Monday, May 23, 2016

UW faculty's lack of confidence in WisGOPs being proven correct

No-confidence votes from faculty continue to rack up across the state against UW System President/ WisGOP henchman Ray Cross, ranging from the UW flagships at Madison and Milwaukee earlier this month, to the 2-year Colleges late last week. It's quite obvious that faculty members have decided that they can't count on Cross and other UW Administrators to represent their interests against anti-UW legislators, and that there is no point in negotiating with either of these groups any more, and need to go public with their grievances.

And as events and statements come out, it's pretty obvious the faculty are right to think that way. Take a look at this "can't we all just get along" silliness from UW-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank.
“That kind of positive and healthy relationship is incredibly important; it is important to the university and it is very important to the state,” Blank said. “The current relationship is not as healthy in my opinion.”

Blank spoke after a week in which Walker ridiculed “groaning” UW faculty for a stack of no-confidence votes in UW System President Ray Cross and the Board of Regents. His press release prompted a rebuttal from the American Association of University Professors and a rating of “pants on fire” from the fact-checking website Politifact...

“The no confidences votes have obviously raised the ire of some legislators,” Blank remarked. “The response by the governor in his recent press release, I think, was neither healthy nor productive.

"But with dueling press releases, dueling op-eds, we are engaged in precisely the wrong conversation,” Blank said. “This is dangerous, should this continue.”
It would be dangerous if the WisGOP Legislature was acting in anything resembling good faith. But they're not, as articles like this one from the weekend show that GOP legislators and Governor Walker believe that stoking the anger of rubes against best and brightest academics is a way to get votes for November 2016's elections, so they have no interest in being partners with the UW.
Mike Mikalsen, a spokesman for Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said voters don’t want to undo the changes Republicans have made.

“You can’t just feed the beast by throwing more state tax dollars in and more tuition money,” he said. “You have to force (the UW System) to adopt reasonable reforms to get them on the right track.”
That's nice, isn't it? The only "beast" associated with the UW System is the economic beast that generates billions of dollars in current research and jobs, and it keeps the talent pipeline humming to keep the state competitive for the future. Funny how "pro-business" GOPs don't seem to get this.

There's another beauty in that article where former GOP chair and current Grocers lobbyist Brandon Scholz is quoted as saying "“It will be difficult to sell tenure when you apply it to what people do for jobs in their district." This is the same Brandon Scholz who wanted to end Wisconsin's child labor laws five years ago and is now calling the Obama Administration's requirement of overtime pay for low-income jobs "divisive, callous, uninformed." Apparently teenagers and low-wage workers don't exist in GOP districts, Brandon?

More proof that GOPs are not to be trusted on UW System funding came from today's article from Steve Walters in Urban Milwaukee. Walters quotes Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos threatening to further reduce funding and faculty protections as a result of the faculty not sitting back and accepting their prior cuts and reductions in worker rights.

But, in a WisconsinEye interview at the Republican Party state convention, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos called the faculty votes “not helpful” and a “big mistake on their part.”

Vos said he hopes he can keep state aid for the UW System in the next two-year state budget where it is now – $2.08 billion.

Vos’s statement sends this blunt message to UW faculty members with little or no faith in their bosses: You want state aid to the System increased? Not going to happen.

And, UW faculty should be thankful that legislators allowed the Regents to set new tenure guidelines because, Vos said, “I might have eliminated tenure altogether.” Vos said he only agreed to let the Regents enact new tenure guidelines at the request of Cross.
We'll leave out the silliness of Vos implying that there will be funds available in the next budget to give UW a funding increase anyway (there won't be as long as Walker is in office), but it shows that you can't negotiate with people like that. And ALEC authoritarians like Wee Wobbin' illustrate exactly why tenure needs to exist and be strengthened, because you bet that guy will put the kiobosh on any research that might show results such as a warming planet, the failure of trickle-down economics to raise revenues, or in the fact that voucher schools generally do not do any better with the same students than public schools (and many do worse).

This is why UW have acted properly in turning up the heat and public attention with these no-confidence votes of UW System leadership and the Walker-stacked Board of Regents. Being kind and acquiescing to the GOP leadership is exactly what those anti-intellectual thugs want, and it won't result in better funding or freedoms. So why not fight and work to get those thugs out of power, both by raising public awareness of the issue, and in actively supporting the election of pro-UW legislators in November to flip the State Senate and stop some of those cuts from happening? This includes Diane Odeen taking out GOP State Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (who "represents" River Falls and Stout) and Mark Harris winning the open seat in the Oshkosh-Fond du Lac area.

I know it's uncouth in some corners for academics to take political sides in statewide battles, but decency has been out the window in Fitzwalkerstan for more than 5 years, and it is well past time for UW administration, professors, staff to take on the combative stance that this dire situation requires.


  1. Read the rest of the article about Chancellor Blank's remarks. She clearly agrees that there's a huge problem with what the current state political leaders are doing to the University. Her answer is to go to the people with the story of the System's huge economic impact and success stories. I think there's plenty of room for both tactics. This isn't Ray Cross snickering in private with his buddies about railway brakemen and then putting on his mask of faux innocent outrage when he gets caught at it; this is Rebecca Blank, economist, giving her not-surprising opinion that economics are the big-gun argument, not rhetoric, metaphors, poli-sci scheming or tit-for-tat gotchya! stats. Rhetoriticians, English professors, political scientists and statisticians might disagree with her assessment, and I say more power to them! We're going to need everyone working every angle the best they can to win this fight that we didn't start and for too long too many of us didn't even realize we were in.

    My two cents on the matter.

    1. I think you can give the economic argument to the voters, and show the value the UW gives to their community (and keep reminding them of it). But you also should tell the voters that their GOP reps won't "see the light" on this, and that only by changing legislators will the UW remain a valued and adequately funded institution.

      But there's no point in giving that argument to the WisGOP Legislators, nor should they worry much about how they might react to public statements. They're gonna try to screw up the UW System no matter what you do, so you may as well fight back and tell the truth.

    2. Jake, I truly appreciate your consistent and intelligent defense of the UW. And I confess that I read your blog mot only for the information and analysis but also for the feeling that I'm not alone, that others share my values and concerns. That said, I fear the no confidence votes, as justified as they are, simply preach to the choir. Ideally, such votes signal to Regents that changes in administration need to be made. We all know that won't happen because there's nothing neutral about Walker's BOR. Also, these votes tell professors on other states that a great deal is amiss on in the UW, warning them not apply for jobs in UW schools, or to encourage their best graduate students to do so. Long term that may matter, but only if reasonable people are ever again in charge of the System. So, how can no confidence votes reach out to Wisconsin's citizens, especially ones that don't read blogs like yours? The UW Colleges resolution lists many things the institution does well and is proud of, but that doesn't get reported much. Instead, we read quotes from Professor Hassel about tenure and dissatisfaction. Yes, faculty care about the former and many of them feel the latter. Yet the average citizen hears 'whiny' 'job for life' etc. Faculty may have "no confidence" and they should speak up, if just to tell the bully we're not taking it quietly when you keep knocking is down and taking our lunch money. But of the faculty and staff of the UW don't want to be beaten on any more, we'll need an intervention. For that to happen the message and the audience for it has to change.

    3. Great stuff as usual! I think Blank is an interesting case, because there are times she has been the strongest voice of defense, but that might be because she's the only voice at times. And her economic background matters, but that's often balanced by how tone deaf she can be, complicated by the fact that she only advocates for her resource-rich campus.

    4. Anon, 7:56am- I think the no-confidence actions themselves are helping to get people's attention to the issue. If the faculty stood silent, the media, Ray Cross's Administration and the WisGOPs would be ignoring the issue entirely.

      And as the Walker Admin tries to explain their way out of their defunding of the UW, they sound dumber and more hypocritical by the day. They may think "divide and conquer" still works, but I think 5 years of failed jobs promises and chronic budget deficits have made a lot more people willing to listen to the complaints. Especially when it can be shown that if anything, faculty are UNDERPAID compared to their peers1, if you believe in the free market.

      You gotta shoot back at this point.

  2. By the way, just one more comment on it being "uncouth in some corners for academics to take political sides in statewide battles." I figure the thing that has made the University such an easy target for slimeballs like... hmmmm... too numerous to mention... is that the top of the hierarchy here, the tenured professors, pretty much got where they got by staying very focused on their subjects, by living and breathing the miniutae of theory and research and pedagogy leading up to a hellacious seven year job interview and an endless quest to stay on the sharp tip of the cutting edge of whatever discipline. These aren't folks that have much time for the sort of nonsense the slimeballs put out. That they have now formally noticed that there's a threat says a lot. Fingers crossed they decide that the University and System are worth fighting for -- for many it would be much easier to leave and just let the slimeballs win.

    1. This is probably true. Unlike lobbyists and the idle rich, academics usually have better things to do than to spend time and energy going all out in politics, because their job and research takes precedence.

      But because their jobs and ability to research are now at risk, UW faculty really have no choice but to speak out against the deforming of the universities, and confront the lies that are being said about them. Very good point

  3. Wisconsin is now nationally known as the most backward state in the nation . The systematic dismantling of the UW System is the final nail in the coffin. No one who wants a future will ever move here.