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WMU faculty may hold a no-confidence vote in the university's leadership

President Montgomery is wearing a dark suit and tie and a lavender shirt, as well as a face mask
Sehvilla Mann

Update: The WMU-AAUP will proceed with a no-confidence vote against WMU President Montgomery.

Western Michigan University’s full-time faculty union is mulling a no-confidence vote in President Edward Montgomery, another leader at Western or the school's direction more generally. Members of a WMU-American Association of University Professors working group argue that falling enrollment as well as budget cuts threaten Western’s future viability. Members plan to meet Friday to decide how to proceed.

A recent document shared among members of the working group listed several “areas of faculty concern” during Montgomery’s tenure. They include administrators allegedly leaving faculty out of important decisions and a controversial rebranding effort criticized by some alumni.

But some of the biggest worries turn on declining enrollment and budget cuts made during the pandemic shutdown. Political science professor and AAUP member Jacinda Swanson, who is part of the working group, said those cuts could hurt enrollment even more as well as student retention.

“A lot of the people that were laid off at the beginning of the pandemic were like the frontline staff who help students, and who help faculty do their jobs. So, you know, that’s really worrisome,” she said, adding that an independent audit later showed the cuts were unnecessary.

Swanson said some faculty are worried about a “vicious spiral down,” where falling enrollment leads to budget cuts “that contribute to problems recruiting and retaining students.”

“I don’t think anyone’s saying, ‘certain people have to be fired,’ or anything like that. It’s just, something needs to seriously change at Western,” Swanson said.

At the AAUP meeting scheduled for Friday, members plan to decide whether to hold a vote and if so, whom (or what) to target.

WMU spokeswoman Paula Davis declined to comment. “The university administration has not received information about the WMU-AAUP meeting on Friday, so we don’t have anything to add to your story,” Davis wrote in an email.

If approved, the confidence-vote would likely be held next week.

The union’s decision follows a WMU Faculty Senate member survey, discussed in a meeting last week, in which roughly 70 percent of respondents said they “somewhat disagree” or “strongly disagree” that Montgomery “is an effective leader of WMU.” About 80 percent somewhat or strongly disagreed that WMU has “improved as an institution” during Montgomery’s tenure. Approximately 214 faculty members responded to the survey.

Montgomery defended his record during the meeting, attendees said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story implied that the AAUP had approved a document criticizing the university's course under President Montgomery. That statement was created in a working group and has not been endorsed by the union as a whole.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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