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Contract negotiations lag at Western Michigan University as deadline approaches this weekend

Faculty members rallied for fair pay Wednesday, calling on the university to invest in its employees and students.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The contracts of hundreds of Western Michigan University faculty members are up in the air as their negotiation quickly approaches. Sept. 1 was the first day of the fall semester for the college, and faculty members wrapped up their day with a rally for fair pay. 

"We're still unable to come to agreement on some pretty key pieces, one of them being salary," says Gender and Women's Studies professor Cathryn Bailey. 

She leads the faculty's bargaining unit -- the American Association of University Professors at WMU. She says they're not being met fairly by the university in their talks.

"Even in the wake of this $550 million donation, which is just you know, jaw dropping, we've continued to see Western refuse effectively to invest in in faculty," Bailey says. "And that's what we want. We want investment in faculty because investment in faculty is investment in students."

The donation was made to the university earlier this year by an anonymous group of alumni. It's the largest single gift ever given to any university in the nation.

In response to the rally, a Western Michigan University spokesperson says, "The University has been negotiating in good faith with our colleagues in the WMU-AAUP, which is an open and continuing process. To ensure the process is most productive, we refrain from negotiating outside of that process or in the media."

Bailey says she hopes that the AAUP and WMU can reach a tentative agreement before the contract expires this weekend. 

Linguistics professor Lisa Minnick says the COVID-19 pandemic has all faculty members working overtime, and she says they just want recognition for that at the bargaining table.

"Everyone's workload has increased exponentially," she says. "Now they're trying to lowball us at the table. It really makes you wonder if they value the work of the university. If they don't value the employees who do the work, I wonder what that says about how much they value their students."

Both professors are also calling for more COVID-19 mitigations after a rocky first day of school.

"It's not just that we're not mandating vaccinations as of yet. But that it doesn't really seem like our testing procedures have been well conceived, either," Bailey says.

Each faculty member says they want this year to go as smoothly as possible. 

"Working with the students is always the best part of it," Minnick says. 

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