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WMU's president gets a bonus and a raise

Mark Bugnaski
Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University's president has won a raise and a bonus.

University trustees unanimously approved the 1.5 percent raise for Edward Montgomery at their meeting on Thursday, December 16. They also gave him a one-time $75,000 "merit" bonus.

The vote came despite criticism by some faculty members and employee unions. But Board Chairwoman Lynn Chen-Zhang says trustees support Montgomery.

"I'm speaking on behalf of all of the Board of Trustees that we stand behind our president and his cabinet members to navigate this difficult time and lead our institution forward."

Results of a "no confidence" vote on Montgomery's leadership by Western's faculty union are expected on Friday, December 17.

During their meting, associate WMU professor Robert White spoke to trustees on his own behalf. He says the decision to give Montgomery a bonus sends the wrong message about what qualities the university wants in its leaders.

"Those qualities would seem to include misrepresenting the financial condition of the university in May 2020 to justify widespread staff firings and givebacks from all units, which were then used to free up cash to make payments on private mortgages financing construction projects."

White says when Western got the $550-million “Empowering Futures” gift earlier this year, the university waited to announce it until employees fired in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic could not be recalled, "Making many of those firings permanent and rubbing the faces of those affected in the ready availability of money which could have preserved jobs."

WMU trustees didn't respond to directly to White's comments. They did acknowledge that a decline in student enrollment is a problem, among other challenges. But they say Montgomery is the right leader during a difficult time. William Johnston is the Board's vice-chairman.

"Our president and his cabinet are engaged in all of these issues and working extremely hard at solutions to them. As I mentioned before, nobody gave anybody a playbook for the pandemic."

Andy Robins has been WMUK's News Director since 1998 and a broadcast journalist for over 24 years. He joined WMUK's staff in 1985. Under his direction, WMUK has received numerous awards for news reporting.