Dear Commons Community,
Governor Scott Walker is proposing a major change to tenure throughout the University of Wisconsin system. A committee of state legislators approved along party lines a proposal that would remove the notion of tenure in the university system from state statute, leaving the sensitive matter to the state’s Board of Regents, which oversees the system’s 13 four-year universities. Under the proposal, the board’s 18 members — 16 of whom are appointed by the governor subject to the confirmation of the State Senate — 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. Critics deemed it tenure with no actual promise of tenure. All of the changes require a vote by the state’s full Senate and House. The proposal is expected to come to the full chambers later this month as part of the state’s budget for the next two years. As reported in the New York Times:
“Education experts are calling the proposal significant.
“This is monumental in my opinion,” said Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. “My reading of the changes suggests that whatever the Board of Regents adopts as its policy on tenure and shared governance can’t possibly be as robust as what has been on the books thus far.”
For years, Mr. Walker has been interested in changing the structure of the state’s public university system. Mr. Walker, who did not complete college and has a son who attends the Madison campus, is expected to announce his presidential run shortly after the state’s budget is approved…
On Thursday, some leaders of the Board of Regents, meeting in Milwaukee, said the board was committed to tenure, and had already planned a task force to examine how to proceed if the proposals are enacted.
“We are as a board and always have been and always will be supportive of tenure,” Regina Millner, the regents’ vice president, said in an interview. “Our commitment to tenure, our commitment to academic freedom, our commitment to a strong faculty with secure support for the work they do, it’s absolute.”
Yet in academic circles nationwide, there was concern this week that the proposed changes in Wisconsin could bolster the forces pushing universities to operate more like businesses, eliminating departments or courses that do not attract many students or much research money.”