Message from the President
July 23, 2012
A number of communications have been shared with faculty, the press, and others discussing -- sometimes in a very uncivil tone -- the current contract negotiations with the AAUP. Some of these communications erroneously describe an administrative proposal to eliminate tenure. There is no such proposal. There are, however, proposals designed to improve the University's ability to evaluate faculty performance and address problems more efficiently than the current contract allows.
I think it is very important to state, first, that the vast majority of our faculty are excellent, and do an outstanding job of teaching and research. They are at the heart of what we do; we are proud of their accomplishments and their dedication. It is the small minority who require more care on our part. Yes, they are very few, but even one is too many, and we need to be able to address these problems quickly and fairly. That is the purpose of the proposals being misinterpreted as eliminating tenure.
Faculty tenure is an important aspect of academic freedom, and we support it. But it cannot be a place to hide for those whose performance or behavior is poor. We have all seen too many examples of the consequences of not being able to deal directly with problem situations.
The press has expressed strong interest in covering this story, and you will no doubt be reading and hearing many opposing points of view. This is in some ways a natural outcome of negotiations, where people leak information to the press to gain a tactical advantage. Our preference, however, is to negotiate at the table rather than in public, to appeal to facts rather than emotions, and to remain calm and civil, rather than otherwise. At the end of the process, I am confident we will reach an agreement that will be in the best interests of all of Wayne State University -- the students, the faculty, the staff, the Board, and others within the University family.
With the increasing volume and tone of the communications, we expect that you will find yourself in discussions on the subject. Please understand that as we prepared for negotiations, we kept three key principles in mind:
1. Focus on the students - Wayne State is at its heart an educational institution that serves students by offering an excellent education at a major research university. Our contract must reflect this.
2. Accountability - The University, and each of us, must be accountable for performance. More and more, the state and the community are demanding universities be accountable for student success (i.e., graduation and retention rates) and fiscal responsibility. We continue to improve in these areas, but each of us has a responsibility to meet expectations as well. In many ways, this is becoming the focus of debate. As stated earlier, all agree that the vast majority of faculty are excellent. For the small minority who are not, we must have the ability to identify situations quickly and resolve them efficiently -- for the sake of our students and our University. Our current process is antiquated and cumbersome, and it can take years to resolve even serious situations.
3. Innovation - The explosion of technology, expectations, and competition makes it critical that WSU has the flexibility to innovate and adjust to a changing world. New subjects, new discoveries, new methods of teaching and learning, new demands for accountability and transparency -- all of these require that we adapt, and build in the flexibility to lead, rather than follow. Wayne State has a long history of adapting to a changing world, and we must do so today.
We will be providing updates as necessary. In the meantime, please stay calm, and know that what we are proposing is in the best interests of a strong and thriving Wayne State University.