The UW Board of Regents approved new measures yesterday which greatly diminished faculty tenure protections, and allowed for Regents to decide to terminate staff and/or programs that they deemed lesser priorities. Don Moynihan is a UW Professor and Chair of the La Follette School of Public Affairs, and he was tweet-reporting the UW Board of Regents meeting where the “new tenure” policies were set up. Among the justifications for this new system was this blabbering from two (Scott Walker-appointed) Regents
Regent now comparing faculty to widgets, emphasizing the need for Chancellor flexibility. "Welcome to the 21st century." #UWTenure— don moynihan (@donmoyn) March 10, 2016
Another Regent: "I start with a private sector perspective here. In private industry there are no guarantees, markets are cruel" #UWtenure— don moynihan (@donmoyn) March 10, 2016
The insinuation that professors and researchers are “widgets” is a vile view of workers, and the comment of “markets are cruel” somehow ignores that well-qualified faculty members can also take advantage of supply and demand for what they provide. More concerning is that these statements indicate a fundamental lack of understanding out in right-wing world of what it takes to compete at the higher levels of the workforce. Human capital is a scarce resource that must be treated with the utmost respect, and cultivated to improve the chances of succeeding. Maybe this is a concept that eludes the typically mediocre Republican, but people with TALENT can often choose to take that talent somewhere else where they feel they can be paid and treated better.
But doesn’t that sum up the entire failed philosophy of Wisconsin economic policy in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, as indicated by our “last in the Midwest” standing for jobs over the last 4 years? Instead of investing in resources that improves the talent base and encouraging 21st Century social policies that increase the quality of life to attract more talent to come here, the Fitzwalkerstanis have run the other way.
1. They have diminished the value of a faculty position at the UW by taking away the protection of tenure. They also diminished the ability of the UW to pay their instructors and researchers market value by cutting state aid- the one funding area that is most likely to determine how much a UW faculty/staff member can be paid.
2. They have demonized public employees and diminished their take-home pay through the “divide and conquer” tactics associated with Act 10 and other policies. This is true not just for UW faculty, but the tens of thousands of other people who have worked for the UW System over the last 5 years.
3. They have defunded Wisconsin’s K-12 public education and diminished the societal value and take-home pay of teachers at that level. The result has been cuts to school staffing, teaching shortages resulting from a lack of candidates wanting to work in such a backwards state, and increases in property taxes as a result of school referenda that was passed just to keep schools operating as they were and to prevent the buildings from falling down.
This devaluing of education ties in with this week’s unearthing of “Justice” Rebecca Bradley’s bigoted screeching in the Marquette Tribune during her college days in the 1990s. Because one can see where today’s versions of Rebecca Bradley could come whining to AM radio and Media TraKKKers and other right-wing lie machines complaining about “liberal indoctrination” because some professor said something challenged her beliefs and hurt her precious feelings. Now with tenure diminished, it is more likely that the Bradley-like partisan whining won’t be laughed out of the room, but instead could lead to otherwise-qualified, thoughtful professors to be chilled and shut down.
This is especially a concern given the policies against the UW System in recent years, where an intimidated campus administration (who needs funding in the worst way after the recent cuts) won’t want to be part of a controversy that causes the Steve nASSes of the world to rail against them and cut them some more in the next budget. But then again, this is all part of the long-range plan of the right wing- to make public colleges dependent on non-tax funding, and in addition to the likely tuition increases and lack of quality that would result, Madison native John Nichols tweeted out another reason why this is such a dangerous prospect.
Bob La Follette would tell you that #faketenure dumbs down the UW & barters off faculty positions to the feudal serfs of corporate capital.— John Nichols (@NicholsUprising) March 10, 2016
It seems notable that Mike Judge’s 2006 movie Idiocracy has become a touchstone in this election year. This has been shown in the rise of reality TV star Donald Trump (as foretold by Terry Crews’ portrayal of President Camacho in 2505) and the general vapidness of election coverage and low demands from voters that is causing serious damage to this country. But what’s also noteworthy about that great film is how every aspect of life seems to be sponsored by some corporation (note the sponsorships at President Camacho's State of the Union speech), and how it contributes to the dumbing down of society. This is especially true in the case of the sports drink Brawndo, who is allowed to take over federal agencies when the country goes broke.
Which results in scientific knowledge being perverted into corporate-approved propaganda, with predictably bad results. So when someone comes from 500 years in the past, and tells them that using a sports drink instead of water for crops is helping cause a drought, he is met with some skepticism from the president’s cabinet.
Boy, if those cabinet members don’t sound like the mentally blocked types that fell for WisGOP propaganda the last 5 years… (“but I saved $5 on my property taxes," “businesses need tax breaks so they’ll give us better jobs,” etc.)
And we're seeing a version of the Brawndo takeover happening in college campuses, as illustrated near the end of Jane Mayer’s excellent book Dark Money. Mayer describes how the Koch Brothers and other right-wing interests have been increasingly stepping into the void, and setting up their own propaganda shops in cash-starved colleges and universities to replace the free exchange of ideas and facts. It's not hard to see where that could happen at the UW System as money gets tighter, and they become more desperate to take donations, which could be targeted towards certain right-wing initiatives (or to turn research away from inconvenient truths such as climate change or labor rights).
This would also go along with the SOP of the right-wingers in charge today in Wisconsin. These people do not care about developing and attracting talent to improve our state’s economic competitiveness, but instead only care about scams that grab as much profit and power for themselves and their corporate allies. A strong UW that produces independent research and critical thinkers is a threat to those power and money-grubbing interests, and therefore they are willfully weakening by using a zero-sum, profit-driven mentality that doesn’t translate to public goods such as education, research, and quality of life.
So unless you want to see Wisconsin continue on its path to a degraded Idiocracy, the only way to get out of this mess and restore our UW System to greatness is to get rid of the idiots and vandals who caused it. That includes Scott Walker, the Wisconsin GOP, the hacks they have appointed to screw up the UW, and mental regressives like Rebecca Bradley. These people won’t fix the problems they have caused, and you’re a SUCKER if you think they’re even bothered by the damage they've done to the economic advantages this state used to have.