June 7, 2015

"I know there is serious concern among the faculty about the changes in tenure and governance proposed by the Legislature."

Writes University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank in a letter emailed to the faculty just now. (and posted here):
This is not surprising, given the lack of any consultation with higher education leaders or with the public prior to announcing these changes.

The proposal would remove tenure from state statute. I am pleased that the Board of Regents voted Friday to adopt into Regent policy the language establishing tenure that previously existed in state statute. We can discuss the pros and cons of having tenure established in statutory versus Regental policy, and I recognize that many faculty are worried about this change. This is a conversation we need to have. Almost all of our peers have long operated with tenure policies established by their governing boards.

Outside of the changes to the definition and establishment of tenure, I realize that faculty also have real concerns about the circumstances under which tenure can be abrogated, given the changes in language around layoffs and dismissals. The coverage in the national media (not all of it entirely accurate) has only exacerbated these concerns. I look forward to meeting with the Faculty Senate and discussing these issues at a Senate meeting on Tuesday, and hope as many Senators and faculty attend as possible.

In the meantime, let me clearly reaffirm my personal commitment to the value of tenure. (See my statement from last week at http://budget.wisc.edu.) The University of Wisconsin at Madison needs to have strong tenure protections, consistent with AAUP policy and with our peer institutions. I and others are working to change proposed legislative language that would allow layoffs of faculty for reasons of program modification or redirection. But I’ve also been holding multiple conversations with the System, the Regents, and our lawyers. I’m convinced that – even if this language is not changed – we can write policies for UW-Madison that ensure strong tenure protection. I realize that many faculty are dubious of this, and I hope we can talk about these options in the days ahead.

I will not accept a tenure policy that is inconsistent with our peers, or that violates accepted standards.  I pledge to make no changes in policy or practice at UW-Madison until such policy is clearly established.

UW-Madison has a long history of standing up for academic freedom of inquiry. In 1894, the state superintendent of education in Wisconsin tried to fire Professor Richard Ely from his tenured position at UW because of his out-spoken support for progressive views.

The regents of the University refused to censure Professor Ely, stating “...we believe the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

I promise a more detailed set of comments in a blog to be released prior to the faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday. It is imperative that we are able to adopt policies that allow our world-class faculty to continue that sifting and winnowing of truth that leads to knowledge.

87 comments:

Michael K said...

Wait until the budget cuts come. Then we will see what happens. This is pablum for the perpetually offended.

Moose said...

I suspect you'll find many of your readers feel more like the Gov. about tenure than you do...

MadisonMan said...

Perception means a lot to faculty. Maybe too much, but it does.

Link. First of how many, I wonder.

Now, imagine if Walker's policies made a small start-up jump across the border to Minnesota - and this Chemist's lab is the functional equivalent. What would the reaction be? Because it's faculty, it's no big deal?

Meanwhile, here's how the WEDC is "working" I guess Walker is desperate to get to that 250K job benchmark he campaigned so avidly about way back when.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

I don't read my own interoffice memoranda and I'm certainly not going to read somebody else's.

Michael K said...

Being "courted" is not exactly the same as deciding based on tenure. It sounds like they are going for the gold.

harrogate said...

It seems like about the best they can do under the circumstances.

n.n said...

America is regressing to tribal communities. Little Africa; Little Union; Little Ivory Towers; etc.

EDH said...

I had an economics professor of international trade who was rumored to have been drummed out of the U of Wisconsin for writing about the economic inefficiency of the US cheese quota system.

They called him the Wisconsin Cheese Man.

rhhardin said...

Cut funding for tenure and give it to the poor.

great Unknown said...

"I will not accept a tenure policy that is inconsistent with our peers, or that violates accepted standards."

And if the Board of Regents decides on such a policy, exactly what will you do?

The critical issue, actually, is not so much the tenure issue as it is the hiring issue. If faculty control of this is diluted, the University might eventually become diverse and eclectic.

chickelit said...

MadisonMan wrote: Now, imagine if Walker's policies made a small start-up jump across the border to Minnesota - and this Chemist's lab is the functional equivalent. What would the reaction be? Because it's faculty, it's no big deal?

Be serious with me for a second. Established faculty up and moving takes time to arrange and execute. Walker's policy was announced what, two weeks ago? This UW Chemistry professor looks and sounds arrogant--look at those folded arms and uplifted chin! This can't be anything but his slamming Walker on the way out the door. And he probably did it because he will have more personal gain and perks. It's not like his grants are going to increase when he moves.

Ever since Linus Pauling won the Nobel in Chemistry and Political Activism (Peace), he's inspired nothing but pale imitators.

Roger Sweeny said...

Ever since Linus Pauling won the Nobel in Chemistry and Political Activism (Peace), he's inspired nothing but pale imitators.

What, no imitators of color?

PB said...

Why should government consult with the institution? The government is just saying, "You can do what you want, we're not going to force something on you. If tenure as a policy is good for the institution and the students, great. You decide."

Coupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Sylwester said...

I will not accept a tenure policy that is inconsistent with our peers

The behavior of a cartel.

AJ Lynch said...

Too funny...."failed to consult with the public". When they increase our taxes and sweeten the pension math for govt workers, I don't remember them consulting with the public.

Lost My Cookies said...

Any other states have tenure as statute

MadisonMan said...

Established faculty up and moving takes time to arrange and execute.

To arrange, yes. To execute no. One simply needs to pull the trigger, so to speak. Any good and productive Professor/Researcher is going to have opportunities, irons in the fire, most of the time.

And if he's appearing arrogant, so what? He brings (brought) revenue into the state. People who are at the top of their respective fields know they are worth something. Maybe you think that reality is arrogance.

SteveR said...

Its not a matter of "if" just "when". The Student Loan phase is running its course and soon it enters the "if something can't go on forever, it won't" phase. Academia won't be the first to experience a reality check, but perhaps with the exception of the federal civil service, the last. It's 2015.

MadisonMan said...

Also, why the need to change this statute? If it's to put the gears in motion to get rid of underproductive faculty -- and any faculty could make that argument (and as I said upthread, perception is very important here) -- what happens in reality? The reverse. The good and productive faculty leave to someplace they perceive to be more welcoming, leaving behind the rest.

Zeb Quinn said...

Never, not even once, stopping to consider, let alone acknowledge, that efforts to curtail tenure result from the abuse of tenure.

AJ Lynch said...

MadMan:

WI is just the canary in the coal mine. Soon, tenure will be Kaput everywhere [except maybe at the Deep Pocket Ivies] and there won't be anywhere else for research profs to run.

Unknown said...

----Meanwhile, here's how the WEDC is "working" I guess Walker is desperate to get to that 250K job benchmark he campaigned so avidly about way back when.


In your posted article I see the most egregious loan was a continuation of a Jim Doyle administration loan.

WEDC’s Morgan Aircraft loan relied on out-of-date underwriting from 2007, when the company was seeking assistance from the state Department of Commerce during the administration of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, according to HUD.

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/wedc-loan-to-aviation-company-unpaid/article_08cd4cfc-ec3d-58b5-9e71-b0e9f248868d.html#ixzz3cOUV9QoT

---I guess Walker is desperate to get to that 250K job benchmark he campaigned so avidly about way back when.

I guess Democrats/Lefties don’t really care about jobs, they just talk about them (especially Republicans trying to develop them) They are doing such a great job in Baltimore and Milwaukee and they want everyone to live under such good governance.

chickelit said...

I had a personal research project that I abandoned. It involved taking a look at Nobel Prize winners in chemistry over the last century and sorting them into "academics" vs. "industry" types. I wanted to know which was more productive. The tricky part was determining where the prize-winning had made his/her discovery--often times people move to academic settings after making discoveries. My preliminary results convinced me that academics were well ahead. But I also noted a decline in output from industry. This has a number of causes, beyond the scope of a blog comment.

chickelit said...

AJ Lynch said...
MadMan:

WI is just the canary in the coal mine. Soon, tenure will be Kaput everywhere [except maybe at the Deep Pocket Ivies] and there won't be anywhere else for research profs to run.


There's also the possibility of leaving the US entirely, and moving to BRIC nations. This has happened to some extent with the US chemical industry.

PML said...

You voted for him three times, now you finally see the light? Too late for you and everybody else in Wisconsin. How sad for a once great state.

chickelit said...

If the whole problem is simply a public perception of the academy being too monopolitical and one-sidedly lefty--well, that's just an opportunity and one which should be easily fixable. Rather than threatening or "killing-off" tenure, how about reestablishing a healthy balance in political beliefs?

Some may argue that politics and science should not mix. Still, I'm reminded of the story of Al Cotton.

Gusty Winds said...

It"s all about the well being of the tuition paying, debt ridden students isn't it?

Unknown said...

----This has happened to some extent with the US chemical industry.

EPA regulations play a huge role here, right?

Fabi said...

A change to tenure makes it a 'once great state'? Hahaha!

Where do these commenters come from? The snowflakes stamping their feet create a delicious cacophony.

Michael K said...

"People who are at the top of their respective fields know they are worth something. Maybe you think that reality is arrogance."

No, but professors starting a venture are less interested in tenure. Of course, if it flops, tenure is nice.

garage mahal said...

University of Phoenix we're coming for you!

Michael K said...

"I guess Democrats/Lefties don’t really care about jobs, they just talk about them (especially Republicans trying to develop them) They are doing such a great job in Baltimore and Milwaukee and they want everyone to live under such good governance."

Midget Reich was on This Week today talking about "trickle down economics." We should be so lucky.

rcocean said...

"UW-Madison has a long history of standing up for academic freedom of inquiry. In 1894, the state superintendent of education in Wisconsin tried to fire Professor Richard Ely from his tenured position at UW because of his out-spoken support for progressive views."

Thanks for spelling it out. I always knew "academic Freedom" really meant "Left-wing Academic Freedom". Of course, given that 90% of the professors are Left-wing, how could it be otherwise?

rcocean said...

BTW, I love to hear hear examples of UW professor's "inquiries" in the last 30 years that need protection. I mean other than professors calling whites a cancer on humanity or praising Joe Stalin.

Drago said...

Univ of Phoenix, filed under "List of Institutions To Which Garage Would Not Be Accepted".

Drago said...

Now that Walker has destroyed the UofW, it simply lacks the academic rigor and stature garage requires. One can only imagine the scientific breakthroughs lost from failure to attract such stellar minds.

Unknown said...

--How sad for a once great state.

Wisconsin unemployment 4.4 percent

http://dwd.wi.gov/dwd/newsreleases/2015/unemployment/150521_april_state.pdf

http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/wisconsins-act-test-scores-keep-high-us-ranking-b99334099z1-271944231.html

As for U of W cuts are you all trying to divert from the self-evident facts of a runaway institution?

http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2014/02/12/Can-We-Curtail-Administrative-Bloat-Campus

witness the UW slush fund -- UW students and parents should be thanking Walker with hosanah’s for the tuition freezes.

http://www.maciverinstitute.com/2014/05/the-university-of-wisconsin-system/

witness 'ethnic studies' programs that graduate zero or less than five students

http://mediatrackers.org/assets/uploads/2015/02/UW2013-14Degrees.pdf

Including 'Jewish Studies', 'Hebrew and Semitic Studies','Afro-American Studies','Comparative Literature','Clinical Investigation'




garage mahal said...

Hey, even a high school dropout like myself can teach in some classes in Wisconsin, thanks to Republicans. They'll be plenty of openings soon.

Unknown said...

Clinical Investigations obviously is not an 'ethnic' degree, but with only two graduates perhaps there is another university system that has a better program with more students. In business we call it SKU proliferation which drives up costs.

David said...

The purpose of tenure is to protect academic freedom, not to sustain obsolete departments. So when Blank says "I and others are working to change proposed legislative language that would allow layoffs of faculty for reasons of program modification or redirection" I have to wonder what she thinks tenure is for.

The rise of the adjunct in university level teaching is widely bemoaned. But use of adjuncts is in significant part caused by the inflexibility of the tenure system as now constituted. The shorter work week and reduced teaching loads from a generation ago amplify the results of tenure's inflexibility.

Academics generally are liberals, except when it comes to their own institutions. There they can be counted on to fiercely protect every status quo that they think benefits them. The interests of the students and the public are secondary.

Don't expect much to change in the practicalities of faculty tenure. The conservative impulse of the academic establishment is too powerful. The current system is a product of abundance. It will endure until major competitive or financial pressures force revision. The era of abundance for higher education is not over, and to the extent there are current pressures, tenured faculty will be the last to feel them.

Unknown said...

-----even a high school dropout like myself can teach in some classes in Wisconsin, thanks to Republicans. They'll be plenty of openings soon.

I can see why you are bitter and hostile. You just really can’t comprehend laws being discussed.

I think its great that college graduates with real world experience will be able to teach without preliminary indoctrination from Big Union Education boot camps.

Bobber Fleck said...

I thought the tenure issue was along the lines of taking tenure out of the Legislature's hand and putting it in the hands of the Regents. I also was under the impression the Regents were sympathetic to the concept of tenure.

Putting tenure under the Regent's brings the issue closer to local control. What am I missing?

Gabriel said...

@Madison Man: Since almost no other states wrote tenure into their statutes, why would Wisconsin faculty leave over it--they're not worse off than they'd be anywhere else.

Now even so, they might leave out of "perception", as you put it, or "butthurt", as I would put it, but regardless it's not based on reality.

It's another huge freakout over nothing. Now the Board of Regents sets tenure policies just like almost every state university ever, like for example the University of California system, which is not exactly a research backwater.

walter said...

"UW-Madison has a long history of standing up for academic freedom of inquiry. In 1894, the state superintendent of education in Wisconsin tried to fire Professor Richard Ely from his tenured position at UW because of his out-spoken support for progressive views."

Ah..how far the pendulum has swung.

But here's a bit up Ann's word parsing alley.
"Academic freedom"

Tenure's role is at best a very mixed bag regarding this. On the one hand, those with tenure may in theory have more freedom to challenge orthodoxies and institutional biases.
But..if the path to get that tenure weeds out those so inclined, to quote a larger thinker of our times.."What difference does it make?"

garage mahal said...

A Board stacked with cronies and campaign donors. Why would faculty not be okay with that? Walker isn't petty or vindictive at all. He would never make a decision that wasn't best for the people.

Michael said...

Garage
"Hey, even a high school dropout like myself can teach in some classes in Wisconsin, thanks to Republicans. They'll be plenty of openings soon"

Inadvertently you make a great point. There is no reason a person who is competent in a topic should not be able to teach. Especially someone with experience in a topic. You should know that Warren Buffet could not teach a course in Business at most any public high school in America. Bill Gates could not teach programming. Etc. Our system is built around protecting union teachers who have earned the right to teach by suffering "Education" courses.

THOMASt WREN said...

The question is one of value. If the consensus was that value was being delivered, tenure would not be an issue.

MadisonMan said...

Bill Gates could not teach programming

Um, Microsoft teaching programming?

That's funny!

TosaGuy said...

Shouldn't PhD type people who pride themselves in rational thinking, etc. be immune from the internalized false information of "perception"?

DougWeber said...

The interesting question here is not the tenure action itself, but the presentation of the issue in the media. As I remember the NY Times article required you to follow the continuation and read to the middle of the second column to discover that Wisconsin has an unusual situation where tenure is written in statute and that the proposal simply moves Wisconsin to the same situation as all other state systems.

damikesc said...

UW-Madison has a long history of standing up for academic freedom of inquiry. In 1894, the state superintendent of education in Wisconsin tried to fire Professor Richard Ely from his tenured position at UW because of his out-spoken support for progressive views.

They ever do that for conservative voices? Do any conservative ones exist?

richard mcenroe said...

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin,the frequent and rapid firing of progressive educators was a good weapon, not wisely laid aside.

damikesc said...

The good and productive faculty leave to someplace they perceive to be more welcoming, leaving behind the rest.

To go elsewhere with the identical policies?

Hey, even a high school dropout like myself can teach in some classes in Wisconsin, thanks to Republicans.

If a high school dropout is well read in a topic, why should their teaching be opposed? They'd have to meet the same licensing requirements.

garage mahal said...

I bet Warren Buffett's teachers were high school dropouts.

walter said...

Is that right, Doug? Sure doesn't mesh with the lone "attack" narrative.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Conservative support for this nonsensical bullshit is proof positive that they understand neither the importance of academic freedom nor the danger of turning universities into consumer-marketed mass-education diploma mills.

They are the bane of everything decent to the thinking man.

Scott said...

"They are the bane of everything decent to the thinking man."

I think that all right thinking people are sick and tired of being told that ordinary decent people in this country are fed up with being sick and tired. Well I'm certainly not. And I'm sick and tired of being told that I am.

--Monty Python

Scott said...

You should write a strongly-worded letter to The Times.

amielalune said...

Rhythm: You're simply a "useful idiot" if you think that our universities today have "academic freedom."

You claim to be a thinking man. Just because you think it does not mean it's true.

Gagg said...

Imagine my surprise...there's payback for U of W faculty who converted their university into a political action committee for the Democratic party. How about this for an idea - start providing high value education to your overcharged students and quit with the far-left indoctrination. Academia across the country have chosen race, gender, and sexual identity as the Holy Grail of the social sciences and humanities education. All the while, these same universities have become bloated and dysfunctional with the massive hiring of counselors, facilitators, liaisons, coordinators - all to the economic and academic detriment of their ill-served young captive clients.
As Glenn Reynolds of instapundit.com has written convincingly, the higher education bubble is now bursting. Colleges are closing; college applications and graduate program enrollments are declining; universities are facing lawsuits challenging the verdicts of their kangaroo courts.

Gagg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob R said...

We'll see. But I work for a state institution (VT) and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to fire a secretary - even one that's completely incompetent. No tenure protection. Just a lot of state of VA red tape. When we start firing incompetent workers at the DMV, professors at state universities can start getting nervous.

walter said...

Bob, good point. Public sector upheaval over collective bargaining overshadowed the remaining and substantial "civil service" protections many private sector folk would be amazed by. I witnessed the same while at a student job at UW. Manager just gave up trying to get rid of the dead weight staffer..just kind of worked around her.

traditionalguy said...

The principle is that budget shortfalls are every ones problem now. The tenured aristocracy will no longer be exempt. Oh horrors, says the Aristocrats.

garage mahal said...

Minnesota is plowing 500 million dollars into education because their governor knows how to manage money.

Moneyrunner said...

If you have to go back well over a century to show how one professor’s job taking an unpopular position was saved by tenure, you’re really admitting that tenure does not do what you say it does. And given that academia is so dominated by the Left that even Leftist professors are terrified of their Leftist students, claiming that tenure protected a “progressive” in the nineteenth century is not a call to arms for the average taxpayer.

Gahrie said...

Conservative(s)...

They are the bane of everything decent to the thinking man.


Says the man who supports a political party that depends on the ignorance of low information voters to win.

Michael K said...

" their governor knows how to manage money."

Maybe because their governor is nuts. Dayton has inherited money but freaked out after 9/11 and ran home to his Farmer-Labor buds.

Rusty said...

It looks like faculty is going to be forced to justify their paychecks. Just like everybody else in the working world.

garage mahal said...
Hey, even a high school dropout like myself can teach in some classes in Wisconsin....

In your case, no.

Fen said...

The Left politicized the university system and focused on churning out Little Brownshirt wannabes. This is karma. I would fire them all and start over from scratch.

Fen said...

Conservative support for this nonsensical bullshit is proof positive that they understand neither the importance of academic freedom -

LOL. Please spare us your bullshit. Conservatives aren't allowed in academia, so fuck you and your "academic freedom". Seriously, print this page out and stuff it up your ass.

Anonymous said...

"Any good and productive Professor/Researcher is going to have opportunities, irons in the fire, most of the time."

It's been my experience, after 35 years of close observation, that so-called faculty rain makers seldom if ever leave over matters of principle, especially when they are almost immune to anything that affects low ranking faculty. When they do leave, it's usually over money, either higher salary or an endowed chair or a promise of considerable resources like lab space. More typically, if they threaten to leave, it's in order to gain leverage in bargaining with their current institutions over higher salary, more instructional release time, more lab space, more junior-level research assistants, etc. The list goes on. Personal concern over an institution's tenure policy, however, is not normally high on the list of reasons why such people leave. They don't see themselves as being vulnerable to termination...and if they were to be riffed or otherwise terminated, they're confident they could quickly find a position elsewhere. If their bluff were called, most of them would likely stay; it would probably take an outstanding offer from another institution to overcome the natural inertia to remain in place (per Newton's First Law of Motion).

cubanbob said...

garage mahal said...
A Board stacked with cronies and campaign donors. Why would faculty not be okay with that? Walker isn't petty or vindictive at all. He would never make a decision that wasn't best for the people.

6/7/15, 1:03 PM"

No doubt garage will be voting for Hillary, he isn't against cronies and campaign donors, just against those donors and cronies he doesn't approve of.

Kevin said...

I'm sure all the tenured professors in the Department of Gender and Woman's Studies will immediately decamp for lucrative jobs in industry.

garage mahal said...

It's just Wymmins Studies!!!

damikesc said...

Conservative support for this nonsensical bullshit is proof positive that they understand neither the importance of academic freedom nor the danger of turning universities into consumer-marketed mass-education diploma mills.

Yeah, there is such amazing academic freedom on campus. As long as the mob is on your side, you're free to do whatever you want.

It's just Wymmins Studies!!!

Why defend non-academic disciplines? Not winning your case to the public at large.

Michael K said...

Garage, you've convinced me. I wasn't sure this was a good idea but, with your encouragement, I'm all for it.

David said...

The "conservatives" in this fight are the UW tenured faculty. They are the ones resisting change.

Rusty said...

garage mahal said...
It's just Wymmins Studies!!!

See. This is why we can't have nice things.

tim in vermont said...

I think it was a brilliant idea for the left to assume complete control of most universities. What I don't understand is why conservatives don't understand that they are excluded from academic careers for the good of society and for their own good, in the long run. What's the matter with these people? Shut up and pay your taxes people, garage wants the state to "plough" you some more, so work all the harder to pay your taxes, and wait for the benefits!

"What's the opposite of diversity? University." - Kate at SmallDeadAnimals.

tim in vermont said...

Actually, conservatives are too stupid and not interested in academic careers.

damikesc said...

Actually, conservatives are too stupid and not interested in academic careers.

That's the baffling part. A lot of academics buy that. And conservatives are, LITERALLY, the only group they believe that about.

"Not many women in sports? Has to be that they lack sufficient opportunities"
"Blacks dropping out in large numbers? Cultural imperialism!"
"No conservatives on the faculty? They just really don't want to be here"

Peter said...

Tenure did a fine job protecting Marquette's John McAdams, didn't it?

Skipper said...

Poor oppresses babies, these college drones.

Mike said...

Minnesota is plowing 500 million dollars into education because their governor knows how to manage money.

A perfect Garage construction, full of nonsense, proving the opposite of what it purports to state. Dayton is "good at managing money"? Really? LOL...

Hyphenated American said...

"Actually, conservatives are too stupid and not interested in academic careers. "

Conservatives can become engineers and scientists and mathematicians, but none of them are smart enough to teach in "womyn's studies"? I say only a very stupid person believes this.