Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hey WisGOPs- wanna stop worrying about "The Problem of Whiteness"? Then FREE BUCKY

You may have heard about a recent kerfuffle involving my alma mater and a certain course that’s being offered next semester. I imagine it’s playing big on hate radio (including some Badger sports affiliates) and the right-wing Bubble World, complete with complaints about “that lib’rul indoctrination mill at Madison.”

But the difference is that in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, today’s Wisconsin GOP feels emboldened to use state tax dollars as a way to censor what is being taught at UW schools.
A Republican lawmaker called for UW-Madison to cancel a planned course on racism and fire its professor for posting tweets the legislator said condoned violence against police officers, warning Tuesday that the class could affect the university’s funding in the next state budget.

State Rep. Dave Murphy, R-Greenville, said he believes the course in the university’s African Cultural Studies department called “The Problem of Whiteness” is inappropriate and a waste of money. Murphy joined Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, in saying that how the university handles the controversy over the spring 2017 course could have ramifications for its request for new state funding in the 2017-19 budget….

Murphy said [Damon] Sajnani should be fired for the “vile” tweets.

“If UW-Madison stands with this professor, I don’t know how the university can expect the taxpayers to stand with UW-Madison,” Murphy said.

Sajnani, an assistant professor in his first year at UW-Madison, declined an interview request Tuesday, citing “the preponderance of white supremacist backlash against myself and the UW community.”
Umm, excuse me Rep. Murphy. I’m a taxpayer who pays more taxes because my UW-Madison education helped me to get a higher salary, and you bet your ass I stand behind the school (and I’m so sick of that framing, where righties think that white guys in private sector jobs are the only ones who pay taxes and/or own homes). And to their credit, both UW-Madison Administration and the UW-Madison chapter of the American Association of University Professors said they had Sajnani's back, and warned against legislators trying to bully UW professors on the content of their classes.

But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, Rep. Murphy. Maybe the concept of highly educated people working hard, paying taxes and having the existing paradigm questioned confuses SOMEONE WHO LACKS A 4-YEAR COLLEGE DEGREE LIKE YOURSELF. Your background is being a “big fish, small ponder”, yucking it up with other old white guys at the Greenville Lions Club, so deep thoughts on race in our society probably doesn't seep in much back in G'ville, other than to complain about "those people in the cities."

I have a second thought on the “Problem of Whiteness” course faux-tro-versy. Given how a whole lot of white guys have reacted to the economic and social changes of the 21st Century, and have lashed out by supporting race-baiting regressives like Donald Trump and Scott Walker who say they’ll “make America/Wisconsin great again,” isn’t it worthy to have a course that looks into why so many of these white guys feel entitled to a better position in life? I know GOPs aren’t too keen on learning from history, but believe me, it has a value, and maybe it can help all of us understand why the last 20-30 years have been so emotionally damaging for these white guys. Maybe GOPs don't want people to find that out, so they can keep driving up resentment with the "divide and conquer" game while they keep on robbing those same working-class people with their economic policies.

It's noteworthy that while Murphy and nASS are whining about what’s going on in Madison, Wisconsin Public Radio was reporting that another UW school has needed bailouts from the rest of the UW System in recent years just to stay open, and now won’t be able to get that help going forward.
The University of Wisconsin System provided roughly $3 million over the course of three fiscal years to the University of Wisconsin-Superior to offset budget cuts, tuition freezes and fewer students, but that assistance ended this year.

UW-Superior had to save $2 million by June this year as a condition of UW System’s conditional support. The university was facing a $4.5 million shortfall. Earlier this year, UW-Superior Chancellor Renee Wachter said the university cut the deficit by more than half to roughly $2 million. But, she said they’re hopeful they won’t have to make further cuts.

"UW System and President (Ray) Cross and his team have been very supportive of the campus and have indicated that they’ll continue to be supportive," Wachter said. "A lot, of course, always depends on ... what happens with the biennial budget. Right now, nobody really knows. We’d like to be optimistic and hope for the best, but we won’t know obviously for several months."
And it’s the smaller UW System schools like Superior that have the biggest need for state taxpayer support, because of their lower donor base and because of the lack of research grants and other outside sources of funding. The article notes that Superior finally had an enrollment increase for this year after 6 straight years of declines, but given the shrinking population of the area and the fact that students could attend a better-funded University of Minnesota-Duluth nearby, counting on rising enrollment at UWS shouldn’t be expected as a solution for their funding woes.

What dimwits like Sen. nASS and Rep. Murphy need to understand is that if they cut funding to the UW System to get even with “those Madison liberals”, UW-Madison won’t be the institution that feels the most pain. It will be lower-enrollment campuses like Superior, Green Bay, River Falls and Parkside, which handle a large amount of commuter students and in many cases are the only public 4-year campus in a 40-mile radius (or more, in the case of Superior).

Which goes back to my solution for the UW System that should be the best of both worlds- FREE BUCKY BY SPINNING OFF MADISON FROM THE REST OF THE SYSTEM. Madison has the donors, the research, the large number of prospective applicants, and the self-supporting operations to “go it alone”. This cuts the cord entirely, allows the other UW Institutions to be better funded by shifting much of Madison’s state money to them, and then big-mouths like Rep. Murphy and Sen. nASS don’t need to worry about what UW-Madison is teaching, because taxpayers aren’t supporting it anyway.

I’d much prefer this solution than to see UW-Superior or River Falls or UWGB have to close because it becomes an inefficient operation due to continual cuts to funding and quality. Plus, that’s a lot of jobs to lose in certain parts of the state, and I don’t think that’s something anyone wants to see. So again, let’s use this faux-tro-versy about “The Problem of Whiteness” as the final straw, and FREE BUCKY in the 2017-19 budget.


  1. I'm going to respectfully buck(y) you on this one, Jake. I'm willing to bet any savings would be funneled well away from the remaining UW system.

    The Madison campus is the bell cow - peel that one away from the herd, and I don't see the smaller campuses having any defense against more cuts. Madison has the juice that keeps the rest of the UW in the fight for funds.

    The current power structure gives no reason to think they care about UW jobs. I think the majority would vote to take the entire UW system off the state budget if they thought they could get away with it.

    The UW as a whole is a jewel of this state. I don't think we should be looking at permanent solutions to political problems we could solve by winning a couple Senate seats.

    1. Madison's easy to beat up on- more UW grads end up leaving the state and rurals have "otherised" Madtown in their minds.

      It's a lot harder for that to be done to an outstate school whose grads or facilities might be a key part of those communities (although the GOP did gerrymamder the majority of campuses outside of GOP seats).

      Agree that a few Dem wins would get some balance back, but there's no way they'd be able to remove all the damage that's already been done. Might as well let Madison go and improve the chances of the rest of the System to survive intact

    2. Honestly, Jake, I'm talking out of my ass here having done no real research on the matter. Consider this a gut-level response and nothing more.

      There would be tremendous satisfaction in telling the state to piss off. I can't be the only one hearing Johnny Paycheck at this point. And Madison could probably pull it off. I think your forecast for the rest of the system is unduly rosy.

      It's not simply an anti-Madison sentiment out there in Trump land. It's anti-urban and anti-intellectual and anti-public in general. The relationship between the smaller UW campuses and the cities that house them is, in at least some cases, even more contentious than here in Madison. People see students driving up the cost of local rental housing - much of which has been bought up by outside companies. They see students vomiting out of windows, getting busted for drugs and rape, engaging in wackadoodle (social justice warrior in the alt-right parlance) causes and creating disturbances in *their* towns. They see professors, administrators and technical people making good salaries and bennies without getting their hands dirty (those who shower before work = others). They see their kids, the ones who do get a chance, being saddled with enormous debt and frequently still being unable to get a job to get them out of their parents' house. A lot of the kids who do graduate with sought after degrees end up going urban to get good jobs. The folks in La Crosse and Green Bay don't see a lot of the positives that Madison sees with big research dollars coming in, patents getting created and private business spinoffs coming out, so there's little to counter these overt negatives in their minds. Certainly counter-examples exist. I'm working in broad strokes.

      In that environment, cutting Madison loose feels like dividing our forces and conceding to those who want to destroy public education entirely.

      It certainly will be a long climb to reestablish a level of sanity here in Wisconsin after at least 8 years of all Republicans all the time, but mitigating future damage would be a start.