Grievance officer John Saillant to step down after 4 years, Trenary named interim GO

After more than four years in the demanding role of WMU-AAUP grievance officer, John Saillant (English and History) will step down effective August 14, 2017.

Robert Trenary (Computer Sciences) will assume the role of interim grievance officer on that date. (Read more about Robert here, and please join us in welcoming him to the WMU-AAUP leadership team.)

Throughout his years of service, John has been a stalwart union advocate and has provided support and guidance to countless faculty colleagues through the grievance process, tenure and promotion appeals, disciplinary proceedings, and workload appeals.

We don’t throw around the word “tireless” lightly at Montague House, but John has more than earned that descriptor. During his time in office, he has met with, listened to, corresponded with, counseled, and assisted scores if not hundreds of faculty members, from every college on campus and most if not every department.

We are all going to miss John, but we could not be more thrilled that he is about to embark on what is quite possibly the most well-deserved sabbatical of all time.

John’s commitment to the foundational AAUP principles of academic freedom, shared governance, and especially due process, along with his meticulous, analytical approach to problem-solving, not to mention his patience and kindness (and sense of humor) in even the most high-pressure situations, have been tremendous assets to the Chapter and to the faculty.

When we welcomed John to the WMU-AAUP leadership team in 2013, we especially admired his preparedness, his smarts, his calm and steady demeanor, and his unshakeable sense of justice. Four years later, we know now that we did not at that time know the half of what John would bring to the Chapter. John, we can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for all of us.

Colleagues, please join us in letting John know what his service has meant to you. And John, we wish you all good things as you move on to your next adventure.

Trenary named WMU-AAUP interim grievance officer; Saillant to step down after 4 years

Dr. Robert Trenary (Computer Science) has been named interim grievance officer for the WMU-AAUP, effective August 14, 2017.

Robert comes to us with extensive experience in labor relations, including union leadership experience in the K-12 sector prior to his joining the faculty at WMU and, more recently, 15 years of service on the St. Joseph County ISD School Board. Since his arrival at Western, he has been an active union member and has served multiple terms on the WMU-AAUP Association Council. An unswerving and well-informed union advocate, Robert brings to the interim grievance officer position extensive knowledge of the contract and a strong commitment to serving the faculty.

“The purpose of negotiations and that handshake we work so hard to institutionalize in the form of a contract requires constant attention because the University embodies a labor relationship and much more,” Robert writes. “Grievance is a process that maintains that handshake.”

In addition to voting unanimously to appoint him to the interim role, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee also recommends Robert unanimously to serve as the Chapter’s grievance officer for the two-year term that begins in September 2017 and runs through August 2019. Next month, the Association Council will meet to discuss this recommendation and hold a confirmation vote.

In the meantime, we could not be more delighted to welcome Robert to the WMU-AAUP leadership team as interim grievance officer. We are grateful for his willingness to accept this challenging role.

Robert joins us officially on August 14 (although he has already been spending a lot of time at Montague House), when long-serving WMU-AAUP grievance officer John Saillant (English and History) will step down after more than four years in the GO role.

Read more about John here, and please join us in expressing our gratitude for his outstanding service as grievance officer since April 2013. We will miss him but wish him well as he completes his stellar tenure as union officer and moves forward in pursuit of new challenges.

New Faculty and Association Council Luncheon Sept. 16

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

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

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

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

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

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


Course evaluations and the contract in Spring and Summer 1

As we wrote in March 2016, the administration collected student rating data for all sections of every course taught in Spring 2016, an action that was not in compliance with Article 16 of the Agreement:

Article 16§4: Student ratings shall be conducted in each class taught by a bargaining unit faculty member in at least one semester of each academic year (to be determined by the faculty member).

In other words, Article 16§4 ensures the faculty’s contractual right to decide which class sections are evaluated in a given semester as well as the semester in which a course is evaluated. Faculty who teach multiple sections of the same course need only collect rating data for one section per academic year, although individual faculty members are of course free to choose to collect rating data for as many sections as they wish.

Why are we still talking about this?

In response to the administration’s actions, the WMU-AAUP Association Council voted at their March 25 meeting to file a chapter grievance alleging administrative violation of Article 16. The chapter grievance, filed in April, was denied by the administration and at the request of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee has recently moved into mediation.

But wait, there’s more.

There is a new development to report: Faculty who taught in Summer 1 2016 and logged onto GoWMU with the intention of opting out of participation in rating data collection, as is their right under Article 16§4, were unpleasantly surprised to learn that they could not do so and that rating data would again be collected for every section of every course.

On June 6, 2016, WMU-AAUP Chapter President Lisa Minnick contacted Dr. Nancy Mansberger, the administration’s Director of Academic Labor Relations, to inform her that faculty members teaching Summer 1 2016 were finding that they were not able to opt out of evaluating their courses if they so chose but — as in Spring 2016 — were only offered the option to ‘opt out’ of having ratings data sent to chairs and deans after it is collected, in contravention of Article 16.§4. Dr. Mansberger responded in an email, dated June 9, that rating data would be collected for all courses taught at WMU in Summer 1 2016. In her email message, Dr. Mansberger claimed that

The [letter of agreement] authorizing the pilot study detailed that a pilot study be run during the 2015-2016 Academic Year, which concludes at the end of the Summer I session. I have been informed by the Office of Assessment that the pilot study conditions will be lifted and the original ICES programming conditions will be reinstituted in time for the Summer II session evaluation process.

However, on May 9, 2016, faculty teaching in Summer 1 had received an email from Dr. David Reinhold that included the following statement, indicating that Article 16.§4 would be honored during Summer 1 2016:

If you are a full-time bargaining-unit faculty member you have the option whether or not to evaluate your course(s) this semester. If you choose to not evaluate this semester/session you must access ICES Online and indicate, section by section, whether you are evaluating that course.

This information turned out to be inaccurate, as was the case in Spring 2016, after faculty had received an email containing the same language on January 11. Faculty members who intended to exercise their rights under 16.§4 found when they accessed ICES in Summer 1 that they were preventing from doing so, just as they had been in Spring 2016.

In June, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee authorized the filing of a second chapter grievance alleging violation of Article 16 in Summer 1.

The Summer 1 chapter grievance also alleges a violation of Article 2. In her June 9 email, asserting the administration’s right to conduct its ‘pilot study’ during Summer 1, Dr. Mansberger claimed that “the 2015-2016 Academic Year. . . concludes at the end of the Summer I session.” However, according to Article 2 (Definitions) of the Agreement:

(a.) ‘Academic year’ means the fall and spring semesters.

Is there is a solution?

The June 2016 chapter grievance proposed the following remedies:

  1. Any bargaining-unit faculty member who so chooses shall be able to access the “Course/Instructor Evaluation System (ICES Online)” though the “My Work” channel in GoWMU and, by June 28, 2016, exercise the option not to collect student ratings for their courses in Summer I 2016. [Unfortunately, the clock has since run out on this proposed remedy.]
  2. By April 2017, the administration shall receive an evidenced-based report prepared and presented by representatives of the board-appointed faculty on best practices for collecting ratings data that is “valid and reliable” (as required by Article 16) and for the use of ratings data. Further, the administration shall engage in a good-faith dialogue with the faculty on this topic in response to the report, with the mutual goal of improving the quality and value of student ratings data.
  3. The faculty’s report and consequent dialogue shall address documented problems with the reliability of student ratings, as indicated by the growing body of research indicating significant biases against women faculty and faculty members of color. The WMU-AAUP Chapter has previously cited a key study released earlier this year (see Boring, Ottoboni, and Stark 2016), one of many that have found that student ratings may be “better at gauging students’ gender bias and grade expectations than they are at measuring teaching effectiveness” and “are biased against female instructors in particular in so many ways that adjusting them for that bias is impossible.” The authors conclude that for these reasons, student ratings “should not be used for personnel decisions.” The administration shall collaborate with the faculty in a good-faith effort to address the racial and gender biases endemic to student evaluations of teaching and work with faculty to develop an unbiased, equitable system for collecting and using student ratings.

UPDATED 4 P.M. ON JULY 12: The grievance hearing was held today and the grievance has subsequently been denied by the administration. On July 8, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee authorized a request for mediation in the event of denial of this grievance. 

Why does this matter?

Language regarding the frequency of evaluation data collection has been in the contract for 35 years, and for the past 14 years, the faculty’s contractual right to make these decisions has been stated explicitly. (We published a timeline in March 2016 for how this language came to be in the contract and how it has evolved over the years, available here.)

It is the union’s job to defend the contract and protect faculty rights. Every single right and benefit in our contract is in there because faculty who came before us fought for it, won it, and had to give up something to get it. That is the nature of negotiation. Therefore, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee, in consultation with the WMU-AAUP Association Council, voted to reject the proposal to conduct evaluations in all sections of all courses in Spring 2016 when it was presented to us. We could not in good conscience agree to make a concession regarding language that has been in our contract since 1981. When the administration chose to go ahead with the plan regardless of the contract language precluding it, and despite our repeated warnings that their plan would violate the contract, we filed the first chapter grievance, which is still active and pending mediation.

Similarly, when it came to our attention in Summer 1 that faculty rights articulated in Article 16 were once again being denied, we filed the second chapter grievance and expect the hearing to be scheduled soon.

Do faculty want student feedback? YES.

WMU faculty are rightly proud of the top-quality instruction we provide to our students and deeply invested in receiving substantive feedback from them. The WMU-AAUP is equally invested in helping our faculty colleagues access reliable, useful feedback that is free of the kinds of racial, gender, and other bias that unfortunately many colleagues have experienced firsthand in their ratings and that has been well documented in the scholarly literature on student ratings.

These are problems that our 2011 and 2014 negotiation teams raised at the bargaining table. Both times, the administration refused to engage in conversation to try to solve them. Both times, the faculty had to settle for letters of agreement establishing joint committees of faculty and administration to address the problem of low response rates that resulted from the switch in 2010 from paper to online evaluations. The problem of low response rates was the only issue the administration would consider with regard to course evaluations. While it is a significant issue, it is far from the only or most pressing problem associated with the collection and use of course evaluation data.

We value the time and energy that the members of the joint committee brought to this project, and we share their disappointment in the outcome. In collaboration with the Executive Committee, our 2014 bargaining team envisioned a process of brainstorming to generate creative solutions to improve course evaluation response rates and develop evaluation instruments that minimize potential bias, and we are still optimistic that this can be achieved without faculty conceding any contractual rights.

Given the growing body of research into bias in student ratings, it would have been irresponsible for the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee to agree to the expanded use of a flawed rating instrument or to allow a negotiated contractual right to be circumvented in the process.

What happens next?

The WMU-AAUP officers and Executive Committee will keep the faculty informed as the two chapter grievances discussed here move forward. As always, faculty input and feedback are invited.


Developing an online course with EUP? Don’t sign your rights away!

It recently came to the attention of the WMU-AAUP officers and Executive Committee that the EUP course development agreement that faculty are required to sign when they develop an online course does not comply with Article 30 of the Agreement. Faculty members who signed these course development agreements with EUP were (inappropriately) required to choose between compensation for their course development work and retention of their intellectual property rights. However, Article 30.§5 of the Agreement guarantees faculty intellectual property rights for online course materials without regard to payment of the course development stipend.

The EUP course development agreement form, in use from May 2013 to May 2016, provided three options, two of which directed the faculty to “specify limited rights usage agreement,” with a third option to waive the $3,000 course development stipend in return for “retain[ing] exclusive intellectual and usage rights to the course content which they have solely developed for the purposes of facilitating this course.”

However, Article 30.§5 already explicitly assigns ownership to the faculty member who develops the online course (emphasis is added):

30.§5 Intellectual Property. Copyright of  recordings of courses, course presentations, computer-assisted instructional content, course content developed, or other digital materials created by the faculty member(s), shall be owned by the faculty member(s), as in the case of traditional course material.


30.§5.1 The faculty member (or an appropriate faculty body) who develops course content for use in eLearning shall exercise control over the future use, modification, and distribution of instructional material, and shall determine whether the material should be revised or withdrawn from use.

These contractual ownership rights are unqualified and should not be represented as contingent on faculty members waiving their rights to compensation for course development. This contract language was hard-won by the faculty over the years, and the WMU-AAUP intends for it to be honored.

Accordingly, in April 2016, the WMU-AAUP filed a chapter grievance on behalf of the faculty, requesting that EUP and the administration work with the WMU-AAUP to revise the EUP’s online course development agreement to comply fully with Article 30.§5 and that all ambiguous, misleading, or noncontractual language be removed.

The chapter grievance also called for EUP and the administration to compensate any faculty members who were found to have waived the stipend or relinquished ownership rights because they were misled by the language of the EUP course development agreement form to believe that waiving one was a legitimate condition of accepting the other. We also called for the administration to take all other appropriate remedial actions to prevent future violations of Article 30.

Dr. Nancy Mansberger, the administration’s Director of Academic Labor Relations (the title of her position was formerly Director of Academic Collective Bargaining), declined to hear the grievance, claiming that there was no evidence of harm to faculty members, but she agreed to work with WMU-AAUP grievance officer John Saillant to revise the letter.

In May, the WMU-AAUP requested mediation of the grievance, under the terms outlined in Article 12, and the administration agreed.

In early June 2016, a mediation team was appointed, composed of one faculty member appointed by the WMU-AAUP and one representative appointed by the administration, again according to procedures set out in Article 12. After reviewing the case, the mediation team proposed that the chapter and the administration collaborate on revising the EUP course development agreement form, with a deadline of August 1, 2016.

Also in early June, the WMU-AAUP submitted a request to the administration under the Freedom of Information Act for copies of all EUP online course development agreements entered into by bargaining-unit faculty since September 6, 2014 (the start date of our current contract). We have recently received these documents and are reviewing them to determine whether any faculty members were denied contractual rights as a consequence of entering into course development agreements with EUP.

On June 24, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee voted to accept the mediation team’s proposed resolution, leaving open the option to file additional grievances if necessary once the FOIA request was fulfilled (it had not yet been on June 24) and once the signed EUP course development agreement letters had been reviewed. As of today (July 11), the administration has not yet informed the chapter as to whether they will accept the proposal submitted by the mediation team.

A new concern has also arisen: One of the signed EUP course development agreements we received in the FOIA package was a revised version of the form, with the revision date given as May 2016. It had been signed and dated by EUP on May 31 and by the faculty member on June 1. The revised version also fails to comply with Article 30 and does so no less egregiously than the previous version. It is troubling that a new but still noncontractual version of the letter was introduced in May 2016 and used as recently as June 1, 2016, well after the chapter grievance calling this issue to the attention of EUP and the administration was filed in April.

This is an ongoing matter of concern for the chapter. The officers and Executive Committee of the WMU-AAUP will continue to investigate the extent to which faculty members may have been misled into relinquishing their rights or their rightful compensation and will work to make sure that these errors be corrected and that these colleagues be made whole.

Have you signed an EUP course development agreement and had to choose between being compensated for your work and retaining your intellectual property rights? Are you thinking about developing an online course sometime in the future and want to make sure your contractual rights are honored? If you answered yes to either of these questions, please contact us. We can help. Call us at 345-0151 or email

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

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


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

Dear Provost Greene,

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



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

WMU-AAUP Contract Administrator Kate Langan:

WMU-AAUP Grievance Officer John Saillant:

WMU-AAUP Chapter President Lisa Minnick:

We are here to help.


“Who Are My Union Reps and What Do They Do?”

Thank you to all faculty who participated in the recent WMU-AAUP faculty survey. Chapter officers, staff, and Executive Committee members have been working on analyzing the raw data collected from over 200 participants, including qualitative analysis of nearly 500 comments, to produce reports for the faculty. We will soon have a lot more to tell you about the survey results, but for now, we want to provide information in response to what emerged as a key question across a number of faculty comments on the survey: “Who are my union reps and what do they do?”

Based on your feedback in response to survey questions about the roles of department and college-level representatives, we sent an email out to the faculty in February 2016 in response to that question, including individualized information for each faculty member about their department and college representatives.

In that message, we included a brief description of these roles, as well as who is serving in them, so that bargaining-unit members will have a clearer picture of how the organization functions to advance faculty interests. We are posting the information here (along with this link to the list of college and department representatives, including contact information) for ease of access and future reference. The information below also fills in more details about the specific responsibilities of chapter officers than was included in the February email message.

Association Council and Executive Committee

The WMU-AAUP is a grassroots operation, governed by chapter members as a whole, with elected departmental representatives forming a body (the Association Council) that oversees policy and practice and whose members help to support faculty in their respective departments.

In addition, a smaller committee composed of elected college-level representatives (the Executive Committee) works with the elected and appointed chapter officers to guide much of the daily business of the WMU-AAUP chapter.

The governance structure of the WMU-AAUP Chapter is one in which chapter members lead the organization through their own participation at chapter meetings, by electing and providing input and feedback to their department- and college-level representatives, and by electing and communicating with chapter officers.

President and Vice President

The WMU-AAUP’s elected officers include the president and vice president, who are elected directly by a vote in which all dues-paying bargaining-unit faculty are entitled to participate. Lisa Minnick (English and Gender & Women’s Studies) is the chapter president, and Brian Tripp (Biological Sciences) is the vice president.

The chapter president’s responsibilities include (but are not limited to):

  • facilitating the daily operations of the chapter
  • working with the Executive Committee on policy matters
  • working with the Association Council to keep information flowing (in both directions) between the faculty and the chapter leadership
  • supporting and facilitating the work of the other officers and the negotiation team
  • meeting regularly with senior administrators on behalf of the faculty
  • answering contract questions
  • responding to faculty concerns
  • representing the chapter to the news media
  • following developments in higher education, labor law, and collective bargaining
  • serving ex officio on the negotiation team
  • representing the chapter at university and community events

The vice president’s responsibilities include (but are not limited to):

  • chairing the personnel committee (conducts annual reviews of the office staff)
  • recruiting and training volunteers
  • organizing activities to increase faculty involvement and investment in the chapter
  • representing the chapter on university committees.

Secretary and Treasurer

The chapter secretary  and treasurer are faculty colleagues who come from the ranks of elected members of the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee nominates candidates for these positions. These nominations must subsequently be approved by the Association Council.

The chapter secretary is Tim Michael (Human Performance and Health Education), and the treasurer is Sharon Carlson (University Libraries).

The chapter secretary’s responsibilities include (but are not limited to):

  • overseeing the recording, preparation, and submission of minutes for meetings of the officers, Executive Committee, Association Council, and chapter
  • serving on the chapter’s policies and procedures committee
  • handling correspondence
  • serving on the editorial board of the Advocate newsletter.

The chapter treasurer’s responsibilities include (but are not limited to):

  • chairing the chapter’s budget committee, which develops and recommends the annual budget and dues structure (both of which the treasurer presents to the Executive Committee, Association Council, and chapter as a whole for consideration and approval)
  • working with staff to produce monthly financial reports
  • overseeing the financial well-being of the chapter.

Contract Administrator, Grievance Officer, and Public Relations Officer

In contrast to the secretary and treasurer, the contract administrator, grievance officer, and public relations officer are not required to be members of the Executive Committee to be candidates for those positions and may come from the faculty at large. Candidates interview with the Executive Committee, which sends its nominations to the Association Council for consideration and approval.

The contract administrator is Kate Langan (University Libraries). John Saillant (English) is the grievance officer, and Cathryn Bailey (Gender & Women’s Studies) is the public relations officer.

The contract administrator and grievance officer often work in collaboration, and their responsibilities occasionally overlap. Their duties include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • answering contract questions and helping faculty solve problems
  • identifying potential contract violations
  • keeping the Executive Committee informed about any developing contract issues
  • holding workshops to help educate the faculty in contract matters
  • helping with tenure and promotion appeals
  • analyzing contract language and making recommendations to the negotiation team
  • working as chapter liaisons with administrators in resolving problems, interpreting the contract, and representing faculty interests
  • reviewing and making recommendations on Department Policy Statements (CA)
  • reviewing faculty appointment letters for contract compliance (CA)
  • providing support and representation for faculty in disciplinary cases (CA)
  • providing support for faculty in individual grievance cases (GO)
  • preparing and filing chapter grievances (CO)
  • handling requests for arbitration and unfair labor practices (GO).

Since Michigan’s so-called “right to work” laws were passed, the public relations officer has primarily concentrated on:

  • membership recruitment and retention
  • developing membership campaigns
  • holding lunch table discussions on issues of interest to the faculty
  • engaging new faculty
  • overseeing forthcoming redesign of chapter website
  • working with officers, staff, and the Executive Committee on communication and outreach strategies.

Click here for a complete list of all WMU-AAUP officers, Executive Committee members, and Association Council representatives, along with their contact information.



Kate Langan named interim contract administrator

Interim Contract Administrator Kate LanganPlease join us in welcoming Professor Kathleen Langan (University Libraries) as the interim contract administrator for the WMU-AAUP. A long-serving member of the Association Council, Kate comes to us with extensive understanding of the contract and a strong commitment to serving the faculty and the union. Her interim appointment became effective on July 31, following a unanimous vote of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee has also voted unanimously to recommend Kate to serve as the chapter’s contract administrator for the two-year term that begins in September 2015 and runs through August 31, 2017. Next month, the Association Council will meet to discuss this recommendation and hold a confirmation vote.

In the meantime, we are delighted to welcome Kate to the leadership team as interim contract administrator, and we appreciate her willingness to take on this challenging work.

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

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

July 1, 2015

Dear colleagues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

In solidarity,

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University
814 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo, Michigan 49008
(269) 345-0151

Revisiting the WMU Employee Wellness Program

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

If you have questions after reviewing this information, please contact us at 345-0151 or via email at

Here is how the new wellness program works:

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

What the incentive would look like for you:

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

What about privacy and confidentiality?

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

Is the incentive worth it?

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

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