Remarks to the Board of Trustees, October 11, 2016

Remarks to the WMU Board of Trustees
by Lisa C. Minnick, WMU-AAUP President

 

Much has already been written and said about Dr. Mary Cain, who died on October 1 at age 91, including a statement by the WMU-AAUP published last week on our chapter blog. So I won’t spend time going over her many achievements and accomplishments. Instead, I want to talk about her work as the first woman president of the WMU-AAUP. She served two terms, from 1983-86.

As WMU-AAUP president, Mary is perhaps best remembered on campus for leading the legendary 1984 strike in September of that year, after contract negotiations broke down in late summer and mediation failed. The strike was settled quickly, but bad feelings persisted on campus into the fall semester as negotiations resumed.

In a speech to the WMU Board of Trustees on September 21, 1984, Mary challenged the Board to do the right thing by allowing faculty to make up work missed during the strike, pointing out that the administration had behaved dishonorably in making but not honoring compromises to end the strike but would face no consequences for their actions. Speaking from the wise perspective of a professor of education, and from her experience as a labor leader, she boldly set out the faculty’s position and argued that preventing faculty from making up the work, as the administration had chosen to do under then-President John Bernhard, would hurt WMU students as much as faculty. Her remarks are quoted in full on the WMU-AAUP blog, so I will just quote her briefly here:

The essence of the anger on our campus springs not from any single term or condition or event, but from an attitude which pervasively reflects a lack of respect for the faculty.

The faculty’s feelings arise in response to an attitude that tells rather than asks, that assails our civil liberties, that treats us as identical and interchangeable parts, like cogs in a bureaucratic machine – an attitude which fails to appreciate our diverse, continual, loyal, excellent [and often] unpaid service to Western, or to recognize that the faculty, together with the students, is the essence of any university.

Mary Cain spoke those words 32 years ago.

After her retirement in 1992, Mary continued to participate actively in campus life and to support the work of the WMU-AAUP. As recently as 2014, then 89-year-old Mary still regularly attended our Executive Committee meetings, representing Western’s Association of Retired Faculty, and she was as sharp, funny, and fearless as ever. She also participated in the chapter’s 2014 contract campaign, including as a guest speaker at our Union Pioneers Panel in February 2014 and as a frequent advisor to the chapter leadership.

The officers, Executive Committee, Association Council, and staff of the WMU-AAUP, on behalf of the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University, offer our deepest condolences to Mary’s family and friends on this profound loss.

But it is not enough simply to offer condolences and remember her fondly. We owe this woman who committed her life to justice and equality for all people better than that. We owe her better than to try to erase the lived reality that she experienced, that women in this world and on this campus face when they dare to stand up, to speak up, and to lead.

In her obituary, Mary’s family writes that she “spent her adult life working for justice and equal rights for all people” and was “a champion of equal rights for women.” One of the many things I admired about her is that even though as chapter president she endured all kinds of blowback for the risks she took on behalf of the faculty, she never let what people thought of her or what they said about her stop her from doing what she knew was right. She just did it anyway. I admire that about her because I understand how hard that is, to live your convictions, to try to serve others honorably, to keep going, to just do it anyway. But I also know that the more of us who do it, the safer it is for other women to step up and do it too. This is how change happens. Every time I look at Mary’s portrait in our offices at Montague House and see her fabulous smile, I remember what’s at stake and what I owe her. I understand that I am standing in this spot today because of the trail that Mary Cain blazed. I take that responsibility very seriously.

But Mary knew, and I know, that cultural shifts are slow, that they take time and require persistence. This is why we can’t back down when we know we have justice on our side. And it works. Attitudes shift.

But at this point, that is not enough. We need to move faster and more decisively. The 2016 presidential election campaign and the horrifying discourse to which it has given voice, laden with the most vile and ignorant racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, should be a wake-up call for all of us. As an institution of higher learning, we have the responsibility to take the lead and stand up, individually as well as collectively, against these poisonous, dehumanizing values.

“Diversity” and “inclusion” have to be more than just words to us. At a time when public discourse has reached what is quite possibly its lowest point in recent memory, we need to understand the connections between the disgusting rhetoric that a major-party presidential candidate has attempted to legitimize and the more subtle and even casual racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism, and other bigotries that are part of the everyday lived experiences of real people, including on this campus.

How are we to make sense of this poisonous campaign discourse for and with our students? And who are we to profess even that we can make sense of it, when the attitudes articulated in that discourse pervade even our own campus culture?

We still have women on this campus who are paid inequitably. The message to faculty and perhaps especially to support staff, who are predominantly women and among the lowest-paid employees on this campus, has been that pay equity is not a priority at WMU. Once in a while an individual salary adjustment is made. But the stubborn structural problems that create and perpetuate gender and racial inequity in the first place continue to be ignored. The equity problem persists because it is merely a symptom of something larger and a consequence of an institutionalized resistance on this campus to taking on the problems of structural sexism and racism at their roots.

Dr. Cain’s presidential terms and mine are 30 years apart. I don’t want to say that nothing has changed. Of course some things have improved. But if I am going to be honest here, and you know I am always honest here, I have to say that not enough has changed. And we are going to have to do better.

There are still too many people on our campus who think nothing of speaking to and about women, including in the workplace, in ways that are disrespectful, patronizing, inappropriately gendered, and even sexualized. Some of the people who talk this way appear not even to realize they are doing it.

I don’t want WMU to keep losing women faculty. We have an especially hard time retaining faculty women of color. Often the ones who stay feel isolated or are treated like they don’t belong here. I don’t want the women who do the work of this institution – from instruction and research and advising to office support, administration, food service, maintenance, and everything else that keeps this enterprise afloat – ever to be made to feel less than, to be paid less than, to be treated as less than.

Mary Cain spoke up for women over the course of her entire career and even after her retirement. I am trying to honor her example. But you all need to honor it to. The women and men of Western Michigan University – faculty, staff, students, alumni –  need to see a deliberate, conscious commitment that starts at the top – that is with you, ladies and gentlemen of the board – which could use more women on it, by the way – to say not only with words but with every action and in every interaction that we reject racism, sexism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, and bigotry in all its forms.

Take the lead. Make this something distinctive and important about Western Michigan University. You won’t be doing it for me. You won’t even be doing it for Mary Cain, although it is the least that she deserves. You’ll be doing it for yourselves, for your families, for our students, our alumni, our community, and this institution. I’m not talking about lip service. I’m talking about soul searching.

Mary Cain, as I said, was the first woman president of the WMU-AAUP. Here I am, 30 years later, the fourth. And here we still are. I am speaking now to all the men on this campus, members of the Board of Trustees and everyone else: This kind of destructive, soul-stealing, dehumanizing behavior doesn’t stop until you join women and people of color in standing up to it. Stop tolerating sexist and racist jokes. Stop repeating stories that have no purpose but to hurt, to slander, to try to discredit. Stop standing silent while others engage in these behaviors. Say something. Set an example. Be an ally. You don’t have to participate actively in the behavior to be complicit in the damage it causes to others. All you have to do is nothing.

As I wrote in the WMU-AAUP statement about Mary, all WMU faculty and retirees owe her a debt of gratitude for her courage, foresight, strength, and humor. We are humbled by our responsibility to honor her legacy, but we know she is counting on us to stand together for the future of the faculty and the university to which we, like Mary, have committed our professional lives, and we are determined not to let her down. She understood the central role of faculty to the success of the university and the critical importance of faculty rights as autonomous professionals, entitled to meaningful participation in leading the development of the university’s priorities.

She also understood and experienced the damage that sexism, racism, and other bigotries cause to individuals and to the institutions that tolerate them, and she spent her life standing up against them.

Dr. Mary Cain lived her convictions. We owe it to her – all of us owe it to her – but also to ourselves and to our students to live ours. As we mourn her passing, we can take strength from the example she set for us and honor her by following that example.

Labor law and Title IX expert Risa Lieberwitz to speak at WMU Sept. 16

Risa L. Lieberwitz, Professor of Labor and Employment Law at Cornell University and General Counsel of the American Association of University Professors, will visit WMU on Friday, September 16. She will be the featured speaker at the WMU-AAUP New Faculty and Association Council Luncheon at 11:30 a.m. and later on the 16th will present “The History, Uses, and Abuses of Title IX” in a public presentation at 4 p.m. Both events will be in 157 Bernhard.

Click to enlarge flier.

Flier for speaker event featuring Dr. Risa Lieberwitz, including photo of Dr. Liebervitz and information about the date, time, and location of her presentation.Professor Lieberwitz chaired the committee that produced the new AAUP report on the history and current uses of Title IX, a joint project of the AAUP’s Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure and the Committee on Women in the Academic Profession.

As the executive summary notes,

The report identifies tensions between current interpretations of Title IX and the academic freedom essential for campus life to thrive. It finds that questions of free speech and academic freedom have been ignored in recent positions taken by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education, which is charged with implementing Title IX, and by university administrators who are expected to oversee compliance measures.

While successful resolutions of Title IX suits are often represented as unqualified victories in the name of gender equality, this report finds that the current interpretation, implementation, and enforcement of Title IX has compromised the realization of meaningful educational goals that lead to sexually safe campuses. Since 2011, deployment of Title IX has also imperiled due-process rights and shared governance. This report thus emphasizes that compliance with the letter of the law is no guarantee of justice, gendered or otherwise.

Dr. Denise Sekaquaptwa to speak on campus diversity Feb. 4

Strategies to Strengthen Diversity at WMU

Dr. Denise Sekaquaptwa
Professor of Psychology, University of Michigan

WMU Center for the Humanities, 2500 Knauss Hall
Thursday, February 4, 3:30 p.m.

The Women’s Caucus of the College of Arts and Sciences invites all WMU faculty to a presentation and discussion on advancing a positive climate for expanding diversity at WMU. Dr. Denise Sekaquaptwa, University of Michigan Professor of Psychology, will speak Thursday afternoon and hold open office hours for informal conversations on Friday, February 5, 10-11 a.m. in 2307 Friedmann.

For more information, contact the CAS Women’s Caucus at coas-wcaucus@wmich.edu.
Flier announcing Denise Sekaquaptwa lecture Feb 4

 

 

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Special invitation to WMU Women Faculty of Color

From the Women’s Caucus of the College of Arts and Sciences:

The CAS Women’s Caucus will host a brown bag lunch gathering for Women Faculty of Color on Wednesday, December 2, from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. in the WMU Center for the Humanities (2500 Knauss Hall).

This gathering is open to all WMU women faculty of color in all colleges.

In addition to networking, we will share information about the Faculty Women of Color in the Academy National Conference in Champaign, IL, April 1-2, 2016, and explain how the CAS Women’s Caucus will support colleagues to attend this conference.

Come to network and to share your input on issues facing women faculty of color at WMU. We are planning a speaker visit in spring 2016 and your input will shape the focus of that visit.

For more information, contact Dr. Chien-Juh Gu, Associate Professor of Sociology. Call (269) 387-5243 or email chien-juh.gu@wmich.edu.

We hope to see you!
CAS Women’s Caucus

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.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *

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

 

Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

Earlier this semester, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee approved a motion to draft a letter to President Dunn and the WMU Board of Trustees as a follow-up to the recent faculty vote on the question of confidence in the leadership of Provost Tim Greene.

Several members of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee took the lead on creating the original draft, which was made available to the faculty for feedback on March 5. At that time, we solicited faculty feedback, which we have incorporated into the revised version of the letter posted below.

Many thanks to the more than 60 faculty members who contributed to the drafting of the letter and provided feedback. This has been a truly collaborative effort. We hope you will be satisfied with the result.

WMU-AAUP faculty will soon receive an email invitation to weigh in electronically on the letter. The original motion of the Executive Committee called for the revised letter to be sent to the faculty for approval. After that, we will begin collecting signatures.

As we noted when we posted the original draft on March 5, we recognize that circulating material to the faculty means essentially making that material public. Once again, we choose to see that as an opportunity. As with the original draft last month, we hope that this revised draft will be widely read and will encourage dialogue among the faculty and elsewhere on campus.

As always, we welcome your feedback.


Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

April 9, 2015

Dear President Dunn and Western Michigan University Board of Trustees:

As you are aware, the Board-appointed faculty, as represented by the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, recently expressed its dissatisfaction with the leadership of Provost Tim Greene in a no-confidence vote. We believe that the students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Western Michigan University need and deserve competent, respectful, visionary leadership, and we find these values lacking in Provost Greene’s leadership.

At this time of significantly decreased state support, and when the university is undertaking important initiatives such as the new medical and law schools, a strong partnership and cultivation of trust between the faculty and the senior administration are essential. Unfortunately, the senior administration’s response to the no-confidence vote has been to dismiss it and to misrepresent the nature of our dissatisfaction. The purpose of this letter, then, is to articulate the faculty concerns that led to the no-confidence vote and to propose a way forward that will better serve the interests of Western Michigan University and its diverse community of stakeholders.

We recognize that Western Michigan University exists foremost to be an educational resource for the people of our state and to be a center for research and the generation of knowledge, and as a faculty, we take seriously these responsibilities. The concerns articulated below reflect values that we share with our students and with the people of Michigan whom we serve.

  • Lack of Transparency

The no-confidence vote reflects major concerns about the lack of transparency in the provost’s decision-making. A crucial example is the Academic Program Review (APR) now underway. The precise purposes of the APR have yet to be articulated to the faculty, although we have been obliged to provide hundreds of hours of our labor to this initiative. Questions about these additions to faculty workloads and legitimate concerns about the ultimate goal of the review process are met with vague talking points and apparent indifference to faculty workloads and morale. In a resolution passed at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting in October 2013, the faculty noted the lack of transparency regarding the APR process and its goals and called on Provost Greene to “collaborate with the faculty in a transparent and meaningful process to develop a review procedure . . . based on a clear rationale and on mutually agreeable objectives, mechanisms for implementation and assessment, and potential outcomes in which the administration is held accountable as well as faculty.” To date, Provost Greene has not responded to the letter sent by the WMU-AAUP leadership, dated October 24, 2013, to inform him of this resolution.

  • Gender Equity

Provost Greene has also demonstrated indifference to the ongoing problem of salary inequity. Only after a censure vote by the faculty in October 2013 compelled him to move forward did he begin to authorize equity adjustments, despite a contractual mandate to do so in 2011. While some adjustments were made beginning in November 2013, the process by which those decisions were made was entirely opaque, and significant salary inequities continue. There is no indication that Provost Greene is invested in addressing the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place or in trying to correct them. Instead, the administration has chosen to commit significant resources to defending the institution against equity claims brought by faculty and staff.

Provost Greene’s handling of this critical issue sends an unmistakable message that the administration he represents cares more about protecting itself than about doing what is right (and what is required by law). It also sends a discouraging message to our students when they see that their professors are not treated equally. We believe that most administrators and the Board of Trustees are in agreement on the importance of gender equity and are as concerned as we are about the damage inequitable treatment can do to morale and productivity and the message an appearance of indifference toward inequity is sending to our students. Therefore, it is a matter of deep and genuine concern to us that the reputation of the university president, the Board of Trustees, and the university as a whole suffers because the provost’s actions.

  • Lack of Respect for Faculty and Shared Governance

The no-confidence vote also reflects our perception that Provost Greene lacks respect for faculty perspectives and for the overall contributions that faculty make to the university’s core academic mission. Western Michigan University exists in order to engage the public in education and research, and the faculty play a central role in this mission. Disrespect of the faculty has a chilling effect on learning and discovery.

Again we cite Provost Greene’s handling of the APR, beginning with a violation of Article 4 of the Agreement, which requires that the administration notify the WMU-AAUP of any new university-wide committees and obliges the administration to seek chapter nominations for seats that are thereby created. The composition of the APR “project management team” made clear that the review is a university-wide endeavor, yet the “team” was convened without notification of the chapter. It took the filing of a chapter grievance in November 2013 before the WMU-AAUP was able to exercise its contractual right on behalf of the faculty to appoint a representative to the APR “project management team.”

  • Removal of Dean Alex Enyedi

Provost Greene’s decision to remove a competent, highly respected dean from a well-functioning college was made entirely without consultation with faculty and in contravention of recommendations in the 2010 WMU Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Self Study Report, which identified “a lack of an evaluation system for associate provosts, deans, and associate deans” (HLC Self Study, 1d.2, p. 27). The accreditation reports, central to long-term planning goals of the institution, recommended that Provost Greene develop such evaluation measures. That these evaluation measures have not, to the faculty’s knowledge, been established raises serious questions about Dean Enyedi’s removal and suggests that Provost Greene is not in compliance with important accreditation recommendations that relate directly to the institution’s mission.

Additionally, the provost ignored the results of the metrics already in place for faculty evaluation of administrators. The reviews of Dean Enyedi in 2012 and again in 2014, conducted by the WMU-AAUP according to contractual procedures, found that he had the overwhelming support of the faculty in his college, some 90 percent of whom answered “yes” to the question of whether he should continue as dean. For the provost to remove Dean Enyedi without consultation with the faculty, and in deliberate disregard for faculty perspectives, suggests not only a significant failure of leadership on his part but also another example of his apparent lack of respect for shared governance.

  • Pattern of Behavior

While the removal of Dean Enyedi was for many faculty the breaking point regarding our overall confidence in the provost’s leadership, it is a mistake to characterize the no-confidence vote as being the product of this single issue. When faculty called for the no-confidence vote at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on January 23, 2015, we made clear that our dissatisfaction is the result of a persistent pattern of behavior on the part of Provost Greene: his lack of respect for the faculty, his failure to foster or model transparent decision-making, and his ongoing lack of accountability for serious problems on our campus, many of which – such as ongoing gender inequity – have been exacerbated on his watch. That his removal of Dean Enyedi appears retaliatory, and that it went against the will of the faculty in his college, has alarmed faculty in all colleges who value transparency, shared governance, and freedom of expression.

The senior administration has insisted that the dissatisfaction with Provost Greene’s leadership is limited to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, which misrepresents the facts and insults the faculty. Does the senior administration mean to suggest that the views of CAS faculty are uniquely unworthy of consideration? Such public disparagement of CAS faculty is not only disrespectful and potentially harmful to the reputation of the university, but it is also felt keenly by CAS students and alumni. However, it is not only CAS faculty who are disparaged in this administrative narrative. It also discounts the voices of faculty from other colleges, who are therefore effectively silenced.

  • Moving Forward

The issues outlined above suggest that Provost Greene’s vision for the university is incompatible with the core academic values that are central to our collective mission to educate and to generate knowledge. Many among us have proposed that we use this letter to call for his removal. Certainly without any evidence of accountability, we are left to worry that the provost is simply doing what he is expected to do by the senior leadership of the institution.

To move forward, then, we propose a dialogue, one that is truly open and inclusive and that begins immediately, to discuss the following:

  • whether it makes sense for Provost Greene to continue in his role as the university’s chief academic officer;
  • the current and future direction of the university as an institution that values excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity and the kind of leadership that will be required to carry out our mission;
  • the academic identity that we – faculty, staff, students, administration, and alumni – envision for Western Michigan University and how best to achieve that collective vision;
  • a renewed effort to acknowledge and to correct gender inequity and other inequities on our campus and to address the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place.

We look forward to participating in this dialogue as active partners with the Board of Trustees and the senior leadership of the university.

Sincerely,

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

 

Draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

As we reported several weeks ago, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee approved a motion to draft a letter to President Dunn and the WMU Board of Trustees as a follow-up to the recent faculty vote on the question of confidence in the leadership of Provost Tim Greene.

As you may recall, several members of the Executive Committee volunteered to take the lead on drafting this letter, with the goal of circulating it to the faculty for feedback and re-circulating it again for final approval after revisions are made.

The initial draft is now available and is posted below. It was created through a collaboration of faculty in multiple colleges over several weeks.

WMU-AAUP faculty will soon receive an email invitation to submit feedback, comments, and proposed revisions electronically. Your responses will be considered as the draft is revised, a process that will begin after spring break. The revised version will then be circulated again for your approval.

We recognize that circulating material to the faculty means essentially making that material public. Rather than trying to prevent that, we hope that the draft will be widely read and will encourage dialogue among the faculty and elsewhere on campus. Therefore, we are posting it here on the chapter blog so that it is accessible to you wherever you might be during the upcoming spring break and to anyone else who may be interested.


Draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

Dear President Dunn and Western Michigan University Board of Trustees:

As you are aware, the Board-appointed faculty, as represented by the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, recently conducted a no-confidence vote regarding Provost Tim Greene. The results of that vote reflect widespread dissatisfaction with Provost Greene’s leadership. The senior administration’s response to this vote has been to dismiss it and to misrepresent the nature of our dissatisfaction. Therefore, we believe that an elaboration of faculty concerns that led to the no-confidence vote is necessary.

  • Lack of Transparency

The no-confidence vote reflects our concerns about the lack of transparency in the provost’s decision-making. A crucial example is the Academic Program Review (APR) now underway. The true purposes of the APR have yet to be articulated to the faculty, although we have already been obliged to provide hundreds of hours of our labor to this initiative. Questions about these extensive additions to faculty workloads and legitimate concerns about where the review process is intended to lead are met with vague talking points and apparent indifference to faculty workloads and morale. In a resolution passed at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting in October 2013, the faculty noted the lack of transparency regarding the APR process and its goals and called on Provost Greene to “collaborate with the faculty in a transparent and meaningful process to develop a review procedure . . . based on a clear rationale and on mutually agreeable objectives, mechanisms for implementation and assessment, and potential outcomes in which the administration is held accountable as well as faculty.” To date, Provost Greene has not responded to the letter sent by the WMU-AAUP leadership, dated October 24, 2013, to inform him of this resolution.

  • Gender Equity

Provost Greene has also demonstrated indifference to the ongoing problem of salary inequity. It took a censure vote by the faculty in October 2013 before he would move forward, after two years of inaction despite a contractual mandate in 2011, and begin to authorize equity adjustments. While some adjustments were made beginning in November 2013, the process by which those decisions were made was entirely opaque, and significant salary inequity remains. There is no indication that Provost Greene is invested in addressing the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place or in trying to correct them. Instead, the administration has chosen to commit significant resources to defending the institution against equity claims brought by faculty and staff. Provost Greene’s handling of this critical issue sends an unmistakable message that the administration cares more about protecting itself than doing what is right.

  • Lack of Respect for Faculty and Shared Governance

The no-confidence vote also reflects our belief that Provost Greene lacks respect for faculty perspectives, interests, and concerns, and for the overall contribution that faculty make to the university’s core academic mission. Western Michigan University exists in order to engage the public in education and research, and the faculty play a primary role in this mission. Disrespect of the faculty therefore has a chilling effect on learning and discovery.

Again we cite Provost Greene’s handling of the APR, beginning with a violation of Article 4 of the Agreement, which requires that the administration notify the WMU-AAUP of any new university-wide committees and obliges the administration to seek chapter nominations for seats that are thereby created. Materials describing the composition of the APR “project management team” made clear that the review is a university-wide endeavor, yet the “team” was convened without notification of the chapter. Only after filing a chapter grievance in November 2013 was the WMU-AAUP able to exercise its contractual right on behalf of the faculty to appoint a representative to the APR “project management team.”

  • Removal of Dean Alex Enyedi

Provost Greene’s decision to remove a competent, highly respected dean from a well-functioning college was made entirely without consultation with faculty and in contravention of recommendations in the 2010 WMU Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Self Study Report, which identifies “a lack of an evaluation system for associate provosts, deans, and associate deans” (HLC Self Study, 1d.2, p. 27). The accreditation reports, central to long-term planning goals of the institution, recommended that Provost Greene develop such evaluation measures. That these evaluation measures have not, to the faculty’s knowledge, been established raises serious questions about Dean Enyedi’s removal and suggests that Provost Greene is not in compliance with important accreditation recommendations that relate directly to the institution’s mission.

  • Pattern of Behavior

While the removal of Dean Enyedi was for many faculty the straw that finally broke the camel’s back when it comes to our lack of confidence in the provost’s leadership, we must be clear: The camel was already on its knees by the time Dean Enyedi was removed, and it is a mistake to characterize the no-confidence vote as being the product of this single issue. When they called for the no-confidence vote at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on January 23, 2015, the faculty made clear that their dissatisfaction is the result of a persistent pattern of behavior on the part of Provost Greene: his lack of respect for the faculty, his failure to foster or model transparent decision-making, and his ongoing lack of accountability for serious problems on our campus, many of which – such as ongoing gender inequity – have been exacerbated on his watch. That his removal of Dean Enyedi appears retaliatory has alarmed faculty in all colleges who value transparency, shared governance, and freedom of expression.

The senior administration insists that the dissatisfaction with Provost Greene’s leadership is limited to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, which misrepresents the facts on the ground and insults the faculty. Do they mean to suggest that the views of CAS faculty are uniquely unworthy of consideration? Such public disparagement of CAS faculty is not only disrespectful and potentially harmful to the reputation of the university, but it is also felt keenly by CAS students and alumni. And it is not only CAS faculty who are disparaged in this administrative narrative. It also ignores the voices of faculty from other colleges, who are therefore effectively silenced.

The students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Western Michigan University need and deserve competent, respectful, visionary leadership. At this time of significantly decreased state support, and when the university is undertaking expensive and risky initiatives, including the new medical and law schools, a strong partnership and cultivation of trust between the faculty and the senior administration are essential. We find these values lacking in Provost Greene’s leadership, and we request that you, President Dunn and members of the WMU Board of Trustees, take seriously this expression of our concern.

Sincerely,

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