Sad Iron Posts

August 16, 2016
“In 500 feet, exit at Boring,” said Siri.

Like many, I recently devoured Netflix’s Stranger Things and loved every kooky moment. As a pubescent monster of the eighties, I felt at home in a world hairy with bicycles, RPGs, Corey Hart, and people smoking cigarettes like it was their civic duty. Those pure passions aside, I’ve still become increasingly interested in the lure of narratives set in the recent past (Stranger Things, The Americans, Paper Girls, The Get Down, etc.) I’ve ingested the thinkpieces and listened to the podcasts, yet I feel most miss the mark for why so much contemporary, popular work is set in the future or recent past.

In short, cellphones and digital social networks make our contemporary moment incredibly uninteresting.

Yes, I hear your immediate complaints and howls, but as someone who has actually written narratives constructed for conflict and tension, know this: no matter how useful, important, and revolutionary a phone crammed into the denim of your tight back pocket may be, it makes for crappy drama. It’s Suck City. For everyone but the user, there’s just nothing interesting about people staring at their phones or screens all day. Read the Post Stranger Things: More Nostalgia Please

May 29, 2016

Sad-IronFor the past few years I’ve used this space to be a reporter of sorts. I have reported on events, while also indulging my Carver-esque appetite for exploring how we talk about things. The results have been mixed in that each revelation immediately shoulders the great Ecclesiastical weight of “there is nothing new under the sun”: only people with money matter; power sides with power; top-down authority nurtures incompetence; the platitudes of leadership apply to everyone but leadership; faculty are always the bottom rung; [insert your own maxim that is both contemporary and timeless]. What else is there to say? A lot, I hope. So let me strip this post of humor and video and memes and just talk about what’s missing in Wisconsin: truth, honesty.

Let me offer this openly—there are a lot of people lying about the current state of the UW System. Many have had their lying documented in print, the kind of documentation where you can put two quotes from the same speaker side-by-side and see that they are opposite to each other. No one seems to care about lying all that much anymore—our culture more than tolerates it—thus reinforcing the two irrefutable truths this blog relies on: faculty are always to blame and you won’t believe what’s happened since the last thing that happened. But if “basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth,” then I suggest we start telling the truth as a means for discovering it.

In a little detour, yesterday I was reading the text of a Rebecca Solnit speech to journalism students, which focused on how to find the real stories hiding within dominant, mainstream, or monied-interest narratives. The piece is called “To Break the Story You Must Break the Status Quo,” and I was particularly struck by this passage as it might apply to the UW System: Read the Post UW Struggle: Narrative Shift, or tl;dr

May 16, 2016

schmuckI swear, if you introduced the editors of the Wisconsin State Journal to Richard Woody Johnson, they still wouldn’t know dick.

Have you ever wondered why there’s a constant campaign to “inform the public about the UW”? Well, because doing your job is hard I guess! And thus we have another easy-listening editorial that smooths the reality of President Ray Cross into the saxy warmness of Christopher Cross.

Hooray! They have confidence in President Ray Cross, and thus faculty must assume their usual position of being wrong. Oh, but we do look forward to your next brave stand against those who toe the line of the evil status quo.

In taking the easy route—rallying behind the neatness of top-down authority—and speaking against the “No Confidence” resolutions, the wise editors forgot to do one important thing: actually refer to the resolutions, their specific content, or quote them in any way! Let me repeat: in a piece that explains how a wave of no confidence resolutions is spreading across the system, not a single word of those publicly accessible documents is quoted. In fact, the editorial completely silences faculty—the resolutions are not quoted, and no faculty member is quoted. Guys, you have one freaking job! If you were a disco ball you’d forget to turn. Read the Post UW Struggle: The Status Schmo

May 13, 2016
There are no contracts in my bubble
There are no contracts in my bubble

Look, I don’t want to gloat, but if you look at my last post and compare the GB data with that for UW-Milwaukee, even PolitFudge is labeling Governor Walker’s claims about the UW as “Kohl’s Cash Don’t Play Here Homie!” But this is to be expected when the truth is dead. So to my nine readers (Hi mom, I’ll call this weekend! Have fun in the garden!), I didn’t steer you wrong.

But if I could turn serious for a moment, there is a lot going on right now in the UW/No Confidence Resolutions that really has people spooked, and this is evidenced by the incessant wave of press releases, tweet storms, and public statements issued expressly to confirm this blog’s golden rule: faculty [workers] are always to blame.

Now, I have specifically heard from people/constituents that I trust and deeply admire, but even they offer that it is faculty who are hurting the process and damaging relationships. President Ray Cross echoed this is his most recent statement, where he offers the usual rhetorical saltines, including this full sleeve:”The Board of Regents adopted a responsible tenure policy that is comparable to our peers.” (emphasis mine) And he has also offered in informal conversation, in an attempt at humor, that faculty live in a bubble.

So I’ll ask: is breaking a contract responsible? Does expecting contracts to be honored mean you live in a bubble? Check with these guysRead the Post UW Struggle: The Toy in the Plastic Bubble

May 11, 2016
How do ya like dem fake statistics!
How do ya like dem fake statistics!

Oh my god. So many ragamuffin rapscallions, so little time. Reminder of this blog’s two golden rules: 1) Faculty are always to blame 2) You won’t believe what’s happened since the last thing that happened.

So, in the last few days, UW-Milwaukee (in dramatic fashion) and UW-Green Bay joined the wave of No Confidence motions as applied to President Ray Cross and the Board of Regents. In both instances, the Governor’s office released a completely inaccurate, misleading, and ridiculous set of numbers with the express purpose of trashing the universities and their faculty. Leadership! I mean, who does that? Who releases statements that argue, Look at how much my public universities suck! Vindictive McMcvindicty Face, that’s who. (Did I do that right?)

Anyway, if anyone out there in the media cares, here is a quick corrective to this nonsense, and I will do a quick run-down that has already been accomplished by smarter folks at UW-Milwaukee here:

Walker Claim #1: “UW-Green Bay full professors averaged 70,700 in the 2013-14 school year. The average annual average pay for all workers in Brown County was $44,894 in 2014.”

Response #1: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Thanks for pointing that out, since we have tenure-track professors in Business who make over $100,000. Furthermore, this figure puts us at the bottom of the statewide system, and we won’t even get into how this compares to the national average for people who have earned a PhD.

Here’s another fact: the average full professor in the Liberal Arts and Sciences at UWGB earns less than 70,000, with the average being $69,608.00. I know one of said professors; he has 20+ years of experience, a degree from Princeton and a PhD from Michigan, and he makes just over 70k (less than an assistant in another department) at his highest possible rank. At another institution his salary would double. Thanks for pointing this out! (The common theme of a Walker press release: “someone get me a number, anything!”) Want a peek into my personal life? I’m married to a soon-to-be full professor whose adjusted salary will be well below the average presented.  Read the Post UW Struggle: Goodwill Sucking

May 9, 2016
The truth is most efficient when it is flexible!
The truth is most efficient when it is flexible! (Image via EniamRej @


I’m going to keep this relatively short, which is rare. Why?

I only have one point to make, and regardless of how this whole UW kerfuffle turns out, it’s important that Wisconsinites know one thing: faculty were right, all along, without fail, about the intentions and purpose for the striking of tenure from state statute. This is irrelevant in regards to how you feel about the actual nature of the changes; that is an entirely different debate. Here is what is not debatable: one side has been consistently honest and open about their concerns and intentions, and the other has not. Period.

How do we know? Over to you Pat Schneider, who will now directly quote UW President Ray Cross’s email to Regent John Behling:  Read the Post UW Struggle: The Bagman Cometh

May 4, 2016
We're going to ignore you, Fredo.
We’re going to ignore you, Fredo.


I woke up today wanting to be positive, to feel like fresh-picked flowers and magnolia blooms. I’m reading UW-Madison professor Caroline Levine’s book on form, and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about her contention that seemingly restrictive forms can, when intersecting with other forms, afford positive change—in short, this is why I’m always saying we need a new way of talking about things, and once we get there, change really can happen. I was going to write about how, when we look at the issues, the “opposing” forces surrounding the UW share many of the same goals…

Then I wake up to this article in the Capital Times which reveals what we’ve already known, but it doesn’t hurt any less—it’s all a long con game; the UW Board of Regents and UW leadership conspired to limit faculty response and input to changes to the tenure process, and basically agreed to ignore faculty voices. They had no patience for democracy and followed through on this intent. Everything you need to know about what the system President and Board of Regents truly think about faculty is summed up here: Read the Post UW Struggle: The No-Confidence Man Redux

April 27, 2016
Nice blog you got there. Shame if something happened to it.


I don’t know, Wisconsin is really freaking weird these days, as in completely losing its mind while having hallucinations of competence. If you don’t want to read any of this, here is a short video on the state of productive dialogue in the Badger State as it relates to higher education. Hint: the new state animal is us:


So here’s where we are—the faculty at UW Madison are considering a “no confidence” vote in System President Ray Cross and the Board of Regents. For the record, I am not on the faculty at Madison and would not dare to offer whether or not this is the right course of action; that’s for them to decide. But here’s what I can say—the mere specter of such a vote has unleashed complete buffoonery and a stampede of frothing jamokies. Holy smokes. There are two popular themes at this blog, but let me iterate them just for the heck of it: 1) Faculty are always to blame 2) You won’t believe what happened since the last thing that happened. Read the Post UW Struggle: The No-Confidence Man

April 7, 2016
h/t to Alan Talaga for making a Gong Show reference on Twitter

What if I told you that someone with responsibility literally brought a red button to a meeting? What if I told you that this person, while his subordinates were making test-run presentations, would push the button and the words ‘no whining!’ would be ejaculated as a sound effect? Again: this is not a metaphor. This is real.

So I’ll ask: Who is this person? What do you imagine the setting to be? Are we talking about adults? Younger people? A gimmicky corporate setting? Friday night neon bowling?

No. That would be the President of the UW System and the subordinates would be our campus Chancellors, who were asked to describe the campus effects of another quarter of a billion dollar cut to state support. They were instructed not to whine (as faculty have been told to not be emotional), and upon further review, the presentations themselves were cancelled. I know what you’re thinking: this can’t be true, no way, this is the president of a university system, we knew you were close and you’ve finally lost it!   I know; that’s what I thought as well. Here is the incident in question detailed by Nico Savidge:

“[The presentations] should be factual, not whiny,” Cross wrote in his message.

Cross insisted on this point — he said in the interview he brought a red button to the meeting to be used if he felt a chancellor was complaining too much in a presentation. When he pressed the button, a sound effect shouted, “No whining!” (emphasis mine, because wow)

What, were hand buzzers and bottles of seltzer spray unavailable? You couldn’t find someone on a unicycle to ride up and poke them in the eyes? Look, I miss Benny Hill too, but I have access to YouTube.

Still, this can’t be true. So I asked Nico on Twitter to confirm—Nico was tweeting a lot about the Final Four, thus I assumed he was brained by an errant chicken wing when the North Carolina Won’t Make Donuts for Gay Heels (see Glazed 3:15) went down at the last moment—he assured me that his mental state was not the problem:

Read the Post UW Struggle: Gong Show Edition

March 5, 2016

obi-wan-kenobiSometimes those who exist to do nothing but tear other people down can do you a tremendous favor—they can remind everyone of exactly what it is we don’t want to be.

And that’s the case with the Wisconsin Policy “Research” Institute and their recently released op-ed paper (dubbed a “report”) on faculty tenure in Wisconsin. The paper itself, released immediately before the Board of Regents meets to finalize tenure policy, is clearly offered to influence the board, especially those who share a mutual connection with The Bradley Foundation.

My belief, based on what I’ve heard from Regent Behling, is that the WPRI editorial will be ignored, as it should be, if only for its jaw-dropping lack of quality. My children receive birthday party invitations that are better sourced. Though that didn’t stop Wisconsin media from lending credibility to such negative and regressive propaganda, and that is where I think everyone, of all political stripes, can reflect on education, the labor it requires, and what it means to build something as a whole rather than tear things down as score-keeping factions.

Here’s the truth about WPRI’s white light paper, and one can glean this simply by looking at the bibliography: not one research study is cited. Not one. Nothing peer reviewed. They are so desperate for sources that they footnote themselves. The main document referenced is an opinion (!) survey that requires no knowledge of the subject being inquired about (anyone with money can put out a glossy brochure, just ask Americans for Americans Against Americans). The “conclusions” offered in the brochure are on par with “Eat a banana, you’ll feel better.” And so for anyone reading, if you want higher education to result in you, or your children, producing work on the level evidenced by such an editorial, then there is no such thing as “higher” education. (If I read that and were a business that relied on research, I’d be donating to the UW right now.) But if you, like the Board of Regents, are deeply invested in an education system that cultivates even basic research methods, critical thinking, and investigation founded on discovery rather than preconception, then it’s time for you, whether you’re democrat, republican, independent, or Trump-tastic, to support faculty and staff in your higher ed institutions, and use that support as a way to throw your weight behind the quality of life that labor, good wages, job security, and reasonable benefits can offer to every single one of your neighbors and every single citizen of Wisconsin. Read the Post UW Struggle: Sage Against the Machine Edition (Updated)