The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved new tenure policies at their March 10, 2016 meeting. Maintaining a need for a sound financial system, Board President Regina Millner indicated that the new policies would allow university leaders the flexibility to close programs, which would ultimately eliminate faculty positions. Prior to the legislation in 2015 that established the need for the new tenure policies, faculty layoffs were possible only under financial exigency, defined as a direct threat to institutional viability.
Regent José Vásquez argued that the reasons for establishing new policies for tenure, post-tenure review, and layoffs were imposed on the UW System due to a lack of financial support from the state as opposed to its own financial mismanagement. He said, “It was not tenure that caused the fiscal crisis. It was not faculty who were entrenched and did not want to terminate programs [. . .]. The fiscal crisis that we have has been imposed on us (Schmidt).”
The newly approved policy, according to Tony Evers, Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and a Board of Regents member, overshadows academic concerns with financial concerns. Before the vote on the policy, Evers proposed three amendments, one calling for a faculty committee to review program closures on educational concerns, another addressing a balance for program closure between both economic and academic concerns, and a third arguing for language change that would have administrators “pursue” alternatives to faculty layoffs instead of “considering” them during program closures. All three amendments failed.
In a statement, Wisconsin System President Ray W. Cross endorsed the policies despite the protests from a few Board of Regents members, Wisconsin System faculty, and students. People opposed to the new policies felt they would leave tenured faculty “more vulnerable than their peers elsewhere to being laid off in retaliation for speaking out, and will let chancellors override shared governance and ignore important educational considerations in making faculty-layoff decisions” (Schmidt, 2016).
Connections for English Language Arts/NCTE
The softening of tenure and post tenure review policies may have a dire effect on English Departments and Schools of Education in Institutions of Higher Education in Wisconsin. With the demonization of teachers and the passing of Act 10 in Wisconsin (which eliminated collective bargaining rights for teachers), teacher education programs have suffered lower enrollments adding to the state’s teacher shortage (Richards & Kulling). Moreover, with the English Department often being the largest department on campus, it often has the largest number of contingent faculty. The softening of tenure may adversely affect the security of long-term employment in favor of short term contracts (NCTE).
Flaherty, Colleen. Inside Higher Educationhttps://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/06/01/wisconsin-faculty-incensed-motion-eliminate-tenure-state-statute
Flaherty, Colleen. Inside Higher Education at https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/03/11/u-wisconsin-board-regents-approves-new-tenure-policies-despite-faculty-concerns?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=b5d583b912-DNU20160311&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-b5d583b912-198140265#.VuLVqoR6tcU.mailto
Richards, Erin & Matt Kulling. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel August 17, 2015 at http://www.jsonline.com/news/education/school-districts-scramble-to-find-teachers-for-open-positions-b99556824z1-322096631.html
NCTE. Position statement on the status and working conditions of contingent faculty.https://www2.ncte.org/statement/contingent_faculty
Schmidt, Peter. Chronicle of Higher Education.http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/wisconsin-regents-approve-new-layoff-and-tenure-policies-over-faculty-objections/109380