Tuesday, September 19, 2017

WisGOP and RW Regents keep harming Bucky, driving away talent

Wanted to touch on a few recent UW issues, starting with a UW grad and current professor at Clemson using his experience in the Confederacy to sound an alarm this week about what is going on at his alma mater. Thomas Straka wrote a column for Wispolitics that pointed out the new state budget provision making it much easier for non-academics to become chancellors of UW schools goes right in line with the ALEC agenda of corporatizing higher education.
Polices like this are often said to produce unintended consequences. I suspect there may be intended consequences in this case, with the potential to inflict real damage. An Administration Hiring Workgroup, without a UW-Madison member, is now working on recommendations. It shouldn’t be hard work, as the conclusion was pretty much given to the workgroup at the beginning.

[Board of Regents] President Behling called this “the latest trend” in higher education. The trend is really conservative boards destroying liberal universities so they can be remade into vocational schools, best achieved with hand-picked nonacademic leaders. This should be easy to see in Wisconsin as Governor Walker has been demonstrating how to slowly dismantle the liberal university framework.

Cautionary tales of business leaders mangling the leadership of universities are many, like the former tech executive at the University of Missouri who let racial strife devastate the campus last year. Or, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, who recently orchestrated the acquisition of for-profit Kaplan University to become the online distance education branch of Purdue University. Following the private sector model, it was done in secret and without faculty input. There is no telling how much the Kaplan legacy will do to diminish the Purdue “brand.” But it is bold private sector thinking.

Notice in the example of Purdue University that the president was a former governor. That portends what could happen in Wisconsin. University president or chancellor positions are plum jobs for politicians, with lots of prestige, power, and visibility. It’s what politicians live for. Let me give you a nightmare: former Governor Scott Walker as chancellor of a UW campus! Far-fetched? Read on.
Well said, and stacking the UW Board of Regents with right-wing lackeys is another indication of this GOP endgame of removing critical thinking and independence from the UW, and replacing it with leaders and curricula that bow at the knee of Lord Business.

UW’s chancellor seems to understand the danger involved in this, and is widely quoted in an article in the recent Washington Monthly called “The Looming Decline of the Public Research University”, which discusses the 2010s trend of states defunding their flagship institutions, especially in GOP-run states in the Midwest.

Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has been outspoken about the problems facing her institution and others like it. She told the state board of regents in 2015 that budget cuts had hastened Wisconsin’s much-lamented fall out of the top five of the NSF rankings; more reductions, she warned, would further jeopardize the school’s standing as a top research university. (Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget would restore $105 million over the next two years to the University of Wisconsin system, and an additional $35 million to offset money lost from cutting tuition. But that’s still a full $110 million less than what the system lost in the 2015–17 budget.)

Prodded by Walker, Wisconsin’s legislature changed tenure protections to allow for the firing of tenured faculty for reasons other than an imminent threat to the survival of the institution—the threshold in many other systems. The result has been something many other public universities are reluctant to discuss, but that Blank addresses frankly: the raiding of her faculty by better-endowed institutions.

More than 140 Wisconsin faculty members were approached with job offers by other universities, including Harvard and Temple, last year, a third more than the year before. Most of them stayed, thanks in large part to salary increases of as much as 49 percent, plus inducements like new research equipment and teaching and research assistants. All of that cost the already cash-strapped university nearly $24 million. Still, twenty-nine faculty members left, and with each one of them what the university calculates is an average of $271,795 worth of research funding, or nearly $8 million total. That included the award-winning chemist Laura Kiessling and the biochemist Ronald Raines, who both went to MIT.

“We lost some of our very best people,” Blank said. “It is our very best faculty that get outside offers. If you’re looking at research dollars, those are the people who are bringing in millions in research funding. And the people you replace them with bring in much less. So those retention issues have a real impact.”

There’s equal concern about attracting top new faculty. “Reputations matter here,” Blank said. “If you’ve been a university people have wanted to be coming to for twenty-five years, and suddenly they don’t, that will be very deadly.” Private and better-funded public universities can continue to offer talented new professors not only more money, but also more stability—and they can continue to treat midwestern universities like candy stores, shopping there for star faculty who may be ready to jump ship.
And the budget that’s sitting on Governor Walker’s desk only allows for a little less than $30 million in additional tax dollars to the UW vs the 2017 base, well below the $105 million mentioned in the article. In addition, 10% of that increase is going to the Thompson Center for Alternative Facts (another example of creeping right-wing BS going on campus). And the remaining tax dollar increase is for performance funding, and the measures are set not by the academics, but by the right-wing, “corporate-first” legislators and Regents.
Instead, establish the following goals for the UW System: (a) grow and ensure student access; (b) improve and excel at student progress and completion; (c) expand contributions to the workforce; and (d) enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness. Require the Board of Regents to identify at least four metrics to measure progress towards meeting each of the four goals established by the Legislature. Specify that the Board of Regents could identify different metrics for the UW-Extension where appropriate. Specify that each institution would select one metric identified for each goal on which the institution would improve and one metric identified for each goal on which the institution would maintain excellence.

Require the Board of Regents to submit an outcomes-based funding formula to the Joint Committee on Finance by February 15, 2018, for approval, or modification and approval, through a 14-day passive review process. Require the Joint Finance Committee to consult with the appropriate standing committee in each house (chaired by anti-UW nutjobs, by the way) prior to approving, or modifying and approving, the outcomes-based funding formula. Specify that no more than 30% of the funding distributed through the outcomes-based funding formula could be distributed to institutions for maintaining excellence on the selected metrics. Specify that the $26,250,000 of funding provided in 2018-19 be distributed using the outcomes-based funding formula developed by the Board of Regents and approved by the Joint Committee on Finance.
In addition, even though tuition revenues are slated to go up by nearly $168 million (mostly due to higher out-of-state and graduate tuition, as well as enrollment increases) the total amount of spending allocated to the UW actually goes DOWN another $11 million, due to the loss of $298 million in projected Federal assistance over the next 2 years, which goes directly to what is referenced above.

This reality made Governor Walker’s choice of wardrobe for the Fox-con signing yesterday all the more disgusting.

Governor Dropout is wearing A FUCKING BADGER SHIRT! This is sickening when you realize that UW will be one of the first places that Walker and WisGOP would hit with additional budget cuts if/when the Fox-con ends up costing more than it brings in for jobs. After all the damage this guy has done to the UW (and the future damage he will inflict if the voters of this state are stupid enough to keep this amoral fool in charge), he uses the UW’s good name in a photo op? Fuck you, Scotty.

And while Chancellor Blank talks a good game in the Washington Monthly column, she was seen on the day of the Fox-con announcement near Walker, and mouthed platitudes about how UW could work with Foxconn on research opportunities and a generator of their talent.

This is backwards. Becky Blank should be promoting UW-Madison as a great reason to come to Wisconsin IN SPITE OF the regressive dipshits who are trying to turn it into UW-Tech. Bucky is bigger and more improtant than Gov Dropout or any other anti-education Koch/Bradley puppet that may be at the Capitol, and Blank should be actively demanding that these regressives give the UW the respect and resources it deserves as the best economic engine of the state in the one city that’s actually thriving while the rest of the state is flailing.

As a Badger alum, it sickens me to see this great institution take a back seat to anyone or anything, but I’m especially enraged that they are under the thumb of these mediocre, backwards GOP slugs who love to take all of the talent that the UW produces, but refuses to invest in one of the few great things this state has/had going. This has to be ended, both in having the great UW-Madison be subject to these small-time, jealous lowlifes, and in the state being run into the ground by these bought-off regressives.


  1. Awww, little Jake had his precious feewings hurt by Governor Walker resplendent in his Badger red!!

    Is the lil' proud Badger Wadger alumni not thrilled over his 2% raise?? You're welcome, by the way. Hardworking taxpayers like me are the reason you eat dinner at night.

    1. I pay more taxes than you, Bradley Boy, and me and my fellow hippie libs in Madison add a helluva lot more to the state's economy more than the dead-end trash in you (red)neck of the woods.

      The words you are looking for are "THANK YOU." And a 2% raise after 3 years of nothing, and Act 10 before that? Hoop-de-fucking-do. I got bigger raises job-hopping, and I was far from the only one.

      Enjoy that dirty nickel.

  2. Just what is "talent," in our politics now? You need to graduate some program in order to work a life-sustaining job?

    Is this the economic plan to exclude people to make a living and participate in life?

    I've lived in big cities and small towns, but yet the problem remains the same.

    1. Yeah, pretty much. The,UK to,ate goal is to make all of us live under the thumb of a handful if corporations and their GOP-puppet politicians who decide how much we'll make and who we get paid by.

      "I owe my soul to the company stooooore!"