Tag Archives: uwm

UWM Faculty Senate Resolution Demanding UW System President Ray Cross Protect and Respect Shared Governance

On February 15, 2018, the Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee unanimously approved this resolution.

WHEREAS UW System President Ray Cross has publicly declared his support for shared governance, promising at one point on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus to resign his position if he failed to protect shared governance;

WHEREAS it has now been publicly disclosed that President Cross disparaged and intentionally circumvented shared governance in decreeing that the University of Wisconsin System be restructured, having emailed Regent Gerald Whitburn that he was “Getting hammered by the ‘shared governance’ leaders because they weren’t involved in the process; however, had they been involved we wouldn’t be doing anything!!”

WHEREAS shared governance is ultimately responsible for implementing UW System President Cross’s hasty, top-down decision that the UW Colleges be broken up and merged with four-year, comprehensive, and research universities;

WHEREAS shared governance is an essential mechanism to guarantee the accountability, transparency, and high quality education we have come to expect from the University of Wisconsin System;

WHEREAS shared governance was instrumental in helping UWM to achieve its R1 status by starting new PhD programs and raising the university’s research profile;

BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Faculty Senate of the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, hereby demands that President Cross honor his earlier pledge to protect and respect shared governance in all relevant administrative decisions regarding the UW System and its campuses.

 

No Confidence

Today at an unprecedented full faculty meeting, a resolution of no confidence in UW System President Ray Cross and the Board of Regents passed unanimously. Coverage in the Journal Sentinel notes that almost 300 faculty attended in a room with a 175 capacity. And there’s this:

Chancellor Mark Mone said after the meeting that in his nearly 27 years as a faculty member on campus, he had never seen anything like it. “There has not been anything so important and heartfelt in that long,” the chancellor said.

Preceding the reading of the resolution, two officers in the UWM chapter of AAUP spoke. Here are their remarks:

Rachel Ida Buff, President, UWM AAUP

Colleagues:

We gather here today as bearers of a sacred trust. As stewards of the University of Wisconsin, we are the keepers of the Wisconsin Idea: that crucial, democratic notion that the “beneficent influence of the University (should) reach(es) every home in the state.”

Because of our dual mission of access and research, the Wisconsin Idea takes unique shape at UWM. And we have distinguished ourselves, earning esteem as a Research One and Engagement campus.

The Wisconsin Idea promotes educational democracy: the university is funded by and serves the public. Through our renowned and exemplary practices of shared governance, the University of Wisconsin has been a model of functioning democracy.

BUT In the past eighteen months, our ability to carry out our stewardship of the Wisconsin Idea has been impaired by a legislative assault on shared governance and academic freedom. This political assault has been accompanied by unprecedented fiscal cuts, impairing our ability to educate and serve our students.

We are no strangers to hard work. We are used to the slow process of shared governance. We have been patient, trying to actively participate in improving the situation. We have attended listening sessions and meetings; participated in task forces and surveys; researched and written analyses and op-eds and fact sheets.

And now, in concert with colleagues across the system, with consciousness of all we have lost and stand to lose, it finally makes sense to say it: No Confidence, rippling across the state, and beyond.

A vote for no confidence is a symbolic action:

By voting no confidence we assert that the current direction pursued by the Board of Regents and facilitated by UW system President Cross undermines the future of our university and of the Wisconsin Idea;

By voting no confidence we insist on the central role of shared governance, even in times of extraordinary difficulty. Without our inclusion in decision-making, we cannot believe in the integrity of the process nor work for a better outcome;

By voting no confidence we protest the intentional destruction of our internationally recognized university system. This destruction affects each of us professionally.

I have no confidence in the unprincipled duplicity of the Board of Regents and President Cross;

I have no confidence in the increased managerial control, the “flexibility” promoted throughout the UW system that compromises our collective job security and freedom of inquiry.

I have no confidence in a Research One/Engagement campus so deracinated that it cannot fulfil its vital missions.

But I have confidence in you, my colleagues. Together, we can affirm our sacred trust as public university employees, and the principled aspirations of the Wisconsin Idea.

Thank you.

Nick Fleisher, Vice-President, UWM AAUP

We are here today because we wish to speak with our System leaders and with the public about the course that UW System leadership has charted.

We are here because the course they have charted harms research, teaching, learning, and access.

In the past year, we have seen President Cross champion a hasty conversion of the UW System to a public authority, despite a near-total lack of detail on how the new entity would have worked.

We have seen the Board of Regents expressly decline to ask the Legislature to remove non-fiscal items affecting the UW System from the biennial budget.

We have seen a Tenure Policy Task Force that recommended policies which were never endorsed by its own members, and which were subsequently adopted by the Board of Regents despite their failure to comply with AAUP standards.

Thanks to intrepid reporting by Wisconsin journalists, we have learned that President Cross and the Regents worked actively to limit faculty input into those policies.

We have learned, most recently, that President Cross wrote approvingly to Regent Behling about “the real value of removing tenure-related policies from statutory language.”

He added that tenure should not protect faculty “when they are no longer needed in a discipline,” all while supporting policies that allow financial considerations to determine the educational needs of the institution.

And he falsely attributed to faculty the view that tenure is a “job for life,” a talking point repeated by Governor Walker in a press release issued earlier today.

All the while, our campuses have been dealing with unfunded mandates on top of massive budget cuts that harm our students’ education.

We have seen no sign of a plan from President Cross or the Regents for how to stem the tide of state funding cuts.

On the contrary, we have seen new policies meant to enable managerial flexibility: far from appeasing the Legislature, such policies are an invitation to further cuts.

Through all of this, we have seen President Cross and the Regents characterize our continual state of fiscal austerity as if it were an inevitable force of nature, rather than a deliberate political choice.

Such leadership inspires no confidence.

If we lack confidence in our leadership, we must not be afraid to say so publicly.

We must not let fear of reprisal prevent us from bringing our concerns to light.  To do so would be an abdication of our duty to the public whom we serve.

So today, we are here to advocate for those things that have made our university great and that will sustain it in the future.

We are here to advocate for those things that ensure student access to a world-class education in Wisconsin, and that affirm the University of Wisconsin as a truly public good.

Academic freedom and tenure, which is its guarantor; shared governance of the institution; access and affordability for students: these are matters on which there can be no flexibility.

To all appearances, and to the University’s great detriment, President Cross and the Regents have acted as if to carry out the designs of those who appointed them.  Today, echoing the recent comments of the president of the Association of Governing Boards, we call on them to remember “their responsibility as fiduciaries to care for the system.”

Together with students, staff, and colleagues across Wisconsin, we stand in defense of a great public University that is under attack.

Thank you.

Day of Action

Lee Abbott (Ph.D. Candidate, English) offers the following report and analysis of last week’s Day of Action in Milwaukee.

FullSizeRender

On Tuesday November 10, low-wage workers took part in several workplace demonstrations to support the movement for a $15 minimum wage. In Milwaukee, an estimated 1,200 people participated in the struggle for fair wages and immigrant rights. The movement for a $15 minimum wage has been active in Milwaukee for several years, led by the Wisconsin Jobs Now. Tuesdays actions saw low-wage service workers across the country lead strikes and walkouts against fast-food restaurants. The day of action started early in the morning as workers walked off the job and into the streets, moving from one franchise to the next demanding union recognition and the right to a living wage. The turnout also reflected a massive and vibrant rebuke of the Republican agenda, after a series of national debates that have seen candidates promote a racist discourse against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Galvanized by the presence of the third Republican presidential primary debates held downtown at the Milwaukee Theater, crowds of people took over the streets of downtown, representing a wide section of public and private sector unions, student organizations, and Latino and immigrant movement activists.

The pinnacle of Tuesday’s events occurred when the wave of workplace actions combined with the members of several unions and student organizations in a coordinated march against the third Republican presidential debate. The march I had joined arrived at City Hall where more people were already gathering to hear speakers including Nate Hamilton of the Coalition for Justice, Congresswoman Gwen Moore, and veteran union organizer and immigrant rights activist Dolores Huerta. Voces de la Frontera’s march arrived from the South Side, while anti-war activists marched from the MATC campus area to converge on the street outside the debate. I had brought my drum, as I often do to protests and demonstrations, and the echoes of chanting, cheering, and drum beats beneath the archway at City Hall gave the atmosphere a charge of anticipation.

A block from the theater, a circle of people grew, encompassing the intersection of 4th and Kilbourn. A few counter-protesters scuffled and taunted the marchers. Activists with Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES), Students for a Democratic Society, and Students for Justice in Palestine set up their amplification system and delivered speeches against the dehumanization of immigrants, the escalation of war and bombings in Syria, the deaths of black people at the hands of police, and attacks on workers’ rights. Overpass Light Brigade’s “holders of the light” framed this gathering with the message “GOP CIRCUS,” lit up in white LEDs. There was something certainly dynamic and charged about being there, feeling like that place had been made more meaningful and unusual by the flows of people. We had certainly attracted the police’s attention, who had erected several enormous lamps over the intersection.

I think that events like these — each protest, demonstration, and rally — ultimately mold the alliances that emerge in the next round of social and political struggle. UWM AAUP’s participation in the struggle for public education and against the corporatization of higher education, is only just beginning. But it may do well to remember that it is emerging in a city that is also fighting back against the consequences of austerity and social injustice on multiple fronts. Our fight might seem like a small part of the struggle in Milwaukee, one where the campus’ slow disaster of budget cuts and fiscal emergency can seem isolated from the rest of the city’s pressing struggles for public education, freedom from police violence, and racial and economic equality. Bridging the broader concerns of“urban” politics with the specific struggle against the imposed fiscal crisis at UWM is a task that local AAUP members can and should make with simple gestures of solidarity and creating an organized presence in community events like November 10’s march. But if Wisconsin’s continuing fiscal emergency, combined with the ongoing senselessness of the Republican debates, offers any indication, there will more opportunities for UWM AAUP to join in Milwaukee’s growing circle of resistance.

Has UW-Milwaukee’s Administration Circumvented Wisconsin State Law?

This post is by Richard Grusin and is cross-posted from his blog, Ragman’s Circles.

ABSTRACT. Wisconsin Statutes and UW-Milwaukee Policies and Procedures prescribe detailed, specific conditions and steps to be taken for a UW campus to contemplate financial emergency, including vesting the faculty of any such campus with the authority to review the institution’s financial situation and to make a recommendation to the Chancellor about whether to seek a declaration of financial emergency from the Board of Regents. UWM Chancellor Mark Mone, Provost Johannes Britz, and Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen have sponsored an extra-governmental Campus Organization & Efficiency Team (CCOET) to avoid declaring financial emergency. Because CCOET circumvents both Wisconsin Statutes and UWM Policies and Procedures by removing faculty from the process of considering financial emergency, Chancellor Mone should immediately disband his Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team. If he fails to do so, then it is incumbent upon the faculty of UWM to consider seriously the declaration of a lack of confidence in Chancellor Mone and his administration.

———————————————————————————————-

On Wednesday, November 11, I attended (for the first time) a meeting of UWM Chancellor Mark Mone’s “Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team” (CCOET). What this meeting made crystal clear to me is that this ad hoc committee (or “team”) is arguably illegal, and perhaps explicitly and consciously designed to make an end run around campus governance bodies and State of Wisconsin administrative law. At the very least, we must ask the question: Does CCOET represent the efforts of Chancellor Mone’s administration to circumvent the lawful procedures written into state law for the “contemplation” of a “financial emergency,” as prescribed in Chapter 5 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code for the University of Wisconsin System?

Let me explain.

The meeting began with a motion to centralize all replacement hiring for the next two years in the Chancellor’s (or more accurately, Provost’s) office. After being amended both to include positions made vacant through “termination” and, in response to AAUP objections raised by Rachel Buff, to involve faculty governance in the approval of any new hires under this centralization, the motion was unanimously passed. Next, a motion recommended by Provost Britz to freeze “carry-forwards” for use by central administration was tabled for further clarification. The remainder of the meeting was largely spent in a discussion led by Math Department Chair and CCOET “Support Team” Co-Chair Kyle Swanson, on two budget models he had developed to arrive at more than $20 million in continuing budget cuts needed to remediate UWM’s $30 million “structural deficit.” Because more than 85% of UWM’s budget is in personnel, and because the non-personnel components of the budget have been cut to the bone and beyond over three biennia of cuts from the state of Wisconsin, the models discussed at the November 11 meeting focused on how much money each academic and non-academic unit would need to cut from its payroll to erase UWM’s structural deficit. The consequences of such cuts, as explicitly and implicitly discussed in yesterday’s meeting, would constitute a financial emergency in all but name.

Procedures for the “contemplation” of financial emergency are laid out in the regulations for the University of Wisconsin System, as published in Wisconsin Statute 35.93, “Wisconsin administrative code and register.” Chapter 5 of the UW System regulations,“Layoff and Termination for Reasons of Financial Emergency,” both defines “financial emergency” and lays out the procedures for “contemplating” a declaration of financial emergency and then for recommending it to the UW System President and Board of Regents. First the definition:

For the purposes of this chapter, “financial emergency” is a state which may be declared by the board to exist for an institution if and only if the board finds that the following conditions exist:

(a) The total general program operations (GPR/fee) budget of the institution, excluding adjustments for salary/wage increases and for inflationary impact on nonsalary budgets, has been reduced;

(b) Institutional operation within this reduced budget requires a reduction in the number of faculty positions such that tenured faculty must be laid off, or probationary faculty must be laid off prior to the end of their respective appointments. Such a reduction in faculty positions shall be deemed required only if in the board’s judgment it will have an effect substantially less detrimental to the institution’s ability to fulfill its mission than would other forms of budgetary curtailment available to the institution; and

(c) The procedures described in ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06 have been followed.[UWS 5.02]

Note that, based upon the discussion at the November 11 CCOET meeting, the two substantive conditions for financial emergency to be declared are clearly in place at UWM: the total budget of the institution has been dramatically reduced to the point where the only way to operate “within this reduced budget” would require “a reduction in the number of faculty [and other] positions such that tenured faculty must be laid off, or probationary faculty must be laid off prior to the end of their respective appointments.”

Because these regulations are designed to lay out the conditions that would allow the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency at any UW campus, they also provide the procedures that any campus must follow in seeking such a declaration, which are described in ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06. UWS 5.05 specifies that the very “contemplation” of financial emergency requires “the chancellor of the affected institution [to] consult with and seek advice from the faculty committee provided for in s. UWS 5.04.” UWS 5.04 stipulates:

It is the right and responsibility of this [faculty consultative] committee to represent the faculty before the board if a declaration of a state of financial emergency for the institution is being considered, and to assure that the procedures of ss. UWS 5.05 and 5.06 are followed.

And UWS 5.05 explicitly states:

It shall be the primary responsibility of the faculty of the institution to establish criteria to be used by the chancellor and committee for academic program evaluations and priorities. A decision to curtail or discontinue an academic program for reasons of financial emergency shall be made in accordance with the best interests of students and the overall ability of the institution to fulfill its mission.

So, given that CCOET has been discussing the need to terminate faculty and other positions, or to “curtail or discontinue” colleges, schools, and programs to meet the challenges posed by UWM’s reduced budget, it is difficult not to see its formation as the “contemplation” of financial emergency as defined above, and thus to see the Chancellor as failing to follow statutorily prescribed regulations.

This conclusion is further reinforced if we review the administration’s rationale for creating CCOET. In an email sent on September 11, 2015, to the “students, faculty, and staff,” Chancellor Mone announced the formation of his new team and the rationale for its existence:

UWM is facing severe fiscal constraints due to unprecedented circumstances, including four consecutive biennial budget cuts and several factors that created a $30 million structural deficit over the last decade. Consequently, there is an urgent need to devise strategies that will enable us to swiftly and effectively respond. Based on feedback from many sources, including students, governance groups, deans, alumni, and the Budget Planning Task Force, CCOET is being formed to conduct a comprehensive review of our campus. CCOET will develop recommendations for large-scale actions that will address our substantial fiscal challenges and strategic goals.

As this message also sets out, CCOET has been sponsored by Chancellor Mone, Provost Britz, and Vice Chancellor Van Harpen, in order to address the first of the conditions required for the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency: the “severe financial constraints” brought about by “four consecutive biennial budget cuts.” The language of this message, and of the committee’s purpose and charge is careful not to mention explicitly the termination of tenured or probationary faculty positions. Nonetheless such termination is clearly an implicit consequence of its charge to “Develop recommendations for consolidating organizational units, potentially including combining schools and colleges; deleting functions; shrinking the size of departments, offices, and activities.” Given that these are the two substantive conditions necessary for the Board of Regents to declare financial emergency, it is impossible not to see CCOET as being charged with contemplating actions that are possible only if a financial emergency has been declared. Because the Wisconsin Administrative Code requires the formation of a faculty committee in the event that an institution even contemplates a financial emergency, it would be difficult for a reasonable person not to see CCOET as circumventing state statute.

In accordance with the Wisconsin Administrative Code governing the UW System, UW-Milwaukee has since 1980 had in place well-established policies and procedures for a “faculty consultative committee” to address the contemplation of financial emergencies. Unfortunately, Chancellor Mone has refused to follow UWM policies and procedures to empower the faculty to exercise its rights and responsibilities in a situation involving the contemplation of financial emergency. I will let others speculate upon the Chancellor’s motivations for choosing instead to appoint a hand-picked, administrative-heavy ad hoc “team” to make recommendations on how to deal with the “severe financial constraints” resulting from, among other things, “four consecutive biennial budget cuts.” No matter his motivations, however, clearly one effect of establishing CCOET is to further strengthen managerial/administrative control over the university, particularly the academic side. There will undoubtedly be other effects as well.

To demonstrate further that Chancellor Mone has intentionally, or out of ignorance, circumvented Wisconsin Statutes and UWM Policies and Procedures, I want to turn to anemail correspondence which I initiated with him, and which I then shared with Distinguished Professor of History Margo Anderson. The sequence of emails began withmy suggestion on November 3 that, in advance of his upcoming November 9 Campus Budget Meeting, Chancellor Mone should release to the UWM community the specific, detailed revenue figures on which he has based his claim that the campus’s anticipated expenditures exceed its revenues by $30 million, constituting what he calls a “structural deficit.” After he replied that such materials would still not be ready ahead of that meeting, I forwarded him a blog post written by Professor Anderson, in which she cites UW-Madison’s AAUP-influenced governance procedures in the event of a consideration of financial emergency, closing with a more detailed request for specific budgetary information:

So, here at UWM, how about we produce those “five years of audited financial statements, current and following-year budgets, and detailed cash-flow estimates for future years as well as detailed program, department, and administrative-unit budgets” and then we can get down to work.

On November 6 I received a response from Chancellor Mone, which I forwarded to Professor Anderson:

I’d point out that Margo’s call for more information is based on the presumption that we have declared financial exigency, which we have not. And, I hope that we do not have to go down that path which is why I’ve asked for CCOET to engage the campus in developing recommendations to help prevent that.

Professor Anderson quickly responded that Chancellor Mone fails to understand the relationship between “declaring” and “contemplating” financial emergency (here called exigency), and therefore (willfully or through ignorance) he has circumvented the policy requirements of UW-Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin Administrative code. Anderson wrote:

The procedures require that the Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies be constituted if “at any time a declaration of financial emergency is to be considered.” Note that obviously means before such an emergency is declared, and in fact implies that the committee would consider whether to recommend such a declaration.

Since reports from CCOET clearly document that individuals have asked the question about whether a fiscal emergency is possible, so that committee is already “considering” the issue. I think we all need to heed the procedures we have long had on these matters.

Despite Professor Anderson’s clear explanation that even the consideration of financial emergency should go through the statutorily established Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies, Chancellor Mone continued to misunderstand that the power to “declare” financial emergency is not in his hands, but belongs to the Board of Regents. In response to her email he offered “two thoughts”:

First, CCOET is discussing everything with no specific recommendations to me at this point; the context of this group mentioning financial exigency is to point out that that is a possibility if we do not address our structural imbalance in the next 1.5-2 years. A central goal of CCOET is to go beyond the budget cuts identified for FY16 and FY17 by the BPTF to prevent us from having to declare financial exigency—but that is all a ways off.

Second, while we cannot say definitively what the future will bring, it is my priority to avoid financial exigency at all costs. I don’t think it is out of CCOET’s “jurisdiction” to consider the ramifications, but if they did make such a recommendation in February, all of the required processes that you point out would be followed.

As his “two thoughts” make clear, Chancellor Mone’s reason for sponsoring (along with Provost Britz and Vice Chancellor Van Harpen) a hand-picked, administrative heavy ad hoc “team” to address UWM’s “severe financial constraints” is that he wants to avoid a declaration of financial exigency (or emergency) “at all costs.” But the point of the State of Wisconsin Administrative Code and UWM’s Policies and Procedures is that the criteria by which to contemplate financial emergency belongs not to the Chancellor, or the Provost, or the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administrative Affairs (or to an appointed “team” sponsored by them), but to the faculty: ”It shall be the primary responsibility of the faculty of the institution to establish criteria to be used by the chancellor and committee for academic program evaluations and priorities.” If one wants, as Chancellor Mone clearly does, “to avoid financial exigency at all costs,” then his reasons not to refer the recommendation to a faculty committee, but to hand-pick a sympathetic committee with only a minority of non-administrative faculty members, become patently obvious.

Whether through deliberate, conscious intent, or through simple ignorance of UWM’s Policies and Procedures and the regulations of the UW System as legislated by the State of Wisconsin Administrative Code, UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone (with the cooperation of Provost Johannes Britz and Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen) has put in place a procedure that is at the very least extra-legal and which violates his own campus’s established Policies and Procedures.

In light of this circumvention of both Wisconsin law and UWM policies and procedures, Chancellor Mone should immediately disband his Campus Organization & Effectiveness Team. In its stead he needs to authorize the UWM Faculty Consultative Committee for Financial Emergencies, providing them with whatever budgetary data they require to make a recommendation on whether to request the Board of Regents to declare a financial emergency for UW-Milwaukee. If he fails to do so, then it is incumbent upon the faculty of UWM to consider seriously the declaration of a lack of confidence in Chancellor Mone and his administration.

[NB: The initial version of this blog entry had misrepresented the results of the motion to centralize hiring at the November 11 CCOET meeting, leaving out the successful AAUP-sponsored amendment. The current description is to the best of my recollection accurate.]

Telling Our Story

panther statue

During the last spring of impending budget cuts, campus leaders regularly invited students, faculty, and staff to “keep telling our story,” often by sharing official university publications with others via social media. This was a communication solution to a political problem. Ultimately the audience for our story was not only the institution, its community, and the people of the state, but the powers that be, i.e., the Republicans in control of state government. The real desired effect from this outpouring of narration was to lessen the budget pain to be meted out by the legislature. By hearing our story, they might be persuaded of our value and spare us some of the inevitable trauma.

The story we were encouraged to tell came from University Relations, which produces promotional news items, videos, and other uplifting UWM content. The campus also tells it story in advertisements, such as the one I often heard last spring claiming that UWM has 28,000 students with an “entrepreneurial spirit.” Many of the videos in the IAMUWM YouTube series, which are around a minute long, center on individual undergraduates, like the gay mechanical engineering major from Brazil who says, ”I feel like I can do anything,” and the psychology major who conquered her fear of flying with the help of a professor. These videos often tell stories of inspiring life choices and goals, some with tenuous links to academic achievement. Much of this PR is obviously directed at prospective freshmen and their parents, whose tuition dollars (many of them borrowed) are essential for our continued existence now that at least four-fifths of our expenditures are tuition-funded.

The campus twitter feed also aims at both current and prospective students, with its regular retweets of new students like this one expressing their excitement over attending UWM.

The new  panther statue in front of Enderis Hall is all about making the campus a fun place for undergrads. Everyone will want a selfie with the panther.

All of this is telling our story: that we’re an exciting place to go to school, but also that we can train you for a job (engineering, or whatever), or open your eyes to new horizons.

Of course UWM is a place of many stories, some of which we are seldom encouraged to tell. Some are stories that could hurt our status with the powers that be or inhibit enrollment — or so think our leaders. Since the cuts have dropped while enrollment has decreased and tuition has remained frozen (and not very affordable despite that), we can tell a story of a campus in financial crisis, uncertain of its future. We can tell a story of an institution where administrators give themselves raises and hire more subordinates while faculty lines go unfilled and raises for academic staff and faculty are mentioned only with many eye-rolls. We can tell the story of students who have to work so many hours, and often care for family members as well, that they don’t have enough time to succeed in school. We can tell the story of our dismal rates of retention and graduation, especially for those from less privileged backgrounds. There are so many stories, and so many that are excluded from “telling our story.”

One story we might tell more often is the political saga of a far-right state government decimating its fine education institutions for ideological reasons and to please outlandishly wealthy masters, constricting the public sector and cancelling the social contract. In response to this austerity regime, which was entirely manufactured through the agency of the state government, did our leaders say “stop this political attack”? Either out of sympathy for the ideology, or of pleasure at the new power it gives them over a subordinate and flexible workforce, or of fear of losing their own jobs, they said instead, “Thank you.” They thanked the powers that be for delivering a smaller cut than had been planned. It was like a patient saying, “thanks, doc, for not amputating all of my fingers. I really appreciate being left with the one. This is great.”

Lately, campus leaders have introduced another phrase employed in crisis management and downsizing: “investing in growth areas.” When the painful cuts to come are addressed during meetings and presentations, we are told that we will not only be cutting, we will also be strategically investing in growth areas. (Especially the ones that lead to new revenue streams, which are the holy grail of administration at the moment.) Investing in growth areas will also become our story, when we find out which areas are to be so blessed with investment. (Perhaps the cuts that “investing in growth” distract from will also figure into our story somehow.) Growth areas will be identified by a market logic: what will bring in revenue, what will yield return on investment, what will keep us out of the red. We’re not talking about growth of intellect, growth of citizenship, growth of community ties or commitment to social justice. Criteria of value will be economic even if they are also curricular. 

As a scholar and critic of the narratives of popular culture (this is my “story”) it strikes me that “telling our story” is an endeavor quite central to traditions of humanistic inquiry. Narrative is a topic of interest to a wide array of interdisciplinary scholars from English and media studies to psychology and medicine. But its reputation is squarely as a liberal arts concern. Will storytelling, and the liberal arts more generally, be among our growth areas? It could depend on which story we are interested in telling.

Michael Newman is an Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies and an executive committee member of the UWM AAUP chapter.

Austerity at UWM: CCOET

This post is by Nicholas Fleisher, VP of the UWM AAUP chapter, and is cross-posted from Language Politics.

Budget cutting is in full swing at UW-Milwaukee. Beyond the loss of meaningful tenure protections (underscored by recent developments with the Regents’ Tenure Policy Task Force) and the gutting of shared governance, UWM faces a looming financial crisis. The crisis is the result of the massive 2015–17 biennial budget cut in combination with a variety of other factors. UWM’s chancellor, Mark Mone, has convened two groups to deal with the crisis: the Budget Planning Task Force, which has dealt with allocating the $30 million in cuts to UWM over the 2015–17 biennium, and the Chancellor’s Campus Organization and Effectiveness Team (CCOET), which is tasked with making recommendations for long-term structural changes to shrink the institution.

The bottom-line goal for CCOET is to cut $15–$20 million from UWM’s annual budget, permanently. CCOET has thus become the visible locus of austerity on campus. Its meetings, which are open to the public, are starting to attract crowds. Transparency, inclusion, and openness are the watchwords. The reality is a bit more complicated.

When asked about the relationship of CCOET to existing shared governance groups on campus, administrators have emphasized the degree to which CCOET’s membership includes representatives from those groups: the University Committee, the Faculty Senate, the Academic Staff Committee, the Student Association, and even our campus AAUP chapter all have members on CCOET. This is a canny way of constructing a committee whose membership is, in the end, dominated by administrators. Somewhat more troublingly, administrators’ responses to date indicate that this sprinkling of representatives is meant to serve as a kind of proxy for actual shared governance. It should be lost on no one that CCOET is, from a governance perspective, simply an extension of the chancellor, and that it therefore bears exactly the same relationship to other governance bodies that the chancellor himself does.

Sitting as it does in this uneasy space in the new shared governance landscape, CCOET’s role and powers have taken on a shape-shifting quality, changing to suit the purpose at hand. On the one hand, the committee is obviously meant to hash out the gory details of the campus’s downsizing: the task is enormous, with huge consequences for the institution, and all the heavies are there. On the other hand, the committee co-chairs often step back and remind us that they are simply generating recommendations to submit to the chancellor, as if to establish plausible deniability in the face of questions about adherence to established governance practices. The chancellor, meanwhile, indicated at today’s campus budget forum that he hopes to begin implementing CCOET’s recommendations within a matter of weeks after they are submitted to him in February, a timeline that holds out almost no hope of a meaningful vetting by the Faculty Senate or any other shared governance body.

The substance of those recommendations, meanwhile, remains a major unknown. CCOET has exhorted the campus community to give it its best ideas about how to restructure the campus to save money. Those calls ring hollow in the absence of detailed, interpreted, publicly available financial data on which to base such ideas. CCOET has trumpeted its transparency, and it is certainly to be commended for holding open meetings and posting meeting notes and selected data presentations on its website. But CCOET, or a subset of its members, is very obviously working with far more financial data than has been shared with the campus. This is, to some extent, inevitable: university budgeting is complex, and even the best-informed CCOET members have remarked publicly on the ways in which they have only belatedly come to understand certain aspects and implications of the data. It is not in and of itself a problem that CCOET has more data, or a clearer interpretation of the available data, than everyone else does at this point. What is a problem is that CCOET will soon be making detailed proposals on how to proceed, without the campus community (or, if last week’s meeting is any indication, even the entirety of its own membership) having had access to that same set of interpreted financial data. How can CCOET’s members, much less the broader campus community, assess the merits of a funding formula with very disparate impacts on UWM’s different schools and colleges without having had the chance to consider other possibilities? The accelerated timeline and the asymmetry of access ensure that only a select few will have an adequate factual basis for making recommendations; everything else is moot.

Meanwhile, CCOET’s recommendations will come on the heels of the FY16 and FY17 cuts enacted by the Budget Planning Task Force. The FY16 cuts were decided on over the summer, but, rather amazingly, the campus administration still does not have a comprehensive picture of what has actually been cut. Those FY16 cuts were one-time cuts in the amount of $15.7 million, coming in part from spending down the campus’s now almost entirely depleted reserves. The chancellor has now accepted the BPTF’s recommendations for the FY17 cuts, which are permanent base-budget cuts of $14.5 million, $8.8 million of which will come out of Academic Affairs. Details of the FY16 cuts have now been collected and will be shared with everyone soon; units have until Dec 23 to provide details on how they will handle the FY17 cuts. Meanwhile, CCOET is working on further permanent cuts of $15–$20 million, doing the bulk of its work without any detailed knowledge of the cuts that have gone before.

So, we are rushing headlong into an extraordinary budget-cutting process that, for all its invocation of inclusiveness and transparency, will be decided by those few who have both the information necessary to make concrete recommendations (or something approaching it) and the power to enact them. Top administrators and CCOET members insist that the research mission of the university is not on the table; but it is hard to avoid the feeling that CCOET’s work amounts to flinging the entire institution against the wall and seeing what sticks. Meanwhile, rumblings about cuts to the UW System in the 2017–19 biennium have already begun.