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”→
Sometimes 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)”→
Before launching into rabid tirades about how UW faculty and staff have to do everything, let me talk about local economies. The other evening, I was challenged by a tenured UW-Green Bay psychology professor to a chicken-wing eating duel. I am from Buffalo, New York, and such contests have run in my blood for generations, back through the veins of my hirsute ancestors (“Rybak” is Ukrainian for “bird limb devourer”). Pictured above is not a chicken wing; it is my family crest. Anyway, the opposing armies gathered at midnight under the cover of jukebox neon and proceeded to engage in battle. A third party was present—someone from “business”—but he was disqualified for ordering boneless wings (he, of course, said they were an “efficiency”). We explained, patiently, that those were not wings, but “nuggets of surrender.”
Long story short, I was vanquished and thus humiliated everyone and everything I stand for. My decline and fall aside, ask the management of Legend Larry’s what the UW does for its local economy. Ask them if they value hungry people with job security. Extend this out to establishments all over the state, especially those that provide trivia services. All I have to say to UW central admin and our state legislature is: why do you hate happy hour?
So, about doing everything…
I have written tirelessly, endlessly, about the fact that Wisconsin’s higher-ed narrative is dominated by a myth: the myth that faculty have power. The myth that faculty are so powerful that they prohibit the university from flex-o-vating nimble 21st century efficiencies. I have waited patiently for Wisconsin media outlets to rely on something other than Politifact to take a stand, or to at least ask basic questions. None of this has happened. So let me point out something to outside observers that should be breathtakingly obvious: powerful people and interests are again moving swiftly to curtail the job security of powerless people. If faculty are so powerful, the great titans of the state, why can’t they simply put an end to this attack? Oh, right, the power is, and was always, held by the other parties involved: the people who cut budgets, give tax breaks, build stadiums for pungent teams, raise tuition, and collaborate with ease to extend Wisconsin’s new tradition of weakening worker protections and earning power. It’s that simple. So, dear media outlets, stop writing about faculty as if they are, or ever were, the source of any problem the UW has. They aren’t. Holy donkey teeth, for the sixth time I will post this list.
Summary: those with power have invested a powerless constituency with the appearance of power (aka “divide”). They then use their real power to attack those people who, all along, were powerless to stop them (aka “conquer”). Get it? They never had the power to cause the problems they are being associated with. (See: American workers. Also, history.)
Another note to the media: feel free to ask President Cross some very basic questions about motive. Seriously, just basic information will suffice. I have never seen someone in the center of a conflict be asked to go on the record so little about his intentions. Whether someone agrees with him or not, everyone in the UW deserves a clear, directly-stated picture of what his goals are, especially if President Cross agrees that the system should weaken tenure to the point of irrelevancy. Certainly we can all agree that we should have this clear statement of vision/direction, no? Continue reading “UW Struggle: Upocalypse Final Update, Part Deux: Return of the Wing”→