Western employee objects to sudden closure of WMU childcare center: “It was awarded a huge federal grant just two years ago!”

WMU’s decision to close the beloved Children’s Place this summer has caught many in the campus community off guard, especially given the popularity and apparent success of the facility. Below is a letter of concern shared by a WMU employee. We’ve also included a 2017 WMU News article describing the federal grant. See previous posts here on thewmuaaup.com for more information about this issue.

“Despite the many reasons laid out by former President Haenicke for why such a facility was absolutely needed on our campus, the current university administration decided to shut down WMU’s childcare facility, The Children’s Place. They cite the usual financial reasons for the closure, despite the fact that it was awarded a huge 4-year federal grant just two years ago! In fact, I think this place must have the lowest overhead of any commercial daycare/preschool facility in the area due to its high dependence on student employees. Nevertheless, WMU claims financial hardship.

When they made that same claim about WMU’s Sara Swickard facility [a former private home on Knollwood converted to a WMU childcare facility in 1987], I asked to see the official financial reports that led to the decision and was told directly by the VP for Business and Finance that no such reports or written analysis existed. He explained that his people simply sat around a table verbally throwing out estimates until they could justify demolishing the building.

I find it telling that universities such as The University of Michigan, Michigan State, Oakland University, CMU, GVSU, and even EMU, all see the value of providing onsite childcare/preschool to university student parents, but WMU does not.”

Below is a WMU news article celebrating The Children’s Place 2017 federal grant

Children’s Place receives grant to support student-parents

October 29, 2017

KALAMAZOO. Mich.—Western Michigan University’s Children’s Place Learning Center was recently awarded a four-year federal grant totaling $718, 936 in partnership with the College of Education and Human Development. Starting Oct. 1, the grant provides $179,734 each year for the next four years. WMU is one of only four Michigan schools to receive the award.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program, or CCAMPIS, grant will help student-parents address the unique barriers they face while pursuing and completing their degree programs. Funds will be used to enhance programs including academic resources, parenting education, social support activities and staff professional development opportunities.

At the Children’s Place Learning Center, Pell-eligible WMU student-parents will receive a 50 percent child-care tuition discount under the grant program. Up to half of the spaces in each of the three classrooms will be dedicated for CCAMPIS.

CHILDREN’S PLACE LEARNING CENTER

Providing intentional activities focused on growth and development, the center offers pre-kindergarten, preschool, school age and toddler learning options for children ages 15 months to 12 years. Conveniently located in the middle of campus, it is committed to providing affordable child care for children of WMU students, faculty and staff, and the local community.

The Children’s Place is accredited through the National Association of Education for Young Children, and has achieved a four-star Michigan’s Great Start to Quality rating. The center also participates in the Great Start to Readiness program and KCR4’s to better prepare 4-year-olds for kindergarten.

https://wmich.edu/news/2017/10/43438

Faculty object to WMU’s sudden closure of childcare center: “This is clearly a gender issue”

As of June 14, WMU closed The Children’s Place Learning Center which had offered child care services to the WMU community. The process for making this important decision, and the context surrounding it, remain unclear. WMU’s brief closure notice on The Children’s Place website alludes to financial reasons and states, “This decision was very difficult to reach. We regret that it means you must look elsewhere to meet your family’s child care needs.”

The WMU AAUP shares the concerns expressed in the faculty letter below, which, as far as we know, has not received a reply from WMU administration. Further, we are deeply concerned about the process that led to a decision of this magnitude, given WMU’s expressed commitment to transparency and shared governance.

Update: WMU has advertised its plan to sell off the assets of the Children’s Place Saturday, July 20, including, “children’s toys, books, supplies, tables, chairs, lockers, shelving units and outdoor play equipment.”

Letter from the Women’s Caucus of the College of Arts and Sciences

Sent: Tuesday, May 28, 2019 10:58 AM

Subject: CAS Women’s Caucus on the closing of the Children’s Place

To: Diane K Anderson

Dear Dean Anderson,

On behalf of the CAS Women’s Caucus, we would like to add our voice to the many others who have written to oppose the closing of the Children’s Place Learning Center. Because childcare disproportionately affects women faculty and students, this is clearly a gender issue. It is well documented that women academics pay a “baby penalty:” women with children are less likely to get hired, to get tenure or rise to administrative positions such as dean or provost, while men with children are more likely to advance in academic careers. Lack of childcare is a major barrier to women’s full and equal participation in paid work and in pursuing a degree. Having high quality child care on campus should not be considered optional; it is an essential service.

Childcare provision impacts student access and success as well as faculty recruitment and retention. Students with children will have less access to WMU and its undergraduate and graduate programs. As Dr. Bilinda Straight pointed out, we are already losing students to GVSU, this is yet another factor that will harm recruitment, particularly of non-traditional or contemporary students. Similarly, the ability of students with children to complete their degrees will be diminished; research has shown that students with children who use on-campus childcare are more likely to remain in school and are more likely to graduate. These same arguments apply to faculty recruitment and retention. For example, current caucus member Dr. Denise Ross noted that preschools have short hours. Having access to childcare at WMU from 7am- 6pm allowed her to teach afternoon classes, attend afternoon faculty meetings, and have writing time in the early morning and evening hours. In short, the Children’s Place mattered greatly for her professional growth, especially during the pre-tenure period.

Although there are other childcare centers in Kalamazoo, the closing of the center will hurt many families and it will hurt WMU’s reputation. What kind of message does it send to current and prospective students and faculty members when WMU, which prides itself on making its programs accessible to all categories of learners, closes down its campus childcare program? Wouldn’t it be a point of pride for WMU to maintain a facility that enables work-life balance for faculty and staff and helps retain undergraduate and graduate students who are juggling childcare responsibilities with their education?

The CAS Women’s Caucus believes that the administration needs to look harder for solutions to the budget issues related to the Children’s Place. We also question whether an essential service should be dismissed because it is not covering its costs. There are other programs that do not cover all their costs such as study abroad and sports programs. Under the Strategic Resource Management budgeting system that will be implemented, such valuable programs will be subsidized. Like study abroad programs, campus childcare benefits only a small proportion of our students, faculty and staff, yet they add value to everyone’s education and workplace experience, and they signal that equity and excellence are valued by the university. Alternatively, the costs could be met by adding $2-3 per student in student fees. The administration could also look to local foundations, such as the Kellogg Foundation, that may be willing to partner with WMU to help meet costs. WMU development officers could and should reach out to these foundations. The university should take at least another year to seek out alternative solutions. In short, closing the childcare center is short-sighted and will have negative consequences for many years to come—once the childcare center is gone, it will be exceedingly difficult to bring it back.

Sincerely,

CAS Women’s Caucus Steering Committee

AAUP mobilizes to help save Alaska’s universities

In the face of a devastating 41 percent reduction in state funding imposed by the governor, Alaska AAUP members are mobilizing to save their public university system.

In an open letter to state legislators, AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum and Abel Bult-Ito, president of United Academics of the University of Alaska (AAUP/AFT), urged legislators to override the governor’s crippling reductions.

“The governor may view these cuts as a means to balance the budget. But as university faculty and higher education advocates, we believe the budget cuts would mean the end of Alaska’s public university system,” they wrote.

Add your name to a letter of support to AAUP/AFT members who are fighting back.

Here’s more from the open letter sent yesterday: “Despite its small size, Alaska’s public university system plays a big role in educating Alaskans. Rural and lower-income communities depend on the University of Alaska system for improving their job skills and providing accessible degrees beyond a high school diploma, ranging from certificates to PhD degrees . . . .

“The governor’s 41 percent reduction in state funding to Alaska’s public university system would mean closing campuses across the state and endangering the university’s accreditation. Alaskan students would have fewer options for continuing their education, and those options would be poorer in quality.”

This devastating cut is an assault on higher education as a common good.

Show your support for University of Alaska faculty, employees, and students. Add your name and comments of support now.

In solidarity,

The AAUP

P.S. Want to know more about the cuts? Here’s an article from the New York Times.

WMU faculty express concern about environmental damage at Asylum Lake; WMU found to be in violation

A beloved natural treasure to the university and local communities, Asylum Lake Preserve has been very much on our minds in the wake of this recent pollution event. Thanks to concerned faculty for keeping this important issue on the WMU AAUP’s radar. We urge everyone to feel empowered to ask questions as conversations continue about WMU’s responsibility as steward of this precious ecosystem.

KALAMAZOO, MI — “The Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy has cited Western Michigan University for an unlawful discharge of sediment from a construction site into a lake.

EGLE staff were dispatched Thursday, June 20, after a rainfall event caused outflows of water filled with sediment from the construction site where the Business Technology Research Park 2 (BTR2) is being built.

The June 28 violation notice states EGLE Water Resources Division staff observed the “unlawful discharge” of sediment-laden water from WMU’s construction site into Kalamazoo’s Asylum Lake, across Drake Road from the Oshtemo Township construction site.”

Read the rest of this Mlive article.

The WMU-AAUP president’s June 26 remarks to the Board of Trustees about our grievance against WMU in light of its new restrictions on Sindecuse prescriptions

Thank you for providing this open time. I’ve had the honor to represent the WMUAAUP bargaining unit in the role of President since January, 2019. I’m here today to bring the attention of the BoT to a critical issue that impacts the WMU community.

We have learned that, as of July 1, 2019, WMU has mandated that some prescription drugs accessed through Sindecuse are to be limited to 30-day quantities. The explanation is that Sindecuse Pharmacy (and other pharmacies as well) has been losing money as a result of Blue Cross’s practice of under-reimbursing pharmacies for the ongoing, month-to-month prescriptions that many of us rely upon.

Even the incomplete list of impacted medications we’ve seen demonstrates the disturbing breadth of impact this will have: for example, asthma medications (Advair, Pulmicort, Combivent), depression (Viibryd, Latuda), blood thinners (Eliquis, Entresto, Xarelto), pain (Lyrica), and several ophthalmic and GI/Bladder prescriptions.

The problem is that WMU’s proposed actions are in violation of Article 33.5.1 of the WMU-AAUP Agreement which states that: Prescription drugs will be available at the Sindecuse Health Center pharmacy with specified co-pay levels (e.g., $10, $20, etc.). It further states that “A ninety (90) day supply of maintainable drugs will be available for a 2.25x copay…”

In short, the Sindecuse prescription benefit is one for which the WMU-AAUP successfully negotiated – it is built into our contract – and cannot simply be unilaterally voided or reduced by WMU Administration. We are, then, filing a grievance against WMU.

We have received many concerned emails and calls about WMU’s decision to pass on costs to WMU employees from our bargaining unit, retired faculty, and members of other employee groups. Our health care advocate has also fielded scores of questions and concerns regarding this practice. In fact, through recent communications with WMU employees, we have learned that the practice of a maximum 30-day refill has been underway as early as January, catching folks needing critical drugs off guard and unaware.

Frankly, the additional worry, financial burden, and inconvenience of this decision lies disproportionately on those with chronic diseases who, I think we can all agree, already face undue burdens. As I close my remarks, I would like to read just a few of the powerful statements that provide a glimpse the dramatic impact this move would have on some of our most vulnerable colleagues and community members:

“I will face serious problems with this low blow. I have my family overseas and when I go to visit them, in the summer, I need the 90 days supply.”


“Thank you for calling attention to this. This is a hardship, particularly since I’m disabled and this change means I have to travel more often which is difficult for me.”


“I currently pay $135 for a 90-day supply. Paying this monthly is in effect a $1,000 tax imposed by Western. I hope you are able to resolve the issue. This drug is a must ….no other options. I failed on the alternative product – it made me suicidal.”

“I have a family member who, having already survived the trauma and expense of cancer treatment, now faces the added insult of being reminded of cancer every single month.”

In short, this is a clear contractual violation that also crosses the line with respect to the basic compassion and respect we owe to our most vulnerable colleagues. It must be resolved.

Thank you

WMU restricts access to Sindecuse prescriptions; Chapter grievance filed (from our June 19 enews)

As summer officially gets underway, we are sorry to have to inform you of a critical, time-sensitive concern related to proposed changes to our prescription drug access.

We have learned that, as of July 1, 2019 (less than two weeks from now), WMU has mandated that some prescription drugs accessed through Sindecuse are to be limited to 30-day quantities. The explanation is that Sindecuse Pharmacy (and other pharmacies as well) has been losing money as a result of Blue Cross’s practice of under-reimbursing pharmacies for the ongoing, month-to-month prescriptions that many of us rely upon.

Even the incomplete list of impacted medications we’ve seen demonstrates the disturbing breadth of impact this will have: for example, asthma medications (Advair, Pulmicort, Combivent), depression (Viibryd, Latuda), blood thinners (Eliquis, Entresto, Xarelto), and several ophthalmic and GI/Bladder prescriptions.

The problem, as you may know, is that WMU’s proposed actions seem to be in direct violation of Article 33.5.1 of the WMU-AAUP Agreement which states that: Prescription drugs will be available at the Sindecuse Health Center pharmacy with specified co-pay levels (e.g., $10, $20, etc.). It further states that “A ninety (90) day supply of maintainable drugs will be available for a 2.25x copay…”

In short, the Sindecuse prescription benefit is one for which the WMU-AAUP successfully negotiated – it is built into our contract – and cannot simply be unilaterally voided or reduced by WMU Administration. We are, then, in the planning stages of a grievance against WMU. Further, we hope that WMU will negotiate with Blue Cross about its poor reimbursement policies rather than simply passing the additional, unexpected cost and inconvenience on to WMU employees. (Update: The WMU AAUP has filed a grievance against WMU).

What can you do? First, ask questions. Have your supervisors been informed that this policy is to take effect in less than two short weeks? How do they see this step by WMU as being consistent with the Contract (Article 33.5.1)? Second, talk to colleagues. How many are aware of this proposed change? And, finally, contact us if you’re comfortable doing so to let us know how this policy change will impact you and your family’s lives. Hearing directly from you helps WMU-AAUP leadership better respond to such incursions into our health care coverage.

Helping students understand what being a WMU professor is all about

As we all know, many of our students haven’t learned much about what professors really do or about our shared governance role at WMU as members of the WMU AAUP. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some bullet points that might be helpful in communicating with students who want to learn more.

What faculty do:

• Teach, mentor, and collaborate with students

• Provide a top-quality educational experience

• Serve the university and the community

• Design and conduct cutting-edge research

• Produce award-winning scholarly and creative work

What we stand for:

• Academic excellence

• Higher education as a public good

• Shared governance

• Academic freedom

• Educational quality and affordability

What we are fighting for:

• Fair working conditions on campus and beyond

• The value of your degree now and in the future

• Affordable higher education

• Institutional priorities that put education first

• A secure future for students, alumni, faculty and staff