Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Tenor of the U of Wisconsin Debate on Tenure

Joe McCarthy and Robert La Follette: Mixed Wisconsin Political Legacy
Inside Higher Ed continues its extensive coverage of the tenure issue at the U of Wisconsin about which we have previously blogged.* It appears that what the legislature will do is by now a foregone conclusion. So the debate currently seems to be on whether the powers-that-be at the university did enough to try and stop the legislature. (Excerpt)

Like many university leaders, Chancellor Rebecca Blank of the University of Wisconsin at Madison has had her ups and downs with the faculty. She butted heads with some professors in her support for a now-dead plan to make the university system into a more autonomous public authority, for example, but earned faculty praise when she defended professors against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s suggestion that faculty members might be shirking their teaching responsibilities. But perhaps no time in Blank's two-year tenure has been rockier than right now, with the faculty in uproar over a legislative plan to eliminate tenure from state statute, greatly broaden the circumstances under which tenured faculty members may be fired, and limit the legal definition of shared governance. While Blank has no ties to the proposed legislative language, faculty members have called her out on social media and elsewhere for what they see as her failure to sufficiently defend them from the Legislature. In response to the proposed changes, some faculty members have said they’re pursuing faculty positions in other states, where the future of tenure and shared governance as they know it is more certain.The criticism of Blank has come despite a series of statements she has made affirming the importance of faculty rights...

Full story at
Prof. John R. Commons: U of Wisconsin's largely forgotten (abandoned?) academic legacy. 

If the program founded by Commons and carried out by his successors had remained in place at the university, it's more likely that someone would have tracked the direction state politics were taking before they reached this point. Just a thought.

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