Dear Commons Community,
The American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin issued a statement raising concerns ahead of a University of Wisconsin Board of Regents meeting tomorrow, where the regents will discuss proposed changes to faculty tenure policy.
Last year, the GOP-controlled Wisconsin legislature and Gov. Scott Walker (R) pushed through a budget that eliminated tenure from state law. Academics raised an outcry when it appeared that the new budget would allow governor-appointed regents to fire tenured professors simply because an academic program had changed in some way. Faculty and the media have been referring to the proposal as “fake tenure”. As reported by The Huffington Post:
“Critics fear that Wisconsin’s attack on tenure is an attempt to strip away protections for academics and make it easier for the state to silence certain voices if it wishes to.
In 2015, it was revealed that a draft of the University of Wisconsin regents’ new policy would allow for layoffs of tenured faculty “when such an action is deemed necessary due to a budget or program decision requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification or redirection.”
The draft policy has changed since then. As of this week, it does not include any mention of program “curtailment, modification or redirection” — a change that both the AAUP and AFT-Wisconsin said they were pleased to see.
“We remain concerned, however, that some of the provisions in the draft regent policy documents fall far short of those standards,” the groups’ statement reads.
“Particularly alarming is the inclusion of a provision for program prioritization based primarily on financial considerations for the purpose of discontinuing academic programs and laying off faculty,” it continues. “Actions taken by administrations at several universities in the name of program prioritization have led to investigations of violations of academic freedom and tenure as well as the imposition of censure by the AAUP.”
The action of the Wisconsin Board of Regents and any subsequent proposals made by Governor Scott Walker or the state legislature will be watched closely by faculty around the country.