Blank: Why State Lawmakers Must Support Tenure at Public Universities

Chancellor Rebecca Blank recently wrote an op-ed for the Chronicle of Higher Education about proposed changes to tenure in Wisconsin. Read the full piece.

Blank responds to scholarly associations’ concerns about tenure, shared governance

In a letter to Chancellor Rebecca Blank, 22 scholarly associations have spoken against the changes to tenure and shared governance proposed by the Joint Finance Committee.

“The policies recommended by the Joint Finance Committee and included in the 2016 budget pose a direct threat to academic freedom by expanding the circumstances under which tenure can be revoked (beyond dire financial emergencies and just cause) while simultaneously removing its protection under state statute,” reads the letter. Read the full text here.

(Another scholarly association, the Society for Military History, also sent a letter registering its opposition to the proposals. Read it here.)

In her response, Blank wrote that strong tenure protections are being prepared for Board of Regents adoption.

“I have pledged that there will be no changes to policy and practice here at UW–Madison until we have new approved policies in place that are consistent with widely accepted tenure practices.”

Read Blank’s response here.

Academic Staff Assembly opposes changes to governance, tenure

UW-Madison’s Academic Staff Assembly passed a resolution Wednesday opposing proposed legislative changes to shared governance, academic staff appointments and tenure.

574 – Resolution on UW System Omnibus Motion

The motion read, in part: “Therefore be it resolved, the Academic Staff Assembly of the University of Wisconsin-Madison calls on the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance to strike items 12 and 34-40 in the UW System Omnibus Motion #521.

“Therefore be it further resolved, the Academic Staff Assembly of the University of Wisconsin-Madison calls on UW System President Ray Cross, the Board of Regents, and Chancellor Rebecca Blank to use all means at their disposal to call on the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance to strike items 12 and 34-40 in the UW System Omnibus Motion #521.”

A similar resolution had been passed earlier by the Faculty Senate, asking to remove from the state budget language relating to tenure, shared governance and other non-fiscal matters.

“Your active engagement in shared governance activities shows your commitment to this university, and I want to thank you,” said Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf.

She went on to ask the academic staff for their continued support.

“There are so many things that have been hard for all of us to deal with,” Mangelsdorf said. “We really all need to stand together.”

Video of faculty forum available

Video of the June 15 faculty forum with Chancellor Rebecca Blank can be viewed here.

At second faculty forum, chancellor details legislative work

In the second faculty forum in less than a week addressing proposed legislative changes to tenure and shared governance, Chancellor Rebecca Blank on Monday reiterated that the principles are “absolutely integral” to the university.

“Academic freedom is important to a strong university,” Blank said. “I will not accept a tenure policy that is inconsistent with our peer universities or that violates existing standards.”

In the last week, Blank said she and her legislative liaisons have been in touch with numerous members of the legislature, including Senate and Assembly leaders and all members of the Joint Finance Committee, to urge them to adopt alternative language to the bill. Should those efforts fail, she said, a veto request is being prepared to be sent to Gov. Scott Walker.

Read more

Listening session today on tenure, shared governance

Chancellor Blank will hold a listening session TODAY at 4:30 p.m.  in Varsity Hall at Union South as part of continued consultation with faculty on proposed legislation affecting tenure and shared governance.

Video of the session will be streamed here.

A session for junior faculty will be scheduled in the near future.

Chancellor to host faculty listening session Monday

As part of continued consultation with faculty on proposed legislation affecting tenure and shared governance, Chancellor Blank will hold a listening session at 4:30 p.m. Monday in Varsity Hall at Union South.

Video of the session will be streamed here.

A session for junior faculty will be scheduled in the near future.

Chancellor, faculty call for strong stance on tenure, shared governance

Several hundred UW-Madison faculty members packed an auditorium and two overflow rooms Tuesday afternoon as the Faculty Senate held an emergency meeting to respond to recent legislative actions on tenure and shared governance.

After hearing many professors voice concerns, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution seeking to remove from the state budget language relating to tenure, shared governance and other non-fiscal matters.

Chancellor Blank’s message to Faculty Senate

Chancellor Rebecca Blank shared the following message by email with faculty on June 9 ahead of an emergency meeting of the Faculty Senate.

As we prepare to meet, I want to again reiterate my deep support for and commitment to the principles of tenure. I understand your concerns about the changes recommended in the budget proposed by the Joint Committee on Finance. I have been working with others to address those changes and will continue doing so.

UW-Madison has a long history of standing up for the academic freedom of inquiry that tenure is designed to protect. In the 1890s, the state superintendent of education in Wisconsin tried to fire Professor Richard Ely from his tenured position at the University of Wisconsin because of his out-spoken support for progressive views. The Regents of the University refused to censure Professor Ely, stating that “…we believe the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

Read more

Recent media coverage of the tenure issue

A selection of news stories and opinion about the changes to tenure and shared governance contained in the state budget bill.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: UW and campus leaders search for solution to tenure tension

Wisconsin State Journal: Faculty uneasy about working at UW after cuts, tenure changes

Inside Higher Ed: Wisconsin Board Adopts Tenure Rules That Don’t Satisfy Professors

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Opinion: Threats to shared governance and tenure put mission of UW at risk

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