Jun 8, 2015

Audit Bureau Attack Is Sucker Punch to Academic Freedom of UW System

Political Payback in Proposed Audit Bureau Dissolution Is Cover for Assualt on Academic Freedom

Updated - The proposed abolishment of the Legislative Audit Bureau following the Bureau's revelations of incompetence and corruption in Scott Walker's Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Walker's flagship 'jobs' agency, has another policy objective. (Elbow, The Capital Times)

Abolishing the independent, 50-year-old agency would also nullify a major statutory protection of academic freedom of the University System, and under current GOP policy aims give massive power to the Walker-appointed UW System Regents. (Schneider, The Capital Times)

Reads the relevant section of the 1965 statute creating the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) (13/IV/94/1):

In performing postaudits under this subsection, the legislative audit bureau shall not examine issues related to academic freedom within the University of Wisconsin System. A postaudit shall not examine into or comment upon the content of the various academic programs, including degree requirements, majors, curriculum or courses within the University of Wisconsin System, nor shall any such postaudit examine into the manner in which individual faculty members or groups of faculty members conduct their instructional, research or public service activities. This subsection does not preclude the bureau from reviewing the procedures by which decisions are made and priorities set in the University of Wisconsin System, or the manner in which such decisions and priorities are implemented within the University of Wisconsin System, insofar as such review is not inconsistent with s. 36.09. [UW Board of Regents] (emphasis added)

This embedded statutory protection for the University System and academic freedom in the LAB statute would be eliminated, replaced by the analyses of proposed (and ideologically vetted) inspectors generals who would be free to proactively examine academic programs, courses within the University of Wisconsin System, instructional methods, research and public service activities and then make audits that could be used by the Walker-vetted Board of Regents for the purpose of breaking up UW-Madison, for instance, and replacing or eradicating academic programs ideologically unpopular with the GOP and political donors under the rubric of proactive fiscal action.

Notes Karen Herzog:
Currently, tenured faculty can be dismissed only for just cause or if a campuswide financial emergency is declared. Both are difficult to prove.

The GOP's proposed language deletes 'when a financial emergency exists' as a justification for laying off or terminating tenured faculty and replaces it with different conditions: 'due to a budget or program decision regarding program discontinuance, curtailment, modification (or) redirection.' (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
In the absence of academic freedom protections in the LAB statute, easy to contemplate a Walker or Dept of Administration, or GOP-dominated Legislative Committee-appointed inspector general conducting an ideologically charged audit giving a policy rationale for the Walker-appointed UW Regents to act against academic programs, professors without tenure protection, courses within the University of Wisconsin System, instructional methods, research and public service activities.

Seen in this light, Walker's move earlier this year to remove the Wisconsin Idea from state statutes, along with other attacks on the UW System, reveals a broader effort to diminish Walker's most potent political foe, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, UW-Extension Centers , Dane County and other Wisconsin college towns.

One wonders if UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank really regards the attack on faculty tenure as not a "disaster" in light of this further effort to destroy another statutory protection of academic freedom. (Sommerhauser, Wisconsin State Journal).

This is not a move to merely frighten or upset the Wisconsin people, as Black has said, (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel) it's another move in the GOP project to destroy the UW System.

Is it not clear that Walker and the GOP's objective is to eliminate the University System as Wisconsin knows it?

"The university’s Faculty Senate plans a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the legislative [tenure] proposal," notes Sommerhauser.

1 comment:

  1. Walker knows that the UW System has people who can prove him wrong on many issues, scientists and economists that can show him up. So he wants to get rid of them. Besides, I can't help wondering if he still has issues with anyone with a degree since he never got his. Then again he may be just serving his corporate masters like Koch who want to get rid of or privatize the universities.