06/11/20 Meeting with Dean Mark Schweitzer
I had a meeting this morning with Dean Mark Schweitzer. It was a get-to-know you meeting arranged by the previous Dean, Jack Sobel, who also participated in the meeting.
After the usual pleasantries, current issues dominated the conversation. Of these, the one that took up most of the conversation was Dean Schweitzer’s floating of a proposal that all Clinical Faculty members be terminated as of September 30th, and become solely employees of the Wayne State University Physicians Group (WSUPG). They would no longer be regular WSU Faculty members as of that date. Many of these Clinicians have been on the WSU Faculty for decades, almost 50 of them were hired during the 1990’s, and some as far back as the 1970’s. An estimated 250 or so Faculty members would be affected.
I pointed out to Dean Schweitzer how unpopular the proposal was among the Faculty members of the Medical School. Many of the Clinicians felt that they were not being respected despite their many years of service to the University. Dean Schweitzer explained that he was having to deal with many problems, some of which were related to the bankruptcy of the WSUPG. (He had had to announce a cut in the WSUPG salaries by 20, 30 and 50 percent over the next three months in order to address its financial problems.) In this context, and that of the experience of the last several years in which outside consultants had a dominant role in SOM affairs, it should come as no surprise that the Faculty members being affected by the proposal viewed it with a jaundiced eye.
A consideration of many of the Faculty Clinicians also had to do with changes in health and retirement benefits that would come with a change to full employment solely in the WSUPG. Further, where employment as a WSU Faculty member was guaranteed by a term contract of a year or longer, employment contracts in the WSUPG can be terminated with only 60-days’ notice. The contracts also contain non-compete clauses that would prevent a dismissed Clinician from taking another job in the Detroit Metropolitan Area for a significant period of time.
Dean Schweitzer listened carefully and articulated his perspective throughout a reasonable discussion. Former Dean Sobel commented that the new Dean had been appointed in a difficult time, in the midst of a “tsunami.” I agreed with this, but there was no doubt that the Dean’s proposal had a strong, and, perhaps unanticipated, impact throughout the School. Dean Schweitzer recognized this and, without a clear commitment to particular future actions, stated that he appreciated my frank contributions to the discussion. I said that that would always be my approach to communications with him in the future.
The meeting ended with no commitment on the Dean’s part with respect to the controversial proposal. However, he also had not made up his mind on whether or not to go forward with it.
--Charles J. ParrishPresident, AAUP-AFT, Local 6075, WSU ChapterVice President-at-Large, AFT MichiganPresident, AAUP Michigan ConferenceMember-at-Large, National Council, AAUP5057 Woodward Avenue, Suite 3301Detroit, MI 48202313.577.1750