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Jun 8, 201502:39 PMBlaska's Bring It!

with David Blaska

Got tenure? Academic necrosis is in crisis!

(page 1 of 2)

Your Squire is put in mind of a New Yorker cartoon from decades ago, when one cap and mortared professor says to another, “Poor Higgins. He published and published, yet still he perished.”

About the same time, but in real life, a long-tenured chemistry professor went increasingly batty — his once cutting-edge field rendered obsolete by scientific advances. The poor fellow made ever-more outlandish claims of unsafe campus laboratories to the local news media, which the then-afternoon daily lapped up like a kitten’s saucer of milk. Finally, the rest of the faculty wrote a letter to the editor vowing that either the old professor goes or we do.

Fast forward to the present. The Wisconsin State Journal trumpets the case of a chemistry prof leaving for the U of Minnesota, who — best I can figure — came to UW-Madison nine years ago. Well into the story it lets slip this telling nugget: “Graduate school tuition has roughly tripled during his tenure, cutting into his research grants because he pays the freight for his roughly 10 student employees.”

That is the untold story of Scott Walker’s latest reform: skyrocketing college tuition costs. Instead, the major narrative swirls around six-figure salaried professors set for life denouncing the supposed assault on their unique sinecure.

”It … remains to be seen if the departures will sharply increase in coming years, as some insiders have forecast, after the brutal run-in with the Legislature this year,” the State Journal news story editorialized. Brutal?

And “remains to be seen” as in, no evidence yet. Of course, it is early. But, like so much of the Sturm und Drang mustered at other reforms (like Act 10), one wonders if the sky really is falling or it’s just a temporary squall.

It goes almost unmentioned in the news media narrative that the Walker Republicans will have frozen tuition for a record four years running.

Contrast that with the ever-more fantastic schemes from the other party on re-jiggering student debt. The Walker regime is focused on the cause — escalating costs. The Institute for College Access and Success tells that 2013 graduates left college with an average of $28,400 in debt. Note that sainted Minnesota is among the five most indebted states at $30,894. Wisconsin at $28,128 is the least indebted among the seven upper Midwest states, although that debt is in the same stratosphere. (Source here.)

So, the state legislature is poised to remove tenure from the statute books. Wisconsin is one of the few states that includes tenure in state statute rather than in university policy. But it does position the university to be more nimble. Yes, change is coming to the hallowed halls of academia. Gawd, how the liberals hate change!

Sunday’s New York Times acknowledges, “In an era of rapid change, long lifespans, economic strains, and a dwindling college-age population, there is a high cost to awarding professors lifetime jobs guarantees.”

… Someone who gets tenure at [age] 30, for example, may still be teaching 50 years later, which could hinder universities in reinvigorating their professorial ranks with young people better versed in current scholarship or … keep[ing] up with evolving knowledge and market demands.

Regents would be permitted to set a standard by which they could fire a tenured faculty member when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection, not only in the case of just cause or a financial emergency, as permitted previously.

Would the university be able to pursue academic stars if it could cast off the dead wood in necrotic academic fields? Gender studies, anyone?


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Comments, page 1 of 5 1 2 3 4 Next »
Jun 8, 2015 03:26 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Still pitting public employees vs. Joe Lunch Bucket (Hey, Joe! You got tenure? I got ten you're going to strike out in softball tonight!). Blaska following the script to a T here. Divide, conquer. Rinse & repeat until you're elected president, leaving the burning remains of a once great state behind.

Jun 8, 2015 06:32 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

Burning remains? Hyperbole some?

Jun 8, 2015 08:28 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

This is a moronic editorial...

Jun 8, 2015 08:47 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous


People that talk like fools (or worse) on the radio shouldn't throw stones.

Jun 9, 2015 07:14 am
 Posted by  madisonexpat

The Feds are doing to higher education what they did to the housing market.
'You gotta have a house or a college education. They are the American Dream!'
Then you throw money at unqualified borrowers/students and surprise! They fail.
Lots and lots of them. Predatory lending.

Fannie, Freddie, Student Loans, Obamacare etc.
Can't we just fast forward to the inevitable Lefty Mantra:
"Mistakes were made. Bad mistakes. Eggs = omelette. Mend it, Don't end it!"
"We meant well."

Jun 9, 2015 10:22 am
 Posted by  Anonymous


Plug WEDC into your "mantra" and rethink...

Jun 9, 2015 10:33 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Dave, any news about your lawsuit?
Another great headline in WSJ today about how the poor Madison school district is living through tough budgeting times without ever mentioning that they ARE NOT FOLLOWING ACT 10 like the rest of Wisconsin.
Even Milwaukee sounded like they were flush with cash this year!

Jun 9, 2015 10:34 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

How you see the downgrading of the UW as a positive thing is beyond me. It's the economic engine of the state's economy. But, policies that actually encourage economic progress seem to be well beyond the grasp of non-critical thinking tea drinkers and the corrupt elected officials (read: GOP) that cynically manipulate them thru politics of division and resentment. "I don't have job tenure, why should anyone!?" "I don't have job security, why should anyone!?" I don't have good benefits and a pension, why should anyone!?" Well, guess what? You're about to see the academic version of the free market at work. Tenure and shared governance are the coin of the realm and UW faculty will be heading to greener pastures, taking their grants and expertise with them. High quality academics won't bother applying for the openings (it's all over the academic blogs). The weather sure isn't a selling point. "They don't vote the way I do anyway, who's going to miss them!?" You will. How do you downgrade a world-class R1 research university, a HUGE asset to the state, into an R2? This way. Other states (red states!) are putting additional funds INTO higher education, including the one I live in. My wife (the fancy tenure-track professor) and I will never return to Wisconsin. It's turning into a declining, poor, backwater. On purpose. Hope you baggers enjoy it.
P.S. Now two legislative pinheads (read: GOP) want to out-right eliminate the nationally-acclaimed and respected Legislative Audit Bureau because the nonpartisan professional auditors keep issuing audit reports detailing GOP corruption and ineptness with your tax dollars. Go figure. What's it going to take for you tea baggers to figure out your anti-governing philosophy is a failure and that your leaders stink?

Jun 9, 2015 10:40 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

Ha ha - UW Profs give up their jobs - they know they got it good. Even if they got fired at age 80, they would still probably have at least a million dollar pension. Really hard problems to have, eh, Joe Lunch Bucket??
Who is dividing? The left just can't conquer.

Jun 9, 2015 11:04 am
 Posted by  madisonexpat

Anon 10:22

Get rid of WEDC. Get rid of Corporate Welfare, crony capitalism any government slush fund.
Join the Tea Party.

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About This Blog

Raised on a farm near Sun Prairie, David Blaska is a recovering liberal who spent 18 years in daily newspapers, including 12 at The Capital Times in Madison as a reporter and editor. He served Gov. Tommy Thompson as acting press secretary in 1998 and is a veteran and survivor of 19 years in state government. He served 12 years on the Dane County Board of Supervisors. From December 2007 to November 2011 he wrote the consistently popular "Blaska's Blog" for Isthmus online's "The Daily Page" until, he says, the intolerant liberals ran him off. He blogs from Madison.

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