Friday, March 11, 2016

Back to earth

From The Chronicle of Higher Education , “Wisconsin Regents Approve New Layoff and Tenure Policies Over Faculty Objections.” An excerpt:

The University of Wisconsin’s Board of Regents overwhelmingly approved new policies regarding layoffs and tenure on Thursday, despite the objections of faculty leaders and a few board members who argued that the changes would hurt the university system’s educational quality and recruitment of talented professors.

The debate over the policies, which are intended to replace tenure protections stripped from state law last year, became heated at times. Advocates of the new policies argued that they would be in line with those at peer institutions, give chancellors flexibility to adjust academic offerings in a tough fiscal climate, and offer sufficient assurances that layoffs and post-tenure reviews will not be used to squelch academic freedom.

Critics argued that the policies would leave tenured faculty members more vulnerable than their peers elsewhere to being laid off in retaliation for speaking out, and would let chancellors override shared governance and ignore important educational considerations in making faculty-layoff decisions. . . .

José Vásquez, a regent who opposed the new policies, drew applause from the audience at the board meeting by protesting that the financial pressures on the system were not its own doing but the result of a lack of adequate financial support from the state.

“It was not tenure that caused the fiscal crisis. It was not faculty who were entrenched and did not want to terminate programs,” Mr. Vásquez said. “The fiscal crisis that we have has been imposed on us.”
“The fiscal crisis that we have has been imposed on us”: that’s what we face in Illinois, where a manufactured crisis has become the occasion for hundreds of layoffs.

Everyone has wondered — and wondered, and wondered — about our governor’s end purpose in creating our present crisis. Clearly Bruce Rauner wants to weaken unions. But I suspect that his ambition goes further: the mantra of “flexibility” now in play in Wisconsin would seem to be a strategy to diminish or eliminate whole fields of academic endeavor: African-American studies, art history, classical studies, cultural studies, foreign languages, literature, philosophy, queer studies, women’s studies, whatever might be deemed impractical, unprofitable, unacceptable. The Wisconsin Board of Regents vice president, quoted in the Chronicle article: “When a chancellor is looking at a program discontinuance, they need flexibility, flexibility, flexibility, flexibility.” I expect that we’ll hear the mantra of “flexibility” in Illinois soon.

A colleague has suggested a larger end purpose: that Bruce Rauner would like to be president. If so, he would (yet again) be following in Scott Walker’s cloven footprints. It’s probably of little solace to many Wisconsites that Walker’s presidential ambitions fizzled so quickly. If Rauner makes a try for the presidency, citizens who have known him as a governor will have plenty of stories to tell.

Related reading
All OCA Illinois budget crisis posts (Pinboard)

[Back to earth: that is, after the joys of Bach.]

comments: 1

csp123 said...

Yes. We are worried about that at SIUC as well. Rauner seems to want nothing less than to starve the entire Illinois state university system to death and replace it with a few institutions that would cater to big business. If he can pad the boards of trustees with his supporters and destroy shared governance the way Walker has just accomplished in Wisconsin, I'm sure he'll be delighted.