UW Struggle: The Status Schmo

schmuckI swear, if you introduced the editors of the Wisconsin State Journal to Richard Woody Johnson, they still wouldn’t know dick.

Have you ever wondered why there’s a constant campaign to “inform the public about the UW”? Well, because doing your job is hard I guess! And thus we have another easy-listening editorial that smooths the reality of President Ray Cross into the saxy warmness of Christopher Cross.

Hooray! They have confidence in President Ray Cross, and thus faculty must assume their usual position of being wrong. Oh, but we do look forward to your next brave stand against those who toe the line of the evil status quo.

In taking the easy route—rallying behind the neatness of top-down authority—and speaking against the “No Confidence” resolutions, the wise editors forgot to do one important thing: actually refer to the resolutions, their specific content, or quote them in any way! Let me repeat: in a piece that explains how a wave of no confidence resolutions is spreading across the system, not a single word of those publicly accessible documents is quoted. In fact, the editorial completely silences faculty—the resolutions are not quoted, and no faculty member is quoted. Guys, you have one freaking job! If you were a disco ball you’d forget to turn.

Let us pause and access our handbook chi:



So thank you, Wisconsin State Journal, for publishing an editorial that perfectly performs the reasons for the no confidence resolutions in the first place: the complete erasure of faculty/staff voices from what used to be a democratic institution. [applause]

But let’s dig the required millimeter into the editorial’s depth. Let’s breath in its seriousness and sit yet again in the sauna of our scolding.

Claim: “They exaggerate changes to job security”

Reality: They do no such thing, and to assert this is to live in a bubble. You cannot exaggerate changes to contracts. They are honored or they aren’t. Current faculty with tenure were asked to do X for Y. X has been completed in the form of labor, thus Y. I look forward to making “modest changes,” on the fly, in what I pay the businesses I patronize. That will go over well and the State Journal will spring to my defense when fighting off the exaggerations of pampered bill collectors!

Claim: “But the cut could have been worse. Walker originally proposed a $300 million reduction, which Cross and others lobbied to lower.”

Reality: Pure fiction. Measles is worse than the flu; I don’t want praise for getting the flu. If anything, the cut was agreed upon and the lower number was merely to give the appearance of progress. If you need confirmation of this, look at the hiring practices at Central. I look forward to the day faculty can say at a post-tenure review, “But you have to understand, my record could have been worse.” Accountability!

Claim: “Their ire predated his presidency, peaking three years ago when a group of accountants in the Legislature highlighted more than $600 million in university reserves.”

Reality: The No Confidence resolutions have nothing to do with reserves or previous administrations. Not a single one of the resolutions refers to these in any way. You could, you know, actually refer to the resolutions. Jamokies! [see chart above]

Claim: “UW’s mistake wasn’t having healthy reserves to fall back on. It was failing to be clear about how much it had and what the money was for.”

Reality: The No Confidence resolutions have nothing to do with reserves or previous administrations. Not a single one of the resolutions refers to these in any way. Why are they even writing about this?

Claim: “Cross understandably favors some flexibility on tenure if staff are no longer needed in an area of study that is going away.”

Reality: Nyet. The dispute is not over the “flexibility,” it is over what will guide the decision making, with faculty fighting to protect actual educational concerns, rather than purely financial ones, for a program’s discontinuance. Holy ham sandwiches, everyone should know this by now; do you not pay attention to other parts of state government, like when people cheer for potential disenfranchisement? But thanks for oversimplifying this really important point of contention; it helps a lot.

Claim: “And Cross defended professors — ‘I don’t like to see faculty vilified’ — after the governor suggested instructors should increase their workload.”

Hilarious Reality:


Defended faculty? Hahahahahahahah!
Defended faculty? 

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! The best the State Journal could do for an example of Cross defending his faculty is by pulling a stale quote from well over a year ago! Sixteen months! (No wonder they didn’t link.) Um, let’s just say that a lot has happened since then. How about something fresh? Don’t bother looking; there are no recent examples because faculty have been entirely on their own for a long time now.

And…don’t you guys read the paper…

Cross Email

Way to represent! Look, if Pete Townsend drove by in a magic bus on his way to you, Cross would still throw us under it. (This is also a perfect opportunity for your editorial board to explore the issue of truth telling, but maybe that’s uncivil these days. Do you believe that truth is necessary for confidence?)

Claim: “Tenure has been loosened, yet it remains similar to peer universities.”

Reality: This is pure mimicry with no knowledge, and this type of language comes out of fortune cookies now. The reality is what’s in our state code, which other “peer universities” are not subject to. Literally, the regents could meet any time, change the current language to match the state law in five minutes, and simply fire at will. Our “peer universities” do not have the double burden of a regent policy beneath an umbrella policy in state law that is expressly designed to fire people. Get it now?

Claim: “So the best strategy for a better state budget is to tout UW System’s contribution to Wisconsin’s economy, innovation and jobs. That’s what Cross is doing in an effective way.”

Reality: Prove it! How so? Examples? [See chart above] We have literally not had one bit of good news for years. Another major budget cut is coming. We’ve been vilified and ignored because that is what is rhetorically expedient. And as the email above shows, it’s a different story when we’re not around, no?

Are You Guys Even Trying!:

If you read this piece you might notice something missing. It’s something very important. There’s no mention of The Board of Regents. Not one. So, if you were just catching up, you would think campuses are passing resolutions against President Cross only.

Seriously, you had one job; I bet your drawings of camels don’t even have humps.

All the resolutions, every single one, are directed to both President Cross AND the regents, as the motions themselves specifically detail their coordinated actions and responsibilities. To leave this out is to completely misrepresent the entire process. Why no mention of the call to recommit to the Wisconsin Idea? Guess you would have to read the resolutions to know what I’m talking about.


And hello there, schmuckos—when you need to express your opinion about something, you can sit down and put together an editorial. You know, like this one! Newsflash: faculty don’t own a newspaper and are not newspaper editors, thus we have different rhetorical means for expressing our opinion. The most accessible form for a collective voice is a resolution. Faculty pass resolutions all the time (say, honoring someone). The State Journal is basically saying faculty shouldn’t speak or voice their concerns. Strange message coming from a news organization, no? (I love Nico Savidge, but they obviously locked him in a room while the serious people sat down at the word machines. Free Nico!)

Lesson: People really don’t like it when faculty speak or have opinions. But hey, maybe the editorial board at the State Journal knows more about the faculty’s mission and working conditions than they do. I mean, all those people voting on all those campuses just don’t know a darn thing about anything, do they?

But look, I know I’m obnoxious. Over the next few days some real editorials will appear, of course written by faculty (who have to do everything); please read them and give them a chance. They’re written by people who are brilliant and dedicated and care about much more than themselves.


One thought on “UW Struggle: The Status Schmo

  1. Are Chuck’s pieces read by the likes of Karen Herzog and other reporters? Or is he only being read by his choir (me among them)?

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