In an open letter to UW System President Ray Cross, Loftus describes a listening tour that he and then-Gov Tommy Thompson took to discuss the best way to sort out some of the issues that remained from the prior merger of UW-Madison with the Wisconsin State System. Loftus says those listening sessions (which actually involved listening to and dealing with the public, unlike the hand-picked charade of friendly audiences that our current Governor does) led to new ideas and better solutions.
The result was that we came back to the Assembly and put forward a series of proposals that represented a distillation of what we had learned. And, we learned a lot. The proposals we put forward were quite different than what we thought we would do before our listening marathon.If you read between the lines of Loftus letter, you can tell that he’s dismayed at the top-down and secretive manner in which Cross and the Walker-stacked Board of Regents are trying to pull off this merger. And that such a method of decision-making will doom the merger to not working out as well as it should.
To paraphrase Shakespeare, “there was more in heaven and earth than thought of in our philosophy.”
We sold the package to the Republicans and the Democrats; and the Governor; and Madison and the four year campuses; and, the faculty and students. What passed was a consensus that still governs much of how the System operates today…
I ask you to take back the role of speaking to the public, after you listen to your constituents.
As an early and public advocate of yours it pained me to see the actions that lead to a faculty vote of no-confidence in your leadership. Use the listening tour to show that they were heard and you came to town to listen.
But that's the suboptimal way Cross and the rest of the pro-Walker crew at the Board of Regents do things. Let me direct you to an excellent column from former UW professors William Holahan and Charles Kroncke that starts off with good news. UW-Milwaukee just recently joined UW-Madison as an “R-1” top-tier research institution, and that UWM produces a sizable amount of Wisconsin’s highly-educated work force, as 80% of its graduates stay in Wisconsin. Holahan and Kroncke also note that Milwaukee’s business community frequently relies on UWM innovation and research to improve their products and service delivery.
But despite UW-Milwaukee gaining prestige and value for the state, 7 years of budget cuts and anti-intellectual mentality from Governor Dropout and his lackeys in the Legislature and the Board of Regents is taking its toll. The professors note that talented academics are leaving UWM and going to places where their talents will be better appreciated.
Since 2010, the number of tenured and tenure-track professors in the physics department is down 24% (from 26 to 19). The story is the same in biological science—from 38 down to 26. The economics department has lost 26 % of its faculty; educational psychology 48%; history 27%. One measure of the quality lost is to look at where they have all gone: UCLA, Minnesota, Tufts, Texas A&M, North Carolina, Ohio State and Duke. Not a single program has been immune. All university stakeholders—students, parents, donors, business collaborators, alumni—should be alarmed.Holahan and Kroncke also point to the arrogant mentality in how Walker and his hand-picked Regents administer the state’s 4-year schools, and how these right-wing “business-oriented” people have no clue about the product that comes out of academia, or how that product is made.
In most instances, the regents are successful members of the Wisconsin business and legal communities. They are far more likely to be attuned to the nuances of business organizations than to those of academic institutions. Authority in most business organizations tends to be top-down, with those at the top taking risks with their own time and money, thereby earning the right to direct employees.
Accordingly, the regents have a hard time understanding why faculty cannot be managed by university administrators. They envision faculty as “employees” and “subordinates” to administrators—even though most of those “bosses” have no understanding of what those faculty do in their research or in the classroom. The reason is that, in universities, professors normally know far more about their work than administrators. Consequently, the true job of a university administrator is to facilitate the work of the faculty, not try to lead it.
Moreover, evaluation of faculty research work relies on “peer review”—the rigorous process conducted by scholars throughout the world qualified to judge the research output of university professors. The top-down authoritarian business model being implemented at the UW system will disrupt this natural relationship between faculty, administration and the international community of scholars.
Disruption can be great for society, especially when new products or processes are introduced into the marketplace to supplant less efficient ones, but this new alternative “business” model will not advance teaching or research at the university, rather it will retard growth and stifle creativity and innovation—the very life blood of our economy and economic wellbeing [-the] essence of the contribution that the university makes to society.
And then we wonder why this state continues to stagnate and have talent flee under the ALEC crew? These mediocre corporate front men and women either do not know or do not care that they are strangling the success of the UW System, and damaging the state’s economic competitiveness as a result.
Just a thought, but when it comes to higher education we should listen less to Wisconsin’s failing, regressive business community and more to the faculty and students that are still succeeding at the UW despite the ALEC crew’s attempts to mess it up. But that’ll only come with new leadership at the top, starting in the Governor’s office, and trickling down to the Board of Regents and the Legislature.