Western Michigan University Chapter
American Association of University Professors
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
For immediate release: Thursday, September 04, 2014
WMU-AAUP CHAPTER MEETING TO DISCUSS NEGOTIATIONS
Friday, September 5, at 1:30 p.m.
105-107 Bernhard Center, Western Michigan University
The board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University will gather on Friday, September 5, to discuss the status of contract negotiations, which have been underway since May. The current contract between Western Michigan University and the WMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors will expire on Saturday, September 6, at 12:01 a.m.
WMU has proposed reducing the employer contribution to retirement and increasing how much faculty pay for health insurance. WMU faculty already bear among the highest insurance costs in the region, and the small salary increases that the administration has proposed are unlikely to offset the increased costs. “What they are proposing is essentially a pay cut,” says WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick.
Faculty here are significantly out-earned by their colleagues at nearly every one of the schools that WMU identifies as a “peer” institution. WMU faculty salaries rank dead last among the eleven peers for assistant professors and near the bottom for faculty at all other ranks. One of only 99 institutions with a Carnegie Foundation classification of “Research University – High Activity,” and recently named a “top 100 national university” by the Washington Monthly, Western Michigan ranks 342nd nationally for faculty salaries at public universities, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
By contrast, WMU President John Dunn now ranks 18th for presidential compensation at public universities in the U.S., with earnings of just over $776,000 in 2013. His spokesperson has said that this was “not a typical year,” but his compensation package has long been generous. In 2012, Dr. Dunn was paid over $471,000, well above the national median of $441,000 and enough to make him the 88th highest-paid public university president in the country for that year.
With tenure-line faculty hiring at a near stand-still, WMU relies increasingly on temporary faculty while making unprecedented investments in athletics, real estate, and new residence halls, complete with “spa fixtures” in the bathrooms. WMU has also assumed considerable debt on behalf of the new medical school, including $67 million approved by the Board of Trustees last December to renovate the WMed building on Portage Street.
“It’s a question of priorities,” says Minnick, an associate professor of English. “A robust faculty is vital to the health of the university. For WMU to remain competitive and retain its Carnegie classification, it has to invest in its faculty. Disinvestment in the faculty and in the academic mission can come only at enormous cost to our students and to this community. That would be unacceptable.”
The WMU-AAUP has proposed a comprehensive package that includes market adjustments to start to bring WMU faculty salaries up from the bottom and holds the line on healthcare costs, which have more than doubled for faculty in the past decade.
“The board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University will continue to stand strong for academic excellence,” says Minnick. “We will fight for the resources that make it possible for us to deliver the unparalleled opportunity of a first-rate education. Our students deserve no less. They also deserve a future in which their rights as working people and as productive citizens in a democratic society are respected and honored in their workplaces and in their communities. This is as much their fight as it is ours. But we are hoping to win it now, before the next generation has to take it on.”