Got tenure? Academic necrosis is in crisis!
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?
Can Wisconsin be a leader again?
Is the academic food fight just getting started? UW–Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank emailed faculty Sunday that she, “will not accept a tenure policy that is inconsistent with our peers, or that violates accepted standards.”
The profs are also peeved at a nick in their control over academic content. Faculty would still advise administrators on academic and personnel issues, but the Board of Regents, campus chancellors, and system president Ray Cross would have the last word. How is that unreasonable?
As for that $250 million reduction over two years, Joint Finance co-chair John Nygren notes that Jim Doyle made the same reduction. But that one was borne by students in the form of tuition increases. Tell me that the University of Wisconsin can’t be leaner and better? Businesses across America have done it but the UW cannot?
Still and all, the governor has not used his bully pulpit to educate the public. Law prof and bloggresse Anne of Althouse recalls that Walker blamed himself for not explaining the need for Act 10 to the people of Wisconsin in 2011. The governor is guilty of the same omission with the tenure issue.
But let’s face it, in what other occupation is “tenure” granted? Not in health care, financial services, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, or the news media. (Just ask Mitch Henck.) Only in education and, to an extent even after Act 10, in government service.
And, of course, Chief Justice for Life Shirley Abrahamson.
What kind of mayor was Bernie Sanders? Would you be surprised that The Nation reveals he was a most excellent mayor of Burlington, Vt., from 1981 to 1989? Population 42,000 — less populous than Wauwatosa. Hey, there are no large cities in Vermont. Burlington is the biggest burg.
The whole exercise is intended to burnish Bernie’s presidential résumé; the old socialist has executive experience running Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Town.
Parting shot — If you think college is expensive now, wait until the socialist presidential candidate makes it free. Bernie, running against Hillary for the Democratic nomination, would institute single-payer tuition, which — as with health care — is a euphemism for government-run socialism.
Slymer alert — The serial misogynist who demeans women (Condi Rice and Becky Kleefisch are just two examples) used the public airwaves on May 26, 2015 to say that Vicki McKenna has been “putting Scott Walker’s nuts in her mouth.”
In the same segment, the Radio Slymer references the disgraced former Democratic Party spokesmouth Graeme Zielinski, who remains a favored guest. Along with almost every Democrat from Tammy Baldwin to new state Dem chairman Martha Laning. So much for sisterhood.
Click here to sign up for the free IB ezine – your twice-weekly resource for local business news, analysis, voices, and the names you need to know. If you are not already a subscriber to In Business magazine, be sure to sign up for our monthly print edition here.