The 2016-17 WMU-AAUP Contract Campaign is On!

Our next contract negotiations won’t start until the spring or summer of 2017,
but our 2016-17 contract campaign starts now!


Since our last negotiations, in 2014, we’ve seen an uptick in infringements on faculty rights to academic freedom, due process, and participation in shared governance on campuses nationwide. In this context, and in a political and economic climate of reduced legislative support for public education, WMU faculty once again face serious challenges as we approach our 2017 contract negotiations. That is why we have been working to organize a year-long campaign of events and actions to build solidarity on campus and support for 2017 negotiations.

What is a contract campaign?

A contract campaign supports the bargaining team by engaging the faculty to build solidarity. A visible, vocal, and united faculty sends a powerful message that we are determined to stand up for academic excellence, fair compensation, and appropriate working conditions. This approach worked well for us in 2014, and with lessons learned from that campaign, we are prepared to come out even stronger this time around.

Why do we need a contract campaign?

It would be great if once we won a benefit, we could consider it permanent. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case. The administration comes into every negotiation demanding concessions, and we owe our success over the years in holding them off and winning enhanced benefits to the collective action of the faculty and their visible and vocal support for our bargaining teams.


What you can do:

  • Apply to serve on the bargaining team. The call for applications is coming soon, and interviews with the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee will be held in November 2016.

Serving on the bargaining team not your style? That’s OK! We have lots of opportunities to get involved, build solidarity, and cultivate leadership skills.

Click here to learn more about how you can sign up to support the bargaining team in one or more of the following ways:

  • Join the contract campaign team and develop and implement our 2017 campaign strategy. (Sign up online now.)
  • Join the communication and media team and get information out to the faculty and community. (Sign up online now.)
  • Join the “S” committee and organize actions in support of the bargaining team. (Sign up online now.)
  • Join the FOIA team and help draft information requests, follow-ups, and appeals. (Sign up online now.)

Want to help support the WMU-AAUP bargaining team but not sure you have time to join a support team or committee? Here are some other ways to help (and you can — you guessed it — sign up online):

  • Make signs and create other materials for rallies.
  • Help organize campaign events.
  • Talk to colleagues about the benefits of union membership and to friends and neighbors about our academic mission and the benefits our work provides to students and to the community.
  • Share your professional expertise with the bargaining team.
  • Write articles, blog posts, and letters to the editor in support of public higher education and the role of the faculty in the academic mission.
  • Come to WMU-AAUP events and encourage your colleagues to attend.
  • Watch for emails from the WMU-AAUP, subscribe to the blog (from the home page, look for the ‘subscribe’ and ‘follow’ buttons on the right-hand side of the page), join us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for information about upcoming events and to make sure you never miss a call to action.

Look for sign-up sheets at WMU-AAUP meetings and events or click here to learn more and sign up online.


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IUP faculty union president: Why I will strike

Thoughtful and important piece by Dr. Nadene A. L’Amoreaux, president of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches.

The HawkEye

Opinion

Nadene A. L'Amoreaux, Ph.D., president of the IUP chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches. Nadene A. L’Amoreaux, Ph.D., president of the IUP chapter of APSCUF, the statewide union of faculty members and coaches.

By Nadene A. L’Amoreaux

INDIANA – Next week, faculty members and coaches at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and our sister universities across the commonwealth will vote on whether to authorize a strike. We will vote in the face of a threat to college education in the state of Pennsylvania.

We grow increasingly discontented with a Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education that has failed to implore the General Assembly to adequately fund higher education. That has allowed tuition increases across the State System to place greater financial burden on students and their families, thereby making the possibility of higher education to become further out of reach for our students.

Pennsylvania ranks third highest in the nation for student loan debt. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, funding…

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WMU-AAUP Remarks to the Board of Trustees (June 29, 2016)

Remarks by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick
June 29, 2016


First, congratulations to our PIO and MSEA colleagues on the ratification of their new contracts. We are proud to work alongside these dedicated women and men and appreciate their important contributions to the smooth operation and academic mission of Western Michigan University.

This is a day of celebration, as we honor and recognize the 45 faculty members whose tenure and promotions are finally official. The Board’s approval today caps a grueling review process that spans nearly an entire academic year. Tenure and promotion in higher education take years to achieve, and it is wonderful to see these outstanding colleagues recognized for the many accomplishments that have led them to this moment.

In his remarks at last year’s tenure and promotion luncheon, Provost Greene praised the review procedures here at Western as more straightforward and clearly articulated than at other institutions where he has worked. I have waited a year to second his observation and to add an explanation, because that kind of thing doesn’t just happen. It is the result of deliberate effort. For 40 years, WMU faculty and administration have collaborated on establishing, refining, and most important, codifying these procedures in the Agreement between the WMU-AAUP and the WMU Board of Trustees, our union contract.

We and the colleagues who came before us haven’t achieved perfection, of course, but the collective wisdom of our faculty and administrators alike over four decades has given rise to agreed-upon guidelines for tenure and promotion with clear and specific timelines, criteria, and procedures.

Each academic unit also has its own Department Policy Statement (DPS), many of which set out tenure and promotion guidelines specific to each department, according to the standards in their respective disciplines and in adherence to the contract. A DPS is a governance document, as established in Article 23 of the Agreement, developed by the faculty with the input and feedback of their chair or director. Once approved by the faculty, DPS drafts are submitted to the administration’s Director of Academic Labor Relations and to the contract administrator for the WMU-AAUP, who evaluate them for compliance with the Agreement.

The DPS, which covers many facets of department-level governance, is analogous to the Agreement in the sense that both are examples of good-faith shared governance at its best. By that I mean they represent the kind of collaboration between faculty and administration in which faculty participation in decision-making has a real impact on the way we do things here, a genuine collaboration to create policies and procedures and ensure transparency, accountability, fairness, and equity.

To function effectively, the work of a university is necessarily collaborative. Many outside the academy do not understand the role of the faculty in this enterprise and imagine faculty simply as employees who are expected to follow the directives of administrators. But as we all know, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the faculty. Since the intellectual character and identity of any university is determined above all by its faculty, participation in shared governance, from the department level to the university level, is central to our work as faculty members.

Boards and administrators might sometimes forget or want to disregard that, especially when political or financial pressures tempt them to act unilaterally or with only the thinnest veneer of shared governance. But a university leadership distracted from the mission by crisis management and attempting to limit the role of the faculty in institutional governance risks doing the dirty work of those who want to weaken or even dismantle public higher education. If you are employed by a public college or university as an administrator or in any capacity, or if you serve on a board of trustees, it is your responsibility along with the faculty to stand up against those who would devalue or disparage the work we do, which disadvantages our students and the communities we serve.

Tenure is often misunderstood or misrepresented by people who favor disinvestment in public higher education and are eager to try to turn the public against its best defenders: professors. Despite the mythology, tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment. It is simply the right to due process in the workplace. This is something that everyone who has to work for a living should have. That tenure even has to exist to assure the right to due process absolutely should raise questions for the public. Unfortunately, the meaning of tenure is often manipulated in cynical attempts to raise the wrong questions. For example, I would like for a public discussion of tenure to consider the question of why people can be fired from their jobs for being gay, lesbian, or transgender. We are fortunate that WMU has taken a stand against that kind of discrimination, but many workplaces and even many states have not.

More specific to higher education is the question of what happens to local economies when institutions who are large employers reduce hiring and shift to an increasingly contingent workforce. This creates economic insecurity for the workers themselves, but it also adversely affects the local economy, including small businesses and the real estate market. It also threatens academic freedom on campus. Students are not well served when their instructors are reluctant to take intellectual risks out of fear for their jobs or when programs or course offerings are reduced or eliminated because of cutbacks. It’s all connected. We are all connected.

As with tenure and promotion, our union contract sets out clear and reasonable processes to follow if there is cause to consider the removal of a tenured faculty member. That termination cannot be threatened or carried out capriciously, in retaliation for speaking out, for political reasons, or as a way to try to silence controversial ideas in the classroom or in faculty research, is what tenure is for and why every worker in the academy should have the right to similar protections.

As I congratulate my PIO colleagues on their new contract, I also wish for them the academic freedom that ought to be their right. These are credentialed experts in their respective fields who deserve respect, fair compensation, and the same protections that tenure provides to members of my bargaining unit, including academic freedom and the rights to due process and participation in shared governance. They are members of our community and indispensible to our mission.

Finally, even on this day of celebration, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on two tremendous losses that our Western Michigan University family has recently endured. On behalf of the WMU-AAUP, I extend our deepest condolences to the families of Trustee Ron Hall and emeritus faculty colleague Dr. Charles Warfield, two highly accomplished men, respected colleagues, and inspiring leaders. Both will be missed terribly.

 

The Fate of Anthropology at WMU: What We Know and What We Don’t Know

With no tenure-track hires since 2008, the WMU Department of Anthropology has been struggling under a lack of institutional support. Recently, some ANTH faculty and students have reported that they are receiving mixed messages from the administration about whether the department is slated for elimination.

Here is what we know:

  • The Department of Anthropology comprises four programs (archaeology, biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology) at the undergraduate and master’s level, in addition to a variety of general education offerings.
  • In fall 2014, some ANTH faculty expressed concerns that ANTH was experiencing a secret but deliberate “teach out.” The dean denied this.
  • In late spring 2015, ANTH faculty were collectively informed that they had been slated for closure or merger but that plans were now equivocal. A merger or closure was still possible, the faculty were told, but the department might still remain open.
  • In January 2016, faculty were told that closure was still possible and encouraged to “plan.” They were also encouraged to consider eliminating their graduate program. Since then, several ANTH faculty members have reported that they continue to hear conflicting information about the future of the department from their interim chair and the interim CAS dean.
  • The conflicting information includes a scenario in which the department would be moved into another existing department (as yet unidentified). Another scenario floated to ANTH faculty is that their department would be broken up and the faculty obliged to find other departments to transfer their tenure lines.
  • ANTH graduate students have expressed concerns about the availability of graduate courses for Fall 2016 and about whether they will continue to be funded. They also report receiving conflicting information from the interim chair and interim dean.
  • When Fall 2016 classes were posted on GoWMU in February, no graduate courses appeared among the listings for Fall 2016, despite there being a cohort of returning graduate students who have not yet completed their coursework.
  • Some graduate students report having been directed to enroll in undergraduate ANTH courses in the fall.
  • When a faculty member from another department asked at the March 3, 2016, meeting of the Faculty Senate why there were no graduate course offerings in ANTH for fall, the CAS interim dean disagreed that there were no courses being offered.
  • In response to student and faculty concerns about the lack of graduate course offerings, two graduate courses have since been added to the fall schedule.
  • The March 23 meeting of the WMU Board of Trustees was attended by approximately 20 anthropology graduate and undergraduate students, seven of whom addressed the board during the public comment period. All expressed serious concerns about what might happen to ANTH and the value of their degrees.
  • The ANTH students’ public comments at the March 23 meeting of the Board of Trustees can be viewed in the video of the meeting, linked here. (Their comments begin at 1:29:35.)
  • One student, an Iraq war veteran, published his comments as a letter to the editor of the Western Herald on March 18. His letter is linked here.
  • In response to the students’ comments at the Board of Trustees meeting, CAS interim dean Keith Hearit said, “If it was our intention to close anthropology, we would have done it last year in the Academic Program Review.” He is quoted in this MLive article, and his response can also be viewed on the video.
  • Interim Dean Hearit’s comments at the board meeting on March 23 seem to contradict a statement he made earlier in the week. “At this point, neither the department faculty nor the college has made any definitive decisions about the future of the Anthropology Department, but we are exploring the best ways to maintain its programs,” he wrote in an email to ANTH faculty and students on March 21. “Short-term, there are no plans to close the department as an administrative unit or cut any programs; longer-term, it is clear that the current staffing won’t justify a distinct administrative unit, and that there will be some changes in academic programs.”
  • WMUK reports that in response to the students’ comments, “WMU President John Dunn said it was important that fears about a closure don’t become self-fulfilling. Dunn suggested that could happen if prospective students get the wrong idea about the program.” President Dunn’s comments can also be viewed in the video.
  • The university has accepted graduate applications to anthropology for Fall 2016 admission, including a nonrefundable $50 fee from each prospective student. However, new graduate students are not being admitted for Fall 2016.
  • Anthropology students are not responsible for what is happening in the WMU Department of Anthropology.
  • No program in ANTH was recommended by the provost for “Restructuring” or “Elimination,” according to the Academic Program Review and Planning Final Report 2014-15.
  • Programs designated for CQI “should prepare plans for advancement and enhancement that address ways to enhance current quality or demonstrate increasing program distinctiveness through annual strategic planning and assessment reports” (p. 9), according to the APR&P Final Report 2014-15.
  • If the administration plans to delete a program or make organizational changes to an academic unit, they must follow a formal process that involves the department faculty, the College Curriculum Committee, and the Faculty Senate, as set out in Senate curriculum change policies and procedures.
  • ANTH students have started a petition in support of the WMU Department of Anthropology.

Here’s what we don’t know:

  • Why this is happening. In addition to receiving conflicting information about what will happen to their department and the programs in it, faculty members have also received conflicting explanations for what the administration hopes to achieve by merging,  restructuring,  or eliminating it.
  • Whether there is an actual plan being implemented by the provost and the interim dean that they are choosing not to share with faculty or whether they are simply taking advantage of the depletion of a department that has been starved for a number of years.
  • Why the provost, interim dean, and interim chair would disseminate conflicting information to students and faculty.
  • Whether other departments or programs might be experiencing similar destabilization. (As of Wednesday afternoon, March 30, it appears that at least two other departments at WMU may be in similar situations.)
  • How WMU can maintain its standing as a national research university without a Department of Anthropology, and how the discipline can survive the disinvestment of the university’s senior leadership, in contravention of the provost’s own recommendations in the Academic Program Review and Planning Final Report 2014-15.
  • Why the senior administrative leadership is not held accountable for its repeated failures to lead in an honest, transparent way. Whether they are unwilling or simply unable to foster a culture of open communication that honors the foundational values of shared governance and academic freedom, the lack of a clearly articulated administrative vision for units like ANTH undermines the quality of our programs and our strength as a cohesive institution.
  • How faculty can be expected to maintain or improve programs without resources and demonstrable institutional commitment. The destabilization of ANTH detracts from robust educational opportunities for our students and, instead, has generated distrust and confusion.

As one ANTH faculty member writes:

“There is no neat narrative here other than the fact that this crisis is completely due to administrators telling us for an entire year that we had been slated for closure or merger and that it may happen, probably will happen, could happen, may not happen, will happen. I don’t know how to capture the reality of administrative double-speak that has broken the spirits of an entire unit. “

WMU-AAUP Remarks to the Board of Trustees

Remarks by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick
On state divestment from higher education
March 23, 2016


One thing everyone in this room has in common is our shared investment in higher education as a public good. We can all agree, I hope, that students benefit when faculty and staff are equipped with the tools we need to provide the quality instruction, individual attention, and opportunities for learning and growth that our students need and deserve.

State divestment from public education impacts the lives of students as well as the health of our society. As we speak, one of the jewels in the crown of American public higher education – the University of Wisconsin System – is being deliberately and methodically dismantled before our eyes.

And in Illinois, universities have seen no state funding since July 2015 and are bracing for layoffs and, in the case of Chicago State University, even possible closure – at a cost of 900 jobs – while the governor and legislature posture and draw lines in the sand. Eastern Illinois University announced on March 11 that it will lay off 177 employees.

While the total harm that these actions will visit upon Illinois students is incalculable, some of its costs can be quantified. This year, 130,000 students in Illinois are losing need-based financial aid as the state’s Monetary Award Program, which provides grants for low-income students, remains frozen as the budget impasse continues.

These examples, extreme though they are, should not be considered unimaginable in Michigan. Sadly, they are all too imaginable in a state that has itself seen significant cuts in public funding for higher education and for other programs and resources that serve the public good. There was a time not long ago when we all would have found unimaginable the idea that the population of an American city could have been drinking poisoned water for over a year while officials in the governor’s office knew about it but did nothing.

But this is the kind of thing that happens when private profits are valued over the public good. The situation in Flint is a particularly horrific and tragic example of what can happen when state governments ill-serve the people whose well-being they exist – and are paid – to protect.

What’s happening in Wisconsin, the hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to their public university system and the attacks on tenure, is not an accident. The higher education crisis in Illinois is not an unintended consequence. Neither is this year’s billion-dollar budget shortfall in Louisiana, where universities and other state services have been decimated by years of funding cuts along with massive corporate tax cuts.

Some might suggest that these examples are simply the logical conclusion of a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment in recent years against the funding of resources that exist to serve the people. But that is disingenuous. What we are seeing is the result of an orchestrated nationwide campaign to shift public resources into private pockets. Well-fundedthink tanks” and interest groups push for legislation across multiple states, with defunding public education, dismantling social safety nets for our most vulnerable citizens, and weakening unions among their top priorities. Our states are unwitting participants in a political experiment to reduce or even eliminate public resources as we know them.

In Michigan, the governor and the legislature threaten to withhold state funding and punish the institutions whose students are among the least privileged to begin with. Do they not realize that these measures affect students of color and lower-income students disproportionately? Or do they not care?

Governor Snyder recently announced a plan to “increase” university funding in Michigan, to “increase” it back to where it was five years ago when he took office, before he cut higher education funding by 15 percent in the first place in his first budget as governor.

The cuts we’ve endured at Western and other universities in the state have had real costs, including to students who have not been able to continue their studies but also to the ones who stay with us here at WMU but find fewer resources available to them.

The governor cut our budget. And the university has suffered as a result. What a surprise. When you starve the beast for five years, you don’t get to blame the beast for starving. Yet that is exactly the kind of thing we keep hearing from Lansing.

But worse, it’s also what we are hearing from our own senior leadership at WMU. President Dunn has rightly spoken out against the zero-sum measures favored by the governor and the majority party in the legislature. I appreciate that. But then his provost imposes the same kinds of measures on us. Retiring faculty are not replaced. Programs and even entire departments are targeted for closure, although we don’t really know because that whole process seems to be conducted in secret. We are called incessantly to account for ourselves, for our time, for our credit hour production, in new and creatively time-consuming ways. Worst of all, we are being pitted against one another – faculty, staff, departments, programs, and colleges – in a battle for resources in which none of us have been filled in on the rules of engagement.

Enrollment is down, enrollment is down, enrollment is down. That is what we keep hearing, and most of us are in fact seeing the effects of that first hand. When we will talk openly and honestly about why that is and what we can do about it? When will we talk about why enrollment continues to be robust at Central Michigan and Grand Valley but not here? At what point will the senior leadership of this university be called to account for what is happening to our enrollment numbers on this campus, not to mention what has happened to faculty and staff morale?

Last month marked three years since I first stood before you, ladies and gentlemen of the Board. Since that time, I have been moved around the agenda and finally moved off it entirely and into public comments, as of course you know. Although I have been given a variety of vague explanations for why that has happened, I think we all know that the real reason is that some of you would prefer not to hear some of the things I have to say. I have been silent for over a year about the disrespectful and unprofessional treatment I have received in this venue. But I have seen first hand the debilitating effects that a culture of secrecy and silencing can have, not only on members of the university community but on members of the human family. I cannot be complicit in that any longer.

I am asking you today, as I have asked you many times before, to take seriously the things that I and other faculty, staff, and students have to tell you, regardless of how you feel about the messenger. Step out of the carefully controlled environment you spend most of your time in when you are on campus and really listen to the people who work and go to school here. Stand with us to protect this university from external forces who want to see us fail. We are on the same side of this battle.

At least I hope we are.


Click on image to enlarge and visit the Young Invincibles Student Impact Project for more information about state investment in higher education.Image of Young Invicibles 2016 Report Card: Michigan Budget Support for Higher Education

Guest post: Why Belonging to a Strong Faculty Union Matters

By Dr. Sally E. Hadden, Associate Professor of History
Western Michigan University

I’ve worked at three universities: One had no faculty union, one had a weak faculty union, and one has a strong faculty union. This is not the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but your common sense may already be telling you that there’s only one university that fits “just right.” If you haven’t already guessed, having a strong faculty union makes a BIG difference. Let me give you a few examples to show you why.

At the university with no faculty union, I watched as my department chair gave raises to his friends and ignored everybody else. Teaching assignments and office space? More of the same. You can imagine how much sucking up occurred in his vicinity. Faculty protests barely registered on the administration’s radar. For example, when the administration implemented staffing cuts that completely closed the student writing center, no amount of faculty emails or phone calls made a difference. Junior faculty gatherings were unending discussions of job openings at other universities. It was clear the administration wanted servitors, not scholars, on payroll. How could I tell? The university made contributions to my retirement plan—but their contributions only vested after 7 years. Their not-so-generous contributions went into a fund that was not TIAA-CREF (meaning, no portability to other institutions), by the way. When I left this university after two years, I lost that money since it reverted to the university.

But I am glad I left, for the worst was yet to come. When the institution-with-no-union fell on economic hard times a few years later, the administration’s brainy solution to the problem was to fire about half of their untenured faculty. In the department I had worked in, of four untenured professors (two white men, one African American woman, and one Latina), guess who got fired? Hint: It was not the men.

At the university with a weak union, my working conditions improved somewhat. Contributions to my TIAA-CREF retirement fund by the university were guaranteed from Day One of employment. Grievance procedures existed, if a faculty member’s rights were infringed upon. Administrators routinely asked for faculty input before important new measures were implemented, like changing general education requirements or altering the library’s operating hours. Comparing University #2 to my first job was easy: This was a place with better working conditions!

However, in just a few years, I began to see that different problems existed at University #2. There were no cost-of-living raises for professorial salaries and the only method of ever hoping to get a raise was to publish research. I did well in this system for a few years, receiving three percent raises the years that my book or several articles came out. My friends who were excellent teachers but published little got nothing. It really was feast or famine, and if the administration allocated nothing for faculty raises in a year when your book came out, then too bad. Not surprisingly, the institution had terrible salary compression and inversion, not to mention a gender equity problem so bad that its female faculty sued the university and won.

I began to see the ways in which University #2 nickeled-and-dimed its faculty in ways that were insidious. We paid for parking “privileges.” What business gets away with charging its employees for coming to work each day? We had two health care options, Blue Cross and an excellent local HMO—but neither plan included vision or dental benefits. Clean teeth and glasses cost money every year. The university did not offer year-round payment of salaries earned during the academic year (what’s called “9 over 12” at other places), claiming that the bookkeeping and administration of this simple function would be too difficult. Why not? Because it provided administrators with a ready pool of faculty eager to teach in summer school, as their funds ran low. Summer school classes were paid at low rates, regardless of who did the teaching or how much expertise they had: They paid $2500 or $3000 a course, and I knew faculty standing in line to get those assignments because they needed the money.

The real villain in this piece was not the university, but state law, which made it difficult to organize a strong union. State law prevented the university from requiring faculty members to pay union dues automatically. Each individual had to choose to belong, and with salaries inverted, compressed, or on a shoestring, many of my colleagues chose not to pay those dues. This had terrible consequences. With union membership under 50 percent of all faculty, administrators claimed that anything the union asked for was not “representative” of all the faculty’s wishes. That allowed the administration to dismiss legitimate faculty issues and ignore our input, including requests for routine cost-of-living raises. News flash: Administration salaries always seemed to keep pace with inflation.

Changing jobs and coming to WMU brought me a number of financial benefits, both immediate and long-term. I reckon that vision, dental, and parking save me nearly $600 a year. My salary’s modest cost-of-living raises have made me the envy of my friends still teaching at University #2, where declining state appropriations have made raises of any kind a thing of the past. Those WMU raises have a positive impact on my retirement fund, too, since the amount of WMU’s contribution is tied to my base salary.

The benefits aren’t merely financial, though. Belonging to the WMU union has provided structure and certainty about my working conditions. I don’t have to wonder what the policy is when an untenured colleague becomes pregnant and wants to stop the tenure clock. I don’t have to hope that a co-worker with newly documented heart problems will be granted medical leave. I don’t have to dread a teaching schedule that could have me on campus teaching at night until 9pm and require me to be on campus at 8am the next morning. Clear guidelines creating a fair workplace give me certainty and peace of mind. It is hard to put into words how much I value these things.

The biggest benefit to me, though, has come in terms of community and collective morale. I remember colleagues from University #1, who had lived through decades of favoritism and arbitrary choices. They were worn down and despondent. At University #2, chronic low pay led many of my colleagues to “phone in” their teaching, giving only the minimum: If they weren’t being paid fairly, where was the motivation to give the job their all? Likewise, if research and creativity were not reliably rewarded, why bother? The number of smart people there who had “checked out” was staggering.

I contrast both of these situations with what I see around me at WMU. Here, I have colleagues who are engaged and constantly thinking about how they can make a difference in the lives of their students. We work hard to become better teachers and also better researchers and scholars. We celebrate each other’s discoveries and contributions. We take pride in doing a good job because we know it will be respected.

Being part of a community that respects its union members makes everyone hold their heads a little higher, whether it is in the lab, the practice room, or the classroom. If we are evaluated by fair standards, given a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and treat one another with respect, everybody wins. Morale stays high, people want to do their jobs well, students get stellar instruction, creativity and discoveries flourish, and the university’s reputation continues to climb. I know why belonging to a strong faculty union matters—I see it every day at WMU.

WMU-AAUP Remarks to the Board of Trustees

Remarks by WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick
On the national AAUP centennial and shared governance at WMU
WMU Board of Trustees, February 11, 2016


As you may know, the American Association of University Professors, parent organization of the WMU-AAUP, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Our chapter has been celebrating the centennial in a number of ways during the 2015-16 academic year, including by bringing in Dr. Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the national organization, to speak at WMU in December. Thank you, President Dunn, for attending.

[Note: Video of Dr. Fichtembaum’s lecture is linked here.]

The topic of Dr. Fichtenbaum’s lecture was “How to Invest in Higher Education,” focusing on affordability and access for students at a time when many states are increasingly divesting from higher education, resulting in increasing costs to students and their families and graduates facing unprecedented college debt. The discussion that followed Dr. Fichtenbaum’s talk made clear that faculty, staff, students, and administrators including President Dunn can find a lot of common ground on the issue of trying to restore public support for higher education.

We also have an update for you on the Seita giftcard fundraising project, launched by the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee last fall in honor of the national AAUP centennial. Working with Seita staff, we set January 2016 as our target date for distributing the gift cards, a critical time of year when student finances are often stretched to their limits.

We are happy to report that we were able to provide $25 Visa gift cards at the beginning of the spring semester to all 128 returning Seita Scholars. We are working with the Seita staff and the WMU development office on ways to establish an ongoing January giftcard program. We’d love it if none of our students ever had to come back to school in January without at least a little bit of walking-around money.

Finally, in this year of the AAUP centennial, which is also the 40th anniversary of the WMU-AAUP as a collective-bargaining chapter, a few words about shared governance.

A cornerstone principle of the American Association of University Professors since the beginning, the organization issued its first statement on shared governance in 1920 and published the “Statement on Governance of Colleges and Universities” in 1966, the product of a collaboration between the AAUP, the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

I raise this topic as a reminder of the importance of shared governance on this campus and on all university campuses. In this milestone year, and in the context of events on our own campus, it is important to revisit our collective commitments and responsibilities, as well as our rights, to participate in shared governance.

The preamble to the 2014-17 Agreement between the WMU-AAUP and the WMU Board of Trustees and its administrative agents emphasizes the importance of shared governance in its most ideal version. But it is the specific language within the Agreement that articulates the kind of day-to-day reality of shared governance that is integral to the experience of every faculty member. As the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee wrote in a letter to the Board of the Trustees on December 7, 2015,

“Shared governance” represents a diverse and complex set of rights and responsibilities. There are many “faculty-involved institutional matters” articulated in the Agreement that vest rights to participation in shared governance with the Board-appointed faculty, individually as well as collectively.

Our claim is not that the union has special rights to shared governance that others do not have. On the contrary, the right to participate in shared governance belongs, according to the Agreement, to all faculty who are members of the WMU-AAUP bargaining unit. I can rattle off for you the numbers of contract articles that expressly encode specific rights to faculty participation in shared governance: Articles 4, 14, 17, 18, 23, 26, and 37, just to name a few examples.

But in the short time I have to address you today, I think it would be better simply to say that the WMU-AAUP remains concerned about the language that the Board approved on December 8, 2015, that would establish the WMU Faculty Senate as “the Board of Trustees authorized seat of shared governance for faculty-involved Institutional matters related to the Academy” and “the house of faculty participation in Institutional governance.”

In our December 7 letter, we respectfully requested that the Board of Trustees explain the purpose of the resolution. Today, we invite the Board to meet with the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee to discuss the now-approved language and to help us understand its purpose.

The Faculty Senate has a very important role in shared governance. But so does everyone else. Especially at a time when faculty on other university campuses are being increasingly shut out of participation in shared governance, the board-appointed faculty of WMU, meaning the members of the WMU-AAUP, understand that the only thing standing between us and the kinds of infringement on shared governance rights that we are seeing at other universities around the country is our union contract.

When the Board of Trustees takes a step that appears to us to be an attempt to shift the balance of shared governance from all faculty, individually and collectively, to a specific group, I am sure you can understand why this is a matter of concern to us on behalf of all of our faculty colleagues and why we are asking today for a dialogue with the Board on this topic.

In Case You Missed It: Higher Ed News Roundup

The University of Montana has announced that it will eliminate nearly 200 jobs this year, including 58 full-time faculty positions. According to The Missoulian, the jobs to be eliminated by June 30, 2016, will include “open positions that won’t be filled” as well as layoffs. (“UM will lay off 27 people, reduce 192 full-time positions by end of June,” The Missoulian, January 27, 2016.)

Faculty and students at the four-campus Connecticut State University system rallied last fall to protest contract proposals from the Board of Regents that called for eliminating faculty research support, allowing the transfer of tenured faculty between campuses without faculty consent, and weakening tenure. Negotiations have been stalled since December. (“Professors, students unite to protest Board of Regents contract,” New Britain Herald, October 29, 2015; “Connecticut, College Faculty Members Battle Over Tenure,” Wall Street Journal, December 3, 2015.)

Eastern Michigan University faculty have denounced a “closed search” process for the institution’s next president. With no public presentations or meetings with faculty, staff, or students, finalists will interview exclusively with the Board of Trustees. Similarly, the 2014 presidential search at the University of Michigan was conducted “completely in private,” according to the Detroit Free Press. (“EMU faculty not happy about closed presidential search,” Detroit Free Press, November 7, 2015; “Faculty Senate pulls all representation from Presidential Search Advisory Committee,” Eastern Echo, November 28, 2015.)

University of Missouri system president Tim Wolfe and Columbia campus chancellor R. Bowen Loftin resigned in November under pressure from student activists, including more than 30 members of the football team. Faculty cancelled classes and walked out in support of the students, who were protesting a series of racial incidents on campus. (“U. Missouri president, chancellor resign over handling of racial incidents,” Washington Post, November 9, 2015.)

Some 50 faculty and staff at the City University of New York were arrested and handcuffed at a demonstration in November to protest an administration proposal for salary increases totaling six percent over six years, which demonstrators said would not keep up with inflation. CUNY faculty and staff have been working without a contract or salary increase since 2010. (“Dozens arrested at CUNY faculty, staff protest,” CBS New York, November 4, 2015.)

Faculty, staff, and students at the University of Iowa are protesting the hiring of President J. Bruce Harreld, whom the Board of Regents selected over objections of the faculty. Iowa faculty criticized the search process as well as the selection of Mr. Harreld, who has no experience in university administration. Faculty at eight other Big 10 universities have joined the Iowa faculty in calling on the board to “adhere to the principles of shared university governance and to ethical behavior and transparency.” (“Hundreds protest regents, call for Harreld to resign,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 22, 2015; “A controversial search ends with a controversial chief for the U. of Iowa,” Chronicle of Higher Education, September 4, 2015.)

Following the ouster last year of University System of North Carolina President Thomas W. Ross, UNC faculty and other observers have raised concerns that Ross may have been removed for political reasons. In October, former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings was named his successor, after a search that faculty members charge was conducted without transparency or shared governance. The UNC board chairman has since resigned. (“Questions linger over how UNC chose Spellings,” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 23, 2015.)

Calvin College in Grand Rapids announced in October that majors in art history, classical languages, theater, Greek, and Latin will be eliminated, along with six faculty positions, following that institution’s recent academic program review. (“Calvin College cuts programs, eliminates 6 faculty spots,” Fox 17 West Michigan, October 16, 2015.)

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed a budget bill last July that cuts higher education funding by $250 million and significantly weakens tenure, due process, and shared governance rights for faculty at public universities in the state. (“Walker erodes college professor tenure,” Politico, July 12, 2015. For recent developments, see “Critics say UW tenure policy up for adoption won’t protect academic freedom,” Capital Times, January 30, 2016, and “Wisconsin Regents Committee Approves Tenure Changes Without Discussion,” by Hank Reichman, Academe Blog, February 6, 2016.)

 

Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp Responds to Faculty Questions

WMU Trustee Mary Asmonga-KnappWMU Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp

Faculty who were not able to attend the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on April 17 with special guests President John Dunn and Trustee Mary Asmonga-Knapp were invited to submit their questions electronically, as were colleagues who did attend but preferred to submit their questions in advance. When time did not permit coverage of these questions at the meeting, Trustee Asmonga-Knapp asked to take the list of questions with her so that she could respond to them in writing. Additionally, several faculty members followed up with questions after the chapter meeting. Her responses to the questions posed online and after the meeting appear below.

On behalf of the WMU-AAUP bargaining-unit faculty, we express our thanks to President Dunn and Trustee Asmonga-Knapp for their attendance at the meeting and to Trustee Asmonga-Knapp for taking the additional time to respond to the questions that were not addressed during the meeting.

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Trustee Asmonga-Knapp asks that readers please note that the viewpoints expressed here are her own and that she is not speaking for the Board.

Question: Is Trustee Asmonga-Knapp aware of how much her visible support of gender equity has meant to women faculty and staff at WMU?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

When I moved to table the motion for the President’s compensation package at the March 2015 meeting of the Board of Trustees, I knew I would not have any support from my colleagues on the Board.

I could not in good conscience vote yes to the compensation package, when as far back as 2011, the administration knew there were significant issues regarding pay equity for women faculty and our administrative professional staff and clerical workers who were predominantly women. The trustees were notified in 2014 that there were pay equity issues, but prior to that we had heard nothing. When protests began campus wide, I pressed for resolution and wondered how long it would take to determine pay scales. Years? After the January meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Bernhard Center, and dissent became widespread, suddenly a preliminary report from Aon Hewitt surfaced. It was at this time I realized the gravity in pay differentials.

As a working woman, wife and mother, I have lived their story. I know exactly what gender inequity feels like. It not only reflects tangibles in dollars and cents, but it also involves being treated as if you do not have a voice or a worthy thought even though you spend most of your time doing the hard work and making sacrifices for the organization.

People are more than a budget line item. Professors, clerical workers, stage hands, teaching assistants, grounds persons, cafeteria workers, academic professionals, and a whole host of working Michiganders are the reason WMU works.

I have lived your story. Seeing you all in the audience at the recent meetings gave me guts and purpose! I now know why I sit on the WMU Board of Trustees. It is YOU who gave me the courage to stand. I thank you.

We need to take care of “First things first.“ Those lower paid administrative and clerical staff should have come before such a generous presidential contract and retirement package, which could have been addressed after their needs were met. It did not send a message of caring or concern. We need to take care of the troops first. I thank those staff for their years of hard work and light pay.

Question: Has there been any follow up from other trustees that Trustee Asmonga-Knapp is in a position to discuss indicating their new willingness to work on gender equity concerns with her?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

To my knowledge, other than myself, no member of the WMU Board of Trustees acknowledges any gender equity issues, whether tangible or intangible. They also do not seem willing to acknowledge the existence of a morale problem among faculty or other staff. We need to improve these relationships and work toward a healthier work environment. These conditions need to be acknowledged, and they are clear if we review the faculty surveys of the last few years. However, the tendency is for the issues to be ignored and blamed on a few rabble rousers.

Question: Can Trustee Asmonga-Knapp provide insight as to why there were police officers at the March 25th meeting of the Board of Trustees and why the April BoT meeting will be held out of town? Isn’t the campus enthusiasm to be at these meetings a good thing?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

I think there were police officers at the meeting because the status quo felt threatened. Dissent can be frightening for some. I do not know who called the police, but I did not find the event threatening. If we cannot have dialogue on a university campus, where can we? I hope we have lots more.

Question: Is there anything that faculty can do to support your continued efforts on our behalf?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

Being a woman of faith, I ask you to pray for me. I ask you to send me emails, call me, and continue to educate me. The short time I have left on the Board of Trustees, let it be used for good. I ask you to speak up at meetings, send letters to the Board of Trustees and let your voices be heard! Write articles. Keep talking. I want you to enter into discourse with President Dunn and work through these very painful issues collectively. Can we do better? YES WE CAN!

Question: In 2006 WMU subsidized NCAA Division 1 programming to the tune of $8 million. That is $8 million spent to balance the books after all income is taken into account. In 2013 that number was up to $18.5 million. What does it say about our priorities when we are willing slow or freeze faculty hiring, decrease the number of GA/DA lines, and increase student tuition under the guise of budget cuts when the NCAA subsidy (loss) has more than doubled in the last 7 years?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

It is disheartening when so much is spent on NCAA Division 1 programming and an assistant professor gets offered $38,000, as one faculty member mentioned at the chapter meeting. I could not have survived on that salary. However, it is looked upon as an investment to draw students to a school with a winning football team. It is cultural. Those making those contributions believe it will make WMU more appealing. I understand where they are coming from. It is their way of making WMU great. They have the money to do it and it is their vision. In their way, they love WMU.

Question (asked in the hallway after the meeting): What are your thoughts on the affiliation between WMU and Cooley Law School?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

The Board of Trustees thought it was a good idea. It was to expand the footprint of WMU and to be a good mutual relationship for both.

Question (asked in the hallway after the meeting): Can you comment on the various business interests of members of the Board of Trustees and how these interests might intersect with their roles as trustees?

Trustee Asmonga-Knapp:

I do not know enough to comment on it at this time. However, I will do research and get back to you with answers at a later date.

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Trustee Asmonga-Knapp’s closing comments:

Listening to the frustrations of faculty in the meeting, I had no idea what a conundrum existed between the faculty, deans, provost and the president. I knew a little, but the discussion at the chapter meeting opened my eyes! We have to find a way forward. If we do not regard our faculty and the educational experience, we will have failed. I want students to be mentored and faculty to fulfill their calling. We must find a better way. I believe that the way forward is talking and addressing these very hard issues. I do not have all the answers, but I believe we do. When I say we, I mean faculty, employees, administration, and the WMU Board of Trustees. We have to begin to build bridges and work toward a community of good. We have to work collectively and not pretend others do not exist.

In regard to the placement of the WMU-AAUP and other unions on the WMU Board of Trustees agenda, I do not agree at all with the denial of the WMU-AAUP as an active partner in shared governance. There appears to be a desire to ignore the WMU-AAUP contract in regard to shared governance. I encourage the leadership to continue discussion with the President. I believe that this change to the agenda has more to do with being outspoken and advocacy for faculty then it has to do with anything. I believe it is a punitive and unfair action by the Board of Trustees.

It is an honor to have been your guest,

Mary Asmonga-Knapp, LMSW, ACSW
WMU Board of Trustees

 

Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

Earlier this semester, the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee approved a motion to draft a letter to President Dunn and the WMU Board of Trustees as a follow-up to the recent faculty vote on the question of confidence in the leadership of Provost Tim Greene.

Several members of the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee took the lead on creating the original draft, which was made available to the faculty for feedback on March 5. At that time, we solicited faculty feedback, which we have incorporated into the revised version of the letter posted below.

Many thanks to the more than 60 faculty members who contributed to the drafting of the letter and provided feedback. This has been a truly collaborative effort. We hope you will be satisfied with the result.

WMU-AAUP faculty will soon receive an email invitation to weigh in electronically on the letter. The original motion of the Executive Committee called for the revised letter to be sent to the faculty for approval. After that, we will begin collecting signatures.

As we noted when we posted the original draft on March 5, we recognize that circulating material to the faculty means essentially making that material public. Once again, we choose to see that as an opportunity. As with the original draft last month, we hope that this revised draft will be widely read and will encourage dialogue among the faculty and elsewhere on campus.

As always, we welcome your feedback.


Revised draft of faculty letter to WMU President John Dunn and Board of Trustees

April 9, 2015

Dear President Dunn and Western Michigan University Board of Trustees:

As you are aware, the Board-appointed faculty, as represented by the Western Michigan University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, recently expressed its dissatisfaction with the leadership of Provost Tim Greene in a no-confidence vote. We believe that the students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Western Michigan University need and deserve competent, respectful, visionary leadership, and we find these values lacking in Provost Greene’s leadership.

At this time of significantly decreased state support, and when the university is undertaking important initiatives such as the new medical and law schools, a strong partnership and cultivation of trust between the faculty and the senior administration are essential. Unfortunately, the senior administration’s response to the no-confidence vote has been to dismiss it and to misrepresent the nature of our dissatisfaction. The purpose of this letter, then, is to articulate the faculty concerns that led to the no-confidence vote and to propose a way forward that will better serve the interests of Western Michigan University and its diverse community of stakeholders.

We recognize that Western Michigan University exists foremost to be an educational resource for the people of our state and to be a center for research and the generation of knowledge, and as a faculty, we take seriously these responsibilities. The concerns articulated below reflect values that we share with our students and with the people of Michigan whom we serve.

  • Lack of Transparency

The no-confidence vote reflects major concerns about the lack of transparency in the provost’s decision-making. A crucial example is the Academic Program Review (APR) now underway. The precise purposes of the APR have yet to be articulated to the faculty, although we have been obliged to provide hundreds of hours of our labor to this initiative. Questions about these additions to faculty workloads and legitimate concerns about the ultimate goal of the review process are met with vague talking points and apparent indifference to faculty workloads and morale. In a resolution passed at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting in October 2013, the faculty noted the lack of transparency regarding the APR process and its goals and called on Provost Greene to “collaborate with the faculty in a transparent and meaningful process to develop a review procedure . . . based on a clear rationale and on mutually agreeable objectives, mechanisms for implementation and assessment, and potential outcomes in which the administration is held accountable as well as faculty.” To date, Provost Greene has not responded to the letter sent by the WMU-AAUP leadership, dated October 24, 2013, to inform him of this resolution.

  • Gender Equity

Provost Greene has also demonstrated indifference to the ongoing problem of salary inequity. Only after a censure vote by the faculty in October 2013 compelled him to move forward did he begin to authorize equity adjustments, despite a contractual mandate to do so in 2011. While some adjustments were made beginning in November 2013, the process by which those decisions were made was entirely opaque, and significant salary inequities continue. There is no indication that Provost Greene is invested in addressing the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place or in trying to correct them. Instead, the administration has chosen to commit significant resources to defending the institution against equity claims brought by faculty and staff.

Provost Greene’s handling of this critical issue sends an unmistakable message that the administration he represents cares more about protecting itself than about doing what is right (and what is required by law). It also sends a discouraging message to our students when they see that their professors are not treated equally. We believe that most administrators and the Board of Trustees are in agreement on the importance of gender equity and are as concerned as we are about the damage inequitable treatment can do to morale and productivity and the message an appearance of indifference toward inequity is sending to our students. Therefore, it is a matter of deep and genuine concern to us that the reputation of the university president, the Board of Trustees, and the university as a whole suffers because the provost’s actions.

  • Lack of Respect for Faculty and Shared Governance

The no-confidence vote also reflects our perception that Provost Greene lacks respect for faculty perspectives and for the overall contributions that faculty make to the university’s core academic mission. Western Michigan University exists in order to engage the public in education and research, and the faculty play a central role in this mission. Disrespect of the faculty has a chilling effect on learning and discovery.

Again we cite Provost Greene’s handling of the APR, beginning with a violation of Article 4 of the Agreement, which requires that the administration notify the WMU-AAUP of any new university-wide committees and obliges the administration to seek chapter nominations for seats that are thereby created. The composition of the APR “project management team” made clear that the review is a university-wide endeavor, yet the “team” was convened without notification of the chapter. It took the filing of a chapter grievance in November 2013 before the WMU-AAUP was able to exercise its contractual right on behalf of the faculty to appoint a representative to the APR “project management team.”

  • Removal of Dean Alex Enyedi

Provost Greene’s decision to remove a competent, highly respected dean from a well-functioning college was made entirely without consultation with faculty and in contravention of recommendations in the 2010 WMU Higher Learning Commission Accreditation Self Study Report, which identified “a lack of an evaluation system for associate provosts, deans, and associate deans” (HLC Self Study, 1d.2, p. 27). The accreditation reports, central to long-term planning goals of the institution, recommended that Provost Greene develop such evaluation measures. That these evaluation measures have not, to the faculty’s knowledge, been established raises serious questions about Dean Enyedi’s removal and suggests that Provost Greene is not in compliance with important accreditation recommendations that relate directly to the institution’s mission.

Additionally, the provost ignored the results of the metrics already in place for faculty evaluation of administrators. The reviews of Dean Enyedi in 2012 and again in 2014, conducted by the WMU-AAUP according to contractual procedures, found that he had the overwhelming support of the faculty in his college, some 90 percent of whom answered “yes” to the question of whether he should continue as dean. For the provost to remove Dean Enyedi without consultation with the faculty, and in deliberate disregard for faculty perspectives, suggests not only a significant failure of leadership on his part but also another example of his apparent lack of respect for shared governance.

  • Pattern of Behavior

While the removal of Dean Enyedi was for many faculty the breaking point regarding our overall confidence in the provost’s leadership, it is a mistake to characterize the no-confidence vote as being the product of this single issue. When faculty called for the no-confidence vote at the WMU-AAUP chapter meeting on January 23, 2015, we made clear that our dissatisfaction is the result of a persistent pattern of behavior on the part of Provost Greene: his lack of respect for the faculty, his failure to foster or model transparent decision-making, and his ongoing lack of accountability for serious problems on our campus, many of which – such as ongoing gender inequity – have been exacerbated on his watch. That his removal of Dean Enyedi appears retaliatory, and that it went against the will of the faculty in his college, has alarmed faculty in all colleges who value transparency, shared governance, and freedom of expression.

The senior administration has insisted that the dissatisfaction with Provost Greene’s leadership is limited to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences, which misrepresents the facts and insults the faculty. Does the senior administration mean to suggest that the views of CAS faculty are uniquely unworthy of consideration? Such public disparagement of CAS faculty is not only disrespectful and potentially harmful to the reputation of the university, but it is also felt keenly by CAS students and alumni. However, it is not only CAS faculty who are disparaged in this administrative narrative. It also discounts the voices of faculty from other colleges, who are therefore effectively silenced.

  • Moving Forward

The issues outlined above suggest that Provost Greene’s vision for the university is incompatible with the core academic values that are central to our collective mission to educate and to generate knowledge. Many among us have proposed that we use this letter to call for his removal. Certainly without any evidence of accountability, we are left to worry that the provost is simply doing what he is expected to do by the senior leadership of the institution.

To move forward, then, we propose a dialogue, one that is truly open and inclusive and that begins immediately, to discuss the following:

  • whether it makes sense for Provost Greene to continue in his role as the university’s chief academic officer;
  • the current and future direction of the university as an institution that values excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, and creative activity and the kind of leadership that will be required to carry out our mission;
  • the academic identity that we – faculty, staff, students, administration, and alumni – envision for Western Michigan University and how best to achieve that collective vision;
  • a renewed effort to acknowledge and to correct gender inequity and other inequities on our campus and to address the cultural problems that led to the inequities in the first place.

We look forward to participating in this dialogue as active partners with the Board of Trustees and the senior leadership of the university.

Sincerely,

The undersigned members of the Board-appointed faculty of Western Michigan University