Governor lets tenure move stand; vetoes changes to student fees, academic staff appointments

Gov. Scott Walker issued his budget message Monday, including vetoes to some provisions affecting UW-Madison and the UW System. Walker let stand changes that remove tenure from state statute and place it in Board of Regents policy.

Among the items he vetoed were provisions to:

  • Make the use of student fees subject to the approval of the chancellor. Walker said students should decide how to spend fees they pay that support student activities. As a result of this veto, students will continue to make such decisions in consultation with the chancellor, subject to the final confirmation of the Board of Regents.
  • Allow the UW System to develop its own procurement policies. Walker said the change might result in unintended consequences and instead directed the Department of Administration to work with the Regents and UW-Madison to develop a framework that provides more flexibility in purchasing while maintaining the state’s buying power.
  • Prohibit probationary or indefinite academic staff appointments. Walker said he opposes such changes without further study of possible unintended consequences, particularly at UW-Madison, where some clinical faculty hold such appointments.
  • Alter the makeup of the Group Insurance Board and make its proposed changes subject to the approval of the Joint Committee on Employee Relations. Walker said that he supports the current composition of the board and that the committee already has a substantial role in reviewing the compensation plan for state employees.

Blank seeks vetoes on tenure, shared governance and indefinite academic staff appointments

Chancellor Rebecca Blank today sent two letters to Gov. Scott Walker requesting vetoes of provisions in the 2015-17 state budget.

The first letter, regarding changes tenure and shared governance at UW System schools, can be read here.

Blank’s second letter, regarding language that would prohibit the Board of Regents from making a probationary or indefinite academic staff appointment, can be read here.

Specifically, Blank has asked for vetoes to Sections 1139-1142 of Senate Bill 21 and 1210M and 1214R of Senate Substitute Amendment 1 to Senate Bill 21, respectively.

Walker is expected to sign the budget in the next few days.

State budget passes Assembly, awaits Walker signature

The Assembly passed a state budget early Thursday morning by a vote of 52-46. The spending plan contains $250 million in cuts to UW System, among other provisions. It next heads to Governor Scott Walker for his signature.

Budget passes Senate, heads to Assembly

The Wisconsin Senate passed the state budget late Tuesday on a 18-15 vote.  An amendment by Senator Fred Risser to restore $250 million in funding to UW System failed.

The budget next heads to the Assembly on Wednesday, where it is scheduled to be taken up after 11:30 a.m. and voted on late in the evening. Live coverage is available on Wisconsin Eye.

Blank reacts to Joint Finance Committee wrap-up

Chancellor Rebecca Blank issued a statement Friday in response to Thursday’s final meeting of the Joint Committee on Finance. The 2015-17 state budget next goes to the full Assembly and Senate.

“I am disappointed that the budget proposal coming out of the Joint Committee on Finance does not eliminate or modify the language around faculty dismissals to align with the standards of our peer institutions and the American Association of University Professors.

“As with any university, our reputation depends on the quality of our faculty. Unfortunately, the inclusion of this language has created negative national publicity that will hinder the ability of UW–Madison to attract and retain the best faculty and staff.

“While I appreciate the actions that the committee took to support the university – in particular reducing the size of the UW System budget cut and providing funding for the Chemistry Building project – we will continue to talk with legislators in an attempt to have the faculty dismissal language removed or amended at the next stage of the budget process.

“Moreover, we will pursue a dialog with legislators about how state and university leaders can work together to strengthen higher education in Wisconsin. The top priority we must all share is for Wisconsin to maintain its world-class public research institution and the value it creates for taxpayers.”

Wisconsin Alumni Association supports academic freedom

Reacting to proposed language in the state budget regarding tenure, The President’s Advisory Council of the Wisconsin Alumni Association has written a resolution in support of academic freedom.

The council declared its strong support for protection of tenure and urges Gov. Walker and the legislature “to ensure that state statues and policies do not weaken the protection of academic freedom, free speech, or the continual sifting and winnowing of the truth at the University of Wisconsin.”

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.

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