All posts by Nicholas Fleisher

Memo to Tenure Policy Task Force

On November 30, the UW System Tenure Policy Task Force will meet to discuss draft policies on faculty layoff and post-tenure review. These draft policies contain a number of serious problems, failing to meet professional standards of due process and separating faculty from their primary responsibility for educational concerns. The draft policies thus fall short of the Board of Regents’ stated goal of crafting tenure and shared governance policies that conform to AAUP standards.

The problems with the draft policies are detailed in a memo from the UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, and UW-Whitewater chapters of the AAUP. Annotated versions of the draft policies on faculty layoff and post-tenure review themselves are also available.

We hope that the input of the UW System’s three AAUP chapters will help steer the Board of Regents toward policies that conform to AAUP standards.

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Statement to Tenure Policy Task Force

Joint Statement of the UW-Milwaukee AAUP, UW-Whitewater AAUP, and UW-Madison AAUP executive committees to the UW System Tenure Policy Task Force

Milwaukee, Whitewater, and Madison, 17 September 2015

The University of Wisconsin has a one hundred year-long tradition of upholding the principles of academic freedom and shared governance as set forth by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).  Throughout the history of the AAUP, UW faculty members have played a leading role in establishing these principles and recommendations.  UW-Madison Economics Professor Richard T. Ely, whose trial led to the Regents’ famous and inspired defense of “fearless sifting and winnowing,” served on the AAUP committee that drafted the 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure.  The hard-earned reputation of the UW System as one of the finest public institutions of higher education in the world was built upon this foundation and will stand or fall on its structural integrity.

In the interest of ensuring that the UW System Tenure Policy Task Force achieves its stated goal of crafting a tenure policy that complies with established AAUP standards, we draw the Task Force’s attention to the following principles:

  1. An AAUP-compliant tenure policy depends on AAUP-compliant shared-governance practices. Without shared-governance practices that conform to AAUP standards, it is impossible to craft a tenure policy that conforms to AAUP standards.
  2. Board of Regents policy on review, layoff, or termination of tenure appointments must reflect the prerogatives of faculty shared-governance bodies spelled out in the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (in particular section 4d(1)).

With these principles in mind, we call on the Tenure Policy Task Force to make the following recommendations to the Board of Regents:

  1. Adopt permanently in Board of Regents policy the definition of “tenure appointment” that was removed from Chapter 36 of Wisconsin statutes under 2015 Act 55.
  2. Adopt a statement of principle that articulates the primary responsibilities of faculty in meaningful shared governance.  Such a statement should conform with section 5 of the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities jointly formulated by the AAUP, the American Council on Education (ACE), and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).
  3. Ensure that Board of Regents policy regarding termination of appointments due to “program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection” (36.21) codifies the authority of faculty shared-governance bodies in making such determinations and decisions, as stipulated in the AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure (sec. 4d(1)) and the AAUP’s report on The Role of the Faculty in Conditions of Financial Exigency.
  4. Ensure that Board of Regents policy regarding post-tenure review codifies the authority of faculty shared-governance bodies in crafting and carrying out such policies, and does not add new avenues for termination of a tenure appointment beyond those already contemplated under program modification or dismissal for cause, in keeping with the AAUP’s statement on Post-Tenure Review.

We hope that these principles and recommendations will be useful to the Tenure Policy Task Force in carrying out its charge, and that they will help steer the Board of Regents toward policies that ensure compliance with AAUP standards and avoid the possibility of AAUP censure.

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What We Did This Summer

First off, we re-established a chapter at UWM! Thanks in no small part to the spearheading efforts of Jasmine Alinder (History), the initial informational gathering produced enough interest and members that an Executive Committee was elected during the first chapter meeting on July 17.

  • Under the leadership of Rachel Buff (History), our chapter president, the Executive Committee has been very busy these past few months. Rachel, VP Nick Fleisher (Linguistics), Secretary-Treasurer Renée Calkins (FLL), and at-large members Michael Newman (Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies), Jamie Harris (Urban Studies), and Shannon Freire (Anthropology) have drafted principles for our chapter to be submitted to the membership for approval at our next meeting, convened and established charges for the first few committees, and begun establishing lines of communication across campus.

Mike and Rachel have been working with the Communications Committee, chaired by Eliza Bettinger (AGS Library), to define our image at UWM through social media, our own logo, and t-shirts to display our solidarity at campus events like the Chancellor’s Plenary. Nick tackled Act 55 and was instrumental in reviewing the UC’s position paper on tenure for compliance with AAUP guidelines. We were very happy to see that the majority of his suggestions were adopted.

In addition to interacting across departments and divisions at UWM, our chapter has been establishing relationships with AAUP members on other UW System campuses. A recent meeting between UWM and UW-Whitewater members of AAUP has resulted in a list of recommendations for the Tenure Task Force that are aimed at preserving academic freedom and shared governance in the UW System in compliance with AAUP standards.

Most recently, AAUP members met with the Academic Staff Committee (ASC) to address concerns over departments issuing non-renewal notices as opposed to following UWM policy and designating terminations due to budget or program as formal layoffs.  As outlined in chapter 110 of the UWM Academic Staff Personnel Policy and Procedure, a layoff provides the employee with a set of important rights and benefits, most notably access to unemployment insurance as well possible reassignment or recall when a position opens up.  At the Fall Plenary, AAUP members asked the Chancellor to pledge to follow UWM policy on Layoff as well as the need for shared governance to meet AAUP guidelines, particularly as decisions are made about eliminating personnel and programs.  Addressing both of these issues (layoff vs. nonrenewal and meaningful shared governance) is critical as we begin a new academic year of budget cutting and campus restructuring.  Two position papers are in the works on these issues!

Our chapter’s membership has been growing steadily, and we’re looking forward to seeing some new faces at the kick-off event on Friday, September 18, at 3:00 in Curtin 175. In addition to providing an opportunity for chapter members to get acquainted, air hopes and fears regarding recent developments on campus, and brainstorm how best to advocate for all shared governance groups, Hans-Joerg Tiede of AAUP national, editor of the most recent Redbook, will be on hand. We’ve asked him to share with us the history of AAUP’s role in advocating for academic freedom in higher education and situate current challenges to the UW System within the national landscape. Joerg’s talk will undoubtedly provide valuable food for thought as we continue to define and prioritize the goals of our revived chapter at UWM.