UW Struggle: The Outposts Edition

Northern Faculty Outpost... buried and forgotten.
Faculty Outpost… buried and forgotten.

I haven’t been blogging much because, well, I’ve said what I had to say and was pretty much right about everything. My nine readers got their money’s worth. (Hi mom! Hope the trip to Boston is going well. Say hi to Rachel!)

But let me continue my long reign as master of the obvious and sculpt this snowman of truth: there is no campus but Madison and that is all that matters to the powers that be. (See: money, sports.) “Whatever do you mean, Professor Dingleberry?” Hold on, I’m getting to it.

Nico Savidge, of the State Journal, has this gem about recent efforts to “poach” Tom Cruise-level faculty from UW Madison. I mean, who could imagine that this would happen? I wonder if anyone has made that point along the way. Now, I don’t want to rotisserie a dead horse, so let me move to the money moment, and girl do I mean money:

Speaking to the Assembly Committee on Colleges and Universities earlier this month, University of Wisconsin System President Ray Cross referenced Minnesota’s attempt to recruit political science faculty, saying it cost $1 million to keep the professors in Madison. A UW System spokesman said that money will be spent over “several years” and included $420,000 in salary increases and $645,000 for research funding.

UW-Madison pledged in November to spend $3 million on raises and counter-offers for top faculty.

Patrick noted those raises will boost the pay of up to 20 percent of UW-Madison professors, at a time when others on campus have complained about the impact of state budget cuts. (Emphasis mine.)

Excuse me? Did you say raises? Did you say raises for 20% of faculty? Let me interrupt this blog with maniacal laughter: Continue reading “UW Struggle: The Outposts Edition”

UW Struggle: “Efficiencies!” Edition (Unblocked!)

MehOnce, after an amazing plate of sweet-and-sour pork, I cracked open a fortune cookie that read, “Soon you will shit yourself. Lucky numbers: 3, 9, 12.”

I think back to this vicissitude of life not for its absurdity, but for how, in its moment, how expected and normal it felt. (Of course I will!) Which takes me to the meetings of the current UW Tenure Task Force…

Now, there are many ways to approach this narrative, but let me hit on one that has not been discussed in the media, at all, and really should be: all of this task force’s work, based on whim and political posturing, is completely unnecessary. There are faculty on the task force, there are administrators, all who have to take on the extra work of this appointment because their Governor decided to briefly run for president and their legislature wanted… well… something.

Put another way, the legislature—a group of people who portray deep concern with how much time professors actually spend teaching, or how valuable their research really is—certainly had no problem creating a mountain of new work that, by definition, pulls those same people away from their teaching, research, and administrative duties. Just think about this: those who decry “big government bureaucracy” eviscerated a simple, clear, existing policy that then required the formation of bureaucracy a task force and committees, necessitated that state employees pull themselves away from valuable work at a very difficult moment, required significant travel time… all so we could recreate a system that we already had but in more complicated form.

Q: Who would do this?

A: The uninformed. Continue reading “UW Struggle: “Efficiencies!” Edition (Unblocked!)”

UW Struggle: Speaking of Post-Tenure Review… Edition

BagOfDicks
Real Gift Bags have Cheeseburgers

If you are one of my nine readers (Hi Mom! Love you!), or you have been following the UW struggle at all, you know that “post-tenure review” is our most pressing issue… even though it has nothing to do with state divestment in higher education.

But let’s just say for a moment that post-tenure review, once in place, will lead to lower tuition, restored budgets, and a general feeling like fresh-picked flowers: so here’s the question—isn’t it time to end the practice of awarding tenure to incoming administrators as a perk? Surely this is something that the tenure task force, President Cross, and concerned legislators would be concerned about, no? After all, we wouldn’t want an under-performing administrator to just fall back into the classroom, would we?

While faculty stew in a pressure cooker to earn tenure, the majority of administrators are awarded tenure like gift bags at parties, or uni swag, without so much as having taught a course at the institution where they will be working. This is common practice. We all know this. Yes, there are the exceptions, where a faculty member rises through the ranks at an institution, moving on to administration from the tenured ranks. My dean is one such person, and I’ve always wanted to see more of this (I love it when people with a long investment in a school step into administration). I’ve never understood making probationary faculty members jump through the bazillion review hoops of the tenure process while an incoming administrator is gifted the title because “we have to be able to attract the top talent!” I have also seen departments pressured into awarding tenure for administrative hires, fearing repercussions from above, especially via funding, if denied. Yes, I know, many administrators have had careers as faculty and scholars, but as we know now in Wisconsin, timing is of the essence. Are their skills up to snuff? Are they up on the latest research? How are we to know!? Continue reading “UW Struggle: Speaking of Post-Tenure Review… Edition”

UW Struggle: What’s Old is New

Rocky4As I sit down to write this quick post, my wife is driving to her unit-level review for the rank of Full Professor. This meeting should be entirely celebratory. The gods and heroes demand it.

As someone who has seen her entire career unfold up-close, I can say with ample support that the UW is lucky to have her, our campus is lucky to have her, and she has worked tirelessly for 15 years to get to this point. Yes, if she worked in a different state at a different campus she would make 20K more per year (which adds up to about 300K in lost revenue and counting) but UW Green Bay is a special place. This is not hyperbole. The students, staff, faculty, and alumni are a treasure. I consider myself lucky to work there as well, not because “I’m just happy to have a job,” but because of the place and spirit and intention that extends all the way back to the university’s founding by a bunch of crazy people with a crazy dream.

She’s probably just driving over the Leo Frigo Bridge right now, and her meeting begins in 10 minutes. And so my message to the Board of Regents, Wisconsin legislators, and UW Central and President Ray Cross is, I wish that she could walk into this moment of tremendous accomplishment and leave with more than self-satisfaction. Continue reading “UW Struggle: What’s Old is New”