A message from WMU-AAUP President, Dr. Cathryn Bailey

Last Friday, at a special all-member Chapter meeting mandated by the Association Council (WMU-AAUP department representatives), faculty voted to hold an official No-Confidence Vote in President Edward Montgomery. Since then, members have had the opportunity to vote electronically on the resolution and the results have now been certified: In decisive numbers – 78% of respondents in support — faculty from across Western Michigan University have expressed No Confidence in the leadership of President Edward Montgomery. These results are all the more striking given the short response time for the poll – just one week – and the fact that an impressive majority of the faculty (439) chose to participate.

To be clear, WMU professors have taken this historically rare step only after much research, robust discussion, and somber reflection. In fact, it is largely because of this president’s jarring lack of responsiveness to urgent constituent concerns and his consistently weak presence in our campus community that faculty have felt the need to take such action. In short, the Western Michigan University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors issues this Resolution of No-Confidence in President Edward Montgomery because we believe this president has thus far shown himself unwilling to address the challenges WMU faces.

The process that has led us here has been patient and painstaking. Specifically, at WMU-AAUP meetings held over the past several months (of both the full Chapter and the Association Council), a volunteer faculty working group that has included members from all but one of WMU’s academic colleges has presented documented concerns relevant to the university’s ongoing viability, for example:

– continuing dramatic drops in enrollment even as some similar Michigan institutions have begun to boast impressive enrollment increases

-a significant decline in WMU’s national rankings that coincides with the current president’s time in office, a decline much worse than that of similar Michigan institutions

-a precipitous decline in faculty and staff morale at least partly attributable to unjustifiable and irresponsible staffing shortages and unreasonable faculty workloads

-an expensive top-down rebranding initiative that has brought negative national attention to WMU, further eroding Western’s reputation and endangering the value of students’ degrees

– failure to properly prioritize and resource WMU’s academic mission and infrastructure

All the while, President Montgomery has remained largely unresponsive to such urgent concerns, and has, instead, engaged in vigorous public defenses of his job performance. Stunningly, even in the wake of dramatically low approval ratings on a recent evaluation conducted by the Faculty Senate (see image below), the president has continued to suggest that faculty are misguided in their feedback on his performance.

It is important to convey that faculty have undertaken consideration of a Resolution of No-Confidence in President Edward Montgomery with extraordinary seriousness, care, and conscientiousness. Nonetheless, at their meeting just yesterday, WMU’s Board of Trustees seemed to dismiss the faculty initiative, stating that the Board was “well aware” of the No-Confidence Vote, and insisting that, regardless, they “stand behind our president.” Despite the rising tide of evidence-based criticisms from across campus, the Board also authorized a $75,000 “merit bonus” and a $7,290 raise to his annual base salary retroactive to July 1. Make no mistake, though, this sort of trivialization and dismissal of faculty, student, and staff voices only strengthens our resolve to speak publicly about this president’s failed leadership.

At the many meetings and discussions leading to this grave moment in WMU history, faculty have been utterly clear both about our love for our students, our university, and our community, and about our frustration and grief about the path WMU is on. If Western continues on this downward spiral, what will our beloved university look like in three, five, or ten years? WMU faculty know that, with dedicated, self-reflective, academically-focused leaders, WMU might once again become a point of pride for Kalamazoo and Western Michigan, renewing the trust students and their families have placed in this institution. This Resolution of No-Confidence is a call for an urgent course correction, one informed by the intelligence, heart, and experience of the students, faculty, and staff for whom this great university is so much more than a job or a line on their resume.

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