Comprehensive Timeline of Layoffs in the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance
2/20/19 | MISSY’S CHAIR STATES IN AN EMAIL… THAT “BECAUSE OF THE LARGE INCREASE IN [LECTURERS’] SALARIES,” RECEIVED AS A RESULT OF CONTRACT BARGAINING BETWEEN THE UNIVERSITY AND LEO IN 2017-18, “THE ADMINISTRATION WOULD LIKE TO MOVE AS MANY LEO COURSES AS POSSIBLE TO TENURE TRACK FACULTY.”
4/23/19 | IN A STATEMENT TO THE MICHIGAN DAILY, THE CHAIR OF DANCE DENIES HAVING WRITTEN THE EMAIL REFERENCED ABOVE, DESPITE KNOWING THAT WE HAVE COPIES.
3/25/19 | SMTD ADMINISTRATORS IMPLY THAT TENURE TRACK FACULTY AT THE SCHOOL ARE NOT PULLING THEIR OWN WEIGHT, AND THIS IS WHY MORE TEACHING ASSIGNMENTS ARE BEING SHIFTED FROM NON-TENURE TRACK TO TENURE TRACK FACULTY MEMBERS.
BIZA SOMPA PREVIOUSLY FACED EGREGIOUS TREATMENT BY [SMTD], WHEN HE REALIZED THAT FOR YEARS HE HAD BEEN KEPT AT A 49% APPOINTMENT RATHER THAN A 50% APPOINTMENT SO THE SCHOOL COULD AVOID PAYING FOR HIS HEALTH AND RETIREMENT BENEFITS.
4/15/19 | ACADEMIC HR ADMITS THAT THEY ARE HESITANT TO QUICKLY FULFILL LEO’S INFORMATION REQUEST BECAUSE, IF THEY PROVIDE INCORRECT INFORMATION, “[THE UNION] WILL JUST PUT IT OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA.”
4/19/19 | LEO SUBMITS ANOTHER INFORMATION REQUEST, THREATENING TO FILE A GRIEVANCE AND/OR UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE IF THE REQUEST IS NOT FULFILLED BY APRIL 23 AT 12PM. ADMINISTRATION RESPONDS WITH ANSWERS TO SOME, BUT NOT ALL, QUESTIONS IN THE REQUEST AT 11:28AM ON APRIL 23.
4/21/19 | THE CHAIR OF DANCE SENDS BIZA AN EMAIL SCOLDING HIM FOR HAVING HIS STUDENTS SEND HER “MANY VERY NASTY EMAILS,” AND SUGGESTS THAT STUDENTS ARE “NOT WELL INFORMED.”
4/24/19 | MISSY BECK RECEIVES AN OFFICIAL NOTICE OF 50% LAYOFF FROM SMTD. WHEN BIZA SEEKS MORE INFORMATION ABOUT POTENTIAL CHANGES TO HIS WORKLOAD, THE CHAIR OF DANCE TELLS HIM IT IS NOT HER JOB TO INFORM HIM OF SUCH CHANGES (THIS IS FALSE; IT IS FACTUALLY WITHIN HER RESPONSIBILITIES TO DO SO).
Many of you have likely already heard about the egregious situation currently taking place at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, & Dance (SMTD).
Two of the school’s longest-serving Lecturers, Missy Beck (18 years) and Biza Sompa (32 years) are facing retaliatory layoffs for receiving raises that finally brought them to a living wage following our contract campaign last year. SMTD and University of Michigan administration have continued to lie and change their justification for this anti-union behavior.
We decided to publish the following, comprehensive timeline to make clear the sequence of events that have pushed us to continue escalating our campaign to fight for Missy and Biza. The timeline begins by focusing on Missy’s situation, as SMTD has continually withheld information and delayed reporting to us or even to Biza about his employment status.
Missy Beck is a Lecturer II in the University of Michigan Department of Dance. She has taught in SMTD for 18 years, and has been full-time for the last 15 years.
In February of 2019, Missy wrote to her department chair to discuss preparing for a course that she has taught for 9 years. The chair responded that it was possible that Missy would not be teaching the course. This was the first indication Missy had received of this change in assignment. According to our contract, Lecturers must receive notice of full or partial course layoffs as soon as the decision is made. Missy wrote back to her chair to inquire further about the course being taken away, and the following timeline ensued.
February 20, 2019 | Missy’s chair states in an email to Missy that “because of the large increase in [lecturers’] salaries,” received as a result of contract bargaining between the university and LEO in 2017-18, “the administration would like to move as many LEO courses as possible to tenure track faculty.”
The chair later denies writing this email, despite knowing that Missy and her union are in possession of it.
February 27, 2019 | Missy’s chair confirms that Missy’s course load will be cut in half, constituting a 50% reduction in pay—devastating for anyone’s livelihood. Her chair explains this by saying that "after all her [Missy’s] position is temporary." This is after 18 years of employment!
The chair also tells Missy that another colleague, Jean Claude Biza Sompa (who goes by Biza), who has taught at the School for 32 years, will lose two-thirds of his course load and will only be hired back to teach one semester a year.
Biza, at this point, has not been notified of this clearly finalized decision (another instance of contract violation). Biza previously faced egregious treatment by the school, when he realized that for years he had been kept at a 49% appointment rather than a 50% appointment so the school could avoid paying for his health and retirement benefits. This situation was rectified through LEO when it was reported.
February 28-March 10, 2019 | Winter Break
March 11, 2019 | LEO requests a special conference with SMTD to learn more about the layoffs. During a phone call with LEO, Academic Human Resources attempts to backtrack on the explanation previously offered for Missy’s layoff, and instead suggests that Missy is “only qualified to teach Ballet 1 and 2.”
This does not explain why the school assigned Missy to teach graduate-level courses for many years prior. Missy has taught at the University of Michigan for 20 years; she is a published expert in her field, and also serves as an adjudicator for a national competition of dancers trained in the Cecchetti method, hosted by the Cecchetti Council of America.
March 17, 2019 | LEO and Academic Human Resources agree to a special conference for March 25.
March 25, 2019 | A special conference is held with Melissa Sortman and Kim Andrus of university Academic HR, as well as School of Music, Theatre, and Dance (SMTD) administrators Associate Dean Clague, HR representative Amy Truckey, and Manager of Faculty Affairs Terry Glazier.
During the meeting, SMTD administrators imply that tenure track faculty at the school are not pulling their own weight, and this is why more teaching assignments are being shifted from non-tenure track to tenure track faculty members. They also once more backtrack on a previously offered explanation for Missy’s layoff when Associate Dean Clague clarifies that Missy’s qualifications were never the issue.
At the March 25 special conference, Academic HR also confirms the impending layoff of Biza Sompa due to low enrollment. This is easily debunked, as Biza’s classes consistently garner high enrollment and many students speak of their positive experiences.
Following the special conference, LEO puts in an information request for course assignment details within SMTD, to better ascertain if the school’s plan for reassigning Missy and Biza’s courses is in violation of the contract. Subsequently LEO also asks for Biza’s enrollment numbers.
April 15, 2019 | Academic HR admits that they are hesitant to quickly fulfill LEO’s information request because, if they provide incorrect information, “[the union] will just put it out on social media.”
They directly contradict their earlier explanation for laying off Biza Sompa, saying that the issue “is not and never was low enrollments,” and justify their inconsistency by suggesting that perhaps they were not yet prepared during the March 25 special conference.
April 19, 2019 | LEO submits another information request, threatening to file a grievance and/or unfair labor practice if the request is not fulfilled by April 23 at 12PM. Administration responds with answers to some, but not all, questions in the request at 11:28AM on April 23. Much of the information is the same as what was shared with Missy in February.
At this time, Missy and Biza still had not received any official notification of their layoff, two months since the beginning of this process. In the Feb. 27 meeting with Missy, the Chair said an official letter stating the change to 50% would be sent in March.
April 20, 2019 | Over a dozen lecturers attend and flier audience members at a Congolese dance showing performed by Biza’s students. The informational fliers explain Missy and Biza’s situation and encourage the audience to send emails to SMTD administration and the university Regents to protest this treatment of non-tenure track faculty.
April 21, 2019 | The chair of dance sends Biza an email scolding him for having his students send her “many very nasty emails,” and suggests that students are “not well informed.” However, all of the excerpted emails that are used as examples clearly state the issue at hand, which is not that Biza will be fired but that he will lose courses he has taught for decades.
April 23, 2019 | In a statement to the Michigan Daily, the chair of dance once again denies having written the email displayed above where she indicated that the program was motivated to shift courses to tenure track faculty due to LEO raises. LEO provides the email to the Daily.
April 24, 2019 | Missy Beck receives an official notice of 50% layoff from SMTD. When Biza seeks more information about potential changes to his workload, the chair of dance tells him it is not her job to inform him of such changes (this is false; it is factually within her responsibilities to do so).
Biza eventually received an erroneous layoff letter, which was corrected after the deadline for layoff notifications. Following her layoff notice, Missy received her 2019-20 contract for a one-year appointment, despite the fact that she is entitled to a seven-year appointment.