UW Struggle: Open Letter to Speaker Robin Vos (with pizza)

An offer you can’t refuse?

Dear Speaker Vos,

I am writing in regard to your recent comment, “I don’t really support tenure, period.” I understand why someone would say this, yet I would, as a tenured faculty member, love to talk with you about some reasons why you should, especially when taking into account that tenure is much more about the present (i.e. what happens in classrooms and with research today) than it is about the future (i.e. “jobs for life”). You have gone on record as someone who supports good teaching and time in the classroom, and tenure (on the teaching side of things) is much more about pedagogy than it is about entitlement.

I admit that I am nobody. I have no power or influence and can barely get my dog to recognize my authority (I yell, “Scarlet, get away from that poop!” She spares me not even a glance). Yet, I am a faculty member in the UW System, and my wife and I both work at UW-Green Bay. We would love to invite you to Green Bay to have dinner with us at Sammy’s (in my opinion, the best pizza in Wisconsin, with Wild Tomato its only rival). Bring your family; dinner is on us. Here is Sammy’s menu—I highly recommend the root beer in a frosty mug, and for pizza, my general preference is for pepperoni and mushrooms, but I am open minded about many things, especially pizza toppings.

If the journey to Green Bay is too much at this busy time, I’ll be happy to pack my family into our van and head to establishments closer to you. My connections in the southern parts of Wisconsin say that Sheboygan actually has the state’s best pizza—some place called Il Ritrovo. Personally, I find this claim dubious, but as I have yet to experience the pizza in question, I am willing to travel for the mere promise of good pizza. For great pizza, I would run there barefoot with my family on my shoulders (think Aeneas carrying his father out of a burning Troy).

And I’ll ask you this? When is the last time anyone at UW Central offered to treat you to pizza? Have President Cross or Chancellor Blank even bought you a slice? If not, I’m in the same boat—President Cross hasn’t taken me to a single event, not even a basketball game. Anyway, as I am a completely powerless, non-influential person (my mother’s nickname for me is ” the nonfluencer”), I can’t genuinely be trying “to get something from you.” Consider the invitation sincere. I also don’t want to talk at you; I want to listen and understand. Clearly, you’ve had some bad experiences with UW personnel in the past, and let me say this on behalf of many, many UW faculty and staff: join the club! See! We already have a lot in common! And we might actually ally in more ways than previously imagined.

Full disclosure: my wife and I are both professors in the humanities, but I promise—we won’t talk about how Shakespeare is the most important thing you can ever experience, and we also swear not to use the word “hegemony” even once. Also, no Powerpoints. With that on the table, here are some things we might offer: what it is we actually do (especially in the classroom), how we’re connecting with local business and industry, what our previous graduates are contributing to Wisconsin and beyond, and maybe, if time allows, how tenure as traditionally defined in Wisconsin has been a benefit not to me and my wife, but to the citizens of Wisconsin regardless of political affiliation—and all from our small station at UW-Green Bay.

Really, it’s not far fetched. And you and your family (or other guests) get to eat for free. So if what we have to say is ridiculous, there is nothing that great pizza cannot make worth the trip.

My group would include four: me, my wife, and our two daughters (ages 8 and 7). My girls have to attend, as pizza is the only food they will condescend to eat besides pancakes.

Again, I realize the strangeness of this offer. Why would someone with your position and influence bother speaking with a family of faculty members about their work; their lives in Wisconsin; their dreams of living, working, and retiring here; and the plans they have that, although seemingly small, make a positive contribution to this state and are truly worth supporting.

Again, I realize this invitation does not come from power brokers; I thought that might actually be refreshing in some way.


Chuck Rybak and family.

p.s Your people can reach my people (just me, I guess) at chuck.rybak@gmail.com


4 thoughts on “UW Struggle: Open Letter to Speaker Robin Vos (with pizza)

  1. Idea for dinner topic of conversation: what do you see as the differences between tenure and partisan redistricting? Oh and canned mushrooms on pizzas…icky.

  2. Questo è meraviglioso! Ok, I had to google that. As to having dinner with Vos, I might offer the same suggestion you offered Scarlet. “Once more unto the breach…” thanks for making my day!

  3. I grew up in Ashwaubenon and now live in Sheboygan- Sammy’s and Il Ritrovo are pizza apples and oranges

    1. How so? This is really important, as it determines whether or not my kids will eat it. (They’re okay with Sammy’s)

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