UW Struggle: The Bagman Cometh

The truth is most efficient when it is flexible!
The truth is most efficient when it is flexible! (Image via EniamRej @ https://youtu.be/W2By6zgQPhY)


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: 

Cross Email

If you haven’t been following closely, this email directly contradicts previous statements about what was being done with the tenure changes and why. (Not to mention, faculty have never/nowhere argued they should have a “job for life.” That is a legislative soundbite. Also, a “union argument”…What?)

Again, faculty were right all along. How?

Public Cross: “It’s frustrating to me that the emotional reaction on the part of some folks failed to realize the substance of tenure was simply moved from statute to board policy.” (Emphasis mine)

Email Cross (above): “This program discontinuance debate has exposed the real value of removing tenure-related policies from statutory language.” (Emphasis mine)

Any questions?

Public Cross: Faculty have an “emotional reaction” to an inconsequential change.

Email Cross: Our goal is to get rid of people who “are no longer needed in a discipline.”

Any questions?

Again, the point here is not whether or not you despise professors and think these changes are actually good, don’t go far enough, etc. The point, which I believe is important because the Wisconsin Idea makes a reference or two to truth, is this: faculty were honest, and when all was revealed, right about what is happening, why it is happening, and what the real agenda is. UW Central and the Board of Regents were not honest about this and there is no denying it.

Faculty and staff are simply not respected as employees or people. We are just another rhetorical front to be managed. Let’s just say that, like many faculty members, it’s hard to read such an email from your leader and see your concerns so completely diminished and the integrity of your efforts taken so lightly. It hurts, a lot.

Still not convinced? Let me, as a humanist, quote the text one last time:

Public Cross on process of creating a new tenure policy: “UW System President Ray Cross said after the meeting that the regents are still open to suggestions for wording changes.”

Behind closed doors?: “Emails obtained by the Capital Times through an open records request reveal that staying on message and tamping down opposition on the tenure issue were priorities for top UW system officials….Regent Tim Higgins messaged Behling and regent president Regina Millner that day about putting off the entreaties of the UW-Whitewater leader of a system-wide effort to amend tenure policy proposals before the vote. ‘I believe that it’s important that all Regents support the task force recommendations as presented,’ Higgins wrote.”

Again, any questions?

Look, you can say a lot of things about faculty, I get it, I really do, but you can’t say we lie. We have honestly and openly made our arguments, with evidence, about this situation. Whether right or wrong, we were the only genuine contributors and that demonstrates a lot about who the public should be listening to and trusting right now—we’re honest about our work, and more importantly, we’re honest when we go to work. There is no mystery about our intentions–just refer to the Wisconsin Idea.


And in case you’re not familiar with all of the moving pieces here and ask, “Well, what is the predetermined end here?” let’s just consult one of many possible sources. Here is regent Michael Grebe, appointed by Governor Walker—note: he is talking about program elimination and campus closure before even having attended his first Board of Regents meeting; he also has no experience in higher education and ended up serving on the tenure committee:

The younger Grebe is an attorney and executive vice president at HUSCO International, a Waukesha-based hydraulics manufacturer. At his Senate confirmation hearing, Grebe said the UW needs to be more efficient, suggesting that could mean eliminating degree programs on some campuses if they’re available on others. He used a business analogy to make his point.

“If you work at a company that has multiple manufacturing locations, you might not do the same thing at every single one of those locations, because your customer base may be different,” Grebe said. “You may specialize in one area or another on certain products or types of operations and processes.”

Grebe also said he thought the state was already contributing enough public money to the university.

Grebe’s confirmation hearing came less than a week after the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to cut the UW’s budget by $250 million. The panel also voted to remove tenure protections from state law and to give the university more power to fire faculty.

Backers of the tenure changes say they’ll let chancellors function more like CEOs, while critics say they gut tenure and will make it even harder to retain faculty. Grebe said he thought tenure still had a place at the university.

“I think the question right now in Wisconsin going forward is, what does tenure look like?” he said.

Asked about the possibility of eliminating some UW campuses altogether, Grebe would not rule it out, but said he’d have to be convinced the savings were worth the pain they would cause to a campus’s community.

Got it now? This is no mystery. Regionalization requires the elimination of faculty; that’s always been the point. This article is from nearly a year ago. Faculty were never too emotional, or whiny, or exaggerating…faculty were just right.