or Philosophy or maybe your own department or discipline may be tomorrow.

In that world, we may only need English for remedial purposes, for those who need additional support post-high school so they can write up their scientific findings, and History not at all. I remember once hearing that Philosophy explains what is possible and Science demonstrates it.

Perhaps we are on a path towards eliminating the need to explain anything – explanations can be reserved for the elite. For the rest of us: Conduct experimental trial according to instructions, replicate, eliminate what cannot be replicated, repeat. Replicate, eliminate, repeat. Aim gun, release trigger, repeat.

Editor’s note: The author is a Quaker pacifist and does not endorse violence. She does support the intent of the founding fathers (and women in their lives) to protect citizens from a despotic government that retains power through fear and the withholding of the right to enlightenment.