Wayne State’s professors union sent a letter of complaint to university officials on Oct. 23 about the notice period WSU gave to the School of Medicine’s faculty about possible termination.
Charles Parrish — president of WSU’s professors union, AAUP-AFT Local 6075 — said the university should renegotiate the notice period it gave to 110 medical school faculty. Faculty who work at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and the School of Medicine were told to join the new pediatrics group or lose their job with the university.
If WSU does not reconsider, the union said it may file a grievance, Parrish said.
The administration gave the faculty members a 30-day notice for their termination when the notice period “should have been 90 days,” Parrish said.
The 110 employees currently work for University Pediatrics, a private-practice group affiliated with Children’s Hospital of Michigan. UP ended its ties with WSU and became affiliated with Central Michigan University effective on Jan. 1, first reported by Crain’s Detroit Business.
UP receives federal funding, which in turn is given to WSU to pay its pediatrician faculty. At some point, UP stopped compensating the university and now owes over $18 million, said Matthew Lockwood, director of communications.
In August, the university sued UP for withholding the funds. Lockwood said the case is still in court.
As a result, the Wayne State School of Medicine notified WSU-affiliated UP faculty of their termination Oct. 14.
Dr. Herman Gray is WSU’s chair of pediatrics and president of Wayne Pediatrics, WSU’s new pediatrician group.
He co-authored the termination letter with School of Medicine Dean Jack Sobel. The letter cites two Board of Governors codes, which Gray and Sobel said gives the medical school authority to terminate the employees. Since the pediatricians receive “a major portion” of their salary from grant and contract funds, they are defined as “subsidy-conditioned” employees.
The letter calls for pediatricians interested in making the switch to Wayne Pediatrics to contact Gray directly. Those who do not make the switch can continue working in the hospital as volunteers.
Since the university no longer receives the necessary funding, the university has “no direct, indirect or implied commitment” to continue the pediatricians’ employment, according to Gray and Sobel.
The union contends this violates its contract, which says the university must notify subsidy-conditioned employees of their termination at least three months in advance, or once the subsidy is discontinued, according to Parrish.
Boris Baltes, associate provost for faculty affairs, to whom Parrish sent the letter, declined to comment.
Lockwood also declined to comment. Both said the university prefers “not to discuss personnel matters in the press.”
Parrish said the ongoing feud has the faculty members “under pressure to make decisions that protect their personal and professional concerns.” He calls for the university to involve a mediator, to provide a solution benefitting all affected parties which include the pediatrics faculty, their patients, medical students, the university and UP.
Parrish said he believes the BOG, “despite their present divisions,” can agree upon such a proposal.
“What are the faculty members caught between a rock and a hard place to do?” asked Parrish in his statement to The South End.
Lockwood didn’t want to comment on how many faculty members agreed and made the switch as of recently.
When Gray spoke to Crain’s in August, he said he expected “a low end of 30 or so to join and the high end around 50.” At that point, Gray said 17 faculty members had expressed interest in joining his group, and three had declined.
Jack Thomas is a correspondent for The South End. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cover photo by Jonathan Deschaine. Jonathan is the multimedia editor for The South End. He can be reached email@example.com