KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — More than a thousand people will take part in commencement ceremonies and become graduates of Western Michigan University this Saturday. But it will happen as the university continues to deal with discord among its ranks.
On the agenda for Thursday’s board of trustees meeting was an update from the student association and campus safety, but all eyes were on action item 12: “presidential compensation.”
Currently, the bargaining unit for the board-appointed faculty at WMU is considering a no confidence vote of the university’s leadership, including President Edward Montgomery.
“This university has clearly declined on his watch,” WMU associate professor Robert White said during public comment, speaking on his own behalf. “While the confidence of local billionaires may suggest otherwise, the facts for those of us scrambling to keep the university functional … need only by care for the students we teach and a belief in the principle of higher education as a public good reflect the reality.”
The union cites a drop in enrollment, a decline in national rankings, restructuring projects that didn’t include faculty, staff or student input and a drop in faculty morale.
“WMU once boasted its status as a learner-centered, research-focused university,” said Jasmine LaBine, Communications Officer for Professional Instructors Organization at WMU. “How can an institution be focused on learning and research without focusing its resources on educators? What message are we sending to perspective students by padding the pockets of administrators rather than investing in those who have direct contact with those students?”
Despite the comments and the pending no confidence vote, the board unanimously approved the $75,000 bonus for Montgomery.
“I’m speaking on behalf of all the board of trustees that we stand behind our president and its cabinet members to navigate this difficult time and to lead our institution forward,” said Lynn Chen-Zhang, the chair of the WMU Board of Trustees.
“We are committed to changing the condition that we are in. We are doing that by having those tough conversations. The leadership of this university has those at the top of their minds always,” said William Johnston, the vice chair of the WMU Board of Trustees. “It’s always a great day to be a Bronco, even if on some days the wind is in our face and not at our back.”