Like dentists, government officials know they’ve hit a raw nerve when cavities respond.
“Bad news always seems to drop on Fridays,” Dave Vanness, an Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, wrote on a blog which appeared on the blogroll that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) maintains. “Friday May 29, 2015 was a particularly bad news day for Wisconsin and for all of us who believe in academic freedom,” he avers.
“On that day, Joint Finance Committee of the State of Wisconsin passed Omnibus Motion #521 on a 12-4 party-line vote, including a $250 million biennium budget cut to UW System, major changes to shared governance (a huge topic for another time) and a complete redefinition of tenure as we know it.”
“It’s important to recognize that there are two key sections of OM#521. First, there’s Section 12, which strikes definition of a “tenure appointment” and the standard of dismissal ‘only for just cause and only after due notice and hearing’ from Section 36 of the state statutes. The purpose of Section 12 would seem to be to kick the definition of tenure and ‘dismissal for just cause’ from where it resided, without issue, in state statute — over to the Board of Regents. If this were the only provision of the bill, Wisconsin would merely be facing a reduction of tenure protection from “A – Excellent” to “C – Average.” Food for thought: On Wednesday, June 3, 2015, at an Ethics and Public Policy forum here in Washington, D. C., Professor Peter Lawler of Berry College pointed out that hardly any professors are tenured anymore. Back to Professor Vanness.
“Second, there’s the far more worrisome Section 39, which addresses the other way in which tenured faculty can lose their jobs: termination of their position or layoff in the event of a bona fide financial emergency,” Professor Vanness writes. “Section 39 strikes the language ‘when a financial emergency exists’ from current law and replaces it with the alarmingly vague standard ‘deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision regarding program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection.’ Now, we’re talking ‘F=Failure.’”
By the way, at the same symposium Professor Lawler addressed, Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue, pointed out that his university has been able to freeze tuition for four straight years and, thus, reduce student debt by 18 percent. Interestingly, it was Daniels’ successful battles with public employees unions in Indiana which inspired Governor Walker in Wisconsin.