Board-Appointed Faculty to Meet Sept. 5 to Discuss Negotiations; Contract Expires Midnight Friday

Western Michigan University Chapter
American Association of University Professors
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
(269) 345-0151

For immediate release: Thursday, September 04, 2014

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.”


Letter to University Relations

Letter to University Relations on the use of official WMU publications
to promote the administration’s perspective on negotiations

WMU Today

To: Ms. Cheryl Roland, Executive Director of University Relations
Cc: Dr. Nancy Mansberger, Director of Academic Collective Bargaining; Ms. Jan Van Der Kley, Vice President for Business and Finance; Dr. John M. Dunn, President of Western Michigan University
From: Lisa Minnick, President of the WMU Chapter of the American Association of University Professors
Date: September 1, 2014

I am writing today to request that the Office of University Relations discontinue the practice of presenting the administration’s negotiation updates in university communications as if they are an objective report of progress at the table, which they are not.

As in the example enclosed below, these missives are labeled neutrally in the WMU Today electronic newsletter as “The latest update on contract negotiations between WMU and the WMU-AAUP.” However, the updates represent a perspective limited to one side and based on that side’s agenda and interests.

The administration may be eager to take advantage of its access to university resources and to use them to try to frame the issues according to their own interests, simply because that possibility is available to them. However, because Western Michigan University is an institution of higher learning, we are all held to a higher standard. All of us who are engaged in this enterprise are obliged to promote and model the practices and values that are fundamental to our common mission. These include collaboration, the promotion of free inquiry, and the advancement of human knowledge and understanding. As tempting as access to official university mouthpieces and publications might be for the administration, using those media to present a one-sided view of the negotiation process, and especially without identifying it as such, conflicts with the values and principles we are all obliged to uphold. By deliberately representing as fact that which is very much a subjective point of view, as well as by excluding alternative viewpoints, the core academic values we all share in common are subverted.

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that the administration’s team should not present their perspective. They absolutely have that right, and there is no reason they should not exercise it. And as you are undoubtedly aware, we exercise the same right by publishing the perspectives of the WMU-AAUP. We have no wish to censor, and in fact we welcome the opportunity to participate in the free and open exchange of ideas, viewpoints, and perspectives. This is at the heart of the free inquiry we have collectively made our lives’ work. Our objection is simply to the use of university publications to present the perspective of the administration’s team as if it is the only perspective.

If fairness and neutrality are the objectives, I would suggest presenting WMU-AAUP updates alongside those that represent the administration’s views. For example:

“The latest updates on contract negotiations between WMU and the WMU-AAUP are now available online. The administration’s update can be viewed here: The WMU-AAUP’s update can be viewed here:”

If fairness and neutrality are not the goals, then I would ask that the administration’s team re-read the preamble to which they have recently agreed and review the language in Article 13 that we worked together to codify in the 2011-14 Agreement. These are not just words to us. They are ideals and values that we take very seriously and follow as guiding principles. In 2011 and again in 2014, the administration agreed to do the same. Please join us, then, in this endeavor to honor and model free inquiry in our academic community and reconsider the use of university publications to advance the perspective of a single campus constituency above and to the exclusion of all others.


Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP

Gender Equity at WMU in the Kalamazoo Gazette

The Kalamazoo Gazette posted a story online this morning on gender equity at WMU. See “Salary inequity by gender still an issue at Western Michigan University; pay adjustments coming,” by Yvonne Zipp, linked here.

While there is quite a bit in the article with which to take issue (most of it articulated by the provost), the piece is thoughtful, well researched, and worth reading. Many thanks to Gazette higher ed reporter Yvonne Zipp for her hard work and thoroughness.