CALL TO ACTION: Contract expires Sept. 5; stand with our team!

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa Minnick

August 30, 2017

Dear colleagues:

As most of you are aware, our three-year agreement with the administration will expire next Tuesday, September 5, at midnight. Of course, Tuesday is also the first day of classes for the 2017-18 academic year. This means that we faculty have a lot happening on the 5th, not to mention a lot on our plates already as we prepare our classes and get ready to meet our students.

But I am asking you today – all of you — to take on just a little more. Our WMU-AAUP bargaining team needs your support as they prepare for the last few bargaining sessions before the contract expires next week. They will need it especially as they head back to the table on the evening of Tuesday the 5th for the final scheduled session in advance of the midnight deadline.

Our team has been negotiating with the administration’s team for more than five months and has already achieved a lot on our behalf. But as we all know, the last issues left to resolve are also among the most contentious: compensation and healthcare. And we are going to need to use our leverage — that means acting collectively to support our team — to help them get us the kind of outcome we want and deserve.

To make this happen, here is where our team needs you to be next Tuesday, September 5:

1. SPECIAL CHAPTER MEETING (3:30-4:30 p.m., 157 Bernhard) to discuss the status of our contract negotiations along with possible labor actions if the teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on the 5th. If you don’t have to teach at that time, please do whatever you can to arrange your schedule so that you can attend the meeting. (Note: This meeting is for all bargaining-unit members, not just your department and college reps.)

2. FALL BBQ (5-7 p.m., Montague House, 814 Oakland Drive). Come over to the BBQ straight from the chapter meeting or stop home to pick up your family on the way. If you aren’t teaching Tuesday evening, we need you at Montague House. We’ll have Big Moe’s BBQ, lots of vegetarian sides, yummy desserts, fun for the kiddos, and of course lots of refreshing adult beverages, which we’re probably going to need, especially if the negotiations continue late into the night as they have in past negotiation cycles.

3. RALLY (6:20 p.m., Montague House). If you’re already planning to be at the BBQ, this is an easy one. But whatever your plans, unless you’ll be in class, please make a point of showing up for the rally. We will assemble at Montague House and then accompany our team across the street for their 6:30 p.m. bargaining session, the last session before the 2014-17 contract expires at midnight.

Despite the many demands and challenges of this lengthy and grueling negotiation cycle, Cynthia, Whitney, Bruce, Jeremy, and Michael have not let up, and they have assured the WMU-AAUP Executive Committee that they have no intention of slowing down now. The important and encouraging gains they’ve made at the table in recent weeks are evidence of that.

But to finish strong, they are going to need us to turn out for them next Tuesday like never before.

Thank you for all you’ve done to support our team up to now and in advance for doing everything you can to turn out for them on Tuesday. Your vocal, visible support – in the largest numbers possible – is what it’s going to take to get the contract we want and deserve. Together, we can make it happen.

See you on September 5.

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

In solidarity,
Lisa

P.S. As we wrote last week, we all want very much for this contract to be resolved by the deadline. However, we are going to need to be prepared for possible actions to take on September 6 in the event that the two teams do not reach a tentative agreement by midnight on on the 5th. We will be sending you more information about this tomorrow.

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

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Faculty (and staff) claps back at admin’s midnight email blast

Photo by Kent Baldner, Department of Philosophy

Since the administration’s mass email arrived in our inboxes just after midnight on Saturday, August 19, we have been hearing from our colleagues about what they think of the administration’s proposals and what they are looking for in our next contract. We share here some of what they had to say.

(Got something to add? Comment on this post or email us!)

A faculty colleague in the Haworth College of Business writes:

“That email from the admin actually makes me feel so much better about your efforts. I have even more energy and support for our union.

“How much did the admin spend on the renovation to Heritage Hall? How much in the negative does our athletic department run? How much were we willing to pay PJ Fleck to stay another 10 years? I bet all these answers are 20 million plus or close to it. It is all about priorities.

“The email from the admin makes them look misguided. They have lost their way. The WMU experience begins and ends and revolves around the faculty. We are the bridge to our students, alumni, employers, etc., and all other constituents. The admin is supposed to support and reward us and often they do neither.

“I will be fine either way. I just feel terrible for the majority of my colleagues who really struggle to maintain a quality of life that should be had with our profession. We need a gesture of good faith from the admin to end this nonsense and set a new tone for a better relationship where we can move forward together.

“I will see you on Wednesday!”

He adds: 

“I am assuming whoever sent this email in the middle of the night was intoxicated. The administration owes us an apology for sending an emotionally charged email on the weekend in the middle of the night and on a Sunday morning. It is very rude, inappropriate, and unprofessional. It speaks to how they value the faculty, but still, no excuse. They may as well have knocked on my door Saturday night.”

From the College of Fine Arts:

What Do We Want?

“An employment agreement that enhances the quality and character of the faculty and the institution!”

A CFA union rep agrees: “There’s something to get behind!”

A faculty member in the College of Arts and Sciences writes:

“I can only imagine what other faculty are going to have to do in order not to go under water financially if this current offer is accepted in any form. The Michigan economy is on an uptick. In spite of insane things happening in Washington, D.C., the overall economy is strong. There is no reason for this to be happening.

“I know that the team must have worked their butts off and be feeling really demoralized by the admin. I support the team’s efforts, and am grateful for all that the team has done!”

An administrative staff colleague writes:

I’m a staff member. I took a pay cut 18 years ago to come to WMU for the great benefits. I hope I don’t regret that decision.

Contract expires September 5, demonstration at Seibert August 23

Teams still far apart on compensation and healthcare
Demonstration at Seibert admin building Wed. 8/23 at 1 p.m.

After 29 bargaining sessions and with fewer than three weeks left before the contract between the WMU-AAUP and Western Michigan University expires, our team is still hard at work negotiating a fair contract that protects faculty rights and moves us forward economically. At this point in the negotiations, they have accomplished a great deal. They have successfully negotiated and reached tentative agreements on 10 contract articles with a handful of articles still open but close to resolution.

The two teams have had lengthy discussions about health care insurance costs. In response to the administration’s team’s proposal to change the design of our health insurance plan, our team has worked with the administration to model the effects of these changes on premiums. We recognize that health care costs are uncertain and that they are likely to increase over the next three years. Based on feedback from our members, our position has always been that the cost of our premiums must be contained. Therefore, to control these costs, our team was willing to consider the administration’s proposals for plan design changes.

On August 8, the administration’s team presented their proposal for Article 33: Health Care Benefits and Insurance. They propose raising premiums in 2019 and 2020 and increasing deductibles, copays, and out-of-pocket maximums, as well as adding 10 percent “coinsurance,” meaning that instead of receiving 100 percent coverage, we would be expected to pay 10 percent of the total cost of a service or office visit after deductible is met up to the annual out-of-pocket max. In addition, they propose decreasing faculty benefits at Sindecuse by reducing the pharmacy discount and eliminating the no-copay no-deductible services available at Sindecuse and at the Unified Clinics. Their proposal also includes cutting the number of covered chiropractic visits per year by half and implementing prescription drug preauthorization in some cases (“step therapy”).

Given the extent of these proposed changes, our team has insisted that if we were to accept them, then the faculty must receive salary adjustments that more than offset these increased costs. However, the administration’s most recent proposal for Article 32: Economic Compensation, which they brought after we worked in good faith with the administration to significantly narrow the gap on health insurance costs, would increase across-the-board raises by only 0.25% more than their previous proposal. Moreover, their proposal included zero adjustments to salary minima, overload rates, and promotion increments.

This is where you come in:

Stand with our team and demand a fair contract!
WMU-AAUP demonstration at Seibert on Wednesday, Aug. 23, at 1 p.m.

As you read these words, we are less than three weeks away from the expiration of our contract on Tuesday, September 5, at midnight. The negotiations will almost certainly continue right up to the 5th. In the coming weeks, the team still has a lot of work to do to win a healthcare package and salary increases that will move the faculty unequivocally forward. They have been at it for months and have made a powerful and well-informed case based on research, data, and logic.

But because contract negotiations are inherently asymmetric, making the stronger case is not always enough. The university administration is management, and as management, they control the resources.

However, they don’t control the 900 of us, and that is where we come in. Our leverage is in our numbers, and the time has come for us to deliver on our team’s behalf and make sure our voices are heard loudly and clearly.

What our team needs now, and what we all need now, is for YOU to do everything YOU can to show your support, loudly and publicly. We need YOU to engage in the important work that has to happen away from the table to ensure our team’s success at the table. The way we keep up the pressure on the other side is with our visible, vocal support. The time is NOW.

All board-appointed faculty colleagues are strongly urged to attend, as are family members, retirees, and colleagues from other WMU employee groups who want to stand in solidarity because they understand that we are all in this together.

We also welcome students, alumni, community members, and other allies who value the work we do on behalf of Western Michigan University and on behalf of this community.

#StrongerTogether
#GoWMUAAUP

Rally for our team any time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @wmuaaup. They appreciate your messages of support!

 

Rally for healthcare and compensation July 25

Letter to the faculty from WMU-AAUP President Lisa C. Minnick


Rally for Healthcare and Compensation: Tuesday, July 25
Meet at Montague House (814 Oakland Drive) at 1 p.m.
We’ll walk our team across the street to Walwood for their 1:30 session.


July 21, 2017

Dear colleagues,

If you care about your healthcare costs and overall compensation, now is the time to stand with your team.

Please plan to attend a rally next Tuesday, July 25, at Montague House. We will gather at 1 p.m. for an update from our WMU-AAUP bargaining team and then accompany them across the street to Walwood for their negotiation session at 1:30.

The administration wants to shift a greater share of the costs of health insurance onto us, escalating a trend that has been underway for a number of years at WMU. The cost-shifts they are proposing would affect premium equivalents, copays, deductibles, and annual out-of-pocket maximums. Everything we can be made to pay more for, they want us to pay more for it. They are also proposing to reduce coverage and access. In other words, they would like for us to pay more to get less.

As faculty know all too well, escalating employee costs for insurance already cause financial hardship to members of our bargaining unit, especially those with salaries on the lower end of the scale whose insurance premiums eat up a significant percentage of their annual earnings.

The faculty has been adamant that we will not accept an increase to the cost burden we already bear and equally adamant that we are not open to taking a pay cut.

Now the administration needs to hear it directly from you.

As I wrote to you on May 31, our 2017 team is one of the strongest and best prepared in the chapter’s history, and they are giving 100 percent on our behalf every single day. But without the visible, vocal support of the faculty, there is only so much that any five people are going to be able achieve at the bargaining table.

Bottom line: Labor relations are inherently asymmetrical. Our leverage is in our numbers, period. And when we turn out in large numbers, we are very, very powerful. I am sure everyone – including the administration and the Board of Trustees – remembers how that worked in 2014.

On May 31, I asked you all to be prepared to be called to action. This is that call, or at least the first of these calls. Please carve out an hour of your time on Tuesday, bring your family, and help us make it clear to the administration that we have no intention of moving backwards.

#StrengthInSolidarity
#WMUAAUP2017

In solidarity,
Lisa

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

“Like” the WMU-AAUP on Facebook.
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Image of faculty members marching and carrying signs in support of WMU-AAUP bargaining team (2014).

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.