Field of Science

Those pesky faculty - Wisconsin takes action

Several decades ago a dark comedy on the BBC was called "A very peculiar practice" and it was about academic life at Lowland University. The university had hired a new president from the USA to lead them forward, the appropriately named Jack Daniels, who decided they could save a lot of money by getting rid to the students and any non-revenue producing faculty.  University faculty are a very pesky lot, and running a university without them might be an easier job, but not much educating is going to be getting done. Also the university won't be run very well because it will have adopted stupidly and foolishly the business model. You see, at a university, if run well,and ideas and governance run both up and down and across the organizational chart. Administrators who think things only travel down are soon confronted with textbook order forms (A colleague did this to the one-time chair of our governing board of trustees to demonstrate that in fact faculty did have a role in decision making.). Shared governance is an important part of a university's culture, and please understand, the faculty are usually looking out for the best interests of students and education. But faculty study things like science, and politics, and the like, and their authoritative manner, like they were experts or something, rubs a lot of politicians, and administrators, the wrong way especially when faculty forget who they work for, i.e., the state, for those us in public education. The GnOPe, which has been called the party of stupid for some obvious reasons, has been conducting a war on education, especially higher education, for some time now, and it's no surprise because university faculty tend to disagree with their governing ideology, their knowledge denial, and their social policies, and they can influence students too!  Faculty do tend to be outspoken because our jobs are protected from retaliation by tenure by and large, unless you don't want to hear what faculty have to say. It's a great thing being a tenured full professor, let TPP tell you, and it's true his outspoken reputation might not be so great if protection against retaliation were not in place. So now just north of us, having gone after the unions, Wisconsin is turning its attention to dismantling what is arguably one of the great state higher educational systems including its flagship, the University of Wisconsin Madison. This will be done by cutting their budget, telling faculty to work harder (showing that those making the demand don't know what university faculty do or why they do it), and to make sure the faculty don't bitch too much, well, let's do away with tenure because the state should be able to fire state workers any time they want, for any reason. Now, these legislators and the governor don't think this will actually work out very well, but they don't care if it doesn't work well so long as they have enough teachers to train workers for the state. Oh, wait, that's one of the prime directives for universities in Lincolnland! 

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