UW Struggle: The No-Confidence Man Redux

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: Continue reading “UW Struggle: The No-Confidence Man Redux”

UW Struggle: The No-Confidence Man

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. Continue reading “UW Struggle: The No-Confidence Man”

UW Struggle: Gong Show Edition

chuck_barris
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:

Continue reading “UW Struggle: Gong Show Edition”

UW Struggle: Sage Against the Machine Edition (Updated)

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. Continue reading “UW Struggle: Sage Against the Machine Edition (Updated)”

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: The Shill is Never Gone

I have a regular column!
I have a regular column!

A mere two days ago I wrote the following about the ease of blaming “Faculty!” for everything, while ignoring the real issues harming the UW:

Maybe someone will finally pick this up, but I think I’ll just wait for the next easy editorial piece decrying “Faculty!”, the real world, and so on.

And, right on schedule, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel delivers in under 48 hours, publishing a piece that actually includes the phrase “degrees of victimhood” in its title. That’s where we are now. This is what qualifies as “opinion.” (I will not link to the paid shill, as the column doesn’t really need human authorship; it simply writes itself.)

Why even bother responding anymore? This is the second editorial inside of two weeks that arrives directly from WPRI sources, so their content is predetermined, completely inaccurate, and doesn’t even begin to gesture toward accuracy. Add another inch to Mount Hopeless.

No one at the MJS editorial board cares. They will say, “Well, write a response!” Pay me to. It will be far better than what you’re currently offering, which a simple script in a Google Spreadsheet could automate. It would take me twenty minutes at most to whip one up (we’ll call it “Shillbot”)—I’ll give it to you for free. That way, you don’t have to pay for the columns and no one really knows the difference. It’s a huge win for everyone, I guess.

 

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: “Faculty!” Say What? Edition

In order to understand this post, you must accept the fact that faculty are always the problem. No matter what is happening in the UW, just yell “Faculty!” loudly enough and newspaper editorials will begin falling from the trees like decaying leaves.

Also, remember: if a place like UW Madison is worried about recruitment and retention, that must be because of things that naughty “Faculty!” have said, not say, the actual political, budgetary, and anti-educational climate of the state as a whole. Nothing to see here but… “Faculty!”

For example, here is live footage of Chancellor Rebecca Blank on October 29th speaking to UW Central:

The very next day, here is the live feed of her meeting at Central: Continue reading “UW Struggle: “Faculty!” Say What? Edition”

UW Struggle: Hark, the Little People Sing

Shocked

Talk about timing. As I head to UW Milwaukee to connect with some awesome people that I’ve been dying to meet, this dose of “Well, no shit, Watson” dropped today in the Cap Times.

In short, as Rebecca Blank’s email confirms, we whining, complaining, alarmist, privileged, spoiled, lazy, out-of-touch ragamuffin rapscallions were right all along. Over and over and over again. Your winnings, sir.

So, at long last we can finally send an apology to Richard Grusin’s office instead of the campus police. Maybe this Halloween, Sara Goldrick-Rab will get the treat of apology instead of an enduring witch hunt. Yep, sometimes the little people are right. Sometimes the people working on the two-year campuses actually know something. Sometimes the people working in smaller, four-year outposts have actually been eating their vegetables.

What is Rebecca Blank worried about? The status of tenure!? Morale!? Keeping your talented faculty!? Unpossible I tell you! Unpossible! Who could have ever believed these things to be true… except just about everyone without power and influence.

That said, I will not pretend that the state’s various newspapers will write long pieces with titles such as “Faculty Concerns Verified” or “In Spite of Using them for Incessant Clickbait, Faculty and Staff Actually Know Something About Their Workplace” or “Stop, Collaborate and Listen, Ice is Back with a Brand New Invention.”

Nope, expect a further train of “You’re Not the Boss, Tony Danza is, so Shut Up.”

Have a good day!