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”→
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.)
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.
Once, 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.
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”→
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:
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.”
As 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”→
Earlier this week, UW System President Ray Cross gave an interview on CW 14 with Robert Hornacek (A UW–Green Bay graduate. Go Phoenix!). Overall, I thought the interview was very good. Of course, interviews are not policy and don’t create change, but in terms of the overall tone, especially when discussing the value of tenure, there was nothing I could complain about (a miracle, you say!). But again… this is not actual policy.
Still, there were two or three stand-out moments in this discussion that illustrate just how terrible we are at discussing the professors who work in the UW System, and it betrays two things: first, how the rhetorical strategies of “divide and conquer” have worked to the point where they have entered our linguistic consciousness as reality, and second, I wonder if President Cross and Mr. Hornacek truly know what kind of people they refer to when they say “professors.” Just in case they do not—and I didn’t see enough evidence of this—let me step in and help a little.
The full interview is included above, but skip ahead to the 4:28 mark, where Mr. Hornacek asks the following, verbatim:
There are also a lot of issues around the edges of this budget cut—things like tenure, things like shared governance questions—let’s just…the question about tenure is where does that stand today? And I know that there are some people out there who scratch their heads and say, why does that make sense in this day and age, why should the professor have that much job security when the taxpayers don’t? (emphasis mine)
This happens all the time and it’s not even subtle anymore—here, again, we have the insinuation that professors are somehow a constituency that is separate from the taxpayer. Of course, this is the moment I’d like President Cross to step in and say, “Let me remind you that professors, and all UW employees for that matter, are taxpayers. So your question doesn’t make sense, because there are taxpayers with this type of job security.” Ah, but it’s so easy for me to watch the video and editorialize after the fact about what someone should say in the moment. That said, I can offer advice for the future, and will take the opportunity do so with this small list of very big letters:
PROFESSORS ARE TAXPAYERS!
PROFESSORS PAY TAXES! (Just in case item one didn’t make sense)
I HAVE NEVER RECEIVED A NOTICE FROM THE FEDERAL AND STATE GOVERNMENT THAT READS: “IF YOU WEREN’T A PROFESSOR, HERE ARE THE TAXES YOU WOULD HAVE PAID. LUCKY YOU!”
TAXPAYERS AND PROFESSORS ARE NOT ANTONYMS; THEY ARE SYNONYMS!
Thanks for listening. So, President Cross and Mr. Hornacek, if you have the chance to field/ask such a question again, please try to emphasize this point. It’s really important to all of us (especially professors because of the baggage the word “professor” now carries) to be recognized as, you know, regular members of the community who pay for roads, schools, services, the university, and taxes towardour own salaries. My kids go to a public school that I am proud to pay taxes for. They are surrounded by teachers and staff that I am proud to support with my tax dollars, so don’t talk about me (or let someone talk about me) like I do not contribute or matter as much as someone else. Thank you. Continue reading “UW Struggle: Professors are from Pluto Edition”→
Several regents are speaking against the legislation, talking about importance of UW research that uses fetal tissue.— Nico Savidge (@NSavidge) September 11, 2015
What follows is not a commentary on the Tweeter, but merely an observation on the content. Referenced above are two pressing issues (among many) for the UW: the dismantling of meaningful tenure protections for faculty, as well as the proposed ban on research using fetal tissue. If you look at the timing of those tweets, they appear as one agenda item has moved into another, as if they are separate matters for discussion. I can’t help but interpret these issues as being of a piece somehow. Should they be discussed as such? Maybe, but don’t expect that to happen. As a matter of fact, the compartmentalization here is so prevalent that Chancellor Rebecca Blank says this legislation is more damaging than, well, a quarter of a billion dollar budget cut… with no mention of tenure protections at all: Continue reading “UW Struggle: Let’s Pretend We’re Not Talking About Tenure, Ok?”→