Negotiation Update: TAs reached on several articles, economic articles now on the table

On May 9, our WMU-AAUP negotiation team returned to the table following the semester break. The teams have been at the bargaining table every Tuesday and Thursday, with our team also meeting frequently away from the table to draft and respond to proposal language and to consult with the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee.

Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Mike have been working tirelessly for months, and they’ve made a lot of progress at the table since negotiations got underway on March 13. That means there’s a lot to report, including great news about intellectual property rights and protections, major improvements to the tenure and promotion process for Faculty Specialists, and updates on key issues now on the table.


 I. The teams have reached tentative agreements (TAs) on the following articles:


Articles 17 and 18
Tenure Policies and Procedures and Promotion Policies and Procedures

    • Tenure and promotion procedures for Faculty Specialists. In previous contracts, tenure and promotion have been two separate processes for Faculty Specialists, requiring two separate reviews. (For traditionally ranked faculty, tenure and promotion reviews have been – and will remain – concurrent.) The teams have reached TA on new language proposed by our WMU-AAUP team: Effective with the new contract, Faculty Specialists will be automatically promoted to Faculty Specialist II with the granting of tenure.
    • Streamlining of tenure and promotion review process prior to the final tenure review. Tenure reviews other than the final review that receive positive recommendations at the levels of DTC, chair, and dean will now conclude at the dean’s office rather than being sent to the provost for review and approval. If a review is negative at any level of the review process, it will go forward to the provost according to current and established contractual practices outlined in Article 17, as will all final reviews.
    • Standards for promotion to full professor. For promotion to full professor, option (a) in Article 18.3.7 currently requires faculty to “have: (a) achieved outstanding professional recognition and a satisfactory record of professional competence.” In the new contract, “satisfactory” will be replaced by “significant” for professional competence.

Article 26: Sabbatical Leave

Later due date for sabbatical proposals (October 1). A new due date for sabbatical proposals will go into effect with the new contract. This will provide faculty with much-needed extra time to prepare their proposals beyond the previous deadline of September 15.

Article 43: Intellectual Property (formerly Discoveries, Patents, and Copyrights)

  • Stronger intellectual property protections. New language expands and strengthens faculty copyright ownership and protection for their course materials, scholarly work, and creative work, in addition to existing protections for discoveries, patents, and copyrights. The article title is being updated for the new contract to reflect this expansion of protections.


II. On the table: Paid parental leave, workload,
and evaluation of professional competence.


Our WMU-AAUP team has presented a strong proposal for paid parental leave (Article 27: Leaves of Absence). The teams continue to negotiate this topic along with proposals on Article 42: Workload and Article 16: Evaluation of Professional Competence. These have been contentious issues on our campus, so please stand by for calls to support our team as needed.


  • III. The latest: Compensation and health care


At the bargaining sessions on May 16 and 18, the administration’s team and their representatives presented reports on the university’s budget and projected health care costs. Our team reviewed the documents carefully and compared them with analyses conducted for and by the WMU-AAUP. On May 23, after consulting the Executive Committee, the team presented the chapter’s proposals for Article 32: Economic Compensation and Article 33: Health Care Benefits.

These proposals will be discussed in upcoming sessions, so stay tuned for more information and calls to action that may become necessary as the dialogue on these critical issues moves forward.


Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Mike have been giving their all at the table, and it is paying off for the faculty in the improved contract language and impressive progress they’ve made so far (and so quickly) in achieving tentative agreements.

But bargaining at the table is not all they do. Many colleagues may not realize the time commitment or the amount of energy and dedication their service on the bargaining team demands. Yes, they spend long hours at the table, including in high-pressure situations that can be intense and exhausting. But they also spend many more hours away from the table conducting research into key issues (such as healthcare and compensation), drafting contract language and proposals, meeting with faculty to get input and guidance, consulting frequently with the WMU-AAUP leadership and Executive Committee, working with the chapter attorney and other experts, and many other tasks, large and small. This work requires team members to put aside other things in their lives that are important to them. They make this choice because they’re committed to improving the professional lives of the nearly 900 members of the WMU-AAUP.

So, please take a moment to drop them a note of thanks, or a shout-out on social media, to tell them how much you appreciate them. (The WMU-AAUP is on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.)

And when the call comes to stand up, show up, and speak up, we need you to be ready to do it. Our 2017 team is one of the strongest and best prepared in the chapter’s history, and they are giving 100 percent every day. But without the visible, vocal support of the faculty, there is only so much that anyone can achieve at the bargaining table. Our leverage is in our numbers. Faculty support for our team is what keeps the pressure on the other side.

We will get the contract we show up for and demand.
Be ready to stand with our team when they need you.

Image of sign that reads "WMU-AAUP: Fighting for WMU's Future"


Save the date: June 23
Join us at 5 p.m. on June 23 for the next Fourth Friday Happy Hour. Build solidarity and enjoy the company of faculty colleagues in a fun and family-friendly environment. As always, your first drink’s on us if you’re a dues-paying member. Arcadia Brewing Company, 701 E. Michigan Ave.


Previous negotiation updates:

Issue #4 – March 17
Issue #3 – February 15 
Issue #2 – February 1
Issue #1 – January 30

Uncompensated Summer Work and Faculty Rights Under Article 38

Many people outside the university community (and even quite a few within it) are often surprised to learn that WMU faculty on academic-year (AY) appointments who are not assigned to summer teaching are not compensated by Western Michigan University for work performed in the months of May, June, July, and August.

Yet many AY faculty are called upon during the summer to perform a variety of work assignments on behalf of the university for which they will not be paid. Some examples include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • work on strategic planning at the department, college, or university level;
  • administration of academic programs within departments;
  • department meetings and retreats;
  • independent studies, including those for which students pay tuition and receive credit;
  • lab and research supervision of graduate and undergraduate students;
  • graduate and undergraduate advising;
  • participating in doctoral exams and dissertation defenses;
  • supervision of student internships;
  • training and supervision of graduate teaching and research assistants;
  • student recruitment activities;
  • a multitude of other service, administrative, or quasi-administrative activities.

The majority of Board-appointed faculty members at WMU have academic-year appointments, although there are also a number of fiscal-year (FY) faculty with 12-month appointments and some with 10-month appointments.

While most AY faculty are eligible to participate in a deferred-compensation pay structure, in which a portion of each paycheck throughout the academic year is withheld for disbursement over the summer, resulting in equal installments throughout the calendar year, their “summer pay” was actually earned during the academic year. This structure is often misunderstood as AY faculty’s being paid for summer work, but that is not the case.

It can be beneficial for AY faculty to receive their pay in equal disbursements throughout the calendar year rather than going 14 weeks in the summer without a paycheck. It can also benefit the university’s cash flow to withhold approximately a quarter of the pay earned by the hundreds of participating AY faculty during the academic year and disburse it in the summer after the AY concludes. It is a symbiotic arrangement.

Other AY faculty are paid their full earnings during the academic year, with their last paycheck until September 5 to be disbursed on May 19.

Article 38 of the Agreement articulates the terms under which AY faculty are employed in relation to the academic calendar: “Bargaining unit faculty on academic year appointments shall not be required to work . . . during periods between semesters and sessions when classes are not scheduled to meet” (38.§4.1).

It expressly defines “outside the calendar” as “before the Fall semester begins, between the Fall and Spring semesters, and after the Spring semester ends” (38.§2).

Exceptions are permissible only in “limited circumstances,” which must be “legitimate responsibilities of academic-year faculty (e.g., registration, department orientation/organization meetings, retreats, committee assignments, and grading situations).” Additionally, the contract requires that “Western will follow present procedures to cover these assignments. If Western is unable to ensure faculty coverage for such legitimate responsibilities, Western will notify the Chapter before assigning faculty to such tasks” (38.§2).

In recent years, however, many AY faculty have been experiencing significant increases in uncompensated summer work assignments, as well as increases to their regular workloads that make it difficult to complete within the academic year all the work for which they are responsible. They report increasing pressure – to which pre-tenure faculty are especially vulnerable –  to work in the summer without compensation in ways that appear to extend the definition of “limited circumstances” well beyond the spirit of the Agreement.

The institution is becoming increasingly dependent on free faculty labor, and it is time to break this exploitative cycle.

The “legitimate” work of faculty on academic-year appointments can and should be performed during the academic year, within the bounds of reasonable faculty workloads. If there is work that is sufficiently critical to the functioning of the institution that cannot be done during the academic year but must be performed in the summer, that work must be compensated.

Faculty members themselves are best situated to determine whether assignments they are asked (or expected) to perform outside the calendar constitutes legitimate use of their time during parts of the year when they are not being paid for their work.

Therefore, it is the Chapter’s position that all assignments of work “outside the calendar” must be compensated, offered without coercion, and accepted or declined without penalty at the discretion of each individual faculty member.

Additionally, fiscal-year faculty rights to a reasonable workload must not be infringed. FY faculty must not be burdened with additional assignments, including work that would be “outside the calendar” for AY faculty, without overload pay. Such assignments must be compensated, offered without coercion, and accepted or declined without penalty at the discretion of each individual faculty member.

If the administration believes that any particular task or initiative is sufficiently urgent to require “outside the calendar” faculty attention, their proposals should be brought to the Chapter, pursuant to Article 38.§2, for consideration on a case-by-case basis. In principle, however, the WMU-AAUP cannot support practices that do not compensate faculty members appropriately for their work.

We ask that chairs, directors, deans, the provost, and all other administrators, especially those who are compensated for their work all year round, follow the Golden Rule as their guiding principle: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The academic calendar must be respected, and the academic-year appointments of faculty members who hold them must be honored. It is not appropriate to expect, require, or attempt to compel uncompensated “outside the calendar” work to be performed by AY faculty or expect, require, or attempt to compel any uncompensated overload work to be performed by any faculty member, regardless of appointment type.

Please also note that AY faculty members who accept summer teaching assignments are compensated for teaching only. Summer teaching stipends do not entitle chairs or other administrators to additional faculty service beyond the teaching of summer courses and the responsibilities associated with this work.

Faculty members who feel that they are being expected or required to perform uncompensated summer work or uncompensated overload assignments (and especially those who feel they are being pressured into doing so) are urged to contact the WMU-AAUP office by calling 345-0151 or emailing staff@wmuaaup.net.

A culture in which people are expected to work without pay is unacceptable. And we believe that it should be a high priority for all parties to the Agreement to work together to honor and defend it.

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

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.”

 

Remarks to the Board of Trustees, October 11, 2016

Remarks to the WMU Board of Trustees
by Lisa C. Minnick, WMU-AAUP President

 

Much has already been written and said about Dr. Mary Cain, who died on October 1 at age 91, including a statement by the WMU-AAUP published last week on our chapter blog. So I won’t spend time going over her many achievements and accomplishments. Instead, I want to talk about her work as the first woman president of the WMU-AAUP. She served two terms, from 1983-86.

As WMU-AAUP 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.

In a speech to the WMU Board of Trustees on September 21, 1984, 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 in making but not honoring compromises to end the strike 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. Her remarks are quoted in full on the WMU-AAUP blog, so I will just quote her briefly here:

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

Mary Cain spoke those words 32 years ago.

After her retirement in 1992, 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 our Executive Committee meetings, representing Western’s Association of Retired Faculty, 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 our 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.

But it is not enough simply to offer condolences and remember her fondly. We owe this woman who committed her life to justice and equality for all people better than that. We owe her better than to try to erase the lived reality that she experienced, that women in this world and on this campus face when they dare to stand up, to speak up, and to lead.

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.” One of the many things I admired about her is that even though as chapter president she endured all kinds of blowback for the risks she took on behalf of the faculty, she never let what people thought of her or what they said about her stop her from doing what she knew was right. She just did it anyway. I admire that about her because I understand how hard that is, to live your convictions, to try to serve others honorably, to keep going, to just do it anyway. But I also know that the more of us who do it, the safer it is for other women to step up and do it too. This is how change happens. Every time I look at Mary’s portrait in our offices at Montague House and see her fabulous smile, I remember what’s at stake and what I owe her. I understand that I am standing in this spot today because of the trail that Mary Cain blazed. I take that responsibility very seriously.

But Mary knew, and I know, that cultural shifts are slow, that they take time and require persistence. This is why we can’t back down when we know we have justice on our side. And it works. Attitudes shift.

But at this point, that is not enough. We need to move faster and more decisively. The 2016 presidential election campaign and the horrifying discourse to which it has given voice, laden with the most vile and ignorant racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, should be a wake-up call for all of us. As an institution of higher learning, we have the responsibility to take the lead and stand up, individually as well as collectively, against these poisonous, dehumanizing values.

“Diversity” and “inclusion” have to be more than just words to us. At a time when public discourse has reached what is quite possibly its lowest point in recent memory, we need to understand the connections between the disgusting rhetoric that a major-party presidential candidate has attempted to legitimize and the more subtle and even casual racism, misogyny, homophobia, ableism, and other bigotries that are part of the everyday lived experiences of real people, including on this campus.

How are we to make sense of this poisonous campaign discourse for and with our students? And who are we to profess even that we can make sense of it, when the attitudes articulated in that discourse pervade even our own campus culture?

We still have women on this campus who are paid inequitably. The message to faculty and perhaps especially to support staff, who are predominantly women and among the lowest-paid employees on this campus, has been that pay equity is not a priority at WMU. Once in a while an individual salary adjustment is made. But the stubborn structural problems that create and perpetuate gender and racial inequity in the first place continue to be ignored. The equity problem persists because it is merely a symptom of something larger and a consequence of an institutionalized resistance on this campus to taking on the problems of structural sexism and racism at their roots.

Dr. Cain’s presidential terms and mine are 30 years apart. I don’t want to say that nothing has changed. Of course some things have improved. But if I am going to be honest here, and you know I am always honest here, I have to say that not enough has changed. And we are going to have to do better.

There are still too many people on our campus who think nothing of speaking to and about women, including in the workplace, in ways that are disrespectful, patronizing, inappropriately gendered, and even sexualized. Some of the people who talk this way appear not even to realize they are doing it.

I don’t want WMU to keep losing women faculty. We have an especially hard time retaining faculty women of color. Often the ones who stay feel isolated or are treated like they don’t belong here. I don’t want the women who do the work of this institution – from instruction and research and advising to office support, administration, food service, maintenance, and everything else that keeps this enterprise afloat – ever to be made to feel less than, to be paid less than, to be treated as less than.

Mary Cain spoke up for women over the course of her entire career and even after her retirement. I am trying to honor her example. But you all need to honor it to. The women and men of Western Michigan University – faculty, staff, students, alumni –  need to see a deliberate, conscious commitment that starts at the top – that is with you, ladies and gentlemen of the board – which could use more women on it, by the way – to say not only with words but with every action and in every interaction that we reject racism, sexism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, and bigotry in all its forms.

Take the lead. Make this something distinctive and important about Western Michigan University. You won’t be doing it for me. You won’t even be doing it for Mary Cain, although it is the least that she deserves. You’ll be doing it for yourselves, for your families, for our students, our alumni, our community, and this institution. I’m not talking about lip service. I’m talking about soul searching.

Mary Cain, as I said, was the first woman president of the WMU-AAUP. Here I am, 30 years later, the fourth. And here we still are. I am speaking now to all the men on this campus, members of the Board of Trustees and everyone else: This kind of destructive, soul-stealing, dehumanizing behavior doesn’t stop until you join women and people of color in standing up to it. Stop tolerating sexist and racist jokes. Stop repeating stories that have no purpose but to hurt, to slander, to try to discredit. Stop standing silent while others engage in these behaviors. Say something. Set an example. Be an ally. You don’t have to participate actively in the behavior to be complicit in the damage it causes to others. All you have to do is nothing.

As I wrote in the WMU-AAUP statement about Mary, all WMU faculty and retirees owe her a debt of gratitude 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.

She also understood and experienced the damage that sexism, racism, and other bigotries cause to individuals and to the institutions that tolerate them, and she spent her life standing up against them.

Dr. Mary Cain lived her convictions. We owe it to her – all of us owe it to her – but also to ourselves and to our students to live ours. As we mourn her passing, we can take strength from the example she set for us and honor her by following that example.

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.