Financial Analysis of Western Michigan University, by Dr. Howard Bunsis

Dr. Howard Bunsis, Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University and Chair of the National AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress, addressed the faculty at Western Michigan University on February 16, 2017.

Click here to view the slides from Howard’s presentation.

 

Update on March 13 bargaining session

Ground rules signed, first articles exchanged at opening bargaining session 

Negotiations got underway on Monday, March 13, with a productive conversation at the table. The teams signed ground rules for bargaining, and our WMU-AAUP team presented four proposals, while the administration’s team presented one.

WMU-AAUP proposals:

  • Articles 17/18: The WMU-AAUP proposes language to confer promotion for faculty specialists concurrently and automatically with the granting of tenure. The current contract language confers promotion automatically to traditionally ranked faculty along with tenure, while faculty specialists must undergo a separate review for promotion.

  • Articles 30 and 43: For Articles 30 (eLearning) and 43 (Discoveries, Patents, and Copyrights), the WMU-AAUP proposes language to strengthen faculty intellectual property rights.

  • Article 48: The WMU-AAUP proposes adding the option of interdepartmental transfers that result in joint appointments.

Administration proposal:

  • Article 16: The administration proposes revisions to the policies and procedures for evaluation of faculty professional competence.

The next bargaining session is scheduled for Monday, March 20. In the meantime, our WMU-AAUP team is working in consultation with the chapter officers and Executive Committee to analyze the administration’s proposal on Article 16 and formulate their response. They are also drafting additional proposals, working through data gathered from the recent faculty survey, and continuing to meet with faculty.

Bargaining sessions are scheduled for Monday afternoons through final exam week in April. During the spring semester, our team is constrained to this limited schedule by their teaching, research, and service responsibilities. Beginning in Summer 1, more frequent and longer sessions will be scheduled.


Message to the faculty from our WMU-AAUP bargaining team:

We would like to extend our thanks to the colleagues who joined us at Montague House on March 13 for the kickoff rally as well as those who joined us in spirit by sending messages of support and solidarity. We were energized by the thoughtful dialogue you engaged in with us – it was a great way to warm up for our first bargaining session! – and we appreciate your commitment to providing ongoing feedback and support for us as negotiations move forward.

We understand how hard it is for faculty to take time out of a busy day in the middle of the semester, especially on the first day back after spring break. If you were able to join us, thank you for coming out to show your support. To those who could not attend on March 13: We appreciate the confidence that so many of you have expressed in us and look forward to seeing you at future events. To all our colleagues: It means a lot to us to know you have our backs. Thank you. We will not let you down.

In solidarity,

Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Mike

#StrengthInSolidarity

Get involved: Contract campaign training with Kira Schuman Feb. 22-23

“Campus Organizing and Building Your Contract Action Team”
Kira Schuman, National AAUP Senior Program Officer


Two sessions (attend either one):

Wednesday, February 22, at 4 p.m.
Thursday, February 23, at 12:30 p.m.

Both sessions are in 207 Bernhard.


Kira Schuman, national AAUP senior program officer, will lead two training workshops on campus next week to help WMU-AAUP faculty develop new strategies for engaging and mobilizing colleagues during our 2017 contract campaign and beyond. Both sessions will focus on:

  • educating colleagues about union issues
  • activating and mobilizing the faculty to get the best contract possible
  • effective messaging for faculty engagement and community awareness
  • building and sustaining campus and community coalitions.

All dues-paying members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit are invited to participate.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about union organizing from one of the best!

Click on flier to enlarge.

kira_flier

 

Meet Your 2017 WMU-AAUP Bargaining Team

Meet the team in person and get the latest news about 2017 contract negotiations at the special chapter meeting on Thursday, February 16. Click here for more information.    


Dr. Cynthia Klekar-Cunningham, WMU-AAUP Chief Negotiator (English)

Photo of Dr. Cynthia Klekar-Cunningham

Cynthia Klekar-Cunningham (PhD, West Virginia) joined the WMU faculty in 2005. Her scholarship focuses on the intersections between gift exchange and capitalism, theories of benevolence, and systems of obligation in 18th-century literature and culture. She is co-editor of The Culture of the Gift in 18th-Century England (Palgrave, 2009) and has published articles in the journals 18th-Century Studies, Philological Quarterly, and 18th-Century Theory and Interpretation, among others. Cynthia served as WMU-AAUP chief negotiator in 2014 and as associate chair of the English department as well as two terms apiece on the CAS Women’s Caucus Steering Committee and Faculty Senate. She has been an active WMU-AAUP Association Council representative since 2011.

Cynthia writes: “Faculty have the right to shape the university’s identity. The administration seems to want to deny us this right by limiting faculty involvement in decisions that impact the university’s core mission and has increasingly emphasized ‘productivity’ at the expense of shared governance and prioritized the bottom line over quality instruction. How a university assigns workload is no less than the measure of an institution’s level of commitment to intellectual inquiry and to the cultivation of critical thinking and democratic citizenship. Along with the team, I will work hard to defend our professional autonomy and academic freedom.

“How a university assigns workload is no less than the measure of an institution’s level of commitment to intellectual inquiry and to the cultivation of critical thinking and democratic citizenship.”

Cynthia Klekar-Cunningham

“We must stand up and make the case for renewed investment in the university’s core academic mission. It is unacceptable that a university should seek to subsidize its misplaced priorities, including bloated salaries of administrators and coaches, at the expense of excellence in teaching and research.”


Dr. Whitney DeCamp (Sociology)

Photo of Dr. Whitney DeCamp

Whitney DeCamp (PhD, Delaware) joined the faculty at WMU in 2011 and is associate professor of Sociology and Associate Director of the Kercher Center for Social Research. He teaches and conducts research primarily in criminology, focusing on copyright and intellectual property law. His work appears in Youth and Adolescence, Sport and Health Research, Survey Practice, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, and Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, among other journals. He has served several terms as the WMU-AAUP Association Council representative for Sociology and was recently elected to the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee.

Whitney writes
: “Serving the faculty by representing them at the bargaining table is an honor and a privilege. Each member of the team brings different strengths to this work, and it is my hope that my expertise in law and intellectual property will serve the team and the faculty well. I look forward to working with this great 2017 team.”


Dr. Bruce Ferrin (Marketing)

Photo of Dr. Bruce Ferrin

Bruce Ferrin (PhD, Penn State) has been teaching and conducting research in logistics and integrated supply management at WMU since 1998. His work appears in the Journal of Business Logistics, Decision Sciences, Journal of Supply Chain Management, International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management, and Industrial Marketing Management, among other publications. He serves on the Faculty Senate Committee to Oversee General Education and co-chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on Gen Ed. Bruce is also on the Executive Council for the Integrated Supply Management Program in the Haworth College of Business and the HCOB Advisory Council of the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. He has been active in the WMU-AAUP for many years, serving as chapter treasurer in 2012 as well as several terms on the Association Council and Executive Committee, to which he has recently been re-elected.

Bruce writes: “Having worked at several universities where faculty do not have collective bargaining representation, I understand clearly its importance and value.

“We must maintain constant vigilance to protect academic freedom, faculty rights to create and maintain university curricula, and our rights to participate in shared governance, all of which I intend to fight for at the bargaining table.”

Bruce Ferrin

“In my capacity as a member of the WMU-AAUP Exec Committee, I witnessed the administration’s inappropriate treatment of faculty members accused of disciplinary infractions, experiences that strengthened my commitment to protecting the due-process rights of WMU faculty. We must maintain constant vigilance to protect academic freedom, faculty rights to create and maintain university curricula, and our rights to participate in shared governance, all of which I intend to fight for at the bargaining table. Collective bargaining representation is essential if we are to succeed in these objectives.”


Professor Jeremy Hierholzer (Aviation)

Photo of Professor Jeremy Hierholzer

Jeremy Hierholzer (MA, Western Michigan) is an FAA Certified Airframe and Powerplant mechanic with Inspection Authorization who also holds a private pilot certificate. He teaches aircraft systems for mechanics and pilots, reciprocating engine overhaul, and turbine engine systems. Before joining the faculty at WMU in 2012, Jeremy taught composites, turbine engines, electronics, and aircraft systems at Southern Illinois University and Purdue University. His expertise includes performing heavy maintenance on the Pratt and Whitney JT8D turbine engine and maintaining single-engine and light twin-engine aircraft. He has published a number of papers on preventive maintenance, investigating and analyzing engine and landing-gear failures, and safety behaviors of maintenance students. Jeremy serves on the New Faculty Orientation Committee and as faculty advisor to the WMU chapter of SkillsUSA. He recently joined the WMU-AAUP Association Council.

Jeremy writes: “My reasons for stepping up to serve on the 2017 bargaining team are simple: It is the job, if not the calling, for faculty to motivate, stimulate and educate our students. The only way we can achieve these important objectives is if we have a positive and equitable work environment, affordable health care, and a competitive compensation package so that we can focus our full attention where it belongs: on our students, our research, and the wellbeing of the institution.”


Dr. Michael Miller (Human Performance and Health Education)

Photo of Dr. Michael Miller

Michael Miller (PhD, Western Michigan) directs the master’s program in athletic training and has done extensive grant and contract work since joining the faculty at WMU in 2002. He has co-authored five textbooks as well as numerous articles, which appear in the Journal of Athletic Training, Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, Athletic Training & Sports Health Care, and other publications. Mike serves on the Human Subjects Institutional Review Board and the Faculty Research and Creative Activities review committee and previously served on the Graduate Studies Council and the Campus Planning and Finance Committee. His service includes a term on the Association Council and as the WMU-AAUP Contract Administrator.

Mike writes: “I am looking forward to bringing to the table this year my past experience as contract administrator, which included supporting and assisting the 2005 bargaining team. Additionally, because of my disciplinary interests and experience, I have been able to build trusted professional relationships with colleagues in the healthcare industry who can provide us with valuable data and insight into how healthcare costs are assessed and distributed. Finally, I will bring to the table the temperament to engage in negotiations, even when they might become tense, and I am fully prepared to stand my ground on behalf of the faculty.”


Dr. Lisa Minnick, WMU-AAUP Chapter President
(English and Gender & Women’s Studies)

Photo of Dr. Lisa Minnick

Lisa Minnick (PhD, Georgia) joined the faculty at WMU in 2004. Her teaching and research focus on language variation and change, historical linguistics, feminist and queer linguistics, and linguistic applications to literature. Her work appears in Language and Literature, Language Variation in the Secondary English Classroom, Varieties in Writing in English: The Written Word as Linguistic Evidence, and elsewhere. Her book, Dialect and Dichotomy: Literary Representations of African American Speech (Alabama, 2004), was an American Library Association CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title. After several terms on the Association Council and serving on the 2011 bargaining team, Lisa became chapter president in 2013 and was re-elected in 2014 and 2016. Elected to the AAUP National Council in 2014, she also joined the national AAUP Executive Committee last year.

Lisa writes: “Since the intellectual character of any university is determined by its faculty, participation in shared governance is central to our work. The collaborative work between faculty and administration that happens during our contract negotiations is a perfect opportunity to reclaim our rightful place in helping to determine the priorities of the institution.

“It is up to all of us to remind the administration and the public that a ‘national top 100 university’ invests in its faculty.”

Lisa Minnick

“We have an outstanding team this year, and they will be extraordinarily well prepared at the table. But they can’t do this work alone. As always, the faculty’s standing in solidarity with our team will be critical to their success. If you care about shared governance, academic freedom, and investing in the core academic mission (and who among us doesn’t?), we need you to join us in saying so, loudly and repeatedly. We will keep you informed about developments at the table and about contract campaign events, but we’ll also need you to hold up your end by attending chapter meetings and events and especially by standing with our team. It is up to all of us to remind the administration and the public that a ‘national top 100 university’ invests in its faculty.”

 

Special chapter meeting on negotiations Feb. 16, with guest speaker Howard Bunsis


Howard’s presentation will be the first item on the agenda of a special chapter meeting to discuss 2017 contract negotiations.


WMU-AAUP SPECIAL CHAPTER MEETING
Topic: 2017 contract negotiations

Featuring a public* presentation by

DR. HOWARD BUNSIS

Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University
Chair of the National AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress

“A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES: UNDERSTANDING UNIVERSITY FINANCES”

Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 2:30 p.m.
Fetzer Center (Putney Auditorium) at Western Michigan University

howardbunsisDr. Howard Bunsis, professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University and chair of the national AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress, will present “A Question of Priorities: Understanding University Finances” on Thursday, February 16, 2017, at 2:30 p.m. in the Putney Auditorium at WMU’s Fetzer Center. Howard’s presentation will kick off a special chapter meeting to discuss negotiations.*

A dynamic speaker and nationally recognized expert on university finances and athletic spending, Howard’s presentations are as entertaining as they are informative. His analyses of WMU’s budget and finances have become indispensable resources for our negotiation teams over the past several contract cycles. (Click here for the slides from Howard’s 2014 presentation, “Western Michigan University: Strong Financially, Weak on Priorites.”)

On February 16, Howard returns to our campus to share his 2017 analysis of WMU finances and to help us make the case for renewed investment in the university’s core academic mission. “The resources are here,” he says. “The question is how the administration chooses to deploy them. Too often, they choose athletic subsidies and administrative salaries over instruction and research.”

This event is free and open to the public.*

*Please note that while Howard’s presentation will be open to the public, attendance at the remainder of the chapter meeting will be limited to members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit.

Dr. Mary A. Cain (1924-2016)

WMU-AAUP Statement on the Passing of Dr. Mary A. Cain (1924-2016)
Professor Emerita of Education and Professional Development

mary_cainDr. Mary Cain joined the faculty at Western Michigan University in 1961 after earning degrees in education, educational psychology, and child development from the University of Michigan, Western Michigan University, and Michigan State University. During her 31-year career at WMU, her many accomplishments and achievements as a teacher and scholar were recognized not only by the thousands of students she taught and by her colleagues but also by a statewide Distinguished Teaching Award (1991) from the Michigan State Legislature, numerous campus awards, including the Distinguished Service Award (1991), and the Michigan Association of Governing Boards Distinguished Faculty Award (1985). Dr. Cain was also the first woman president of the WMU-AAUP, serving two terms (1983-86) as well as multiple terms on the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee.

As WMU-AAUP president, Mary led the chapter during turbulent times. Among many memorable campaigns, in early 1984 she led a series of actions against the administration’s attempts to roll back contractually negotiated salary increases. In a January 1984 letter to the faculty, Mary wrote that the attempted salary rollback was “predicated on a three-million dollar deficit which never appeared” and “under threat of massive layoffs.” She and other faculty colleagues challenged the layoffs, negotiated hard to preserve faculty jobs, and filed workload grievances when their good-faith agreements were abused. Some of these grievances went all the way to arbitration, where the WMU-AAUP prevailed. While many faculty members collaborated on these actions – then as now, the union works best when it works collaboratively – Mary’s courageous leadership and unwavering willingness to stand against injustice were instrumental to the faculty’s prevailing in these cases.

In her work as chapter 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 and a tentative agreement that many faculty members found unsatisfactory was subsequently reached.

In a speech to the WMU Board of Trustees on September 21, 1984, three weeks before the faculty would vote on whether to ratify the tentative agreement, 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 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:

There exists on Western’s campus today an anger deeper, a bitterness sharper, a resentment stronger than any other I’ve known in my years here. When 500 members of this moderate and temperate faculty withheld their services after weeks of restraint, they did so on principle. Despite its earlier conciliatory language, Western then chose to impose penalties on those who withheld services – penalties which are distributed inequitably. We hear that you unanimously voted to support these penalties. I ask you, for Western’s sake, to abandon or to modify them, and to continue to pay the faculty who will make up the work they missed. Let us not lower the quality of Western’s education through incomplete classes. Let us not cheat students out of full value for their tuition.

If penalty is a punishment, abandon it. Punishment rarely produces desired behavior. If the penalty is intended as a deterrent, abandon it, because the deterrent has already failed.

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 unpaid service to Western, or to recognize that the faculty, together with the students, is the essence of any university.

And we encourage you to exercise that largeness of spirit necessary to abandon or to modify the penalties. A noble gesture would be the first step toward the healing of our campus. It would require good faith and effort on your part. We believe Western is still worth the effort.

WMU-AAUP President Mary Cain, remarks to the WMU Board of Trustees, September 21, 1984

The tentative agreement was overwhelmingly rejected by the faculty on October 3, with 75 percent voting against ratification.

Finally, on November 21, the two sides reached a new tentative agreement that was far more favorable to the faculty than the previous one. It was ratified by the faculty on December 3, 1984, with 83 percent voting to approve. In a statement to the Kalamazoo Gazette after the successful ratification vote, Mary said, “I look forward to the next three years as a time for new growth, and for constructive assertion of the faculty’s role at Western, both in negotiations and in the larger enterprise of the university.”

Mary also chaired the (now-defunct) WMU Commission on the Status of Women and was twice named “Woman of the Year” (1978 and 1986) by that organization. The Michigan State Conference of the AAUP also recognized her with the President’s Award in 1988. 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.”

WMU alumna Dr. Patti Bills, who as an undergraduate studied with Mary and is now a teacher-educator at Northern Kentucky University, writes:

She was the first person ever to articulate to me what it means to be an educator-advocate. She used the term ‘advocate’ very specifically with us when talking about early childhood education, at a time when deregulation was happening in Michigan, and I have never forgotten what that meant. She was simply amazing.

Maria A. Perez-Stable, Professor of University Libraries, recalls her arrival to WMU in 1979, at age 24, “a newly-minted Instructor, never having worked in higher education before.” Maria writes,

I was proud to have joined the WMU-AAUP, and one of the first people I encountered was Mary Cain. She was a petite person, but what a powerhouse, with her commanding voice, unmistakable intellect, and the intensity shining out of her eyes. Although she never knew it, Mary was one of my heroes and role models in academe – an example of how women in the academy could lead effectively and make a real difference. I recall Mary fighting tirelessly for gender and racial equality on our campus, and of course, for early childhood education in her own department. And always, with that infectious and irrepressible smile of hers. It was my privilege to call her colleague.

After her retirement in 1992, Mary went on to co-found Western’s Association of Retired Faculty (WARF). Dr. Tom Bailey, Professor Emeritus of English, writes that “Those of us basking in the glow of retirement have that to thank her for.”

Tom adds,

Mary led the WMU-AAUP through a very turbulent period when relations between professors and the administration were at the lowest point they ever reached. She was a steady hand at the helm, and utterly fearless in guiding us toward a satisfactory settlement. Still, after that deeply dangerous and unpleasant strike, there has never been another. A few years after it had been settled and President Haenicke had been hired, he could see the lasting distress and bitterness faculty-administration antagonisms had caused, and he, and all subsequent presidents, have avoided another. In that way, Mary’s leadership still serves the WMU-AAUP.

In the two decades after her retirement, 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 WMU-AAUP Executive Committee meetings, representing WARF, 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 the WMU-AAUP 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.

All WMU faculty owe a debt of gratitude to Mary 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. Mary fought on the faculty’s behalf for fair compensation and affordable healthcare. She defended academic freedom and insisted on shared governance and due process. And she refused to allow administrative fiat to be the “Western way.” Dr. Mary Cain lived her convictions. We owe it to her, to ourselves, and to our students not to allow her work to be undone. As we mourn her passing, we can take strength from the example she set for us and honor her by following that example.

 

WMU-AAUP Remarks to the Board of Trustees

Address by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

Meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees
September 30, 2014

As most everyone in this room is aware, the WMU-AAUP and the university administration reached a tentative agreement just before midnight on September 5 on a new three-year contract. On September 19, the faculty voted overwhelmingly to ratify the tentative agreement, which now comes before the board. We join with the administration’s negotiation team in recommending that it be ratified. From the perspective of the faculty, we believe that the tentative agreement is a significant step in the right direction toward moving faculty compensation at WMU closer to that of our colleagues at peer institutions and toward reaffirming and strengthening the mutual commitment of faculty and administration to shared governance. On behalf of the faculty, I would like to thank the members of both teams for their efforts over the past four months as they negotiated the tentative agreement, a project that represents an extraordinary amount of work and demands considerable personal and professional sacrifices from everyone involved. The faculty understands that, and we appreciate it.

As many of you are also aware, over 200 members of the board-appointed faculty participated in a demonstration on campus on Friday, September 5, in support of our negotiation team and to express our concerns about the apparent priorities of some of the university’s senior decision-makers and our support for reinvestment into the instruction, research, scholarship, and creative activities that constitute our core academic mission. That demonstration was met with an administrative and police response that many of us believed was out of proportion and inappropriate. While the behavior of most of the police officers was professional and respectful, several of the officers unfortunately treated faculty members with hostility that we felt was unwarranted. However, we immediately complied with all instructions and did not offer any resistance. Yet several officers continued to yell at faculty members and even threatened us with arrest, although it was never made clear to us what laws we were breaking in the process of our participation in constitutionally protected activity.

This was a clearly peaceful protest by professors with a median age of about 57 and a combined length of service to this university of approximately 3,000 years. We are central to the mission of the university and well known on campus and otherwise mostly respected in the community. The incident raised questions for many of us about the culture on our campus, and we call upon everyone here today, and especially the board, to give serious thought to the events of September 5 and to the ways in which faculty and other members of the campus community, including staff and especially students, may be viewed by senior administrative officers and by campus law enforcement. Peaceful protest is an important right in a thriving democracy, and we believe that university campuses above all should take the lead on re-asserting the importance of protecting this right.

On a related note, this fall the WMU-AAUP is supporting the student voter registration initiative led by the Western Student Association and the WMU Graduate Student Association. In addition to providing financial support for the registration initiative, we are also encouraging faculty to talk with students about voter registration and to help them get registered. As educators charged with preparing students for thoughtful, engaged citizenship and participation in our democratic society, faculty are uniquely qualified to play an important supporting role in this student-led initiative, including by helping to clear up commonly held misconceptions about voting eligibility that all too often result in disenfranchisement of student voters. Many thanks are due to Dr. Allen Webb, Professor of English, who has given generously of his time to work with the students who are heading up the registration project. I’m sure Allen would want me to be sure to remind everyone that the registration deadline is October 6, one week from today, and to encourage you all to join us in supporting this important initiative.

Finally, I will close with a few words about Dr. Carolyn Harris, a wonderful colleague, teacher, mentor, and friend to many members of the campus community whose work here at WMU made a profound difference in the lives of her students and everyone else who had the good fortune to know her and to work with her. The WMU Department of Spanish has set up a memorial web page to honor Dr. Harris with remembrances written by her colleagues in the department. The memorial page is linked to their department website and is a worthwhile read for all members of the university community. On behalf of the chapter staff, officers, and executive committee of the WMU-AAUP, we offer our deepest condolences to everyone who knew and loved this remarkable woman.

*     *     *     *     *

Postscript: Later in the meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve the tentative agreement with the WMU-AAUP. Our new 2014-17 contract is now in effect, retroactive to September 6, 2014. . 

Some Unsung Heroes of the Negotiations

Now that the bargaining is over (pending ratification of the tentative agreement reached last night), it is time to extend thanks to everyone who has supported our WMU-AAUP negotiation team. As you know, Cynthia, Bilinda, Onaiwu, and Tom have spent the past four months working tirelessly and fighting hard. It is hard to imagine that anyone could have done a better job. Certainly no one could have been better prepared, more courageous, or more determined than they have been from day one through last night at midnight when the tentative agreement was reached. There was never a moment of backing down, slacking off, or looking for the path of least resistance. Their work on our behalf, not to mention the professionalism, poise, and integrity they maintained as they completed this difficult and exhausting work, is inspiring and humbling.

It has been a long and often grueling few months, but the many friends and colleagues who have stepped up to offer their support along the way have made for many bright spots during an otherwise challenging time.

As we have said from the beginning, the project of negotiations is an extensive collaboration, and many people deserve recognition and thanks for their part in this collaborative project. Of course, as we all know, when there are so many people to thank, there is always the risk of inadvertently missing someone who deserves recognition. That will surely happen this time, too. So, in addition to offering apologies in advance for those cases, the Unsung Heroes of the Negotiations project will also include updates in the coming days, with the goal of trying eventually to honor everyone for their part to the extent possible. We have compiled a lengthy list of people to thank, including descriptions of individual roles where feasible. We will be rolling these out a few at a time, so if you helped out but don’t see your name, it doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten you or your contribution. (If you suspect we might have, though, please let us know.)

And now, without further ado, and in no particular order, here begins the list of

Unsung Heroes of the 2014 Negotiations

Dr. Jerry Kreuze and Dr. Ola Smith, Professors of Accountancy, two incredibly brainy, astute, and generous colleagues who made themselves available throughout the negotiations to help analyze financial data and develop creative solutions to thorny accounting problems. What tremendous resources these two are, along with our other colleagues in accountancy with whom Jerry and Ola consulted, and who weighed in on various ideas that were being floated, and how valuable they are to this university and its students.

Dr. Jim Eckert, Associate Professor of Marketing, who in addition to the many extra hours he already gives voluntarily to his students in order to provide extra training to them in sales and negotiation skills (which clearly pays off hugely for the students), he also kindly volunteered his time to work with us. Not only did Jim give us excellent advice about negotiation strategies as well as practical tools that have applications that go way beyond the bargaining table, but he did so with infectious energy and an upbeat, positive attitude. His students are very, very lucky to have him, and so is WMU.

Dr. Bob Bensley, Professor of Community Health Education, worked closely with the team beginning last spring on how we might address inequities that result when faculty working on grant-funded research come up against the contractual limits to compensation. The limits have caused widespread frustration among faculty working on grants and contracts across the university, but thanks in large part to Bob’s efforts, the team has now successfully negotiated higher limits for the 2014-17 contract.

Dr. Lynwood Bartley, retired professor, past WMU-AAUP president, and seasoned negotiator, participated in the WMU-AAUP Union Pioneers Panel in February 2014 and offered support and encouragement as well as concrete tactical advice to the team and the chapter leadership over the entire course of the negotiations. Lyn has generously given many, many hours of his time to the contract campaign and to advising the chapter leadership and Executive Committee. His wise counsel has been invaluable and his never-give-up attitude has inspired generations of faculty and chapter leaders, including this one. While his status as WMU-AAUP legend has long been secure, it was reaffirmed once again this year.

Dr. Joetta Carr, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and 2008 WMU-AAUP chief negotiator, advised the team and the chapter leadership throughout the process. Her phenomenal smarts, experience negotiating an excellent contract in 2008, and clear recall of events at the table that time around were major assets to our efforts this year. Additionally, her low tolerance for administrative shenanigans helped us to calibrate our own radars, and she could not have been more generous with her time in the spring and all summer long.

Dr. Robert Ricci, retired faculty and veteran WMU-AAUP negotiator, met with team and provided helpful advice and wise counsel from early on in the process. In addition to participating in the WMU-AAUP Union Pioneers Panel, Bob also brought abundance of wisdom, institutional memory, and valuable insights gained from his extensive (and successful) experience in past negotiations, including several stints as chief negotiator.

Dr. Galen Alessi, Professor of Psychology, WMU-AAUP Association Council representative, and veteran negotiator, kindly shared knowledge gained over his many years of experience working with the chapter on behalf of the faculty, both as a participant in the Union Pioneers Panel and as a consultant to the team. Galen also analyzes finance issues in higher education in general and those here at WMU in particular, and the reports he put together for us helped to make sense of the big picture as well as to see how the pieces fit together. They also gave us a lot of ammunition for battles at the table. He is also a walking archive of institutional memory and has long given generously of his time and been a major resource for the chapter and its membership.

Dr. Mary Cain, retired faculty member and past WMU-AAUP chapter president, participated in the Union Pioneers Panel, where she shared her extensive knowledge of labor issues in higher education. Mary brought with her a wealth of practical advice about strategies at the table as well as ways to organize an effective campaign outside the bargaining room.

Dr. Edward Pawlak, retired faculty member and past WMU-AAUP officer, is another one of our Union Pioneers. Smart, funny, and a treasure trove of memories of past negotiations and campaigns, Ed was one of the first volunteers to meet with our team last winter. He shared many inspirational stories (and a few that were infuriating) about negotiations past, along with a ton of practical advice.

Everyone from Western Association of Retired Faculty who worked so hard on behalf of the current faculty and never failed to offer (and deliver) their enthusiastic support. Under the leadership of WARF Steering Committee President Barbara Havira, our retired faculty colleagues proclaimed publicly and unequivocally their support for the faculty in a letter that more than 100 retired colleagues signed. They also never failed to show up in large numbers every single time we needed them, and throughout the negotiations they modeled the kind of intelligence, kindness, and generosity of spirit that should remind all of us how important it is for us to honor the debt of gratitude we owe these courageous colleagues for the many rights and benefits we enjoy (and sometimes take for granted) today. Without these colleagues and the risks they took over the years to fight for everything we have now, there would be no 11 percent retirement contributions from the employer, no summer preference, and no guarantee of due process rights for faculty. This is a debt we can never repay, although perhaps they would be satisfied if we continue to fight on and pay it forward for our junior colleagues and for WMU faculty members of the future. It is the very least we can do for them after all they have done for us over the past 40 years.

Mr. Randy Borden, teacher of English at Portage Central High School, served as a key consultant to our negotiation team. With a wealth of K-12 union negotiation experience, encyclopedic knowledge of labor law, and an enviable professional network of people in the know, Randy has been a godsend. Whip-smart, fast on his feet, and compassionate to the core, he almost always has the answers we need. And on the rare occasion that he doesn’t know the answer to a question, he always knows someone who does. He’s a formidable negotiator who has taught us more than we could ever possibly quantify (lucky students at Portage Central who get to have him as a teacher!), and we can’t thank him enough for giving up his entire summer in order to fight alongside us every step of the way. That is one negotiator we would never want to have to see across the table from us.

Mr. Mike Fayette, chapter attorney and veteran of numerous contract negotiations on behalf of the WMU-AAUP and other labor unions, once again brought to our side of the table his smarts, experience, and flexibility. He understands the big picture but also sees immediately how all the pieces fit, and he helps us to consider all the angles before committing to anything. Mike is tough as nails when we need him to be, level-headed and easygoing when that is what’s called for, and he’s been there for the faculty for longer than most of us  (i.e., negotiation team members and chapter leadership) have been at WMU. Many of the gains that WMU-AAUP faculty have enjoyed over the years were won with his help, which is to say that the history of our chapter could not be written without him and that we are very lucky to have him on our side.

The WMU-AAUP Executive Committee is the body of chapter officers and elected representatives from each college whose role it is to advise the leadership and the team. This collection of saints (saints, I tell you!) never once complained despite the ridiculous demands we put on them this summer and the insane number of hours of uncompensated labor they were obliged to put in on behalf of our team, the chapter leadership, and most of all, the faculty.

These generous, engaged, and focused individuals work their butts off all year round to represent the faculty in their colleges and to keep communication between the faculty and the chapter leadership flowing in both directions. The Exec Committee also functions, as needed, as sounding board, support system, intervention team, campaign committee, cheerleading squad, and crisis management team. Dissent is common at Exec Committee meetings, but it is always well informed and respectful, and the committee members are highly skilled at working with and through dissent to reach consensus. We are truly fortunate to have these wise and gracious people serving on our behalf.

How fortunate we are to have them has perhaps never been more apparent than when we started calling them at 11:20 p.m. on the night of September 5. With the contract set to expire just after midnight, we had to ask them to come in to vote on a tentative agreement. Violent storms had blown through earlier in the evening and power was out in tens of thousands of homes in Kalamazoo County, including those of many of our Exec members themselves. With landlines out for a lot of folks as well and cell phones turned off to conserve energy in homes without power, it was a miracle that we were able not only to get a quorum but to get one by 11:45.

But we did.

Every single Exec member we were able to reach dropped what they were doing to come over to Walwood immediately, even the ones who had been asleep in bed when we called (sorry, Jim!). They braved downed trees and powerlines so that we could discuss the final proposals (quickly but thoughtfully) and vote on them before the 2011-14 contract expired at 12:01.

Because of the effects of the storm, we couldn’t get through to all our Exec reps hat night, but the ones we could not reach have been working just as hard all summer without a peep of complaint. You might want to buy your rep a drink next time you see him or her.

Your WMU-AAUP Executive Committee:

  • Bill Warren (History), Chapter Vice President
  • Brian Tripp (Biological Sciences), College of Arts and Sciences (Sciences Division) and Chapter Secretary
  • Dominic Nicolai (Flight Program), College of Aviation and Chapter Treasurer
  • Marilyn Kritzman (Communication), College of Arts and Sciences (Humanities Division) and Contract Administrator
  • John Saillant (English), Grievance Officer
  • Bilinda Straight (Anthropology), College of Arts and Sciences (Social Sciences Division) and 2014 negotiation team member
  • Jim Muchmore (TLES), College of Education and Human Development
  • Dan Fleming (Chemical and Paper Engineering), College of Engineering and Applied Sciences
  • Ed Harkness (Art), College of Fine Arts (David Curwen, Dance, substitute)
  • Jo Wiley (Business Information Systems), Haworth College of Business
  • Mary Peterson (Speech Pathology and Audiology), College of Health and Human Services
  • Sharon Carlson, University Libraries (Kate Langan and Michael McDonnell, substitutes)
  • Eva Copija, CELCIS (Tudy Boldin, substitute)
  • Matthew Mingus (Public Policy and Administration), Immediate Past President
  • Cynthia Klekar (English), 2014 Chief Negotiator and Certified Bad-ass

We also want to thank:

The 150 faculty members who showed up to rally at the Seibert administration building on August 28, the week before fall classes even started.

The 130 faculty members who showed up to rally at Walwood on Labor Day.

The more than 300 colleagues who showed up to the chapter meeting on September 5, including those who spoke out so wisely and passionately about what we do for WMU and why that work matters.

The more than 200 who stuck around after the chapter meeting for the rally at Bronco Bash, where thousands of students were made aware of some of the key issues our campus is facing and got a chance to see their professors in a new light and to get to know us better in the process. Those 200-plus then marched determinedly to the third floor of Seibert and remained focused and professional (if loud), even when the campus police were called to remove us and threatened some of us with arrest.

Not only did these rallies absolutely turn the tide in our favor, but the experiences have given us great memories to enjoy and meaningful stories to share for many years to come.

We are also grateful to:

The many faculty colleagues who met with us, with their departments or individually, who talked with us and wrote to us to offer feedback, encouragement, smart questions, unique perspectives, personal stories, valuable insights, constructive criticism, offers of support. and those who did the same using social media. The many of you who spoke to or wrote to colleagues, shared resources and scuttlebutt, took pictures at events, wrote blog posts, sent us links to news articles, got colleagues to come to meetings and events, used social media to help spread the word, and made the case so convincingly that we are all in this together.

There are so many of you who deserve to be thanked for doing this work that we have long since lost count, which is at once unfortunate because we can’t acknowledge each one of you by name but also amazing and wonderful because there are just so many of you that we can’t possibly keep track of everything you’ve done for us. The outpouring of support was so overwhelming that we remain in awe.

And finally (for now — and fear not, intrepid and beloved Association Council reps and Strike Paraders, and all you other wonderful people: we did not forget about you and will recognize you in the space very soon), although these two remarkable women should probably be thanked first by all of us:

Nothing that our team or chapter leadership achieves or accomplishes happens without the heroic and tireless work of our brilliant, fearless, and amazing WMU-AAUP office staff:

Lori M., WMU-AAUP administrative assistant. An indispensable part of the enterprise, Lori provides extensive support to the negotiation team, the chapter officers, and the Western Association of Retired Faculty. Her service on behalf of the faculty, during negotiations and all year round, along with her incredible resourcefulness, out-of-the-box thinking, sharp wit, and exquisitely tuned BS detector, make her a joy to work with. With an off-the-charts work ethic and initiative to spare, Lori thinks of absolutely everything . . . and then makes it happen. From the Herculean organizational feat that is the Fall BBQ, to helping with campaign strategies, to making sure everyone is where they need to be when they need to be there, to keeping communication flowing between the officers and the faculty, Lori has totally got that, usually long before it has occurred to anyone else.

Susan E., WMU-AAUP administrative manager, is in every respect a full-on member of the negotiation team who once again this year was at the table with team for nearly every session, including on Labor Day and until midnight on the final day of bargaining. She also coordinated all the support services associated with the negotiations, which are many and complex, and made sure that it was business as usual at Montague House the entire time she and the team were tied up in negotiations. She accomplished this so seamlessly that no one who didn’t know she was essentially working two full-time jobs all summer (and doing them both brilliantly) would have suspected a thing. Despite the insane demands that her role on the team added to her workload, Susan never once missed a beat. Running the office, making sure all the chapter’s bills got paid on time, keeping up with all the new legal and accounting requirements brought about by recent legislative mandates, cranking out our FOIA requests, anticipating and heading off crises, and remembering every sneaky trick ever pulled by the other side in a past negotiation, Susan is organized beyond the comprehension of mere mortals, as well as fearless,  brainy, and hilarious.

Thank you also to the wonderful students and alumni who came out to support the faculty and cheer us on, our awesome AFSCME colleagues and their outstanding leaders, especially Bryan Sutton (the AFSCME folks at WMU may have invented the concept of solidarity, because they are so amazingly good at it), our brave friends from the Administrative Professionals Association (who aren’t unionized but whose leadership and members had the courage to support us anyway), our compadres in the Professional Instructors Organization, who face a much steeper uphill battle than we do but have our backs anyway, and the principled and gutsy grad students who are the members and leaders of the WMU Teaching Assistants’ Union, especially chapter president Eric Denby, who is always among the first to step up on our behalf and who along with his membership reminds us of what a privilege and honor it is to work with them as their teachers, mentors, and colleagues. And we haven’t forgotten our stalwart supporters from the national AAUP, especially Howard Bunsis, Kira Schuman, and Michael Maurer. All y’all rock.