Concerns about use and privacy of FARS data

Last year, we brought concerns to the administration about the then-new online faculty activity reporting system (FARS). These concerns had to do with a private vendor mediating the internal transmission of faculty data, including our personal information and intellectual property; the privacy and security of our data in the hands of this vendor; the (required) participation of faculty in a private, for-profit venture without our informed consent; and the vendor’s published policy that our use of their platform to enter our data constitutes our consent for them to track our activities online and to share information about us with “third-party services.”

We noted also that Article 42.§12 codifies the purpose for professional-activities data collection as “to enable Western and the Chapter to assess the workload activities of faculty” and that the WMU Office for Institutional Research (OIR) FARS FAQs page cites applications and audiences for FARS data that appear to go beyond the agreed-upon contractual intent.

For example, one FAQ, “What will be done with the information that is reported?” is answered thusly: “Information collected through FARS will be used to apply for accreditation, for program review, for faculty tenure/promotion, and for other reporting purposes.”

Leaving aside for the moment that there is no reference here to the contractual uses of this data (i.e., “to assess the workload activities of faculty,” per 42.§12), along with our (as yet) unsatisfied curiosity about what these “other reporting purposes” might involve, the uses listed here clearly go beyond what is codified in the Agreement. Because the collection and use of FARS data are explicitly contractual, decisions about other uses for these data should not be made unilaterally. The WMU-AAUP Chapter would have been open to a conversation about the application of FARS data as a way to streamline the work of accreditation reviews and reports and for other legitimate purposes, had we been approached to participate in one. The Chapter’s participation was limited to an August 2017 invitation for an officer to beta test the new system, by which time it was already a done deal.

More concerning is the inclusion of “faculty tenure/promotion” on the OIR list of intended uses for FARS data. Tenure and promotion review processes are of course governed by negotiated language in Articles17 and 18 of the Agreement. That means if the administration wants to propose changes to how tenure and promotion reviews are conducted, they are obliged to bring those proposals to the bargaining table for negotiation. Further, in addition to being contractual, decisions about how we conduct tenure and promotion reviews are central to the faculty’s right to participation in shared governance.

Further, the answer to another FAQ, “Who has access to the FARS system?” raises additional concerns about intended uses for faculty data that go beyond what’s in the contract: “A FARS governance committee will oversee all access to the system. Generally speaking, faculty will have access to the system and can update and use their data at any time during the year. Chairs will have access to the PAR data for their departments and deans will have access to their college’s PAR data. Other access (some broad and some narrow) will be available to Institutional Research, OVPR, Institutional Effectiveness, HIGE, and University Relations (i.e., publication and creative activity).”

We requested last fall that the administration provide the faculty with the University’s policies regarding privacy and use of FARS data so that we could evaluate whether these policies comport with the WMU/WMU-AAUP Agreement. The administration declined to provide this information, directing us instead to file a request under the Freedom of Information Act, which we did, with our request including but not limited to “all privacy, use-of-data, and disclosure policies and agreements (and drafts thereof).” The approximately 50 pages of materials we received in response, for which the WMU-AAUP Chapter was charged $246 by the administration, did not answer our questions or assuage faculty concerns. (These materials can be viewed here.)

We are working to open a dialogue with the administration again this year, in the hope that new senior leadership on campus will help us get answers and resolve these issues. We will keep you informed about how that goes. Obviously there is not going to be a resolution before our FARs are due next week, but given the gravity of faculty concerns, this is going to be a longer-term conversation. For now, faculty can review the FARS project charterthe WMU-AAUP’s 2017 inquiry to OIR, our FOIA request, the documents we received in response, and the OIR’s online information about FARS

WMU-AAUP hosts WMU President Ed Montgomery today at 3:30 p.m.

A conversation with President Montgomery
Friday, January 19, 3:305 p.m. in 157 Bernhard

The WMU-AAUP will host WMU President Ed Montgomery this afternoon (Friday, January 19), for a conversation in which all WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit faculty are invited to participate. We expect that President Montgomery will offer brief opening remarks, and then we will open the floor to questions and conversation.

Please join us today from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in 157 Bernhard for this opportunity to have our university president’s ear at an event where attendance is limited to the Board-appointed faculty.

Note to WMU-AAUP Association Council reps: This event immediately follows our AC meeting, also in 157 Bernhard. Please note the special 2 p.m. start time for the meeting.

Looking forward to seeing everyone this afternoon!

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WeAreWorthIt

WMU-AAUP resolution honors Dr. Howard Bunsis

At the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on November 10, 2017, the faculty voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to honor Dr. Howard Bunsis, professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, for his eight years of service as chair of the national AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress.

During his tenure as AAUP-CBC chair (2009-17), Howard was an active and supportive friend to the WMU-AAUP Chapter and a tireless advocate for collective bargaining rights, higher education as a public good, and the empowerment of faculty nationwide.

Full text of the resolution appears below the image.

Image of resolution document.

Resolution of Appreciation Honoring Dr. Howard Bunsis

WHEREAS Dr. Howard Bunsis has dedicated himself to serving college and university faculty, students, and the cause of higher education as a public good;

WHEREAS he has demonstrated his passion for and commitment to empowerment through education, both as a professor and in his work to educate faculty nationwide about AAUP ideals as well as training us in the practical skills of understanding university finances;

WHEREAS he has fought tirelessly and fearlessly to preserve and strengthen collective bargaining rights, academic freedom, and the faculty’s right to participate in shared governance;

WHEREAS he has stood up consistently and relentlessly to advocate for faculty, individually and collectively, inspiring many in the process to take more active roles ourselves;

WHEREAS he has been instrumental to organizing and building new chapters, strengthening existing chapters, and identifying, supporting, and mentoring emerging leaders;

WHEREAS during his eight years of service as chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress, he has been an extraordinary and actively supportive friend to the WMU-AAUP Chapter, instrumental to our growth in recent years and to our strength today;

BE IT RESOLVED that the Western Michigan University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, authorized by a unanimous vote of its members:

Recognizes and honors Howard’s wisdom, generosity, and fierceness in advocating on behalf of the WMU-AAUP Chapter as well as on behalf of the profession more widely; and

Expresses its deepest appreciation, respect, and gratitude for Howard’s contributions, his tenacity, and his friendship to faculty everywhere and to our chapter in particular; and

With our congratulations on the completion of his eight years of service as chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress, we offer this resolution to acknowledge at least in this small way the great debt of gratitude we owe him. And we wish for him going forward the lighter workload that he has clearly earned and deserves, the satisfaction of his positive impact on the future of the profession and on thousands of lives, and finally, more time to spend on other things that matter to him and especially with the people who matter most to him: his family.

Passed unanimously by the members of the WMU-AAUP Chapter
on November 10, 2017.

 

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.

Next WMU president to be announced April 12 (two events)

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

April 10, 2017

Dear colleagues,

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, the Board of Trustees will finalize and announce their selection of the next president of Western Michigan University at a formal session on Wednesday, April 12, at 11 a.m. in Heritage Hall. The president-select is expected to be present at the session, which is open to the public. All members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit are encouraged to attend as schedules permit.

Later in the day on Wednesday, the president-select will be introduced to the campus community at a special event to be held from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in 157-159 Bernhard. Bargaining-unit faculty are encouraged to attend this event as well.

As most of you know, I serve on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee, along with 21 other colleagues from a diverse variety of campus constituencies, under the capable (and also generous and respectful) leadership of Trustees Bill Johnston and Jim Bolger. While I have had – and have expressed – discomfort with the confidential nature of the search, I am extremely pleased with the three finalists. The search committee recommended these three candidates to the Board of Trustees on March 29, following interviews on March 22-23 and extensive deliberation. All three are outstanding, and I would be overjoyed to welcome any one of them as the next president of Western Michigan University.

The search committee has not yet been informed of the Board’s choice, which we are told by Trustee Johnston was unanimous following their interviews of the three finalists on April 3-4. We are scheduled to meet with the Board on Wednesday morning before their public session. For now, I can say that each of the finalists would bring enormously valuable and unique talents, qualities, vision, and experience to the role of president, and that all three have demonstrated – across their careers and in their interviews and application materials – the kinds of smarts, skills, and values that many if not most us very much want to see in our next president. These values include a deep understanding of and respect for faculty and the work we do, commitment to maintaining and enhancing WMU’s profile as a research university, and genuine interest in helping our students achieve to their fullest potential.

This is an important and exciting moment in the history of our institution. Profound changes are coming our way beginning July 1, and I believe that these will be very positive changes. Along with our campus community, I appreciate President Dunn’s leadership these past 10 years, particularly his unwavering commitment to students and unrelenting passion for Western Michigan University. At the same time, I am also feeling newly energized by the prospect of new leadership, along with the leading-edge vision and direction our next president will help us find for this university in which we have all invested so much.

After Wednesday’s announcement, I am confident that many of you will be feeling the same way.

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP
Associate Professor of English
and Gender & Women’s Studies
Western Michigan University

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

Faculty votes to approve WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with WMU Students

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

November 18, 2016

Dear colleagues,

Many thanks to all who participated in the vote this week on whether to approve the proposed WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with Western Michigan University Students.

I am please to report that the faculty has voted overwhelmingly to join the WMU-AAUP Association Council, Executive Committee, and officers in approving the resolution.

Here are the results:

  • Yes: 173 (92 percent)
  • No: 11 (5.85 percent)
  • Abstain: 4 (2.1 percent)

Total number of votes cast: 188

This resolution is only the beginning of the actions we can and must take to make visible our shared commitment to stand with our students, as well as with our faculty and staff colleagues, during these challenging times. From here, we must turn our words into action. As many of you know, a variety of efforts by faculty, staff, students, and community members are already underway, and I encourage you to learn more about their plans and consider joining the organizers in collaboration.

For the WMU-AAUP chapter, approving and sending forth this resolution is a meaningful first step as we embark on the new project that is now before us. I look forward to working together with all of you to maintain and enhance our thriving intellectual community here at Western. This community is of course based on our core values of academic excellence, shared governance, academic freedom, and higher education as a public good, and we are going to need to work actively to protect these values and insist on their primacy in the coming months and years. At the same time, we are also going to need to work a lot harder to emphasize and prioritize the values of diversity, inclusion, respect, and empowerment so that our campus is a place that is safe for all of us — faculty, staff, students, and everyone else — to be who we are.

Many thanks to all of you for your wisdom, courage, and willingness to take a stand for justice.

Please click here to read the full text of the now-approved WMU-AAUP Resolution in Solidarity with WMU Students.

In solidarity,
Lisa

Lisa C. Minnick
President, WMU-AAUP