Jun 7, 2015

Scott Walker's Assault on Tenure Draws National Criticism

What's the matter with Wisconsin?

The question is not asked often any more as the answer is apparent: Scott Walker's anti-intellectualism, corruption, and a weak state Democratic Party precisely when Wisconsin needed an innovative, strong opposition to this fundamentalist governor's destructive agenda taken from the ALEC GOP bill mill and the Koch brothers.

Bear in mind Walker is so controlling and ideologically extreme that Walker rescinded his appointment of UW-Platteville student Joshua Inglet to the Board in August 2013 after finding out Inglet signed the Recall Scott Walker petition to show support for his mother who is a teacher.

From an editorial from this weekend's New York Times, Scott Walker's latest attack, sites the foundation of the Badger state: the University of Wisconsin System; aiming at the tenure system in this volley.

This follows Walker's attacks on funding and University's core mission: The Wisconsin Idea. (Mal Contends) (Persson and Bottari, Center for Wisconsin Media and Democracy) [Note: Persson and Bottari broke this story in February 2015]

Walker now has in place a University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents composed of a large majority of politically vetted members dedicated to destroying the very institution they are appointed to safeguard. In May 2017, Walker will have appointed 16 of 18 serving members of the UW System Board of Regents. (Mal Contends)

Used to be the University of Wisconsin-Madison drew 1,000s of applicants from the world-over to study at one of the nation's premier educational institutions and a verdant, cultural oasis in the Midwest.

Scott Walker never liked this state of affairs and is out to destroy an institution that took generations to build.

From the New York Times:

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal for weakening tenure at Wisconsin’s highly respected state university system and undermining the faculty’s role in campus governance will appeal to conservative voters whose support he needs to win the Republican presidential nomination.

But if this proposal becomes law, it will damage the university, perhaps irreparably. It will make it harder to recruit top-tier faculty members, who have the pick of other institutions that respect academic independence and where they do not have to fear dismissal for taking controversial views or for doing research that might be frowned upon by politicians.

It has become fashionable to portray academia as a haven for people who enjoy job security while others are subject to layoffs and downsizing. But most college instructors are not protected by tenure. According to federal data, only 20.35 percent of instructional faculty at American colleges are full-time, tenure-track workers (down from 45 percent in 1975). Colleges rely heavily on miserably paid part-timers who flee the campus when class is finished so they can get to the next job.

Tenure protections were devised in the mid-20th century to protect academics from political reprisals. Current Wisconsin state law respects this tradition, allowing tenured faculty to be fired for just cause or in financial emergencies.

A committee of state lawmakers last week approved a new proposal that would remove tenure from state law, leaving the matter to the university system’s 18-member Board of Regents, 16 of whom are appointed by the governor with the confirmation of the State Senate. Under the proposal, the board would be able set new, vaguer standards for firing tenured faculty: “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection.” Another provision would weaken the faculty’s voice in policy and personnel decisions.

Faculty members have ample reason to suspect Mr. Walker’s motives. Earlier this year, he issued a budget containing devastating spending cuts that also sought to amend the university’s mission statement to make it sound more like a trade school than a prominent research institution. He backed away from the new language after the state erupted in protest.

The Legislature, which will take up the new proposals later this month, can still reject them. Rubber-stamping them would set the state university on a course that Wisconsinites could regret for decades to come. #

UW System Board of Regents

John Robert Behling - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2012 (Regent Vice President)
Mark J. Bradley - Term expires May 2017
José Delgado - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2014
Tony Evers - Elected as Superintendent of Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

Margaret Farrow - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2013
Michael Grebe, Jr. - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2015
Eve Hall - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2014
Nicolas Harsy - Term expires May 2016

Tim Higgins - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2011
Edmund Manydeeds - Term expires May 2017
Regina Millner - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2012 (Regent President)
Janice Mueller - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2013

Drew Petersen - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2013
Charles Pruitt - Term expires May 2016
Anicka Purath - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2015
José F. Vásquez - Term expires May 2016

Gerald Whitburn - Appointed by Scott Walker in 2011

Andrew Peterson - Reappointed by Scott Walker in 2015.
Peterson is president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board similarly dominated by Walker appointees.

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